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For #InternationalWomansDay this year, we are celebrating the women who are critical to our work at Loisaba. Seleina, Stella and Natalie tell us about some of the issues women still face in Kenyan communities and offer words of encouragement to other women…

Seleina Shurake, HR

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“I am a Human Resources professional with a background in conservation. I’m passionate about conservation, women, young people and building better societies.”

 

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Yes. The number of men and women in Kenya is roughly equal, but the rate of women in the workplace, in parliament and in boardrooms is still very low.”

 

What are the problems that women face in your community?

“Women are treated like second class citizens in their own community. They face many challenges which include female genital mutilation (FGM), gender based violence and lack of access to clean water and health facilities. I have overcome some challenges. Education empowered me, and now with more knowledge I can make good decisions.”

 

What can women achieve, if given the chance?

“Women can achieve a lot. It is said that empowering a girl is equivalent to empowering the whole community.”

 

What message would you like to send other women?

“Education is the only solution to our problems. Your gender does not affect your capability, you are as capable as the next man.”

 

Natalie Asai, Research

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“I am from a pastoral community (Maasai), born and raised by a single mother in Laikipia. Growing up as a girl in a pastoralist community was not easy. My father separated from my mother so, as the eldest daughter of five children, I helped my mother at home rather than attend school. I always admired other students in school, and with the help of my older brother and others who saw potential in me I was granted a scholarship and was able to start school.

“My father however, who was against girls having an education, tried to marry me to an older man when I was in class six. It was hard for me to believe that after all he put us through in leaving us, he still had the power to give me away against my will without the need to consult anyone in my family, including me. My brothers and elders in my community helped me by taking me to boarding school and informing authorities of my fathers actions. I was able to finish my schooling, where I learned a lot about conservation and protection of the environment, and when my interest in conservation developed and grew.”

 

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Women are very much disadvantaged in Kenya because it is still believed by many that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, taking care of the children and family. It is extremely hard for a woman to get top positions in Kenya because most professional industries are dominated by men. In some communities like mine, women have been left behind for so long because even with qualifications, people still believe they should just be someones wife.”

 

What are the problems that women face in your community?

“In Kenya, female poverty is exacerbated by gender-based violence, including early marriages and FGM. Women and girls are vulnerable as they do not have a voice to represent them. I had to overcome the challenge of early marriage at a very young age when my father tried to give me away against my will. My mother had no say as, even though my father had left her, women cannot question their husbands decisions. If it was not for my brother and my scholarships, I would not be where I am today.”

 

What can women achieve, if given the chance?

“Many things can be achieved by women in Kenya and all over the world if they are given the chance. Zipporah Kinttoy, Professor Wangari Mathai and Tabitha Karanja are all women I look up to for bringing positive impacts to their societies and to the country.

“Hon. Zipporah Kinttoy has immensely contributed to women empowerment in Kenya as one of the longest serving chairpersons of Maendeleo ya Wanawake (“Women’s Development”). During her 11 year tenure, she worked tirelessly to promote economic empowerment and leadership training for women, as well as working on programs to eradicate female genital mutilation.

“Professor Wangari Mathai is an icon for environmental conservation. She is the founder of the green belt movement and is the reason many of us in Kenya believe in conservation today. 

“As a lady from the pastoralist community who now works in conservation, I would love to be an agent of change and a role model to the girls in our communities. I would make sure that all girls have the opportunity of an education and help them to understand the importance of conservation.”

 

What message would you like to send other women?

“The world can be a better place if we stand up and be the change we want to see in the world. Let’s stand up and raise our voices for the less privileged women, especially from pastoralist communities, as they do not have a chance to fight for their own rights. I will always fight for the right of girls because I know what it means to go through those challenges.”

Stella Ekuam, Security

 

Photo © Roshni Lodhia

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

“My name is Stella. I am from the Turkana tribe in northern Kenya. I started working at Loisaba Conservancy last year as a dog handler.

“Before I joined Loisaba, I worked at another conservancy as a ranger, and was part of the first female anti-poaching unit in East Africa. I have always had a passion to work as a dog handler in security – I love dogs and they take such a big piece of my heart. They are the only creatures on earth that can love you more than they love themselves.

