Tag Archives: wildlife conservation

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


Wildlife and man. Learning to live together in Africa

Robert, one of our directors, has had an article published in this months edition of Geographical magazine focusing on the increasing role private conservation initiatives are playing in the battle to protect and save Africa’s  wildlife.

Its been published to help raise awareness of these schemes, many of which depend on the revenues generated by tourism to fund them and allow the lands in question to become a safe habitat for the wildlife. Real Africa and Geographical, the official publication of the Royal Geographical Society, are running a competition with the prize being a visit to one such conservation area in the Masai Mara. To enter, look at our competition page.

This is an edited version of the article.

The age-old conservation dilemma. How do you balance the needs of the wildlife with the needs of man? As the human population grows so does its requirement for food. This means more land is taken for cultivation and grazing, which in turn reduces the natural habitats of the wildlife. They find their territories reduced and the staple plants in their diet destroyed and leads to conflict as crops are damaged and livestock eaten.

It is for this reason that the National Parks and Reserves in Africa are seen as vital for the survival of many species of animal. The remorseless destruction of their habitats has made them a last bastion, the final place they can live their natural lives unmolested.

Now a scheme in Kenya is showing that wildlife can make a comeback so long as the relationship between it and the human inhabitants is carefully managed to the benefit of both. The premise is simple. Convince the local population that the wildlife can generate them more income than traditional farming. Even better is to show them that they can live alongside the wildlife and benefit from the income it generates, without it affecting their traditional lifestyle.

How is this done? A successful example is the Mara North Conservation area, 64,000 acres situated immediately to the north-east of the Masai Mara reserve. The villages and communities living in this area wanted to benefit from the tourism attracted by the wildlife in the reserve, without compromising their lifestyle.

This was achieved by offering concessions to a limited number of low-impact safari camps. A committee was set up, each camp represented, who manage the lands as one. They work in partnership with a Masai Landowners Committee, acting in the interests of all landowners within the Conservation area. These landowners meet up at bi annual meetings.

The key component is the grazing as this is the biggest source of potential conflict and it is managed in a simple but effective way. At any one time, one third of the land is for the Masai to live in, one third is for the domestic animals to graze and one third is left exclusively for the wildlife. Should a herdsman be found grazing in the wrong area, he is fined.

There are no fences, the wildlife is free to roam freely throughout the entire conservation area, but there are always zones that are free of Masai herds that can be used by the camps to provide game-drives to their clients. These zones are managed so that during the peak tourist season they offer the best possible and most diverse viewing in areas that are the most convenient for the camps, reducing the driving times of the safari vehicles and therefore the disturbance to the wildlife.

The camps have discovered another benefit of the grazing programme. During the rains – April to June and November – when the grass grows tall, the wildlife tend to congregate in the grazed areas as they can see much further and get more warning if a predators is on the prowl.

Encouraging the game to live in proximity with the Masai and their herds does of course lead to conflict. The big cats will kill the domestic livestock if the opportunity arises, and to prevent this becoming an issue, a compensation scheme is run to ensure the owner of any slaughtered animals are not financially out of pocket.

Mobile Boma, used to keep the herds same when away from villages.


Advice is given on how to keep the livestock secure, especially at night when the herds of cattle, sheep and goats are fenced in boma, or small enclosures. Traditionally these were made of wood and thick thorn bushes. Now wire-mesh panels are provided to create boma that will keep hungry hyenas, leopard and lions at bay. Mobile enclosures are also provided for keeping stock secure when they are grazing areas too far from their homesteads to return to every night.

In exchange for granting the camps the right to operate on their lands the Masai settlements receive a rent. Depending on the area and the management, this is either a percentage of the turnover of the camp, or a fixed rental payment. This money is administered by the management committee and a certain percentage of it used for communal projects that benefit the entire population.

An example is the OBEL project, aimed primarily on the provision of education to the communities involved. This ranges from the building of new classrooms and facilities at the local schools, to providing IT training to older students. The budget for this project, funded by the conservation area, is US$ 1 million, spread over three years. Other camps provide medical clinics and a midwife unit, as well as water supplies.

Money from the rental payments is also used to provide protection for the game. At a time when poaching, driven by the market for ivory in the Far East, is increasing, the conservation areas employ Armed rangers and guards to protect the wild animals by patrolling and liaising with the Masai herdsmen.

The Masai landowners who allow their land to be used within the scheme receive the remainder of the rent. This initially created the problem of them using the money to purchase more cattle, the traditional indicator of wealth within their community. This put more pressure on the grazing within the scheme. In the last year, however, they have started investing their money elsewhere, recognising this conflict and not wanting to risk the success of the tourism.


