Posts

By Hannah Campbell

Conservation and Wildlife Security

Earlier this month, our Conservation Officer, Horris Wanyama, attended an Elephant Monitoring Training Workshop lead by Save The Elephants in order to standardise elephant identification and monitoring methods across the landscape.

Save The Elephants, who are based up in Samburu, also shared their existing database of identified elephants. This is helpful as some of the elephants that we see at Loisaba make the 100 km journey up to Sera in Samburu, and could be unnecessarily identified twice if it wasn’t for this shared database.

Horris has been working with the rest of the conservation department in order to add to the database of elephant ID’s at Loisaba, with 52 females and 44 males currently identified.

Map to show elephants known as Kimita and Sankata at Loisaba during October 2019. Map © Space for Giants

Map to show Kimita and Sankata traveling through Isiolo to Samburu from 4th – 12th November 2019. Map © Space for Giants

Map to show Kimita and Sankata in Samburu at the beginning of this year. Map © Space for Giants

 

Community

After the successful Baotree trial in November and December last year, Koija community benefitted from the installation of predator proof bomas to 15 households as well as a five day healthcare training workshop that covered prevention of disease, basic first aid, nutrition and health and the dangers of drug abuse. Read more about Baotree here.

A big thank you to Paul (Community Officer) and Lenguya (SDZG Leopard Conservation Program) for organising the deployment of the bomas and the Loisaba workshop team for building them, to Kaltuma (Clinical Health Officer) and Paul for organising and implementing the health care workshop and to Dimitri (Baotree founder) for making it possible.

Installation of a predator proof boma

 

Healthcare workshop

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Jillian Gann, we were also able to host two medical outreach clinics this month in Sagumai (8th Feb) and Morijo (22nd Feb), attending to a total of 192 patients. If you would like to contribute towards this critical healthcare for our local communities, help us reach our $10,000 goal for 2020 here.

Kaltuma and Jennifer treating patients at Morijo

 

Research

This month, our research team moved into their new offices! The team started with just two employees in 2017 on the SDZG Twiga Walinzi project. With the addition of the Leopard Conservation Program and four more employees, the team of six (along with their equipment) needed a larger working space for their research.

“On behalf of the entire team here, I would like to send a warm thank you to all. This is the best office ever with enough space for all of us, enough for all our equipment and the breeze outside is just so refreshing. The WiFi is also very good and we no longer need to use LAN cables. Thanks so much to Tom, Hannah, Richard, Gichuru, Njuguna and all that made the renovations happen.” – Symon Masiaine, Twiga Walinzi Conservation Coordinator

Symon Masiaine (Twiga Walinzi Conservation Coordinator)

Lexson (Twiga Walinzi), Anthony (Twiga Walinzi), Limo (Leopard Conservation Program) and Lenguya (Leopard Conservation Program) in their new office.

 

Photos of the Month

Most liked Instagram photo:

Marico Sunbird © Peter Ekidor

Most liked Facebook photo:

Leopard © Taro Croze

If you have any photos from your stay at Loisaba that you would like featuring on our social media, please email them stating how you would like it to be credited to Hannah at [email protected]!

 

 

By Hannah Campbell

Imagine waking up to find that you had lost your job and your life’s savings all in one night. You’d understandably hate whatever was responsible for your loss, and may even go out of your way to destroy it.

This is how a herder feels when he loses his entire herd of goats to a leopard or other predator attack during the night. As tourists and conservationists, we see these animals as magnificent cats that should be protected from extinction, but to the pastoralist communities that surround Loisaba, they are simply a huge risk to their livelihoods.

For the conservation of wildlife to be successful, it is vital that the people these species share their habitat with are also committed to their survival, and see a benefit and value to their existence.

A new coexistence model known as Baotree was recently trialed here at Loisaba, in partnership with Lion Landscapes. Designed and led by Dimitri Syrris, Baotree aims to provide local communities with a mechanism to actively earn community development goals, through carrying out conservation-based activities, thus engaging in the protection of their environment and their livelihoods. This approach keeps the responsibility for natural resource management firmly within the communities, whilst supporting and catalyzing the development of conservation-based activities.

