Tag Archives: conservation

World Giraffe Day – how do you move a giraffe? Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson from Giraffe Conservation Foundation

This is a the second part of our blog celebrating World Giraffe Day.

World Giraffe Day is an exciting annual event initiated by Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day or night (depending on which hemisphere you live!) of the year – 21 June.

Not only is it a worldwide celebration of these amazing and much-loved animals, but an annual event to raise support, create awareness and shed light on the challenges giraffe face in the wild.

Here we focus specifically on one of the projects being supported by Explorers against Extinction 2019 – the translocation of critically endangered Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. You can find out more about this project here.

shutterstock_112144487Travelling to Uganda  is one way to support conservation efforts in the country. We are delighted to also partner with Tourism Uganda this year and to highlight some of the amazing experiences Uganda offers, from visiting Murchison Falls (pictured) to trekking to see endangered mountain gorillas. Find out more about travelling to Uganda here.

 

HOW DO YOU MOVE A GIRAFFE?

Q&A with Dr Sara Ferguson, Conservation Researcher, Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF).

Dr Ferguson is heading up the Nubian Giraffe Translocation from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe in Uganda this autumn. The translocation is a joint GCF / Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) operation.

  • How many Nubian giraffe are being moved?

Approximately 15 but ultimate decision on number will be decided by UWA as will the ratio of males/females to be moved.

  • How are these selected?

We look for a specific size and age – mainly smaller subadults, between the ages of 2-4. Smaller individuals are easier to immobilise and move, and young enough to be weaned from the dam (female) but not yet at sexual maturity.  Avoid any pregnant females is the goal. Individuals are usually selected during the translocation process. We go out with the UWA team and scan herds for individuals who would be suitable and make the choice out in the field.

  • Can you give us a broad summary of the key stages of the translocation process? Nubian MF

1.Identifying appropriate translocation environment/destination (includes habitat assessment; park/reserve analysis; looks at historical or current presence of giraffe; threat assessment; community awareness and sensitization, etc.)

boma22.Government approval of translocation

3.Route determination (road conditions, obstacles, duration)

4.Boma construction (corral to hold giraffe pre and post translocation)

5.Location determination and logistics (when is the best season to move the giraffe; how many individuals, what age/sex)

truck-in-landscape6.Logistical planning (transport truck assessment; chariot assessment; team organization; resource allocation and necessity).

 

 

 

  • Can you outline the translocation process for us including capture and release? 

We will plan on darting at least two giraffe on the same day to move to the boma (likely three or four if we can manage).  Giraffe are social animals and will stress if left alone in the boma for an extended period of time.

We usually begin in the early morning when it is cool (around 7 am), drive to an area with giraffe (we scout this out the day before to identify some herds with good potential).

Once an individual is selected, it will be immobilised via a CO2 powered dart gun with etorphine HCl (M99), the drug usually takes about 3-6 minutes to take effect, then the ground team moves in to rope the darted giraffe and assist to the ground (this is quite an exciting process and it aids in reduction of injury to the giraffe).

The giraffe is then immediately reversed with the antidote naltraxone as a blindfold and ear plugs are placed and the giraffe is restrained with manpower on the neck and body.  All giraffe also receive prophylactic antibiotic and antiinflammatory injections to reduce the impact of immobilisations.

Ropes are placed to help guide the giraffe once up into the transport chariot which is pulled by a tractor. Once the giraffe is on the transport chariot, the guiding ropes are removed and  it is brought to the boma, the blindfold and ear plugs are removed and the giraffe is released into the boma where ample water and fresh browse are available.

Then the process is quickly repeated to have a companion as quickly as possible. Once there are at least two giraffe in the boma, we do not need to rush to get more giraffe so depending on temperature (if it is too hot) we may or may not continue that day.

Over the next few days we collect more individuals and add them to the boma (usually aiming to get 5 animals, maybe 10). There is always a rest day for the team and the giraffe to allow them to adjust to the boma and transport truck (situated where the giraffe can access it while in the boma).Chariot

5 individuals are loaded up onto the transport truck and driven to their new destination (Pian Upe is approximately a10-12 hour drive away from Murchison Falls).

