Category Archives: Northern Rangelands Trust

Namunyak Conservancy rescue baby elephant

Thought you would like this series of photos which show Namunyak conservancy scouts and community members rescuing a baby elephant that was trapped in a shallow well; they managed to successfully return it to its waiting mother (despite being charged by her!)…..good news in a period when we have experienced many elephant deaths including young elephants falling into wells in a desperate attempt to get to water. The drought is biting hard and elephants are among the victims we are seeing….

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New Mpus Kutuk Conservancy scures wildlife corridor

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 sml.jpg ‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Planned grazing to reduce conflict

Within NRT – we have a livestock programme that focuses on improving market access for cattle from communities engaged in conservation (i.e. the community conservancies), as well as assisting conservancies to implement and manage planned grazing in their areas. For pastoralists – livestock are and will continue to be the most important livelihood option and therefore as conservationists we feel it is vital to address both livestock and wildlife needs if conservation is to succeed in this landscape…..

Caroline Karwitha is our Livestock Programme Officer and she describes the planned grazing that the community are carrying out in Il Ngwesi………..

The pastoralist community is an area that has been ravaged by constant conflict over many years. Despite the conflict being cultural, most of the time it occurs over competition for pastures and water for livestock. The big challenge in the pastoralist areas of Northern Kenya has been posed by the old theory “tragedy of commons” where most community members are not able to come together and make decisions to help them move forward. Many of the traditional systems which governed communal grazing have been eroded by ‘modernisation’.

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Il Ngwesi group ranch based in Laikipia District and bordering Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a community that has broken the many odds and come up with a system to manage the range. This has helped them establish a grass bank; a huge rescue plan for grazing during the dry periods. When other communities are moving further in search of pasture, the situation is much better for the Il Ngwesi community, which is able to support a reasonable number of cattle within their conservation area.

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Il Ngwesi is one of the 15 conservancies under the Northern Rangelands Trust. Il Ngwesi group ranch which is 8,675 ha has been divided into a settlement area and a conservation area. This was done through the help of the elders who are the key decision makers. The conservation area is further divided into a core area and a buffer area. The core area is a complete livestock exclusion zone set aside for the eco-lodge and tourism. It only has a radius of 5 km2, a small area in comparison to the whole conservation area. The buffer area is 6,000 ha and this is the area that serves as a grass bank. Livestock grazing is not allowed for the better part of the year following the rains, when grass is available elsewhere, which allows for good growth of grass in the buffer zone.

If the dry season exceeds its expected time, the elders give consent to allow grazing in the buffer zone and this is conducted in an organized manner, block by block until it is all utilized. The block grazing helps efficient utilization of the grasses in contrast to scattering small herds in the whole conservation area without a plan. This way livestock are able to graze for longer in the conservation area. When rains commence, livestock is immediately withdrawn from the conservation area and the cycle continues.

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Planning grazing has also been the backbone of the eco tourism venture. Abundant pastures are not only needed by community livestock but also the wildlife that is daily increasing in number. The eco tourism creates more employment opportunities for the youth (morans) who most of the time play a role in cattle raids, the main cause of conflict.

Poachers arrested after killing Hirola

Yet again time has flown by and I haven’t done a blog post for well over two months – now Zoundry is back I hope to keep you all updated more often.

In my last blog I mentioned that 2 Hirola were found poached in Ishaqbini Conservancy, along with a buffalo. Following this the Ishaqbini Scouts together with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy security personnel were able to arrest 2 poachers who have been detained and will appear in court later this month. The level of poaching in the area was alarming, every day the scouts patrol they find evidence of snares and poachers prints – however since the intensive anti-poaching operation begun they have already seen a decline, and the arrest of 2 poachers has sent a clear message to their neighbouring community that they mean business. KWS are now working closely with the scouts and the intensified presence of security personnel and patrols in the area is working as a deterrent to poachers – lets hope it continues.