“It is critical that, for conservation of wildlife and associated biodiversity to be successful, the custodians of existing ecosystems that support the magnitude of biodiversity required for the survival of large carnivores and other mega-fauna can benefit directly from that conservation. Loisaba Conservancy seeks to scale the impact of wildlife, livestock and community coexistence. What is needed is an inclusive approach that will promote diversity and achieve a credible, measurable result.” – Dimitri Syrris

The model works by assigning conservation tasks known as ‘gigs’ to communities, such as reporting a lion sighting to assist with research and strengthening their boma to help reduce human wildlife conflict. Each of these gigs is rewarded with a conservation currency, “bao-points”, which are then exchanged for a community benefit. The more important the gig for conservation, the more bao-points earned!

Invasive Species Removal

During the trail, the following steps were carried out:

  • The Baotree concept was presented to the chief, chairman and community members of Koija
  • Priority needs were agreed with the community members
  • Baotree community volunteers were identified and provided with a unique Baotree ID, registered to their community
  • In collaboration with Loisaba Conservancy and Lion Landscapes, the Baotree gigs were designed to support localised conservation efforts
  • Baotree printed a list of gigs that the community could complete in order to earn Bao-points (each gig had a specified evidence requirement) – the value of each gig was not shared with the community during this pilot to ensure there was no skew re which gigs were completed
  • The Bao-crew reported the gigs via phone call, which were then validated by members of Loisaba staff
  • On completion of the Baotree pilot, a community meeting was held to signify the end of the test period, and to discuss implementing the community project goals.

List of Community Gigs and associated Bao-Points

The pilot was a great success, with Koija community earning a total of 2,732 Bao-points after completing 125 gigs. Information from community meetings and a recent survey showed that within these communities, the men would like to see their livestock better protected and the women would like a better understanding of healthcare.

Installation of a predator proof boma

Baotree allowed the installation of 15 predator-proof bomas, along with a five day healthcare training workshop that covered prevention of disease, basic first aid, nutrition and health and the dangers of drug abuse.

Healthcare workshop

Dimitri is currently working on the next steps, with the success of the pilot pushing him forward.  A core focus is on scaling the solution through a technology facilitation platform –  where all stakeholders within conservation, communities and the international world will have a positive return on impact.  Dimitri is a strong believer in Baotree and his vision for coexistence to be key in unlocking a new type of digital independence within the African continent.

Follow Baotree on Instagram and Facebook for updates!

Baotree founder, Dimitri Syrris, with Baotree participants

 

By Hannah Campbell

As we reach the end of 2019, we would like to invite you to celebrate some of our key achievements over the past 12 months with us…

Zero Poaching

Loisaba’s K9 Unit out on patrol. © Alastair Boyd

Due to the increase in investment, National Police Reserve status and additional training programmes, poaching incidents at Loisaba have been reduced to zero, with no major security incident occurring in the conservancy this year.

Two Lionesses Collared

Collared lion at Loisaba Conservancy. © Hannah Campbell

In May 2019, another lioness was collared at Loisaba to allow the real-time tracking of the pride using an app, with a chip in the collar activating alarms that are attached to bomas. This ensures guards are on high alert when the lions are around!

In November, this lioness unfortunately sustained a serious injury to her leg, thought to be sustained by a zebra kick. After examination by a vet from Kenya Wildlife Services, it was concluded that recovery would not be possible and the difficult decision to euthanise her was made.

On the 19th December, a further lioness was collared to continue the important coexistence work of Lion Landscapes. Read more about how initiatives at Loisaba are addressing issues with human-wildlife conflict here.

Five Giraffes Fitted with GPS Tracking Devices

Reticulated giraffe GPS tagging operation. © San Diego Zoo Global

In the single largest GPS satellite tagging of giraffe in history, 28 solar powered GPS satellite tracking units were fitted to endangered reticulated giraffe in northern Kenya from 27th August – 5th September this year (five of which at Loisaba). This exercise was carried out in order to better understand their spatial movements and habitat use in the wild. Read more here.