There will be another boma at the reserve where the giraffe will be placed overnight to allow them to get a good drink of water, food, and recover from the drive. UWA will determine how long they would like the giraffe to remain in the boma prior to release into Pian Upe.

Then the process is repeated until we have the entire herd transported. UWA rangers will then monitor the giraffe closely, making sure they do not immediately try to leave the reserve and adjust well.
release

How many staff are involved?

A huge team from UWA and a moderate team from GCF — unsure on the actual number of individuals but usually enough to have two grounds teams (6-10 rangers each), three to four veterinarians, two drivers, 3-6 researches gathering biological data…

It is a huge process!

What does the project cost?

We estimate the whole operation to cost just over $100,000 USD. Each giraffe costs approximately $6, 700 to move.

 

SUPPORT THIS PROJECT

There are many ways to show your support – come along to one of our autumn exhibitions and events, shop at the Real World Store, buy a ticket for our ‘Win a Safari’ raffle or simply make a donation here – find out more here.

THANK YOU.

 

 

 

Giraffe – the gentle giants facing an uncertain future

With their long eyelashes and graceful gait, giraffe are an iconic symbol of Africa. It is impossible to imagine an African
landscape without them.

However in recent years giraffe have seen a decline in numbers. Two sub species, Nubian and Kordofan, are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

In 2018 our conservation campaign Explorers against Extinction supported a project in Garamba National Park, DRC.  Garamba is home to one of these giraffe sub species – the Kordofan giraffe. The working dogs programme we assisted African Parks to establish in Garamba is helping the rangers to protect not only elephant but also the Kordofan giraffe.

This year we are partnering with Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF),  the only NGO in the world that concentrates solely on the conservation and management of giraffe. Our aim is to raise awareness about the plight of giraffe while also directly contributing to the conservation of the Nubian giraffe.

We want to cover the cost of moving a pair of Nubian Giraffe from Murchison Falls to Pian Upe, Uganda. This pair will be part of a group of 15 or so giraffe making the move from Murchison Falls. It is hoped  the group will go on to establish a viable, free-ranging population. Find out more about this project here.

WGDIn the first of a two-part blog celebrating World Giraffe Day on Friday 21 June, we take a closer look at the different species and the threats facing them.

Statistics

In the 1980s, the total number of giraffe in Africa was estimated at more than 155,000 individuals.

Today, GCF estimates the current Africa-wide giraffe population at approximately 111,000 individuals.

This is a drop by almost 30%. Unfortunately, in some areas traditionally regarded as prime giraffe habitat, numbers have dropped by 95% in the same period.

DSC_0353Threats

The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, human population growth, poaching, disease, war and civil unrest threaten the remaining giraffe numbers and their distribution throughout Africa.

Many threats arise from direct, indirect or perceived competition for resources with humans, their livestock and agricultural land. Habitat degradation and destruction is caused by an increasing human demand for agricultural land, pastoralism, and uncontrolled timber and fuel-wood harvesting.

Human-giraffe conflict can develop due to crop loss and damage, and potential disease transmission can result from habitat sharing with domestic livestock. Sadly, giraffe outside protected areas are sometimes also struck by vehicles and trains.

The fragmentation and loss of giraffe habitat caused by human encroachment often leads to the isolation of giraffe populations which, in turn, limits the flow and exchange of genetic diversity between populations.

Although there is very little evidence of species interbreeding in the wild, the translocation of one species of giraffe to an area already occupied by a different species could create the risk of hybridisation. Should they interbreed, the genetic uniqueness of each individual species would be lost.