Cattle is the traditional way for Masai to show wealth, leading to conflict with wildlife.


The camps also provide an important source of employment to the members of the local communities who do not own land.  This allows them to earn a cash wage to bring back into their communities and spend in the local shops. There are opportunities to train in specific hospitality sector skills, such as the Cookery and Forestry schools run by the Karen Blixen Camp.

The Mara North Conservancy is one of three managed by Seiya Ltd, a private company based in Nairobi. If you combine the areas of these, plus other conservation areas in the region, more land is now privately managed  that in the whole official Mara Reserve. Their success is such that Seiya also manages the “Mara Triangle”, part of the main reserve itself as part of a not-for-profit organization under the control of the district council.

Maintaining roads lets tourists in and gives the Masai access to new markets.


One of Seiya’s managers is Justin Heath, who looks after the Naboisho Conservancy as well as advising on grazing in other areas. He is a good example of the new generation of conservationists who understand you have to work with the local communities, rather than trying to preserve the land  just for the wildlife.

If managed correctly, it will improve the lives of both the local people and of the whole ecosystem, allowing the wildlife to thrive in areas they would previously been hunted or driven away, while the communities are given access to the benefits of tourism they were previously excluded from.

By Robert Ferguson

A ray of hope for the animals of Africa?

The United States Sets Up a Taskforce to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Further to our news story about President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa this week we are highlighting the exciting news about the new Executive Order set up by the US Administration to combat illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking across the globe.

President Obama is setting up a new taskforce and strategy in the hope that the mighty resources available to the US can be used by other governments, mainly in Africa and the Far East, to end the awful poaching epidemic that is threatening to wipe out many endangered species across the world but in particular in Africa. He intends that not only financial aid but also expertise in tracking, investigation, policing and enforcement as well as legal expertise, financial expertise and political expertise will all be combined to help nations who are at the centre of this crisis.

This historic Executive Order was created yesterday 1st July and is a major victory for wildlife campaigners and conservationists who finally have some incredible political support behind them. There will be a major investment of financial support for the fight with a commitment of $13 million US dollars. President Obama is also creating a powerful Presidential Taskforce which will be co-chaired by the Secretary of State, Secretary of the Interior, and the Attorney General who will all report to the President through the National Security Advisor. Representatives from all major government departments will also be attending such as the Depts. of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Transport and Defense. The Task Force will have to develop and implement a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking and have 180 days to do it in.

President Obama is fully aware that this battle to protect our wildlife is vital for all of us. Many of the poaching gangs operating between Africa and the Far East are criminal gangs and much of the money being made in Africa is going straight into the hands of terrorist and pirate organisations who are using the money to buy weapons and gain more power. It is therefore very much in everyone’s interests to crack down on illegal poaching and the gangs who carry it out.

The Presidential Taskforce will produce a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking which will focus on issues relating to combating trafficking and curbing consumer demand. These will include: effective support for anti-poaching activities; coordinating regional law enforcement efforts; developing and supporting effective legal enforcement mechanisms; and developing strategies to reduce illicit trade and reduce consumer demand for trade in protected species.

The Executive Order states:

“The poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their derivative parts and products (together known as “wildlife trafficking”) represent an international crisis that continues to escalate. Poaching operations have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to coordinated slaughter commissioned by armed and organized criminal syndicates. The survival of protected wildlife species such as elephants, rhinos, great apes, tigers, sharks, tuna, and turtles has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fuelling instability, and undermining security. Also, the prevention of trafficking of live animals helps us control the spread of emerging infectious diseases. For these reasons, it is in the national interest of the United States to combat wildlife trafficking.”

“In order to enhance domestic efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, to assist foreign nations in building capacity to combat wildlife trafficking, and to assist in combating transnational organized crime, executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall take all appropriate actions within their authority, including the promulgation of rules and regulations and the provision of technical and financial assistance, to combat wildlife trafficking in accordance with the following objectives……”

You can find the whole executive order on the Whitehouse’s own website.

This truly is a historic step forward in the battle against poaching and wildlife trafficking and it may be coming just in time to save our most endangered species. With the huge increases in poaching in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Rwanda, DRC and many other countries it is certainly timely. Let’s hope that this marks the start of a brighter future for the mountain gorillas of Central Africa and the rhinos and elephants of Southern Africa and for all the other threatened species around the world.

Posted by Ruth Bolton