Are you aware that there are only three Northern White Rhinos left in the world?
yes! one, two, three! They all reside in a natural habitat in Kenya.
The three; one male, Sudan and two females, Najin and Fatu, live under 24-hour armed protection at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki. In addition to round-the-clock security, the conservancy has also put radio transmitters on the animals and dispatches incognito rangers into neighboring communities to gather intelligence on poaching.
Round the clock surveillance is vital for these animals as conservationists are running against time to ensure that this subspecies does not go extinct. Seeing as Sudan is quite old, beside the fact that he is Najin and Fatu’s father and grandfather, respectively, his sperm, even if it was viable, risks the problems associated with inbreeding. Experts are now looking into alternative reproduction techniques, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) to try ensure that come the next decade Northern White Rhinos still roam this earth.
This is the sad reality for the subspecies who’ve been driven to near extinction by money hungry poachers. The poaching is fueled by the belief in Asia that their horns cure various ailments and the trade is believed to be very lucrative.
‘Shetani ’ means ‘devil’ in Kiswahili: The Lava flows are said to have been formed about 500 years ago. When the locals first saw ‘fire’ erupting and ‘flowing’ on the ground they believed that it was the devil himself emerging from the earth – hence the name “Shetani” Lava Flow.
Want to envisage how the world was like when it was “formless, dark, and void” before God said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1-3)?? ‘Shetani’ Lava Flow in Tsavo West is the place to visit. God’s wonders are all around us take sometime to appreciate them.
Communities living alongside national parks face numerous problems trying to co-exist with wildlife. Farmers have to take turns all day guarding their plantations from baboons who steal their food. Elephants stampede through their crops. The animals are also under stress, as humans encroach on their habitat.
This type of human-wildlife conflict is what led to the establishment of Wildlife Works to help mitigate the competition for land and food between locals and their park neighbors in Taita Taveta County. The Founder, Mike Korchinsky a Canadian citizen, learned about the conflict that existed between wildlife and rural communities during his visit to the country in 1996. His experience caused him to think about effective ways to solve this problem which ultimately led him to developing a plan that would ensure the utmost protection of wildlife.
Wildlife Works, based on the principle that the needs of wildlife must be balanced with the need for work for the local communities who share the same environment, established that the ultimate solution to this problem would be to create jobs; to provide forest and wildlife friendly economic alternatives to the forest community.
Mike looked for an area with a high threat to the wildlife to best test his new model. He settled on Rukinga Sanctuary, located south-east of Kenya in a wildlife corridor between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, known as the Kasigau Corridor. The project was to be carried out on 13 group-owned ranches and conservancy land owned by Indigenous Community Ownership Groups.
According to Wildlife works, Job creation would not only be providing the people in this wildlife rich area with sustainable economic alternatives to poaching and slash and burn agriculture; it would also in turn be protecting wildlife in a direct and unique way.
“The only way to protect a forest that’s under economic threat is to remove the economic threat. And the only way to do that is to give the community another way of achieving their goals because they’re not going to not develop.” -Mike Korchinsky; Wildlife Works Founder.
Why Wildlife Works:
Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests – a significant tool to providing real value to those rural communities who have made the commitment to protect their environment for future generations. The additional plus sign in the Wildlife Works’ business model (REDD+) signifies that community development is one of their key goals.
There are six key elements to the Wildlife Works brand of REDD+ that make it a successful model, the foundation of it all being job creation.
Organic Clothing Factory
The starting point of the wildlife works’ viable economic alternative project was setting up an eco-factory that produces organic casual apparel under the Wildlife Works label, sold worldwide by big brands among them Puma. All garments are carbon-neutral and made from organic and fair-trade cotton. The eco-factory originally hired seven local women but has hugely grown now and is responsible for over 80 employees; all members of the surrounding community. The factory has gone a long way in providing a sustainable alternative to destructive harvesting.
In order to assist the local communities in their move away from subsistence agriculture and deforestation, Wildlife Works has established an organic greenhouse, in addition to multiple nurseries with more in development. The nursery grows citrus trees and agro-forestry species such as Neem and Moringa oliefera to meet farmers’ medicinal, nutritional and fuel wood needs.
Each nursery, which employs approximately five people, is responsible for working with their immediate community to plan and implement the crops, while Wildlife Works provides training. In addition, the nurseries are building a business around Jojoba planting. The oil from Jojoba seeds is quite valuable and is used in the cosmetics industry and as biodiesel fuel. Community members are raising the plants in the nurseries to later plant and harvest. Wildlife Works on the other hand will assist in providing market links for the farmers to sell the seeds.
