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Loisaba Conservancy is a hub for applied conservation research in the north Kenya landscape.  Our research partners San Diego Zoo, Space for Giants and Lion Landscapes are constantly on the lookout for high quality images that can be used to identify specific individuals. As a result, Space for Giants and San Diego Zoo have developed a project to engage guests at Elewana’s luxury Loisaba Star Beds and Loisaba Tented Camp in a Citizen Science Initiative.

For the past year Loisaba has been using the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) to monitor wildlife numbers throughout the conservancy. Data is collected using an app called Cybertracker and analyzed using SMART to show wildlife encounters and human activities across the conservancy.

Grevy’s zebra © Amos Chege

As part of the new Citizen Science Initiative, every game drive vehicle will be equipped with a tablet installed with the simple data collection modelThis will allow guests to record sightingsfor seven key species of wildlife; elephants, leopards, lions, giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, cheetahs and wild dogs during their game drives. Every sighting is automatically geotagged meaning that the data can be easily mapped after the drive. This data will then contribute meaningfully to the research objectives of each of the respective research partners at Loisaba.

© Amos Chege

For example, locations and images of leopards taken by guests will allow SDZG researchers to identify individual leopards and track populations and their status through time. SDZG researchers use remote cameras to identify leopards by their unique coat patterns. Each leopard has a distinct set of rosettes, much in the same way a fingerprint is unique to every human. Researchers use these coat patterns on each flank of the leopard to verify their identification.

The pilot project has been tested on Loisaba Conservancy over the past few months with the brilliant Elewana guides having been trained on the data collection app by our Conservation Officer, Chege Amos.

Loisaba is at the forefront of adaptive management through scientifically informed decisions that will help inform appropriate rangeland management, and with endangered species conservation. This Citizen Science Initiative will encourage guests to become budding scientists contributing meaningfully to ongoing research projectsand management of Loisaba’s wildlife, which is in line with our management plans.

By: Izzy Parsons

© Hannah Campbell

Last week, our brilliant security Manager Daniel Yiankere was invited to KWS Headquarters in Nairobi to celebrate #worldrangerday in recognition of being one of the 50 rangers to have won an award in the 2018 African Ranger Awards by Paradise International Foundation.

© Izzy Parsons

On July 21st 2017, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and co-chair of Paradise International Foundation, announced in Kigali that a 10-year award program would be set up to support 500 wildlife rangers across Africa. The Paradise African Ranger Award will be given annually to 50 rangers in Africa who have made outstanding efforts to combat poaching, habitat loss, and the illegal wildlife trade. Today in Cape Town, some of the 50 winners will receive their awards in recognition and celebration of their achievements.

Daniel became a ranger for KWS in 1992 and during his 24 years’ service worked all over the country, in the Mara, Meru, Tsavo, Amboseli, Mt Elgon and Nairobi National Park. Daniel states, “serving as a Ranger makes me happy and gives me a sense of duty and pride – I feel that I have and still continue to make a great contribution to wildlife conservation.” He has been at Loisaba for over a year leading Loisaba’s security team of 64 Rangers and canine unit comprising four bloodhounds.

Daniel chose to become a ranger 25 years ago to protect Kenya’s wild animals for future generations. “One of my greatest successes was the interception of 81 pieces of ivory – at that time the person received a low fine but I am glad that today the penalties are steep after the enactment of the Wildlife Act – it helps discourage people from poaching our wildlife”, Daniel Sotian Yiankere.

Congratulations Daniel for this well deserved recognition for your incredible hard work and diligence protecting Kenya’s wildlife over the years! Find more on the 50 amazing African Rangers on http://bit.ly/2Oc9q99

 

Since October, 144 students and 24 teachers from our surrounding communities have attended conservation education days at Loisaba’s Conservation Centre. These days aim to connect those children living alongside wildlife with the conservation projects that are ongoing at Loisaba. The days allow the students to have fun whilst learning about the value and importance of wildlife conservation and habitat preservation on Loisaba.

Learning about Ol Pejeta conservation practices.

In culmination to these education days, an essay competition was held last month discussing the importance of conservation. Prior to the task a brainstorming session on the essay question was held with all the students at their respective schools. Over 100 students aged 12-15 years old at Kirimon, Ewaso and Labarishereki primary schools took part! The main benefits of conservation mentioned in the essays were the opportunities of employment and scholarships that conservation offered and income generated from the sale of beads to tourists. Protection of endangered species was touched upon lightly. This is unsurprising given that many of these students have never seen many of the endangered species first hand. Consequently, Loisaba arranged for the top 3 scorers from each school to head to Ol Pejeta for a day.