“The security industry is dominated by men. To get to where I am, I attended a three month training course in a team of 25, and I was the only lady. The training taught me to believe in myself as a woman. I gained courage, confidence, determination and also realised that what a man can do, I can do better.

 

Do you feel like women have disadvantages in Kenya?

“Yes. Women remain underrepresented in decision making. Women and girls in rural areas still spend long hours grazing livestock, collecting firewood and fetching water. This limits attendance in schools and affects the ability to get a job. They have less access to and control over benefits from both education and employment.”

 

What are the problems that women face in your community?

“Women face many challenges. Lack of education and early marriages, gender inequality, harassment in public places and sometimes even physical abuse in the home. There are also still rules in some areas about how women should dress and talk, which is extremely limiting for women to progress in society.”

 

What can women achieve, if given the chance?

“Women can have better lives and become independent through access to education.”

 

What message would you like to send other women?

“That whatever a man can do, a women can do it better!”

 

We are excited to announce that we have a new addition to Loisaba’s Mammal List; the desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus)!

The desert warthog is one of Africa’s least studied and most poorly-known large mammals. Although described in 1766, confusion concerning its taxonomy resulted in the recognition of only one species of warthog, the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus).

‘Rediscovered’ in 1991, the desert warthog differs most noticeably from the common warthog in its warts (hook-shaped rather than cone-shaped) and ears (bent back at the tip rather than erect; see below).

How to most readily differentiate the desert warthog (right) from the common warthog (left) in the field. 1) Warts: adult desert warthog has a hook-shaped wart under the eye, adult common warthog has a cone-shaped wart under the eye. 2) Ears: ear tips of a desert warthog are bend backwards, ear tips of common warthog are erect. 3) Suborbital area: suborbital area (under the eye) appears swollen in adult desert warthog, absent in common warthog. 4) Head: head of desert warthog is ‘egg-shaped’ when viewed from the front, head of common warthog is slightly ‘diablo-shaped’ when viewed from the front. © Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski

Previously, a subspecies of the desert warthog (the cape warthog, P.a. aethiopicus) was found in South Africa, but became extinct in the 1870s. This is thought to be due to disease, hunting, human-caused habitat change, and/or competition with livestock.

Now found only in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the distribution, abundance, ecology, behaviour and conservation status of the desert warthog remain poorly known. A better understanding is not only of considerable scientific interest, it is important to the development of effective conservation and management plans for this species.

Although listed as ‘Least Concern’, there are large areas in Kenya where the desert warthog is naturally absent or at very low density. During dry periods, there are few sources of drinking water and plant productivity is low – meaning higher competition between livestock and wildlife for forage and water. Many protected areas within the range of the desert warthog experience high livestock densities during the dry seasons, and are affected by insecurity and poaching.

In February 2021, Yvonne de Jong and Tom Butynski visited Loisaba as part of their study of the distribution and conservation status of the desert warthog in Kenya and Horn of Africa. During their two-day visit they obtained the first record for desert warthog at Loisaba (the 4th location in Laikipia, along with Lekurruki Conservancy, Il’Ngwesi Conservancy, and Suyian Ranch). “Loisaba has at least one sounder of four (2 adult females and 2 subadult females) and possibly a sounder of both desert warthogs and common warthogs”. Thanks to our carefully managed cattle grazing programmes and excellent security (0 poaching incidences at Loisaba since 2017), we are proud to be able to provide safe habitat for the desert warthog.

Yvonne and Tom’s updated desert warthog distribution map is completed and ready to be published. There are still, however, many questions that remain unanswered: Does the desert warthog interbreed with the common warthog? Did this species only recently arrive in Laikipia? Where else is it found in Laikipia?

Common warthog at Loisaba © De Jong & Butynski

 

How You Can Help

Have you seen desert warthog in Kenya? To help answer some of these questions, and to better understand the distribution of desert warthogs, details and a photograph of your encounter would be highly appreciated. The following information is most helpful:

  • Date of sighting
  • Name of nearest village or town
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Elevation
  • Habitat

Please send the details and image of your sighting to [email protected] or [email protected].

By Max Silvester

On the 25th of June our ranger team, having sighted a large bull elephant with an obvious limp, began a monitoring and surveillance operation. When it became apparent that the bull’s injury and obvious discomfort was not subsiding any time soon, the call was made for further action – a KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) vet team was brought in with the aim of darting the pachyderm, examining the wound, and administrating the appropriate medicine – no mean feat!

