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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

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

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

Loisaba Tented Camp

After a roaring bush fire which burnt down the existing Lodge and Private House in October 2013, The Phoenix has now risen from the ashes. On the 1st of May we proudly opened our doors to The new Loisaba Tented Camp. Partnered with The Elewana Collection, the Camp sits on the same beautiful site which Carlotta Ancelotti chose decades ago as the site of his house.

With the most breath-taking view looking towards Mt Kenya, Loisaba Tented Camp is perched high on the edge of an escarpment, with a frequently visited waterhole below one can enjoy all of the expansive view from the comfort of their veranda. Come and enjoy this little taste of wilderness…

Read more about Loisaba Tented Camp