Black Leopards Scientifically Recorded at Loisaba

Black leopard caught on camera trap at Loisaba Conservancy. © San Diego Zoo Global

In February this year, San Diego Zoo Global released a paper confirming the presence of melanistic leopards in Laikipia, with observations on five different dates and five different camera locations. Read more here.

Request for Loisaba to Become an Eastern Black Rhino Sanctuary Sent to KWS

Memory of Black Rhinos at Loisaba. © Down to Earth Films & Kathy Campbell

Loisaba has recently sent an application to Kenya Wildlife Services requesting permission to become a Rhino Sanctuary. Black rhinos were last seen on the property in the early 70’s, and it is our aim to make Loisaba a permanent home for rhinos again. Read more here.

Invasive Species Removal

JCB backhoe digging a pit for the invasive cactus. © Hannah Campbell

With the help of a generous donation through The Nature Conservancy, we have been able to purchase a JCB backhoe in order to help with the removal of the invasive cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. This investment has made a significant improvement to the efficiency of controlling the species, enabling removal of the cactus at over five times the rate of the previous method. The dug up cactus is now also being used to provide cooking fuel for our anti-poaching unit – read more here.

Community Engagement

© Ami Vitale

During 2019, 47 students have been supported through education, including full payment of school fees, books, uniform, school supplies, transport and school trips. The Loisaba team meets with all sponsored students every term to provide advice and support for their studies. We continue to hold education days at our Conservation Centre, hosting 18-20 students per event. The children take part in exercises demonstrating the importance of food webs and conservation of all species and basic mammal ecology.

Since 2017, Loisaba’s Community Liaison Officer has been visiting Ewaso Dispensary every Monday with our Clinical Health Officer who attends to patients, as well as restocking the dispensary with medication provided by the government. In addition to this, medical outreach clinics are held monthly in communities that have little access to medical care. Over 1,500 patients were treated in 2019. Read more here.

Thank you!

Whether you’ve been to stay at one of Elewana’s lodges here at Loisaba, supported us with a generous donation or simply followed our work on social media, you are a valued part of Loisaba’s network.

If you would like to support our work further, visit www.loisaba.com/donate.

Thank you for your support. Here’s to a successful 2020!

By Hannah Campbell

Here in Northern Kenya, the traditional lifestyle and livelihood practised by the local Maasai and Samburu people is nomadic pastoralism. This involves moving from place to place, following patterns of rainfall in search of fresh pasture and water for their cattle, camels, sheep and goats. This lifestyle has been practised since their arrival in Kenya in the 15th century, but lately it has risen to an increase in both human-predator conflict and competition with other grazers for resources. With the human population continuing to expand and shifts in settlement and grazing patterns, it is becoming more and more important for humans and wildlife to share habitat, and to coexist peacefully.

Sakakei Naiptari moves his cows out of the boma before they milk them and take them out for grazing at Loisaba. © Ami Vitale

Loisaba Conservancy is at the forefront of livestock and conservation land management, and believes wildlife and livestock can and need to coexist. Loisaba has livestock, but instead of negatively impacting wildlife, the careful management of cattle grazing and the construction of dams at Loisaba has meant that there is a good, consistent supply of food and water for wildlife. This has created a haven for endangered species such as the African wild dog and Grevy’s zebra, as well as large numbers of elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and cheetah.

In partnership with San Diego Zoo Global and Lion Landscapes, Loisaba also helps mitigate human-wildlife conflict that arises in the surrounding communities due to predators killing livestock:

San Diego Zoo Global

As part of San Diego Zoo Global’s Leopard Research Program, a Boma Monitoring Study is being carried out in Loisaba’s neighbouring communities in order to examine the carnivores that visit livestock bomas, and understand what may differentiate between an encounter and an attack at a boma site. Some bomas (carefully chosen by members of the community) have been supplied with subsidised materials such as wire and predator deterrent lights, in order to identify the best tools for mitigation, and contribute towards human-wildlife coexistence rather than conflict.