Last week, the nine essay prize winners, accompanied by three teachers set off to Ol Pejeta to witness conservation first-hand. The first excitement of the day was seeing Ol Pejeta’s Ankole cattle herd, the students were amazed by their iconic, sweeping horns having never seen this breed of cattle before. It was the first of many new sights for the students!

© Paul Naiputari

Next stop was a visit to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, home to 39 chimpanzees. The students learned about what the chimps feed on, the ecology they live in and how they have been rescued from the illegal bush meat and pet trade. Given that chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, it was the first time any of the students and teachers had seen one before. They simply could not believe that people would use chimps for the illegal bush meat trade.

On then to meet Baraka, a tame blind black rhino and pay a visit to Sudan’s grave. The students spotted two lioness’s snoozing in the midday sun and giraffe, elephant and impala were out in force providing a wonderful game drive though out the day for the students.

It was a day of firsts for these students learning about the importance of the animal species themselves as well the multitude of benefits conservation provides. The future of Laikipia, Kenya and the continent as a whole lies firmly in the hands of the new generation and the decisions they will make in due course. We want to thank The Nature Conservancy and Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation for making this memorable day possible.

A day of firsts for the prize winners!

 

© Mikey Purchase

In May, Loisaba Conservancy hosted a ‘Fly In’ organised by the Aero Club of East Africa, an event normally held once every two years. Participants enjoyed a weekend of flying fun whilst staying at Elewana Collections luxury Loisaba Tented Camp and Loisaba Star Beds.

Eight aircrafts participated in the event including, two Cessna 206’s, one X-Cub, one Cessna 180 and four Cessna 182’s with pilots ranging from commercial pilots, recreational pilots to aviation enthusiasts.

The activities of the ‘Fly In’ included challenges such as the shortest take off distance; flour bag bomb dropping from a height of 200m into a large target on the airfield and spot landings onto a line on the airstrip. The pilots also enjoyed scenic flights around Loisaba Conservancy with elephant sightings in the hundreds.

© Michelle Purchase

The highlight of the flying fun was a flour bomb landing on the spectator tent during morning tea and biscuits! Once the flying was finished, guests spent the rest of the day lazing by the pool and going on game drives where they were lucky enough to spot lions and a leopard! A brief awards ceremony was held after dinner on Saturday night which was followed by an entertaining quiz.

We’re really looking forward to seeing all the participants and more back here at Loisaba next year!

By: Mikey Purchase

 

 

Current estimates are that over the past 20 years the reticulated giraffe population has declined by over 70%, from 36,000 to less than 9,000 today. It is thought the main drivers behind the decline are habitat loss and fragmentation, land degradation, and poaching. However, relatively little is known about reticulated giraffe movements, or their ecology.

Young life © Isabelle Parsons

To help address this, in May 2016 a collaborative giraffe conservation initiative was launched between: The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, The Northern Rangelands Trust, Loisaba Conservancy, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, The Nature Conservancy and San Diego Zoo Global. Beginning with a two-year pilot project centered on two sites (Loisaba Conservancy and Namunyak).

The project is a community-led conservation and research effort that uses both social and ecological methods to help sustainably preserve the reticulated giraffe species in the wild. At Loisaba Symon Masaine is the Head Researcher, he is currently studying at the University of Michigan under the MasterCard Scholarship. Whilst he is away Lexson Larpei, the Assistant Researcher is managing the project.

Silhouette at sunset © Amos Chege

In June 2017 seven reticulated giraffe were fitted with GPS satellite tracker units on Loisaba Conservancy. These units made by Savannah Tracking are solar powered and are attached to giraffe’s ossicones. The data collected from these units will allow greater insights into giraffe movements in the region, especially wet season-dry season movements, and utilization of different areas/habitats, space requirements. It also has the potential for the movement data to inform decisions around future infrastructure and settlement decisions. A further 25 GPS units will be fitted with the Kenya Wildlife Service in September 2018 across Loisaba Conservancy, Mpala Research Centre, Buliqo Bulesa Conservancy, Melako Conservancy and Leparua Conservancy. These units will provide insights into numerous localized questions, e.g. the dynamics of giraffe between Leparua and Lewa/Borana, where do the giraffe on Biliqo and Melako go?

In conjunction to the GPS data, camera traps are deployed across the conservancy to help track and identify giraffe. A total of 135 cameras traps have been deployed creating over one million images – all these images need analyzing! Here is how you can help: https://bit.ly/2IDzHih

The final essential element to this project is gauging human perceptions and attitudes towards giraffes and poaching. Consequently, over 400 interviews have been conducted in Kirimon, Ol Donyiro, Koija, P&D, KMC and Ilmotiok producing startling results. It is estimated that giraffe part and product use is at 30% within these communities and knowledge on giraffe species, ranges, and population was found to be very low. Through education and outreach within these communities, the project aims to reduce that number while also raising awareness of the overall decline and building community pride in the uniqueness of northern Kenya’s giraffe species.