Sw Giraffe DSC_6263Species

Giraffe occur in 21 countries in Africa. While the IUCN Red List currently recognises one species of giraffe and nine subspecies, new findings by GCF and partners clearly show four species and five confirmed subspecies of giraffe:

 

  • Masai (35,000): further studies required to see if Thornicroft giraffe is genetically identical to Masai giraffe, or a distinct sub species
  • Northern (5,600): Kordofan (2,000); Nubian (Rothschild’s giraffe has been identified as genetically identical to Nubian giraffe) (3,000); West African (600)
  • Reticulated (15,780)
  • Southern (54,750): Angolan (17,750); Southern African (37,000)

This updated species information is currently under further review and will hopefully soon be taken into consideration by the IUCN for future conservation assessments, giving each giraffe their own taxonomical status and mandate for increased conservation.

boma2Focus on Nubian Giraffe

At present, fewer than 200 Nubian Giraffe occur in western Ethiopia, 450 in eastern South Sudan, 800 in Kenya, and more than 1,550 in Uganda.

Based on the rate of decline, estimated at 95% in the last three decades, Nubian giraffe were, for the first time, added to the IUCN Red List and listed as Critically Endangered in 2018.

In 2010, the formerly known Rothschild’s subspecies was classified as Endangered and of high conservation importance on the IUCN Red List, but based on good conservation efforts of governments and partners, including GCF, the Rothschild’s giraffe was downlisted to Near Threatened as populations and numbers have increased. Once the IUCN recognises the two subspecies as one, the conservation status on the IUCN Red List for Nubian giraffe as a whole will most likely remain Critically Endangered, indicating an urgent need for increased conservation measures.

The Nubian giraffe’s patches are large, rectangular and chestnut-brown. The patches are surrounded by an off-white, creamy colour. There are no markings on their lower legs.

Statistics sourced from Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Sunset DSC_8682

  • Did you know? The word giraffe is believed to come from the Arab word zarafa, which means fast walker.

 

 

Giraffing Around: 4 species, 4 ways.
Some of the best places to see Giraffe.
1.See Reticulated Giraffe in Samburu, Kenya, one of Samburu’s ‘Special Five’ (Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Gerenuk and Grevy’s Zebra). You’ll also find Samburu’s famous herds of elephants here, usually by the river. Of course, if you’re visiting Kenya and love giraffe, don’t miss a visit to the AFEW Giraffe Centre in Karen, Nairobi where you can learn about efforts to save another species – the Nubian (Rothschild’s Giraffe) where you can feed them from a special platform. Next door you’ll find the famous Giraffe Manor hotel – find out more here.
2.See beautiful Nubian Giraffe (Rothschild’s), a sub species of Northern Giraffe at Murchison Falls, in Uganda – this is a giraffe conservation hot spot with the population increasing eightfold over 20 years – a fabulous success story.
3.Southern Africa’s giraffe population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years thanks to concerted conservation efforts – Etosha in Namibia is one of the best places to observe Southern Giraffe alongside big cats, rhino and elephant.
4.See huge herds of Masai giraffe against a Serengeti sunset in Tanzania. The giraffe is Tanzania’s national animal and both Tarangire and the Serengeti offer excellent opportunity to observe them.

 

 

The joy of Private Conservancy Safaris

 

DSC_6229Mara DSC_6236

There are so many safari options, it can be tricky working out what’s best for you. Here we look at the joy of private conservancies and how they differ from a national park/reserve experience.

Mara DSC_6446Private Conservancies vs National Park Private conservancies are privately owned and run conservancies or reserves which tend to be located just outside the main national park or reserve. To maintain migration corridors national parks (like Kruger in South Africa or the Masai Mara in Kenya) are unfenced wilderness areas allowing for the free movement of wildlife.

National parks are managed by local councils and government bodies who are responsible for monitoring wildlife, anti-poaching, security and maintaining roads and facilities. Lodges are usually quite large to accommodate demand and visitor numbers are not usually limited. In peak seasons there can be a high density of vehicles. There are strict rules in the national parks – drivers must keep to designated trails and safaris can only be enjoyed between sunrise and sunset.

Private conservancies in contrast,  work in partnership with the local community landowners. Because they are owned and managed privately, visitor numbers are strictly controlled. In Mara North in the Masai Mara for instance there is one guest on average to every 350 acres.  Camps and lodges tend to be small so guests see very few other vehicles compared to the national park.