 

 

This huge elephant (a fully mature bull) luckily dropped to the ground in a manner that allowed for the vet team to get to work on the obviously swollen front left foot. Had the elephant fallen awkwardly, it would have been a huge uphill battle to move him. Even the usual method using four-wheel drive cars and ropes would have struggled to shift his immense mass.

 

 

It became obvious that the wound was caused by a bullet which had entered the foot having grazed the trunk. This shot could have been fired in one of the regions where human wildlife conflict continues to plague both wildlife and human populations alike. Another theory advocates that this wound is the result of a botched poaching attempt, which aligns with the fact this individual elephant was sporting huge tusks by modern Laikipia’s standards, estimated to weigh up to 40 kg. Luckily the intelligence of this bull, in moving quickly to a place of safety Loisaba Conservancy, allowed the rangers and the vet team to assure his wound was treated successfully and he continues to roam Laikipia as a testament to his forefathers, the huge tuskers before him.

 

 

Meanwhile our ranger team (with a few remaining to monitor the elephant) rushed off to treat a giraffe with a split hoof, showing that as the world limps out of lockdowns induced by the virus, wildlife operations continue regardless – full steam ahead.

If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities who have no access to healthcare, please donate today. Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.

 

 

Conservation & Wildlife Security

Elephant Rescue

At the beginning of this month, two elephant calves were rescued by Loisaba’s security team and were flown to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in partnership with KWS and Tropic Air. Read more about their rescue here!

World Giraffe Day

On the 21st, World Giraffe Day was celebrated here at Loisaba’s Conservation Centre with a small group of community members and Loisaba employees. All COVID-19 protocols were followed, and the group learned about the work San Diego Zoo Global are doing to help save this iconic species.

Community

Health

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are continuing to support our local communities. Two outreach clinics were conducted this month (5th and 26th) at neighbouring towns with little access to healthcare, with a total of 98 patients treated for minor illnesses. They were also educated about COVID-19 with the team giving information on the symptoms and preventative measures, including teaching the children social distancing and donating masks. This brings the total number of patients attended to in 2020 by our Clinical Health Officer Kaltuma to 857.

Loisaba’s Clinical Health Officer, Kaltuma, distributing face masks made by the Chui Mamas.

 

Security

On the 4th of this month, Loisaba’s security and aircraft were involved in the recovery of cattle stolen from one of our neighbouring community members. The following message was left on our Facebook page regarding the mission:

“Loisaba Conservancy be blessed always. Today we witnessed a lot after Loisaba Conservancy assisted the community around after some cattle were stolen… the cattle (belonging to Lepiile) were today stolen by unknown rustlers. It was a bit tricky as the rustlers vanished to God-knows-where but wonders happened after Loisaba Conservancy intervened. Loisaba came in with an aircraft led by the most heroic security manager Daniel Yiankere. They followed the stolen cattle by plane and were able to locate and recover them. The community sends their joy for this kind of help and this is how neighbours should be treating each other always. This is not the first time this team has assisted the community as we have seen and received foodstuffs and other essential items from their generosity during this rough time that we are experiencing. Once again Loisaba Conservancy the community wishes to appreciate you for all that you have been doing for them.” – Lekimain Denis.

We were grateful to receive the message and were pleased that we were able to provide support to our neighbours.

Community members thanking the Loisaba team after the recovery of their cattle.

 

Photos of the Month

 

Most liked Instagram Post:

 

Most liked Facebook Post:

© 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

World Giraffe Day is celebrated annually on June 21st in order to raise support and create awareness of the challenges giraffes face in the wild.

The population of reticulated giraffe, one of the most iconic mammals on the planet, has declined by over 50% over the past 30 years – from 36,000 to just around 15,000 today. Poaching, loss of habitat, and land degradation are all pushing the giraffe toward an ominously named “silent extinction.”

A reticulated giraffe at Loisaba. Photo © Ami Vitali.