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Poachers arrested with Hirola and buffalo skulls

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Lesser Kudu poached

Juliet

Poaching threatens endangered Hirola

I have just got back from a visit to Ishaqbini Community Wildlife Conservancy in north-eastern Kenya. I mentioned this conservancy in my last blog a few weeks ago – a last stronghold for Kenya’s most endanagered antelope, the Hirola. The conservancy is still in it’s infancy and community scouts have only been operating for 6 months, although the community, KWS and other researchers have been supporting Hirola conservation in this area for many years. It is only now, however, since the scouts have been regularly patrolling the area that the threat of game-meat poaching to Hirola and other species in the area is becoming clear. Two hirola were found poached at the beginning of January and since then scouts have intercepted game-meat poachers inside the conservancy as well as confiscated spears and machetes.

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Group of Hirola in the Ishaqbini conservancy

While we were there we came across a group of Hirola that suddenly started running towards our vehicle, apparently being chased by something. We got out of the vehicle and moved to the area where the Hirola had come from; we found fresh footprints of two people. Unfortunately darkness was falling and armed only with a camera, binoculars and one unarmed scout we didn’t feel we could continue to follow-up the tracks. However next morning we went back to the site and followed the tracks back to a place where the poachers had crossed the mighty Tana River. We also found tracks of people who appeared to be dragging a carcass, the tail and hind legs making distinct tracks in the sand which appeared to be about 2 days old. While we didn’t actually see or apprehend any poachers, there were plenty of signs to suggest that game-meat poaching is a real threat to this species and other wildlife in the area.

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NRT & Ishaqbini scouts recce area to the east of the conservancy

Ishaqbini scouts are currently not armed and have no field equipment to enable them to effectively carry out mobile patrols – however we were able to leave them with some of our tents and will be buying equipment to enable them to have permanent patrol presence inside the conservancy and along the Tana river. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy will also be sending skilled anti-poaching personnel and a vehicle to assist in creating a strong presence in this area which we hope to be a deterrent to poachers. However, the scouts effectiveness is hampered by the fact that they are unarmed. The conservancy have decided to employ local Kenya Police Reservists to accompany the scouts on patrols over the next 6 months, while we await the outcome of an application for firearms for the conservancy scouts.

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Training scouts on wildlife monitoring

On this last trip we were also able to install a base-radio and mast for the conservancy – they now have a range of about 40km which is fantastic, scouts are now able to communicate to each other while on patrol. We also carried out some basic GPS training and lef the scouts with 2 GPSs – the scouts are now monitoring wildlife in a systematic way, all of which will help to monitor the impact of conservation activities in the long-term.

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Installing the radio-mast and new radio-room at the conservancy office

While Ishaqbini and this part of north-eastern Kenya is currently safe from the insecurity that is ravaging much of our country, the plight of the Hirola remains an urgent one – through supporting the Ishaqbini community wildlife conservancy we hope we can at least secure a future for this and other wildlife in this area.

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Conserving Kenya’s most endangered antelope – the Hirola

I want to introduce you to one of the newest conservancies under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust. It is called Ishaqbini Community Conservancy and is in Ijara District of North-eastern Kenya (south-east of the Giraffe Sanctuary at Garissa which is featured as another Wildlifedirect blog). The conservancy is owned by the local Somali community and was established primarily to conserve the Hirola antelope (Beatragus hunteri) - Kenya’s most endangered antelope with an estimated 400 – 600 individuals remaining in the wild. The area covered by Ishaqbini is an important area for this species with an estimated population of about 100 Hirola. Ishaqbini is also an important area for African Wild Dog and has resident populations of reticulated giraffe, lesser kudu, gerenuk, lion, leopard and desert warthog (a species about which very little is known) amongst others.

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Hirola antelope and photo of Hirola that was killed by a leopard – August 2007

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Since NRT became involved the conservancy has employed 14 community scouts who are carrying out patrolling and wildlife monitoring in the conservancy, they underwent a three-week training course conducted by Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in August last year and their pass-out parade was well attended by district officials and Kenya Wildlife Service. The conservancy also has a manager and accountant who oversee the day to day activities and liaise closely with KWS, the county council and the Board of Trustees – members who have been elected by their community.

