Lewa Conservancy, conservation in Kenya

Over the last two decades, the Lewa Conservancy in northern Kenya has gained prominence as one of the leading conservancies in Africa, especially in the conservation of black and white rhino. The last two years have been a terrible for poaching with more than 1 rhino being lost every day in South Africa alone. Herewith is the latest message from the Lewa CEO, Mike Watson.

“Those of you who have visited us at Lewa in recent years may well have remarked upon how dry, dusty and often windy it has been. For the past four years the long and short rains of April and November respectively, which provide the ‘lifeblood’ and energy for the Lewa ecosystem, have been unpredictable and inconsistent. In truly contrary fashion the weather has surprised us again, giving one of the wettest October / November seasons to date. Rivers, dams, springs are full; grass and woody vegetation is in abundance and the wildlife in splendid health! Lewa’s roads and other essential infrastructure however are looking slightly the worse for wear and the Conservancy’s Logistics team will no doubt have their work cut out once the rains have finished.

One of the enduring memories for 2011 will be the clear realization that the battle for survival of Kenya’s and ultimately Africa’s rhinoceros was truly joined and that the pressure being felt here on Lewa represents a microcosm of that being experienced in all other rhino conservancies, public and private across the country and elsewhere on the continent. At time of writing over 400 animals have been killed in South Africa, some with their horns taken whilst they are still alive, left for dead by well organized criminal syndicates who have diversified their activities into another ‘high value’ nefarious business. Kenya has been lucky not to be subject to pressure of this level but the slow attrition rate currently being experienced has the potential to accelerate, as demand for horn is driven by a market willing to pay massive sums to meet the unrelenting appetite for the purported medicinal properties.

We will continue to invest significant time, energy, funds and intellect into mitigating the threat to the Conservancy’s founding species. The battle however will certainly not be won in the field alone and engagement with partners to develop avenues for lobbying market countries in the Far East will be perpetuated as a focus of our efforts moving into next year.

In 2012 our strategic conservation focus will be twofold, firstly to drive the growth and strengthen the conservation commitment and connectivity in areas adjacent to Lewa which will begin early next year with support to Borana Conservancy, as they look to make habitat available to black rhino; a significant commitment in the current climate. Once Borana’s black rhino population is assessed as having stabilized we will move swiftly onto realizing a long held joint vision of amalgamating the two Conservancies.

Secondly we will drive an enhanced effort to support continued success of the community conservation vision, born here within Lewa over 15 years ago. The enduring and mutually beneficial partnership between Lewa and Northern Rangelands Trust is key to conservation success in northern Kenya and the proposed expansion of the current Lewa Education Program into a greater, regional entity is testament to the clear opportunities that exist between our two dynamic organizations.

We here at Lewa thank you all for your unwavering commitment and belief in the vision of Lewa and Northern Rangelands Trust and very much hope to see you in north Kenya during 2012.”

visit Lewa’s website here