In 2016, San Diego Zoo Global launched a collaborative community-lead conservation effort in northern Kenya to help save the reticulated giraffe species from extinction. Work is currently focused at two sites: Loisaba Conservancy and Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, where giraffe conservation research and community engagement programmes are conducted by Twiga Walinzi (which means giraffe guards in Swahili). The Twiga Walinzi all come from the local community, and conduct all the field research to study giraffe.

We asked Symon Masiaine, the Twiga Walinzi Conservation Coordinator, to tell us more:

Symon Masiaine, Twiga Walinzi conservation Coordinator. © Ami Vitali.

 

What are the main challenges reticulated giraffes face in northern Kenya?

“One of the main challenges here in Kenya is loss of suitable habitat due to clearing of land for agriculture, tree cutting for firewood and building, and infrastructure development. In addition, giraffe are still poached for meat, bones (which are burnt and the ashes used as medicine) and their tails (used as fly swats and the hairs for bracelets). ”

 

What data are the Twiga Walinzi collecting?

“The Twiga Walinzi carry out photo monitoring, camera trap placement, giraffe satellite collaring, human dimension surveys, school education visits and community awareness and engagement.

“Photo monitoring is carried out in order to gather systematic geo-located images of giraffe that can assist us in identifying, counting and tracking giraffe movements. Placement of camera traps across our study types also contributes to this, with over 1 million images captured so far.

Camera trap photo. © SDZG.

“In order to explore the movements of giraffes further, solar-powered GPS tracking devices have been fitted to reticulated giraffes in the study area. This has given us insights into giraffe movements in the region and utilization of different areas and habitats, what factors cause giraffe to move and whether giraffes move over long distances or stay localised (read more here).

“The team also spends time with local community members and school children in order to understand more about their relationships and interactions with giraffes and other wildlife species, as well as to spread knowledge of important conservation topics and learn about the work of the Twiga Walinzi. Perceptions are documented with surveys in order to help us understand and assess any changes in attitudes and beliefs in the communities who share their space with giraffes over time.

Lexson Larpei (Twiga Walinzi) teaching local school children about giraffes.

 

Why are the Twiga Walinzi Important?

“The Twiga Walinzi are a team of 17 researchers who are leading the work on the ground with pastoralists and communities to spread awareness about giraffes and build support for the protection of the tallest animal on earth. It is scientifically proven that 95% of the 15,000 reticulated giraffes left in the wild live outside formal protected areas – largely on pastoral land. The Twiga Walinzi is important as it focuses work outside of protected areas where people live side by side with giraffes.”

Reticulated giraffes at Loisaba. Photo © Taro Croze.

 

How do you identify individuals?

“Giraffe are recognised using spot patterns on their skin. No two giraffes have the exact same spot pattern, just like no one else has your fingerprints. At Twiga Walinzi, we started identifying giraffe using the pattern manually with our eyes, but in 2019 a pattern recognition software was launched called GiraffeSpotter. The software uses advanced coat pattern recognition technology to recognise individual giraffes and creates a database of sightings. This innovative technology allows researchers, as well as citizen scientists, to monitor giraffe populations throughout Africa and track individual movements.”

Camera trap photo. © SDZG.

 

Tell us about your best experience in the field.

“It was a one of the community survey days in Koija group ranch, going from one village to the next to gather information about giraffes. We met with one mama who identified us by name and said hello to both me and Lexson (another Twiga Walinzi). She gave us seats and started preparing tea for us, and started talking about the great job we as a project are doing in the community. She explained how valuable it was that we hold regular meetings with the communities to update everyone on the project, and how she loved that we took the time to educate school students about the conservation of giraffe and other wildlife in the community. She went on to tell us that her son (year 6) teaches them about the species of giraffe that are found in Kenya, their adaptations to the environment and the food web in the African savanna. She asked us to continue to educate the children and the community about conservation because wildlife and pastoralists need to live side by side, and thanked us for the work we are doing. I was so thrilled by the story and I saw that we are making an impact in the community through the community engagement meetings and school clubs visits.”

 

What are the Twiga Walinzi doing for world giraffe day?

“We are spreading the following message to community members and students in northern Kenya:

  1. Be the voice for giraffe in the communities.
  2. Say no to giraffe poaching in your communities.
  3. Say no to giraffe trade and trafficking.
  4. Share the knowledge you learn to your friends, family members and community.
  5. Stand tall for the giraffe!