There are significant benefits of the private conservancy model for both the visitor and the local community:

  • Environment Private conservancies protect important ecosystems, for example the Greater Mara Eco-System in Kenya and the Okavango in Botswana. They help to stop the degradation of these eco-systems, conserving wildlife and bio-diversity and allowing the habitat to recover.
  • WWDSC_5360Community Local people are able to earn an income from eco tourism and wildlife conservation. In Kenya, Maasai landowners are able to benefit directly from working in partnership with camps and lodges, being paid a ‘bed night’ fee for every guest staying.  In South Africa’s Greater Kruger the conservancies operate in the same way – collaborating with the local communities.
  • Eco-tourism Private conservancies champion low density responsible travel. In a nutshell this is the best way to safari without the crowds.

Serian Lion Cubs DSC_6888The exclusive private conservancy safari experience

Private conservancies are often accessed by light aircraft flight, served by their own airstrip. Flying-in helps to maximise your holiday time and gives you a wonderful bird’s eye view in the process.

Guests can enjoy a wide range of activities. These include 4×4 safari, night drives, walking, bush dining and sundowners on the plains. You don’t have to be back in camp by sundown so you can enjoy the conservancy to the full – stopping for a gin and tonic at sunset or heading out on a night drive with flashlights after supper.

Private conservancies offer a quality, low density experience.  Instead of large lodges you can stay in small tented camps/lodges. You’ll see fewer vehicles and enjoy better quality game viewing.

You can get closer to the action. It’s good safari etiquette for guides to stick to trails to prevent grass erosion, however in private conservancies should you come across something exciting, like these gorgeous lion cubs,  you can go off road to observe more closely – something you are prohibited to do in a national park.

You can safari in the knowledge that your stay will be benefiting the local community and contributing to wildlife conservation.

Mara DSC_6556Focus on Mara North, Kenya

The Mara North Conservancy offers 64,000 acres of prime wilderness situated immediately to the north-east of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and works in partnership with local Maasai landowners. In MNC, there are eleven member camps. Each is represented by a land management committee. The committee meets monthly with the Maasai Landowners Committee representing over 800 Maasai landowners, who have opted to lease their land for conservation. The MNC is one of the largest community and private sector owned conservancies in the world and this is the first time many Maasai have been able to receive a direct income from wildlife.

Crucially, all the camps in the private conservancies promote low density tourism. This ensures an exclusive safari experience and minimal impact to the environment and its wildlife. This is the same across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Take your pick from Olare Motorogi and Mara North to name just two of many fantastic conservancies in the Masai Mara, Chyulu Hills on the edge of Tsavo and Amboseli or undiscovered Kalama or Sera north of Samburu. Kenya has many wonderful conservancies to choose from.

Explore Kenya safaris

Tanzania also offers wonderful private conservancies including five star Singita. Further south you can enjoy legendary Selinda or Linyanti in Botswana’s Okavango among many other excellent choices, Linkwasha in Zimbabwe’s Hwange, Ongava in Namibia, or Sabi Sands and Timbavati in South Africa’s Kruger. Private conservancies offer guests the chance to get off the beaten track, for example Tswalu Kalahari also in South Africa, or Namunyak in the Mathews Range of northern Kenya.

 

 

 

Meet Arruba

The Real Africa Trust continues to donate money directly to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a pioneering conservation organisation working to protect wildlife and habitats across East Africa.  

The DSWT runs the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation programme in the world. The nursery unit, pictured above, is based in Nairobi National Park, Kenya and it was here that I first met Kithaka, the elephant Real Africa adopted back in November 2013. Kithaka continues to thrive and will soon be moving from the Nairobi National Park nursery unit to Ithumba, ready to be rehabilitated back to the wild. When we first met Kithaka he was so small and vulnerable that it is hard to believe he is about to move to the Ithumba unit, as a strong young bull elephant, and this is all testament to the work of the Sheldrick Trust. We eagerly await his progress. In the knowledge that Kithaka is about to move on to the next stage, we felt the time was right to adopt another elephant – a calf just starting their journey in the nursery unit. So, in the New Year we adopted Arruba.You can read Arruba’s story below.