A lovely old bull with very unique markings © Isabelle Parsons

Land Connected; Life Protected

Migration is an essential element in sustaining viable wildlife populations. Today, many of Kenya’s wildlife populations exist in isolation, having been separated completely by increasing human populations and infrastructure development. Wildlife corridors are critical in connecting habitats, protecting life and maintaining diversity.

Simon Gitau opening the fence between Kitenye and Mugie

Through a partnership between Mugie and Loisaba conservancies, a new migration corridor now links together more than 100,000 acres of managed conservation land in the north of Laikipia County, helping to keep the landscape open and, most importantly, connected. The Kitenye Wildlife Corridor, which at its narrowest point is 800 meters wide, was created by removing more than a kilometer of fencing and securing four small plots of land for conservation.

Beisa oryx, common zebra & Laikipia hartebeest

Wild animals need the freedom to migrate, and this corridor spans across several different habitats: from Loisaba’s dry Ewaso acacia scrubland, through the vast open plains of Kitenye, and finally rising to the olive forests of Mugie and the Lorogi plateau at 7,000 feet.

Both conservancies are home to threatened keystone species such as elephants, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Laikipia hartebeest, and carnivores, including wild dogs, cheetah and lion, many of which suffered considerably during last year’s drought and political strife.

With this new corridor in place, Mugie and Loisaba conservancies hope to see game moving freely between the two conservancies and the greater Laikipia landscape, connecting wildlife and allowing for a more diversified gene pool. This is especially important for cheetah, the endemic Laikipia hartebeest and Grevy’s zebra, whose numbers have declined to critical levels over the years through poaching and habitat loss.

The Kitenye Wildlife Corridor, will be managed by Mugie Conservancy and was created with support of The Nature Conservancy, which will play an important role in the ongoing protection and monitoring of the corridor.

A big thank you to The Nature Conservancy for making this possible!

Kitenye eastern views. Below, the inhabitants of the plains at Kitenya, an oryx at sunset and a Grevy zebra on alert

Nanyuki and Memusi on exercise

Tracker dogs are one of the most effective tools for wildlife security, often deterring poachers from even entering an area. Over the years our two bloodhounds Warrior and Machine have proved invaluable to Loisaba’s security team. They have helped track down dozens of poachers and criminals, find missing people and return livestock to their owners, earning them their well deserved reputation throughout Laikipia.

Memusi (male)

We are so excited to introduce two new recruits to our K9 unit – Memusi and Nanyuki! They were born in the Mara and are a cross breed of Bloodhound and Bluetick Coonhound. Their parents are both excellent trackers imported from the USA, their mother Anna (Bloodhound/Coonhound) is deep nosed and an amazingly accurate tracker whilst their father Morani (Bloodhound) a no nonsense brave tracker has led to the arrest of over 100 poachers during his 8 year deployment in the Mara Triangle. Born in August 2017, Memusi and Nanyuki have received training from both domestic and international trainers which we will continue here at Loisaba.

Nanyuki (female)

The incredible work these tracker dogs do combined with Kenya’s strong wildlife trophy law which can result in imprisonment for life or a 20 million shilling ($20,000) fine is a huge deterrent to poachers.

A big thank you to The Nature Conservancy for enabling Nanyuki and Memusi and their wonderful personalties to join the team!

 

 

© Chege Amos

Lion Landscapes #collaringforcoexistance program is developing a new innovative method to help save both livestock and lions lives. We are hopeful this new initiative will allow the human and lion residents of Laikipia to live in peace together.

Following last years’ land invasions for some of the lions in Laikipia, the killing of livestock has now become routine. If this trend is to continue retaliation will undoubtedly occur and we will see the lion populations of Laikipia suffer as a result.

Savannah Tracking have developed boma alarm stations to help deter lions from attacking livestock at night, these are currently being field tested by Lion Landscapes on Loisaba Conservancy. These alarms are triggered if the stations detect one of the collared lion approaching the livestock enclosure within a threshold distance of 200m. Flashing lights and noise are automatically activated causing the lions to bolt.

This new system was first put to the test at the camel boma on Loisaba Conservancy. Narok, (whose pride has been collared for the past ten years) and her pride approached the camel boma under the cover of darkness triggering the alarm and in turn getting quite a shock – the camels looked a little surprised too!

We are hopeful that this method will help re-educate the lions of Laikipia and they will go back to killing the plentiful wild prey. In conjunction to the boma alarm stations, real time data transmitted from the collars help livestock owners avoid the prides, helping to protect the lions and local livelihoods too. A big thank you to The Nature Conservancy and Tusk Trust for supporting Lion Landscapes with these collars.