Happy World Giraffe Day 2020!

By Hannah Campbell

Loisaba Conservancy sits on the western edge of one of Kenya’s most important elephant movement corridors – connecting Loisaba to Samburu, 100 km to the north-east.

Elephants are extremely important to Kenya. Not only do they have significant roles in ecological dynamics, they are also highly charismatic and serve as a rallying point for conservation. Due to the fact that they require large areas of ecosystems to be conserved, protecting elephants also means protecting the hundreds of other endangered and vulnerable species that they share their space with.

© Loisaba Conservancy (Oryx Ltd.)

Elephants are particularly vulnerable to population decline due to their slow reproductive rate. Elephants do not reach sexual maturity (and therefore start to breed) until between 12 and 14 years of age and when they do conceive, the gestation period is almost 2 years (20 months) with the mother producing one calf at a time. The baby is then dependent on its mother for feeding for the next two to three years, and the mother does not typically have another calf until the previous one is around 4 years of age.

Compare this to a lion. Lions reach sexual maturity at two years old, and have a gestation period of 3.5 months which usually results in 2 – 5 cubs every two years. This means a single female lion cub can produce five more lions in two years (each of which can then produce a further five in two years etc.). For a single elephant to cause the birth of an additional five calves, it would take approximately 32 years.

This slow reproductive rate of elephants means that elephant calves are particularly important, which is a fact known by Loisaba’s security team – who will protect them at all costs.

So far this year, three elephant calves have been rescued by Loisaba’s security team and sent to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in partnership with KWS and Tropic Air.

Longuro

On Saturday 18th April, our security team was called to the rescue of a baby elephant that had fallen into a well on a neighbouring property and attacked by hyenas, resulting in the loss of most of his trunk.

Our Loisaba rangers managed to free him from the well and transported him back to Loisaba, where he was flown to Reteti by Tropic Air. He is receiving the critical care that he needs and hopefully one day be released back into the wild.

He is doing remarkably well at Reteti, and has been named ‘Longuro’ – meaning ‘someone who has lost a limb’ in Samburu.

Longuro at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Photo © Katie Rowe

 

Loteku

Just after sunset on the 30th May, one of the Loisaba rangers reported that a young elephant had been unable to keep up with its herd as they crossed the Ewaso Narok river that evening. The young calf had been swept downstream towards a waterfall, and was struggling to stay afloat. A team led by Loisaba’s security manager Daniel Yiankere were deployed to the river, where two rangers bravely jumped into the cold, raging river in order to pull him out.

Luckily he had no physical injuries, but he was weak and his herd was nowhere to be found. After consultation with KWS and Reteti, the decision was made to bring the calf to Loisaba Headquarters for the night where he was carefully monitored until morning when a Tropic Air plane arrived to transport him safely to Reteti. He is settling in well and has been named Loteku – meaning ‘the rescued one’.

Loketu at Loisaba Airstrip.

 

Sikampi

The day after Loketu was rescued from the river, another elephant calf was spotted alone. Estimated to be one year old, he was monitored by the Loisaba rangers for three days. It was reported that he had joined a group of elephants, but was then found alone again the following day. His condition seemed to be deteriorating – he was becoming malnourished and seemed to be blind in his left eye.

Sikampi settling in at Reteti. Photo © Katie Rowe

On the 3rd June, a vet from KWS assisted the Loisaba rangers in darting and transporting the calf to the Loisaba airstrip, where he was airlifted to Reteti elephant orphanage to join Loketu. He has already made new friends in the orphan herd and has been going out browsing with them.

Loisaba rangers wishing Sikampi a safe journey. © Loisaba Conservancy

 

In addition to these calves, Loisaba also aided in the rescue of a bull elephant in the neighbouring Nannapa Conservancy on the 16th of April – see photos and read more here.

If you would like to support these courageous rangers who work tirelessly to protect the wildlife at Loisaba, please donate today. Even a small donation will make a huge difference.

World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on 5 June since 1974; engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.

Loisaba Conservancy. Photo © silverless.co.uk

This year, the theme is biodiversity – the variety and variability of life on Earth. It is the most complex feature of our planet, and the most vital. Intricate webs of life and energy-flow link individual species to entire ecosystems, such as forests or coral reefs – which have made Earth habitable for billions of years. Recent events (such as the COVID-19 pandemic and locust invasions across east Africa) have demonstrated how delicate this web is, and how dependent we are on its stability.

