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© 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

© Lizzie Daly

Paul Wachiras’ days are very varied at Loisaba. One day he can be in Ewaso organising a medical clinic and another discussing grazing plans with morans and community elders in P & D. Below he gives us an account of his work, the main focus of which is assisting our neighboring communities with healthcare and education.

Every Monday I take Kaltouma, Loisaba’s clinical officer to Ewaso Dispensary to attend to patients there. On average, there are 25 to 30 patients at the clinic for Kaltouma to attend too. In partnership with Ewaso Dispensary, we also conduct medical outreach clinics in areas where access to healthcare is limited. The last clinic held at Sagumai was attended by 80 patients.

© Izzy Parsons

In partnership with Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation, Kimanjo Health Centre and Ewaso Dispensary, a training session on the negative effects of undergoing FGM was held in October 2017. Many parents were willing for their girls not to undergo the cut so an alternative rite of passage was developed.

© Ambrose Letoluai

In December, sixty girls took part in this alternative rite of passage ceremony thereby becoming women without having to undergo FGM. Interestingly the girls’ circumciser was present at the meeting and has vowed never again to do the cutting, she is now employed at the Ewaso Dispensary and her salary is funded by LCCF.

A very important aspect of my work  is ensuring good relationships with neighboring communities, especially in terms of grazing. I spend much of my time with morans and community elders discussing the importance of rangeland management. If there have been any issues in the local area I will also attend the meetings.

Another part of my work which I love is the education days that we hold at Loisaba with schools from the neighboring communities. These days are held in partnership with the Nature Consevancy, LCCF, Elewana, Space for Giants and San Diego Zoo. We teach the students about the importance of conservation and make them appreciate at a tender age about the environment. I think these days are really important because the children are the next generation so they will help to conserve for future generations. So far 90 students have attended these days from 5 different schools accompanied by 15 teachers.

© Lizzie Daly

 

By: Izzy Parsons

© Ambrose Letoluia

The first #Lionlandsapes #collaringforcoexistence collars were deployed last month on Loisaba Conservancy and Sosian Ranch. The matriarch of the Narok pride, one of the largest prides in the area was fitted with an iridium collar on Loisaba Conservancy after two nights waiting and watching. This pride has been collared consistently for over ten years allowing us a wonderful insight in to their family dynamics. The pride currently consists of the matriarch, and two younger females with six young cubs. A coalition of 4 adult males has also been seen associating with this pride!

© Isabelle Parsons

A collar was also deployed on Sosian Ranch on a lioness that is part of a pride that has been collared intermittently since 2007. The original lioness collared in 2007 was sadly killed by pastoralists on community land leaving behind a two year old son. Having been presumed dead he re-appeared after two years as a handsome male, forming a collation with another older male and taking over the pride. This young male was collared in 2015 for a collaborative research project and he became incredibly habituated, offering wonderful sightings to guests. Sadly, he was killed in February 2016 when the main Sosian pride males – five in total crossed the river and killed him in a territorial fight. The other male survived but the pride was rarely seen. After considerable patience from KWS vet Matthew Mutinda and the Lion Landscapes team, they darted and successfully collared a four year old lioness from this pride now named ‘Labai’. Her pride is made up of the old male who is very impressive, a younger male, two or three lionesses and two groups of cubs.

© Sean Outram

We can’t wait to keep you updated on these two prides and the cubs they are rearing but these collars are not fitted purely to monitor the populations. Following exposure to weak and poorly guarded community livestock last year, conflict between lions and humans has escalated in the Laikipia ecosystem.

It is imperative to collar the misbehaving lions who have learnt to kill livestock so that real time movement data transmitted from the iridium collars can allow lions to be monitored closely, and teams on the ground respond if lions move into areas where they may get into trouble. Because this is so imperative, other projects (Living With Lions and University of California) are joining Oxford University based Lion Landscapes in contributing collars. Save the Elephants have developed a user-friendly app that maps the lion on google earth giving livestock owners the ability to avoid lions, or increase protection efforts in response to actual lion presence, thus better defending their livestock from lion attacks.

© Isabelle Parsons

In conjunction with the app, Savannah Tracking have designed a Boma Shield System. This system responds to chips in the specially designed lion collars by setting off alarms and lights when the collared lion comes within 200 meters of a boma.  The harmless deterrents used are currently being field trialed by Lion Landscapes on Loisaba Conservancy, Sosian Ranch and Suyian Ranch.

Thank you very much to our wonderful partners The Nature Conservancy and Tusk Trust who have supported Lion Landscapes with these collars. We hope that the combination of the real time movement data and boma shield system will reduce the number of retaliatory killing of lions by informing and engaging livestock owners directly and also help to retrain livestock killing lions into thinking that livestock is off the menu!!

By: Izzy Parsons