One of the giraffes fitted with a GPS tracking unit. © Hannah Campbell

San Diego Zoo Global’s Reticulated Giraffe Program, the Twiga Walinzi Initiative, is also looking into livestock interactions. In June 2017, 11 GPS tracking devices were fitted onto giraffes in order to provide insight into the movement of giraffe as well as possible movement corridors and preferred habitat. To further understand the interactions between giraffe and livestock, tracking devices were also placed on some of the cattle, camels and goats at Loisaba. This movement data, when combined with the giraffe movement data, will give a comprehensive oversight on the movements of livestock herds in relation to reticulated giraffe and how livestock are potentially impacting giraffe movement.

Map to show giraffe and livestock movement data.

Lion Landscapes

Lion Landscapes’ “Collaring for Coexistence” initiative is using technology to help lions live alongside people and livestock. Specialised lion GPS collars are deployed and managed in order to provide livestock owners with real time lion movement data via a mobile app, developed by Save The Elephants. This helps people keep their livestock away from lions in an area, and therefore reduces attacks on livestock and retaliation killing. The collars are also equipped with a chip that sets off an alarm when in close contact with Savannah Tracking’s Boma Shield System – the harmless deterrents used (lights and alarms) often stop a lion attacking, and ensure that the night watchmen are awake and ready to chase it away.

Narok – one of Loisaba’s collared lionesses. © Hannah Campbell

Six members of Loisaba’s Rapid Response Team have also been trained and equipped to respond effectively to incidences of human-carnivore conflict, following agreed best practises for lion conservation. This Lion Ranger training from the Peregrine Fund included information on how to respond to wildlife poisoning incidents, in order to prevent further wildlife losses and minimising risk to human and livestock health.

Two of the Loisaba Lion Rangers helping to track the Victoria pride.

by Dr. Nicholas Pilfold

The last two weeks have seen worldwide coverage of the black leopards recorded on San Diego Zoo Global remote cameras in Laikipia, and has resulted in intense interest in the sighting and science behind it. As the research is ongoing, we are continuing to watch our cameras for more observations, so we can unravel some of the mystery behind these black cats, including their range and movements.

When we started our research to scientifically confirm black leopard sightings (see: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/aje.12586), we focused on a small area to the south of Loisaba Conservancy to acquire imagery. We had always had suspected that the black leopards from our study ranged across several conservancies in the area including Loisaba. And now, we have our first recordings on our remote cameras on Loisaba! It is very exciting to start to record black leopard activity at a larger scale.

https://youtu.be/VQq_4oXYpRk

There are many questions that remain about the black panthers in Laikipia. How many are there and what is their frequency in the population? Why do black leopards live here in a semi-arid environment with little dense forest for camouflage? What other advantages does being black provide to leopards that may allow this trait to persist in the population?

While some of these questions may take years to answer, finding these individuals ranging at a broader scale is a step in the right direction for our research.

 

Most of the wildlife in Kenya lives outside of government parks and reserves, so it is critical to work with communities that are sharing land and resources with the wildlife that we want to protect. To better understand the ways that people are interacting with and perceiving leopards, in June 2017 a collaborative partnership between San Diego Zoo Global and Loisaba Conservancy was set up to conduct social and ecological research on the local leopard population in and around Loisaba.

Researchers from San Diego Zoo Global have been using camera traps at Loisaba Conservancy and neighbouring properties in order to understand population dynamics of leopards, and the mechanisms that drive human-wildlife conflict to assess the efficacy of management decisions aimed at mitigating conflict.

We are very excited to hear that these camera traps have captured rare footage of melanistic leopards, otherwise known as black panthers!

Female black panther pictured on San Diego Zoo Global’s camera traps at Loisaba Conservancy’s neighbouring property, Lorok

“Regionally we’ve heard reports of black leopards living here in Kenya, but high-quality footage or imagery to support these observations has always been missing,” said Nicholas Pilfold, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global scientist. “That’s what we’ve provided here with our cameras, and now we’re able to confirm what has been long suspected about black leopards living in Laikipia County.” 

“Black panthers are uncommon, only about 11% of leopards globally are black. But black panthers in Africa are extremely rare. Our new paper confirms black leopards living in Laikipia County, Kenya, and our observations in the paper are collectively the first confirmed cases in Africa in nearly 100 years. It is certain black panthers have been there all along, but good footage that could confirm it has always been absent until now.”

Click here for full paper.

Learn more at bit.ly/RareBlackLeopard

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