In recent months, with poaching escalating once again in East Africa, the Sheldrick Trust has been called on to rescue many tiny distressed elephants. Without their help, these calves would have perished. We recently heard of a tiny newborn calf, Ndotto, who was rescued at just 2 days old from the Ndoto Mountains in Kenya’s far north. Ndotto was found very confused in a throng of sheep and goats.  Ndotto is now being looked after in the nursery. You can see three pictures of the rescue mission to the left. Even on New Year’s day the team were in action attempting to help an emaciated calf found trapped in a gulley in Laikipia – sadly help came too late and on this occasion, the calf did not survive for more than a few days. However the Sheldrick Trust successfully rescued three babies in January.  A tiny calf was rescued from the Sera Conservancy, Northern Kenya on January 3rd. Hamsini struggled with a terrible septic wound on his back caused from a torrid time while being trapped in a well. He also suffered terrible bruising from the fall, and a lung infection. It has been a tricky month for Hamsini but we are hopeful with the right care that he will start to put on weight and his condition improve ; another calf of around 15 months, name Boromoko (pictured bottom right) was rescued from the plains of the Masai Mara on January 5th and has settled in the nursery well, being exceedingly loving; and then, on the 26th, yet another orphan was rescued close to Narok, a heavily populated area.  Her name is Siangiki which means young girl in Masai.  She came in a collapsed state but thankfully the Trust has managed to retrieve her from the brink and she is now safely out with the others and beautifully settled. Often it is not clear how the calves came to be separated from their mothers.

 Arruba’s story

On Tuesday 28th May 2013 a young female elephant calf was sighted by the Kenyan Wildlife Service maintenance team who were erecting a new electric fence in the Aruba Dam area of Tsavo East National Park. The elephant calf was reported to be desperate, and quite evidently alone. Due to the new fence, the baby was trapped and confused.

The period the calf had been trapped within the fenced area was unknown, as is the fate of the calf’s mother and the rest of its herd. It is suspected that the calf and it’s mother might have strayed into the new fenced area and the mother somehow lost the calf on exiting the enclosure and was unable to find her way back in to retrieve her baby. Another possibility is that the calf is an ivory-orphan, as eight elephants were brutally poached in nearby Ndara.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Voi Stockades in Tsavo East were alerted. The head Keeper of the Voi Stockades contacted the DSWT Nairobi HQ that afternoon to make the arrangements for a rescue plane from Nairobi to come the following morning, as darkness was already setting in.

So the new calf, who was estimated to be approximately 8 months old, put up a huge fight when the Voi Keepers arrived at the scene, with Arruba escaping their attempts at rescuing her and reacting extremely aggressively to their presence. Yet the Keepers eventually succeeded in capturing her and loaded her into the waiting vehicle to be transported back to the Voi Stockades.
On arrival at the Voi Stockades, the calf began to settle down and thankfully drank, having arrived in a very dehydrated state. There had been no access to water within the fenced area where she was found. Apart from a few bruises and minor abrasions the calf was in good condition.

The presence of the other orphans at the Voi Stockades was a huge comfort to the new arrival who desperately needed love and reassurance. Shimba, who is recovering remarkably from lion attack injuries, was a great help in getting the calf settled down, stretching his trunk through the stockade fence to offer affection and encouragement and reassurance.

In Nairobi on the morning of the 29th, the Nairobi team and plane were ready to depart on their mission having been briefed the previous evening. Three of the Nairobi Keepers set off to Nairobi’s domestic airport at 9am to catch the rescue plane to Voi in Tsavo East where the Voi Keepers were preparing the calf for her plane journey to Kenya’s capital city.