“Time for Nature”

 

The human population has doubled in the last 50 years, and has already grown by 30 million people in 2020. This has put immense pressure on natures resources – from carbon use to grazing land – meaning it would take 1.6 earths to produce all the renewable resources we use. By damaging the delicate balance of nature, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens (including coronaviruses) to spread. It’s time to think about nature, and protect biodiversity.

Loisaba Conservancy. Photo © silverless.co.uk

Not only do we provide security and protection for endangered species and critical wildlife habitat in order to protect biodiversity, Loisaba strives to have a minimal carbon footprint with initiatives such as the community cooker and our BioDigester.

We are also delighted to hear that Kenya has banned the use of single-use plastics in all protected areas as of today. This ban prohibits visitors from carrying plastic water bottles, disposable plates and cups, cutlery and straws into national parks, forests, beaches and conservation areas, with the aim of curbing the growing plastic pollution.

The Community Cooker in action – safely burning plastics and other waste material to generate fuel for cooking.

Unfortunately, due to the closure of Loisaba’s tourism properties as a result of COVID-19, our operating budget has been significantly reduced – with a forecasted $1 million lost in revenue from tourism and other areas of income that would usually contribute toward protecting the biodiversity of the Loisaba landscape.

If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities, please donate today. Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.

Conservation & Wildlife Security

Elephant Rescue

On Saturday 16th April, our Rapid Response Team was deployed at the request of NRT conservation director Ian Craig to help save a bull elephant who had become stuck in sinking mud on the neighbouring Nannapa Community Conservancy. With the help of Loisaba’s SAME 130 tractor, the elephant was successfully rescued.

Loisaba Rhino Sanctuary Progress

This month, we hosted a team from KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) who carried out a security assessment. This is part of an on-going process to prepare Loisaba for the reintroduction of the eastern black rhino that were last seen at Loisaba in the 1970’s. We believe the audit went well, and we look forward to hearing a positive response from KWS in the near future!

Community

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are continuing to support our local communities. On the 13th, a Health Outreach clinic was held at a neighbouring town with little access to healthcare – where 50 patients were treated for minor illnesses. They were also educated about COVID-19 with the team giving information on the symptoms and preventative measures, including teaching the children social distancing. This brings the total number of patients attended to in 2020 by our Clinical Health Officer Kaltuma to 756.

Health Outreach Clinic at KMC. Photo © Taro Croze

Due to the virus, many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families. This month, we were able to donate food supplies to a further 70 households in our neighbouring communities. If you would like to help us support local communities, please donate today. Even a small amount will go a long way!

Many thanks to our partners and donors who have enabled us to continue community support.

KMC community receiving food supplies.

 

Photos of the Month

Most liked Instagram and Facebook Photo:

© Heather Eaton

Best Caption: @lbiggers3 Did someone say tacos?

Photo © 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

For rural households in Kenya, the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis is not a direct health impact, but an economic one. The virus is predominantly in urban centres, where people are closer together and the risk of spread is higher. If the virus does spread to rural areas, weaker health systems would mean trouble for community members. However, whether COVID-19 spreads to Loisaba’s surrounding communities or not, the food systems have been disrupted and economic challenges have increased, particularly impacting vulnerable rural households.

“Due to COVID-19, the livestock markets that people depend on have been closed. The community now have no place to sell their livestock so that they can buy food for their families. Price of food has also gone up due to less supply, and people who were employed in tourism have been sent on unpaid leave – so those families who have been depending on those individuals have been affected too” says Paul Naiputari, Loisaba’s Community Liaison and Development Officer.

© Ami Vitale

It is now more important than ever to support our neighbouring communities, and ensure they link living close to a protected area such as Loisaba with positive benefits in order to protect habitat and wildlife. Despite Loisaba’s operating budget being significantly reduced, we have been able to continue to support our local communities with support from San Diego Zoo Global, The Nature Conservancy and other generous donors.

 

Health Outreach Clinics

We are continuing to run our health outreach clinics, with our clinical health officer Kaltuma offering consultations and treatment to people that would otherwise be unable to access healthcare, as well as offering support to Ewaso Dispensary. So far this year, 5 outreach clinics have been held and a total of 756 patients seen.