A mother and cub relax around the remains of a large male impala. Only meters away, a male and female leopard were mating in thick shrub © Nicholas Pilfold

With some notable exceptions (e.g. lions, hyenas, wild dogs) most large African carnivores live a solitary existence. They hunt for food, raise young, and fend off rivals all on their own. This is particularly true for the species that I research at Loisaba Conservancy: the African leopard.

It is already a rare sight when more than one leopard is found in the same location, even more so with multiple individuals. But it does happen. The circumstances for why it happens can be as interesting as the event itself.

This past February, I had the chance to experience a leopard congregation (aka “a leap”) around a kill site. A large male impala had been killed by an equally large male leopard, and once he had his fill, other leopards moved in for leftovers. In many cases, this tolerance for sharing food would not have been allowed by a dominant male still at the kill site; but in this circumstance, he was distracted by a female looking for a mate.

An adult female looks back towards the direction of her departing male mate © Nicholas Pilfold

While the male consorted with the female within the privacy of some dense shrub, a mother and cub moved in on the leftovers. They were extremely relaxed around the kill, recognizing that the adult male was not a threat. Four leopards in a such a tight setting was a surprise and was only surpassed when the next morning a fifth leopard showed up to work on some of the last scraps high in a Boscia tree. The fact that the fifth leopard showed up so quickly likely meant she was in the vicinity when the kill happened the day before.

While leopards spend much of their lives in solitude, events like these remind us of their capacity for sociality in the right setting.

By: Nicholas Pilfold, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global

Peter Ekidor has been one of our fantastic Loisaba guides for the past 5 years. Born on Loisaba, Ekidor’s passion for tourism and conservation started at a young age when he would read the guides text books his father made leather covers for. He now holds his Silver level guiding certificate and will write his FGASA examinations next month. He is also completing a diploma in Tour Guiding and Administration with the Amboseli Institute of Science and Technology. All this he manages to do whilst guiding full time for Elewana at Loisaba Tented Camp! We caught up with Ekidor last week…

© Isabelle Parsons

How did you become a guide on Loisaba?

I was born on Loisaba where my father used to work but brought up in Kinamba, Sosian where I started my Primary level schooling. Whilst I was finishing school my older brother was working as a cook for Elephant Pepper Camp in the Mara and I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps in the tourism industry. After completing high school I was given a chance through Cheli and Peacock to write the Bronze level, Kenya Professional Safari Guide Exam. This I passed and after a brief time teaching at Ol Maisor Primary School I was offered a guiding job with Loisaba at the Tented Camp.

 

What parts do you love about the job?

I love taking bush walks, guests are always looking out for the big fauna but don’t often see the small organisms such as insects. On bush walks I can explain the importance these small organisms play in the ecosystem. I really enjoy being out in the bush and sharing information about the bio-diversity of the Laikipia ecosystem.

© Ambrose Letoluia

What do you love about Laikipa?

I love Laikipia because it is my home. In terms of tourism, I love the space available for guests and the Laikipia landscape is beautiful. We also have special kinds of animals that you do not see so much elsewhere. These are Grevy Zebras, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk the antelope with the long necks, Lesser Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Jacksons Hartebeest and Wild Dogs. Laikipia has been known for their Wild Dogs but a disease was brought in last year during  the land invasions which wiped out a great number of our Wild Dogs. I was very happy to hear last week that there is a den on Mpala, with nine Wild Dog puppies.

What are the problems you see within the current Laikipia landscape?

Overgrazing is a big issue. People need to learn how to manage the number of their animals so that they can co-exist with the wildlife and so that they will not have an issue with the carrying capacity of the land. There needs to be education about the livestock, the breeding and a focus on the quality of the animal rather that quantity.

© Isabelle Parsons

What has been your most memorable experience as a guide?

I once saw four lionesses hunting a warthog. The warthog was so clever, it teased the lionesses and ran towards them causing the lionesses to retreat whilst he snuck into his burrow! Unfortunately, he was too impatient and came out of his burrow to the awaiting lionesses who then caught him. Also, down at Sosian Spring I watched a martial eagle knock down a monitor lizard which pretended to be dead. The martial eagle thought he had an easy meal so was in no hurry but the monitor lizard saw his opportunity and dashed into the water and escaped.

 

How do you see Conservation and Tourism working together?

Conservation is all about the peaceful co-existence of the communities and people with the wildlife and their understanding of how these animals behave and the space they need. Tourism needs conservation, so that there is conducive environment whereby the animals co-exist with the communities around. The future of conservation lies in the hands of the young people. If it is something that everyone becomes involved with I am sure we will live in a better and peaceful Laikipia.

Grevy Zebra