Field trip report: February 2011
(A version of this article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2011. Author: Lucy Boddam-Whetham, former Deputy Director of Save the Rhino International)
Shadowing the staff of LWF and its projects, I was able to get a clearer understanding of how the Forum works. It really is trying to put the responsibility in the hands of the people and encouraging them to manage their natural resources, whether that’s water, soil or wildlife, in a holistic and sustainable way. I spent time in the Community Liaison Officers’ monthly meeting to hear progress on projects such as honey production, water management and solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
At a meeting with the Pesi community, hearing about the challenges of making the West Laikipia Fence work in preventing elephants from crop raiding, my Swahili skills were to be tested! Despite only understanding every fifth word, I could see that by the end of the meeting the communities felt more empowered, understood the impact of their actions and appreciated that the success of the project was in their hands. Fingers crossed, they will be able to look after their section of the fence a little better.
From fences to grass: the next day I was whisked off for a quick explanation of how holistic management of grazing is improving the area’s soil and grass, and how cattle is being managed to the advantage of the environment. The capped ground is broken up, vegetation evenly eaten, the old grasses from last year are broken down and the paddocks are intensively fertilised.
My whistle-stop tour also involved seeing the preparations for rhinos at Borana Ranch, an impressive set up where they are making sure they are 100% ready before 20 rhinos descend on Borana, and the final touches to the Central Capture and Translocation Facility (C & T) at Ol Pejeta Conservancy (OPC).
Credit: Save the Rhino International
At Lewa, I met with Ephantus Mugo, previously the Environmental Education Officer at Laikipia Wildlife Forum. Ephantus has taken on a new job at Lewa Downs Conservancy and is incredibly enthusiastic and keen to implement the skills he has learnt at LWF and ensure that the same key messages are delivered at Lewa. Whilst there, I met with Geoffrey Chege, the Chairman of the Association of Private Land Rhino Sanctuaries to discuss the implementation of the Emergency Fund for the C & T facility at OPC and talked in general about rhino conservation in Kenya.
I met with key staff from all of these programmes, and the question I always asked was: is the threat to rhinos increasing in Kenya? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. So what can we do?
Having heard everyone’s comments, I think Kenya needs to make it clear that there is zero tolerance of rhino poaching. We need everyone who works with Kenya’s rhino to work together to push for a complete clamp down and call for tighter and more severe sentencing and prosecutions. At the end of the day, Kenya’s people will not profit from rhino poaching, it will be the very few, often not Kenyans who benefit. We also therefore need to encourage a national pride in Kenya - “hands off our rhinos”.
The natural world should not be something separate, it is our home and our workplace, everything comes from nature, I think it is only too easy to lose sight of this reality.