Setting targets for Kenya's black rhinos
It’s the end of Day 2 of the stakeholders’ workshop to develop the 6th edition of the “Conservation and Management Strategy for the black rhino in Kenya, 2017-2021”. About 60 of us – from the Kenya Wildlife Service, private and community rhino sanctuaries, and not-for-profit organisations have spent the last two days thrashing out the next black rhino strategy. We’re based at a lodge on Lake Naivasha, about 2 hours’ drive north of Nairobi, well away from the distractions of the city – the most successful meetings and workshops are when you spend every waking hour talking with rhino colleagues.
Day 1 set the scene: a series of presentations reminded us of the content of the previous Strategy (2012-16) and reviewed successes and challenges. Particular highlights were covered in more detail, such as advances in the genetic analysis of the Eastern black rhino subspecies found in Kenya and progress on forensics in investigations. Then came the real work: trying to fit everything needed to plan and implement rhino conservation activities into a logical framework, known as a “logframe”. Rhinos are awkward beasts at the best of times, and fitting them into the headings of mission, vision, 5-year goal, strategic objectives, outputs, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and means of verification is complicated.
To round off Day 1, we split into groups of 10 and hammered out the key words and figures that we wanted to go into the vision (where do we want Kenyan rhino conservation to be in 20 years’ time – a punchy statement that needs to be inspiring and easy to grasp), mission (how are we going to get there) and the 5-year goal; then we reconvened and compared notes. We debated which baseline figure to use for Kenya’s black rhino population (annual rhino status reports include a “confirmed” number – rhinos sighted and IDed within the last 12 months – and a “probable” number – rhinos sighted / IDed within the last 24 months) and what the target net annual growth rate (i.e. growth after poaching and natural mortalities) should be. Such decisions are critical, as we will be held to account on whether we achieve the target population figure at the end of 2021. Too ambitious and we’ll have failed; too cautious and we risk losing momentum if we hit targets too early.
Today, Day 2, we agreed the recommended five overall Strategic Objectives (Protection and law enforcement, Biological monitoring and management, etc., in line with many other African rhino range state strategies) and then again split into working groups to develop each of these in more detail.
Save the Rhino’s Managing Director, Susie Offord-Woolly, and I had taken part in a course on facilitation at Durrell Zoo in March 2017 and – oh boy – was I glad to have had this training. Geoffrey Chege from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and I were tasked with developing Strategic Objective #3: Communication and engagement, and we worked our way through multiple pieces of flipchart paper and rainbow coloured marker pens. For each of the key audiences – prioritised via a 3-dot voting system – we worked up targets, activities, actors, timelines, and risks and assumptions.
By the end of the day, we’d got bits of flipchart taped all over the walls and our bit of the logframe was taking shape thanks to Geoffrey’s simultaneous speed-typing on my laptop. Keeping energy levels high is pretty hard after a few hours, but our little group focused well and felt a real sense of achievement when we got to the end. And then posed for ridiculous photos round one of the flipcharts to prove it.
The report-backs from each of the working groups will take place tomorrow, but I’ll be on my way to Laikipia for a meeting at the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, so won’t hear all the discussion. A small team from KWS, WWF-Kenya and ZSL will continue to refine the logframe, and I’ve offered to help with wordsmithing and proofreading the resulting document.
Earlier this year, when we worked on Save the Rhino’s own logframe for our five rhino conservation strategies, I found that you need to “put down” the project for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes, when you can spot any logical inconsistencies or gaps; I’d be amazed if this draft Kenyan rhino strategy doesn’t also evolve during the next few weeks. Logframes are great tools, used throughout the conservation world, but it’s really important to get them right before you dive in to delivering the activities.
If this 5-year Strategy succeeds, Kenya’s rhinos will be well on the way to building the resilience we need for their long-term conservation. It’s been a privilege to take part in this workshop, and I’d like to thank the Kenya Wildlife Service and WWF-Kenya very much for inviting me to contribute to this Strategy.
Cathy Dean, 19:00, Wednesday 10 May 2017