The local population’s need for farm land has also been addressed by the establishment of a land cooperative on 5,000 acres. The land set aside for the cooperative is land that had been cleared before Wildlife Works began its work.
Forest and Biodiversity Monitoring
Physical protection of the land in which the REDD+ project is set up is vital. The Kasigau Corridor REDD project is protecting 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of dryland forest which is under intense threat from slash and burn agriculture, as the local population expands. The Kasigau Corridor project is also home to five mammal species that are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened: African elephant, cheetah, lion, African hunting dog and Grevy’s zebra.
To prevent illegal access into the project area and to ensure that the land is protected from deforestation, Wildlife Works has established several ranger stations around the project areas; each station with 8-12 rangers, recruited and trained from the local communities.
Working with a no-gun policy – but with the power of arrest granted by the local community, the Wildlife Rangers have received a lot of skepticism on whether or not they are fit to protect wildlife in their sanctuary especially considering the current Ivory poaching crisis in the country’s National Parks; an alarming number of elephants are losing their lives to poachers and Rukinga Sanctuary has not been spared either. Despite the fact, even with larger elephant populations, Mike believes his rangers fare well as any because they have such a strong relationship with the local communities who inform them of the comings and goings of possible poachers. They have the best intel based on the work they do with local communities.
Wildlife Works has also forged a good relationship and works side by side with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who are armed with a shoot to kill policy, trained in combat, and who are permanently stationed within the sanctuary. Whenever there is an armed poaching incident, Wildlife Works’ rangers are trained to avoid any confrontation until they have KWS armed support, and even then they are not supposed to be in harm’s way if shots are fired. Over the course of 18 years, there has been only one incident where these rangers were fired upon.
There are nearly over 80 rangers in total employed by the project currently.
An additional activity of the project is a three year reforestation project on the slopes of Mt. Kasigau to plant 20,000 indigenous hardwood trees. These trees are not included in the emission reduction calculations, but it is a valuable initiative to help replace trees cut down for charcoal production and construction over the past years. The community members involved in the monitoring and implementation of the project are rewarded financially for helping to ensure its permanence.
Deforestation continues significantly in the area adjacent to the project today, illustrating that, in the absence of the project, this activity would still continue within the sanctuary.
Eco Charcoal and Fuel Wood
Charcoal burning is one of the activities carried out for economic sustenance in Taita Taveta County. In order to avoid wood being taken from the project area in an unsustainable and ecologically damaging way, Wildlife Works has initiated an extensive project to explore the large scale production of carbon neutral charcoal derived from bush trimmings, allowing the local community to be self-sufficient in fuel wood without having to degrade any of the land.
Social benefits: School Construction and Bursary Scheme
Prior to Wildlife Works arrival, the area in which the project is carried out had no schooling facilities or necessary amenities to ensure children gain a good education. Thanks to the project, they have already built 18 classrooms throughout the district and a partner has established a bursary programme which has sent dozens of children to high school. A plan is in place to send at least five new students a year through four-year secondary school programmes and on to college or university. A school construction and maintenance fund will provide funding every year to seed school construction and maintenance projects in the area.
Wildlife Works is also working on extending access to fresh water to the locals who previously had to send their children up to 15 miles to retrieve water several times a day. They have implemented a clean water supply for the schools using an innovative rainwater catchment system and manual rower pump to allow the children to retrieve the water for themselves from underground storage tanks.
Prior to Wildlife Works, the migration corridor had been lost to poaching and encroachment before the area residents were engaged in consumer powered conservation. Wildlife Works sees empowering local people with sustainable livelihoods as the key to protecting the forest in the long-term, and with these projects, the link between better livelihoods, conservation and wildlife works is clear.
The foundation was about finding solutions that lead to mutually beneficial co-existence. The work here has led to people being more enthusiastic and supportive of conservation, and has demonstrated that people can live alongside wildlife while developing sustainable livelihoods. The local communities want to protect the environment because it works for them, hence the name Wildlife Works.
In total, Wildlife Works today provides over 400 jobs to the local community and brings the benefits of direct carbon financing to nearly 150,000 people in the surrounding communities.
It is rare in these troubled times to hear good news about the rhino: poaching has returned and a creature that has been with us since the days of the dinosaurs seems in mortal peril. That danger is real, but the rhino is very much still among us, and Kenya remains one of the best places on the planet to see both the black and white rhino.