After a smooth flight with clear views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chyulu Hills and the great expanse of Tsavo, the plane landed on Voi’s airstrip, which is located only a few kilometres from the Voi Stockades. On arrival at the stockades it was obvious that the orphan was going to be a handful to re-capture as she was still wild and fearful. Those who were still present to keep a careful eye on the new baby included some of Voi’s big ex-orphans including Emily, Lolokwe and Icholta.

The entire stockade’s workforce and the Nairobi Keepers were all needed to help to get the new arrival restrained and on the ground in order to brace her legs and keep her safe and secure during the flight. With all hands on deck the calf showed huge amounts of strength in managing to evade being taken down, yet after a few minutes she succumbed to the keepers, whilst ex-orphan Emily bellowed and stomped around the stockades concerned about what was happening to her.
The calf was quite a weight and again all hands were needed to lift her into the waiting vehicle and to get her to the airstrip. The transfer went smoothly and within half an hour the calf was being lifted into the plane, strapped securely inside with an IV drip administered to ensure she stayed hydrated during the flight, and a mild sedation to keep her calm.

Saying farewell to all of the Voi staff the Nairobi Keepers climbed into the plane alongside the calf, keeping her reassured and making sure she was as comfortable as possible during the journey. The orphan gave into exhaustion during the flight and fell into a peaceful sleep, awoken when the plane arrived back in Nairobi.

A DSWT vehicle was waiting at the airstrip and the calf was soon on her way to the DSWT Nairobi Nursery in Nairobi National Park. At 2.30pm she had finally reached her final destination and was carried into her stockade. After untying her, the Nairobi Keepers carefully lifted off the blanket covering her face, which was keeping her quiet and calm, and helped her up. Unsteady on her feet she stood, rather dazed, in the shade of her stockade eyeing the humans surrounding her warily yet being too tired to fight them off, she seemed to know she was in a safe place with caring people to look after her.
This calf was lucky to have been found alive and well as the area in which she was sighted is a favourite place for the infamous Tsavo lions.

It took Arruba a good few days to calm down and feed on milk, and once she trusted the Keepers enough to follow them she was let out of the confines of her stockade to join the Nursery orphans. By this time she knew them as they had been brought to her stockade for every feed time in an effort to coax her into drinking the milk formula that she seemed so reluctant to take.

Once out with the others elephant communication worked its magic yet again, and it was as if she knew the ropes from the outset – even venturing to the public viewing between 11 -12 with the others, seemingly unperturbed, a far cry from the frightened calf that only a week before was brought to the safety of the Voi stockades.

You can find out more about the DSWT here.

Many clients travelling with Real Africa to Kenya elect to stopover in Karen, a leafy suburb of Nairobi, for a night to enable them to visit the DSWT nursery unit in person. If this is of interest then please do let us know. There are two viewings, a public 1 hour viewing at lunchtime daily, and a private visit daily at 5pm, for those wishing to adopt an elephant.

 

By Sara White

 

Nature in the balance

As part of the launch for the competition we are currently running with Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, one of our directors Robert wrote an article for the publication. “Nature in the balance” discusses the conflict between man and wildlife and tells of an innovative way in which private conservation projects are successfully making them live in harmony.

The competition runs until the end of November. To enter, either visit our competition page or come and see us at the Luxury Travel Show in London between the 5th-8th November. We’d love to see you and you can enter there as well. For free tickets, visit our Luxury Travel Show page.

To read the article click on the image below and it will open in a new window. Click it again and it will open in full screen. Otherwise, the text of the article is below.

Nature in the balance by Robert Ferguson

Africa’s national parks and reserves are vital for the survival of numerous species. The remorseless destruction of their habitats has made these
protected areas a last bastion. As the human population grows, more land is being taken over for cultivation and grazing, closing off migration corridors and dispersal areas, and isolating these parks and reserves. Wildlife increasingly finds its natural habitats and food sources destroyed. Conflict between human and beast inevitably ensues, livestock is predated upon and crops are damaged. Privatisation of much of the communal land that borders the national parks and reserves has only compounded the issue.

Now, a scheme in Kenya is aiming to implement profitable community conservation plans and prove that wildlife can flourish alongside people. The premise is simple – convince the local population that conservation will generate them more income than traditional farming would.