Our Clinical Health Officer, Kaltuma, attending to patients.

 

COVID-19 Awareness

In addition to treating patients, our team has been spreading awareness of the symptoms and best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the importance of social distancing and hand washing. Five hand washing stations have also been donated to communities.

Hand washing station made and donated by Loisaba to KMC community. © Taro Croze

 

Donations

Due to the virus, many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to feed their families. So far, we have been able to donate food supplies to 270 households in our neighbouring communities.

We have also donated $2,500 to the Laikipia County “Komesha Corona” (Put an End to Corona) Emergency Fund, with a further $5,250 donated through the county’s “sponsor a village” initiative, with food going directly to our local communities. This government led initiative is helping to deliver food packages to the families in Laikipia who are struggling with loss of employment and high food prices.

KMC community receiving food supplies.

 

Student Support

While our Education Days at the Loisaba Conservation Centre have been put on hold during the pandemic, we are continuing to support our local students. WhatsApp groups have been formed with teachers and parents, with teachers sending notes and assignments. This is challenging however, as many parents do not have smart phones and those who do don’t have a reliable internet connection. We are in the process of looking into acquiring data and airtime to help these households.

 

We need your help!

With the closure of Loisaba’s tourism properties, our operating budget has been reduced significantly – with a forecasted $1 million lost in revenue from tourism and other areas of income that would usually contribute toward wildlife security, conservancy operations and community outreach programmes.

If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities who have no access to healthcare, please donate today.

Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.

Thank you, and stay safe!

By Hannah Campbell

Social media is currently flooded with photos and stories of nature ‘thriving in lockdown’. We’re all loving the sight of clear Venetian canals and hearing that China is cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade. It’s certainly true that nature is securing short-term gains from an enforced reduction in destructive human behaviours, but this is masking a much more serious longer-term problem – that wildlife conservation is now under serious threat.

So what does the COVID-19 crisis really mean for wildlife and conservation?

Reduced Operating Budgets

Most conservation efforts worldwide depend on both the people who work in protected areas such as rangers, and the income from ecotourism. With social distancing and the travel ban, many conservation areas are left with a hugely reduced operating budget and workforce, leading to many challenges in continuing to protect critical wildlife habitat and the endangered and vulnerable species that it is home to.

Loisaba’s K9 unit out on patrol. Photo © Ami Vitali

 

Increased Security Risks

The reduced operating budget isn’t the only issue. With the tourism industry being hit country-wide and the global impact on the economy, Kenya has seen large scale job losses. In many areas, this means an increased poaching and security threat, with more people unemployed who may turn to crime in order to feed their families.

© Ami Vitali

 

Local Perceptions

With COVID-19 expected to cause a revenue loss of up to $450 billion in the tourism sector, many countries that rely heavily on the tourism industry (including Africa) will have less resources to devote to wildlife conservation. This, coupled with the fact that land currently used for conservation could also be used for agriculture, is a worrying thought for conservation. To justify the existence of conservation areas, economic and social benefits must be seen by the local populations and government.

Sakakei Naiptari prepares to milk his cows. Photo © Ami Vitale

Here at Loisaba, we provide benefits to community members that would not be possible if it weren’t for Wildlife Tourism, and the conservancy that attracts it. Health clinics, education days, scholarships, school infrastructure support, security services and many more benefits help community members place a value on wildlife. However, with the collapse of tourism, many conservation areas will no longer be able to offer these benefits to communities, endangering the positive connection local people have with the wildlife they share their space with.

Loisaba’s Clinical Health Officer, Kaltuma Dabaso, assisting at the local dispensary. © Roshni Lodhia

 

We need your help!

With the closure of Loisaba’s tourism properties, our operating budget has been reduced significantly – with a forecasted $1 million lost in revenue from tourism and other areas of income that would usually contribute toward wildlife security, conservancy operations and community outreach programmes.

If you would like to help us maintain zero poaching levels, keep our rangers on the ground, protect endangered species and support local communities who have no access to healthcare, please donate today.

Even a small donation will make a huge difference to Loisaba’s conservation and community development work.

Thank you, and stay safe.