Patrick Siparo, one of NRT’s Regional Coordinators, provides an introduction to Mpus Kutuk Conservancy – one of the newest community conservancies falling under the umbrella of NRT………… Elephants migrate widely to fulfill their ecological requirements. Often ranging (200 Km sq – 600 Km sq). That’s a big space but not so big when one considers Bull elephants consume three hundred kilograms of vegetation a day. Kenya has made great effort to conserve and is well known for its National parks and reserves, yet it has only three protected areas Samburu, Buffalo springs and Shaba reserves in the vast Samburu / Laikipia landscape, accounting for only 455Km sq or 1.5% of the Ewaso water shed. This region with an area 30,000 Km sq has an estimated 7,500 elephants considered to be one of the fastest growing elephant populations in Kenya. If we were to rely purely on the network of National Parks and Reserves, the land reserved for elephants and other wildlife is only the 455 Km sq, too small an area to maintain the natural process that elephants and other animals require if they were confined to these government protected areas. Fortunately, the elephants and other wildlife are not limited to the government reserves; like other parts of Kenya 70% of the wildlife are in community areas. Truth is, left unplanned it’s more like a 70% problem for the communities and the wildlife. People kill wildlife & wildlife kills people, they compete over water, space, pasture. Most farmers regard wildlife as pests. Those that love wildlife must think of ways to make the relationship harmonious by coming up with solutions that make wildlife valuable to have around. The conservationists must teach the communities & involve them in building that crucial relationship. ‘elephant highway’ that runs through Mpus Kutuk linking the wildlife areas of Laikipia and Samburu – elephants travel along this route every night…
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) with 15 community conservancies which fall under it’s umbrella is one such organization; NRT has member conservancies spread out strategically along critical pathways for the wildlife. By involving the communities, talking, sharing experiences and lobbying, there is a growing momentum for a conservation-driven future for northern Kenya that is already reaping abundant results for this much-forgotten northern part of the country. The NRT alone covers almost one million hectares of community areas. Providing a forum for exchanging ideas, experiences, acting as a technical advisor and implementing organization for the members.
Human wildlife conflict occurs when elephants are squeezed into a corner, into small patches of land which cannot meet their food requirements and from which they cannot escape, in situations like this conflict intensifies. In 2007 in Laikipia alone 5 people were killed either by being trampled or when defending their crops, the result is some people resorted to shooting or poisoning elephants.
Mpus Kutuk Community Wildlife Conservancy was initiated in 2007 following a request from the Kipsing community to help establish a community based conservation organisation. The area which covers Kipsing Location, an area of over 52,500 ha is a crucial migratory corridor for wildlife moving between Samburu and Laikipia districts. This same area of land was singled out by a meeting of conservation organizations in 2006 as the most critical area requiring conservation intervention to secure corridors and range for wildlife and reduce the threats they were facing in this area.
Mpus Kutuk Scouts, Manager and Chairman
In February 2008 six scouts and one radio operator were recruited and trained by NRT at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in basic scout skills and wildlife surveillance and monitoring. The manager was also recruited in April 2008 and spent time in the more established conservancies of West Gate and Kalama and later with NRT familiarizing with conservancy management and structures.
NRT’s Research Coordinator Juliet King, together with Mpus Kutuk Manager Patrick Lenawasae, raining scouts on wildlife monitoring
One immediate challenge for Mpus Kutuk was to arrest the increase in game -meat poaching and create a wildlife friendly atmosphere amongst the local communit, left unchecked the poaching would lead to local extinction of some wildlife species. Already Mpus Kutuk conservancy is realizing a gradual return of some wildlife species that now regard the areas safe to inhabit such as giraffes which hadn’t been seen in the area for many years. The conservancy is managed by a board of trustees, who are elected from twelve community areas, each represented by one board member. The manger is supplied with a motorbike to monitor the areas. The community, in a unique gesture, built an office through raising their own funds as a show of their interest and committment to conservation. They have formed grazing committees and have forged a close working relationship with the local leaders. The grazing committee and the Board of trustee were trained on their roles by NRT last year.
Conservancy office under construction
The initial funds for their first year of operation was contributed by San Diego Zoo and the BBC wildlife fund. The BBC have committed additional funds this year, to continue the support the conservancy and secure this vital corridor, but the conservancy needs all the friends it can get, especially as the 6 scouts and 1 radio operator are not adequate to cover the 52,500 hectares. Mpus Kutuk needs another 6 scouts to patrol the area adequately; they require a series of community meetings, security staff houses and host of other supplies to keep the momentum going. At the moment, Mpus Kutuk, like other parts of northern Kenya is experiencing an increase in elephant poaching which the conservancy together with NRT are trying to address.
The future benefits to conservation of having this area under integrated wildlife and livestock management by the local community is immense. As land available for wildlife is diminishing globally because of growth in population, the community can hope to invest long-term, by saving their wildlife which the world will value in years to come. The Kipsing community has realised this vision and has taken the first steps to create an area where wildlife, people and livestock flourish together.
A note from Juliet -
The past month in Kipsing has been desperate as a cholera outbreak claimed the lives of 12 people, mainly children. NRT was working with the Ol Malo Trust and Ministry of Health to try to contain the outbreak. Conditions were dire, with hundreds of people being treated in the open, under trees – no facilities to quarantine the sick or contain the highly infectious waste. Luckily OMT were able to gather together medical supplies, beds and a hospital tent and bring in additional doctors. The cholera outbreak is under control for the time being and NRT’s vehicle was able to take medicine to remote communities and bring in the sick for treatment. With the rains looking like they have failed, the water situation remains desperate for these communities – we need to look at cheap, simple and effective ways for h
ouseholds to have access to clean water in future to reduce the potential of another outbreak like this. Anyone who has experience or knowledge of cheap and effective water filtration devices – I would really like to hear from you – thanks.