The story of the black rhino, often described as Kenya’s indigenous rhino, is particularly poignant. During the poaching wars of the 1970s and 1980s, black rhino numbers in Kenya fell from an estimated 20,000 to just 300 by the end of the 1980s. Thanks to intensive conservation efforts, those numbers rose slowly in the decades that followed and Kenya’s last rhino census gave a figure of around 620 black rhinos left in the Kenyan wilds in 2014. This amounts to around half of all black rhinos left in the wild, and close to ninety percent of the remaining eastern black rhino subspecies.
White rhinos, brought in as part of successful conservation efforts to save the species in South Africa, are thought to number around 350 in Kenya.
Nairobi National Park
The most obvious place to begin looking for rhinos is in Nairobi National Park, on the south-western outskirts of Kenya’s capital. Its success in both protecting and breeding black rhinos has earned the park the epithet Kifaru (Rhino) Ark, and it remains home to more than 50 black rhinos living in densities not seen anywhere else in Africa. This is the place to come for that incongruous image of a rhino snuffling across the savannah with Nairobi’s skyscrapers in the background.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
A cross between the private conservancies that are a specialty of central Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau and a national park accessible to all, 75,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a fabulous place to see rhinos. Numbering 100, Ol Pejeta’s black rhinos form Kenya’s largest population and sightings are almost guaranteed. In addition to the free-ranging rhinos, visit the Endangered Species Boma, a 700-acre enclosure which is home to three of the last six remaining northern white rhinos, including Sudan, the last breeding male left on the planet.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Just north of the Laikipia conservation zone but very much a part of the same ecosystem, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is one of the main reasons why there are still rhinos left in Kenya. Back in the 1980s, the Craig family, who owns Lewa, and renowned rhino conservationist Anna Merz pioneered the setting aside of private land for conservation and then coupling it with high-end tourism. By 2015 there were 72 black rhinos and an estimated 62 white rhinos at Lewa, and nearly two dozen rhinos raised in the conservancy have been translocated to assist in growing rhino populations elsewhere in the country. You’ll have to be staying at one of Lewa’s top-end lodges to enter the conservancy, but with no restrictions on where the conservancy’s vehicles can go, you’ll never get closer to a rhino than you will here. There’s even the chance to visit Lewa’s Orphan Rhino project, following in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough in the final episode of the BBC’s Africa series.
Borana Wildlife Conservancy
In 2014, a landmark agreement was reached to remove the fences that separated the high-end Borana from the contiguous Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Borana’s 35,000 acres of ideal rhino habitat is now part of one of the world’s most important rhino sanctuaries, its own important population of rhinos now free to breed with the world-famous rhinos of Lewa to create a combined black rhino population almost 90 strong.
Il Ngwesi Group Ranch
Run by the local Maasai community, Il Ngwesi Group Ranch, off Lewa’s north-western border, has small but significant populations of both black and white rhinos. Il Ngwesi receives fewer visitors than either Lewa or Borana and the encounters here with rhinos are generally more intimate as a result.
Tsavo West National Park
When it comes to traditional national parks, few have such an important role to play in rhino conservation as the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, deep inside Tsavo West National Park in south-eastern Kenya. There are 78 black rhinos here in a fenced off 90-sq-km portion of the park — sightings in the dense undergrowth can be elusive but such is the density of rhinos here that it is worth persisting. Rhinos released from the sanctuary into the wider park can also be seen in Rhino Valley that runs through the heart of the park.
Lake Nakuru National Park
One of the iconic parks of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru is reliable for sightings of the park’s black and white rhinos with a combined population of around 60. This is one of Kenya’s smaller parks and the rhinos (especially whites) are often seen around the shore of the lake that gives the park its name.
Meru National Park
This area of Kenya’s central east stood at the epicentre of the poaching massacres that ravaged the country’s rhinos in the 1980s. But Meru’s heavily guarded, 48-sq-km Rhino Sanctuary has been restocked with rhinos from Lake Nakuru. With around 25 black and 55 white rhinos, it’s once again an excellent place to see rhinos in the wild.
Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara is better known for its populations of big cats and the annual migration of wildebeest in their millions, but the Mara does have a few black rhinos in residence that add depth to the experience of visiting here.
Aberdare National Park
High in Kenya’s Central Highlands, a black rhinos cling to the densely forested slopes of Aberdare National Park. Thanks to this density of foliage, however, tracking down a rhino can turn into a nerve-wracking game of hide-and-seek, one in which you need to be ready at any moment to run from the charge of a rampaging rhino crashing through the undergrowth.