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Inspection of Ishaqbini Scouts by the District Commissioner and KWS Warden during their pass-out parade

Ishaqbini is a beautiful area located on the Eastern banks of the Tana River opposite the Tana River Primate Reserve – the remoteness of the region and the tolerance of local people towards wildlife is evident in the fact that it is common to see Giraffe, Zebra and Warthog roaming around between the Somali homesteads. The Lesser Kudu we came across were possibly the ‘tamest’ I have ever seen and merely ambled across the road and stared at us when our vehicle approached. Other unique species found here are the Tana River Mangabey and Tana River Red Colobus which inhabit the riverine forest. It is very exciting for us to be working in this area with these communities, to see if the NRT model for community conservation will work in a completely different setting.
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Lesser Kudu – Ishaqbini

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Desert Warthog – Ishaqbini

Last week we got a report from the Manager that 2 Hirola had been poached inside the Conservancy. The head and hooves were all that remained of the carcass as well as carefully positioned branches upon which the meat was laid as it was cut off the carcass. This was devastating news for the scouts who are so dedicated and proud of the work they are doing. They suspect the poachers came into the conservancy in the late evening to poach, once they knew the scouts had all returned home. This incident highlights the need to establish a headquarters and permanent patrol presence inside the conservancy, however, currently we do not have the funds to do this. In the interim we are trying to raise money for tents and sleeping bags which would enable the scouts to carry out mobile patrols inside the conservancy. Any support you can give us towards purchasing this equipment would be much appreciated.

We are heading back to Ishaqbini at the end of this month to continue with wildlife monitoring training with the scouts and review patrolling and security activities. We are working closely with KWS and we see Ishaqbini as a model for community involvement in the conservation of Kenya’s rarest antelope.

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Ishaqbini scouts during the wildlife monitoring training

20 community scouts complete their training

Firstly, appologies for the lack of blogs over the last few weeks – the turmoil in Kenya has been at the forefront of all our minds and it has been difficult to think of much else! Let’s hope things are heading back on track and life can get back to relative normality soon……

I wanted to share some photos of the community scouts who completed their 3-week training course at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy just before Christmas. These were 12 scouts from Lekurruki conservancy in Laikipia District and 8 from NRT’s newest conservancy – Biliqo-Bulesa in Isiolo District which is owned by the Boran community. The training carried out by Lewa is an introduction to wildlife and security patrolling and provides scouts with a basis for starting their work in the conservancies. Scouts take a great deal of pride in their ‘pass-out parade’ which is usually held before dignitaries.

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Congratulations to all the scouts who completed this training.

Happy Christmas – election day in Kenya!

A little late I know – but Happy Christmas to you all!

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This blog has been going just over a month – not long – but already it is quite addictive and I am always thinking of what would be exciting enought to include as the next blog entry………..none of the NRT staff are in the field at the moment as today is election day!

Campaigning has been energetic in the north and not too much violence reported – let’s hope it stays this way over the next few days and the people and politicians accept the outcome of the elections. Several of our Board members are MPs who are fighting to retain their seats this election, competition is stiff in most constituencies. We have even had some ex Conservancy Managers running in these elections so awareness of politics and interest in the outcome of these elections is high in all the conservancies – and among Kenyans in general.

An interesting article came out in the New York Times Magazine last weekend about the mix of politics and religion in northern Kenya and specifically Laisamis constituency where one of our conservancies – Melako – is situated. Will be interesting to see the outcome of the elections in this area. Politics is intertwined in the work that NRT and the conservancies are doing – local and regional political support are necessary particularly in the early stages of conservancy development.

This is an intro to the article I was refering to – sorry I don’t know how to create a link I hope you can work out how to get to read the full article!