In the Mara North Conservancy (MNC) – 26,000 hectares of prime wilderness situated immediately to the northeast of the Maasai Mara National Reserve – the scheme has been embraced by the local Maasai landowners. In return for a guaranteed monthly rent, concessions have been offered to low-impact safari camps.

The MNC is one of the world’s largest community and private-sector-owned conservancies and this is the first time that many Maasai have been able to receive a direct income from wildlife. In addition, vocational training is sponsored by the conservancy and philanthropic travellers.

For example, following a visit to the conservancy, the OBEL project has provided US$1 million over three years, primarily for the provision of education. It’s building new classrooms, as well as providing IT training and a range of other initiatives.

The camps also provide a source of employment to members of the local communities who don’t own land. The Karen Blixen Tented Camp offers opportunities to train in the hospitality sector through its Cookery and Forestry Schools. Other camps provide health clinics and a midwife service, and the Aitong Water Project is improving accessibility to safe drinking water.

Grazing is the biggest source of potential conflict, but this is being managed effectively. Each community is allowed to graze a small portion of the land that it traditionally grazed, herds are bunched, tourists are encouraged to visit and should a herder be found grazing in the wrong area, he’s fined. Boundaries are set in consultation with the community and the rotation managed to ensure that grass banks are set aside, open zones aren’t grazed too intensively and grazed areas are allowed plenty of time to recover.

Swathes of land remain free of Maasai herds and are used by the camps to provide game drives. Crucially, the camps promote low-density tourism, with one camp visitor per 350 acres (141 hectares). This ensures an exclusive safari experience and minimal impact to the landscape and its wildlife.

Encouraging the game to live in proximity with the Maasai does lead to some conflict. Big cats can kill livestock, but a scheme has been implemented to offer compensation to affected Maasai.

Advice is also given on how to keep the livestock secure at night, when the herds of cattle, sheep and goats are fenced in bomas. Traditionally, these enclosures were made of wood and acacia thorn bushes, but the Boma Fortification Scheme has provided some 2,000 wire-mesh rolls to create effective mobile barriers.

A win for the landowners is also a win for wildlife. An estimated 40,000 wildebeest migrate through these conservancies, the remnants of the once larger Loita Wildebeest Migration, in addition to the two million animals that come up from the Serengeti in June and July each year. Between 3,000 and 4,000 elephants in the Mara use these areas heavily and the conservancies offer them protection, open up parts of their migration corridors and facilitate research on their numbers, movements and dispersal.

The MNC is one of four conservancies managed by Seiya, a Nairobi-based family business that began by managing the ‘Mara Triangle’, a third of the main reserve, 14 years ago. It now also manages the Naboisho, Mara North and Ol Choro conservancies. Justin Heath oversees the day-today management of the three conservancies outside the reserve, including the MNC. ‘My dad has run the Mara Triangle for 12–13 years; I’ve been involved for four years,’ he says. ‘After doing my degree at University of Edinburgh, I went to work in the USA and South America, but I wanted to come home after my first daughter was born.’

Justin exemplifies the new generation of conservationists who understand that you have to work with the communities, rather than keeping the land solely for wildlife. ‘The conservancies provide hope for one of the world’s great ecosystems,’ he says. ‘In the past seven years, 80,000 hectares have been privately protected outside the reserve, with more than 2,000 landowners choosing to use their land for conservation. These conservancies are a great buffer to the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the northern Serengeti.’

Another four conservancies under private management are being established. Kenya’s new Wildlife Bill recognises conservation as a form of land use, and the Maasai Mara conservancies have joined to form an association that can effectively lobby government; 21 of their 23 recommendations were incorporated into the new bill.

If managed correctly, private conservation schemes will improve the lives of the local people, and give wildlife the chance to thrive in areas in which it would previously have been hunted or driven away from. Ultimately, this is a chance to preserve the iconic Maasai Mara National Reserve, home to the Great Migration.

By Robert Ferguson