Solio Game Reserve
Solio Ranch, Kenya’s oldest rhino sanctuary and 22km north of Nyeri, is another pillar in Kenya’s story of rhino conservation — so many of the rhinos you see elsewhere in the country came from here. The wide open horizons here make sightings a satisfyingly easy proposition. Solio has 22% of all the rhinos in Kenya and probably the highest density of rhinos per square kilometer in the whole of wild Africa. It is by far the best and easiest place to see rhinos — sometimes as many as 50 on a single plain.
Ruma National Park
Out in Kenya’s far west, close to the shores of Lake Victoria, Ruma National Park covers just 120 sq km, but includes within its borders important rarities that include roan antelope, Rothschild’s giraffe and nearly 30 rhinos, of both black and white varieties.
Fancy a safari in Kenya? It will come as a surprise that you barely need to leave the capital to take one. Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, boasts of a national park teeming with wildlife right on its doorstep.
This park is home to a diversity of environments ranging from open grass plains with scattered acacia bush, highland dry forest and a permanent river with a riverine forest, to man-made dams, stretches of broken bush country as well as deep, rocky valleys and gorges with scrub and long grass.
Nairobi National park mainly attracts guests traversing to major tourist attraction sites within the country with a day or two to spare in the capital. Not only does it offer safari enthusiasts a taste of what to expect in the wilderness, it also provides a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. To top it up, the beautiful background provided by the city’s skyscrapers gives you something to marvel at.
Aside from majorly being a touristic site, Nairobi National Park is also popular for a number of other things. The park is famous as an ivory burning site where former President Moi ignited 12 tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns in 1989, therein boosting the country’s conservation image. Today a monument marks this historic site. The park is also famous as a rhino sanctuary, breeding indigenous rhinos. This guarantees you sightings of endangered black and white rhinos in their natural habitat.
Another great site to look forward to at the Nairobi National Park is the Nairobi Safari Walk – a popular attraction offering animal lovers the chance to spot wildlife on foot over walking trails weaving around Hippo Pools. Visitors can also bond with orphaned baby elephants and rhinos at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
With Nairobi National Park, you get to sample what awaits you in bigger parks like the Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu and Tsavo. Its accessibility, being only 7km from the city centre, and having many entrance points; whether arriving into Jomo Kenyatta Airport, from Wilson airport or travelling south from the city itself, makes it a must visit destination.
Doubling up as a wonder of the world as well as Africa’s greatest Wildlife reserve, the Masai Mara is a sight to behold. Home to the Great Wildebeest Migration, this reserve will offer you a safari of a lifetime; watching over two million animals cross-over from the Serengeti in Tanzania in search of greener pasture. This experience serves both as a ‘wow’/’chilling’ moment seeing this magical migration of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras in their thousands , while at the same time having to watch some of them make their last cross as the predators; lions, crocodiles and hyenas seize their opportunity across the Mara river.
The annual Migration has highly boosted Kenya’s place as a favorite safari destination and during June/July the reserve receives numerous guests ready to watch this natural spectacle. The millions of wildebeests spend much of the year grazing throughout the plains of the Serengeti and when the dry season dawns in June, they begin to gather, forming a single vast herd ready to head north. The experience is amazing as you anxiously await for the herds, one can envision the numbers hearing the sound of the approaching herd with the rumbling of hooves and low grunts; very awe-inspiring indeed. By July, the predators are set on the Kenyan side, Knowing the feasting opportunity that awaits. The river crossing serves as a major challenge for the migration as many of the animals succumb to their fate either through drowning, being swept away by strong currents or by the wrath of the hungry crocodiles.
Come October, the herds start their journey back to the Serengeti to the renewed grasslands. Out of all the calves born in the Serengeti before the migration, two out of three never return from this excruciating adventure. This is thus a test of both renewal and sustenance as well as life and death. The Mara aside from being host to the greatest migration ever seen, is home to the famed Maasai people. It is beyond amazing how man and wildlife share the same space of existence in utmost harmony. This co-existence probably makes Maasai Mara one of the most unusual and unique wilderness regions the world over.
Other co-inhabitants include; herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle,topi, an array of bird life, monkeys, elephants and buffalos in the Musiara Swamp and numerous hippos and crocodiles in the Mara and Talek rivers. The Maasai Mara is also packed with a wide range of Accommodation for any budget and is a popular attraction with Safari operators. The reserve is ideal for game drives and there are select camps and lodges that will provide you with opportunities of safari walks as well as spectacular balloon safaris. You are bound to encounter wildlife at many areas of the Mara as they are allowed to move freely in and out of the reserve and through neighbouring Maasai lands.
Outside the boundaries of the reserve there are many other small camps and lodges, some of which offer walking, horse riding and other safari options. One can also take part in high forest trekking in the nearby Loita Hills and the Nguruman Escarpment.