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

© Izzy Parsons

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

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

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

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

 

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

© 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.

© 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

Photo: © Hannah Campbell 2016

By: Kirstie Ruppert (San Diego Zoo Global)

“Do leopards cause you any problems?” Your answer to this question likely depends on where you live in the world and your primary source of income. When this question was asked to community members around Loisaba Conservancy, 75% of people said yes, that leopards kill or injure their livestock.  Such experiences can influence community members’ attitudes towards leopards and decisions when they come across leopards in the future. These connections are important to understand for conservation because leopard populations are in decline across their range. Leopards are listed Vulnerable by IUCN, with human-leopard conflict listed as the greatest source of direct mortality.

Pastoralism is the dominant lifestyle in this region, so negative interactions charge the dynamics between people and wildlife. 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, San Diego Zoo Global is working in partnership with Loisaba Conservancy to conduct social and ecological (see “Luring Wild, Camera-Shy Leopards into Getting their Photo Taken”) research on the local leopard population.

In the summer of 2017, Ambrose Letoluai conducted close to 90 interviews in communities around Loisaba. Ambrose completed his secondary education with support from the Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation, recently graduated from the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute, and was eager to return home and apply his new skills and passion for conservation.

He collected data so we can test the relationship between livestock loss, risk perceptions, attitudes, and behavioral intentions towards leopards. Another key aspect was getting information on the ways that people are currently protecting their livestock. People have reinforced their bomas (corrals) with wire mesh, put out solar lights, and fixed wind chimes or propellers to create noise and deter predators at night.

Photos © Ambrose Letoluai 2017

These measures may help prevent livestock loss to leopards, but we couldn’t know that until we started collecting this information and monitoring human-leopard interactions over time. Moving forward, we hope to combine what we learn about the leopards living on Loisaba with the information gathered in these interviews (like where the most livestock loss is occurring) to find solutions that work for communities and help protect leopards in the spaces that they share.

This research is a collaborative effort between San Diego Zoo Global and Loisaba Conservancy, and project investigators are: Nicholas Pilfold (SDZG), Ambrose Letoluai (Loisaba), Hannah Campbell (Loisaba), Megan Owen (SDZG), Symon Masiaine (Loisaba), Dino Martins (Mpala Research Centre), David O’Connor (SDZG), Matthew Brown (The Nature Conservancy), and Jenny Glikman (SDZG).