projects - kenya
Supporting Community-based Conservation in Kenya
The Zoo partners with the African Conservation Centre (ACC) in Kenya. ACC’s primary aim is to bring together the people and skills needed to build East Africa’s capacity to conserve wildlife. ACC is located in the South Rift Valley of Kenya, stretching from the Maasai Mara National Reserve through Amboseli National Park. More than 75% of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside of national parks, which makes the South Rift Valley one of the most spectacular wildlife areas on the planet.
SORALO and ACCThe Maasai people have coexisted with wildlife in southern Kenya for centuries. As a nomadic culture, the community makes decisions together and shares the landscape. People and wildlife migrate seasonally as necessary to meet their needs for food and water. Unfortunately, a growing population is creating pressure to subdivide the land and build fences, which puts the land, wildlife, and people in trouble.
Leaders from 14 Maasai group ranches established SORALO (South Rift Association of Land Owners) to manage the sustainable use of their natural resources by integrating tourism, livestock development and other income generating activities to improve communities’ livelihoods. SORALO established community conservation areas on two group ranches, Olkiramatian and Shompole, which provide refuge for wildlife and serve as drought refuge for Maasai livestock.
SORALO and the Olkiramatian and Shompole group ranches invited ACC to help assess their conservation projects and to provide guidance in future management strategies. ACC initiated an integrated research program to understand the dynamic interactions between people, livestock, wildlife, habitat, water resources and temperature, which are all key components of the ecosystem. If research can identify the necessary criteria for people, wildlife, and landscapes to persist, then the community will be well-equipped to tackle current and future management concerns.
Research is conducted both by local community members and resident or visiting scientists. Community Resource Assessors assist with ecological monitoring, livelihood surveys and land use assessment. Community game scouts play a crucial role in protecting wildlife by arresting poachers, rescuing wounded animals, protecting threatened animals, controlling human-wildlife conflict and collecting scientific data on biodiversity.
Each year, the Zoo, in conjunction with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, leads an Earth Expeditions course titled Kenya: Wildlife & People in Integrated Landscapes. Up to 20 teachers, primarily from the United States, travel to the South Rift Valley to engage in community-based conservation in this dynamic landscape. This effort builds on the decades-long research of Dr. David Western, former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the centuries-long research of the Maasai pastoralists, who have long co-existed with wildlife in an open grassland ecosystem populated by elephants, lions, giraffes, zebra, wildebeests, and a remarkable diversity of other species. With the rise of nontraditional lifestyles, private ranches, and fenced lands that prevent needed wildlife migrations, communities of the South Rift have recognized the need to understand the impact of these changes and to work together for a better future.
Lale’enok Resource Center
The Zoo helps fund activities at the Lale’enok Resource Centre, which was constructed in 2011. A product of SORALO in collaboration with ACC, it is a community-based women-owned natural resource and research centre, a physical place that provides a centre for information storage and dissemination. The centre provides the community with a forum to engage with partners (scientists, practitioners) on knowledge creation, dissemination and application. It is owned and run by the Olkirimatian Women’s Group.
Rebuilding the Pride
The Zoo provides funding to support Rebuilding the Pride, a community-based conservation program that combines tradition and modern technology to restore a healthy lion population while reducing the loss of livestock to lions in Kenya’s South Rift Valley.
Local Maasai research assistants track the movement of both livestock and lions in an effort to understand seasonal movements and identify conflict hotspots. Some of the lions have been fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars for better tracking. The collars transmit four locations a day to a central server, giving detailed information on the exact movement of the lions. Knowing where the prides are lets herders know where to avoid grazing their livestock.
The program also deploys a Conflict Response Team to mitigate any conflicts that arise between people and lions. When herders must move through areas with lions, they call on community game scouts to accompany them for extra protection. The team also helps find and rescue lost livestock that would have otherwise fallen victim to predation.
Thanks to these efforts, lion populations are growing on the Olkirimatian and Shompole ranches. Once down to a low of about 10 known lions in the area, the population is now estimated to be nearly 70. The prides have been producing cubs and new lions are moving in from surrounding areas.
Lions and Livelihoods BraceletsOur Lions and Livelihoodsbracelets were made by Maasai women from the Olkiramatian Women’s Group in Kenya’s South Rift Valley. Revenue from the sale of these bracelets help the Women’s Group provide tuition for local school girls and contributes to the operation of the Lale’enok Resource Center, a community center that helps support both wildlife conservation and thriving Maasai livelihoods. Bracelets are sold at the Africa exhibit on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
African Conservation Centre, www.conservationafrica.org
South Rift: Communities, Conservation, and Research Blog, http://southriftccr.blogspot.com
South Rift Association of Land Owners, www.soralo.org
Earth Expeditions, www.earthexpeditions.org
This partnership is supported by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Saving Species Campaign.