MAGAZINE | December 23, 2007
The African Front
By JOSHUA HAMMER

Kenya ‘s remote north has become a battleground for rising Islamism and its pro-American opponents. Have aggressive post-9/11 policies fomented the very sectarianism they were meant to fight?

Peace and security emerging out of conservation

I thought this short article would be of interest as it highlights how much the conservancies in northern Kenya are doing not only for wildlife but also for the people who inhabit this region and share their land with the wildlife.

The Sera region of north-eastern Samburu District is an area with a history of insecurity and ethnic conflict. In this arid landscape, pastoralist tribes have traditionally fought for access to meager resources for their livestock – water and grass are the lifeblood for the Samburu, Rendille and Boran people who inhabit the area and are solely dependent on livestock for all their livelihood needs. The area is scattered with abandoned settlements like Koya, Kom and Kauro; fierce battles and constant raiding by neighboring tribes, as recently as 2005, caused their inhabitants to retreat to safe areas closer to towns. Until recently, heavily armed herdsmen and warriors were the only people who dared venture into these areas accompanying their livestock during the dry season.

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Views of Sera

Since 2004, with USAID support, the Northern Rangelands Trust has been working in this region to establish the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, a community conservation initiative owned by Samburu people. Early on it was understood that the success of Sera would be dependent on good relations with the neighboring Rendille and Boran communities. In 2006, NRT facilitated the formation of a joint grazing committee including elders from all three tribes elected by their respective communities. This committee has become a vehicle for peace and security, particularly between the Rendille and Boran. The committee has managed to bring together warriors from the three communities to discuss peace initiatives in the Sera region; this is the first time such a meeting has taken place. This year there have been four unprecedented cases where stolen or lost livestock have been returned peacefully as a result of dialogue and intervention by the grazing committee elders. Elders are working together to create a system to compensate for livestock not recovered and avoid retaliation by their respective communities. There is evident joint grazing by these communities who use the same watering points with little or no friction. Genuine cooperation is emerging from the work of the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, the Rendille-owned Melako Conservancy and newly formed Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy owned by the Boran. Plans are afoot to create joint security patrols between all three communities based from Kom and the Melako Conservancy Headquarters will be built at Koya. The committee is reaching as far north as the Korr and Kargi Rendille communities with the aim of also developing a way of peacefully resolving disputes between these once warring tribes.

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Boran elder addressing a security meeting

Through collaboration and a genuine desire for peace and stability, economic development of the region will become possible. The development of tourism in this region, which is the major income earner in most conservancies, is dependent on security returning which has now been achieved in Sera through the work of the conservancy.

Poisoning of lions and mass die-off of raptors

A couple of months ago Ian Craig, our Executive Director, witnessed the devastating effects of insecticide posioning of lions just to the north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. A camel that had been killed by lions was subsequently poisoned with Furadan (a lethal pesticide) by local communities with the aim of killing predators that came to feast on the carcass. The result of the poisoning was the death of two lions as well as fifteen vultures collected in the immediate vicinity of the carcass. This kind of mass die-off of raptors as a result of poisoning has been witnessed in several parts of Kenya before, and conservationsits are concerned that this is having devastating effects on raptor populations, as well as carnivores, throughout the country. Dead Vultures LMD.JPG

The use of poisons is becoming more widespread in pastoralist areas as a means of dealing with wildlife conflict – targeting carnivores – as these agro-chemicals become more widely available. In response to this incident NRT contacted the Peregrine Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service. A student will begin his project to gather more information on the impact of poisons, such as Furadan, on carnivore and raptor populations in the Samburu/laikipia ecosystem. With this information we hope NRT and other conservation organisations can effectively lobby government to regulate the distribution and use of hazardous chemicals. On NRT’s part we will be looking at ways to reduce predator conflict and improve awareness about predators amongst the communities we work with.
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If anyone has any information on similar use of poisons targeting carnivores and their effects on raptors we would really like to hear from you.

Please excuse the formatting of this first posting – hope to get the hang of this programme soon!

Juliet