to Sera with love x
In the 1970’s there were elephant, black rhino and Grevy zebra in abundance throughout the vast northern frontier district of Kenya. In 1977, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda announced a ban on all forms of game hunting and as the hunting parties withdrew, so the lawless bandits from Somalia moved in. By 1984 there were no rhino left in the Mathews range of Kenya, home to the Samburu people. … read more
The mountain range is a ‘sky island’ surrounded by plains, with Ndoto Mountains to the north and Karisia hills to the west. Elephant numbers had dwindled to a few scattered herds running from thicket to thicket in fear of their lives, and the beautiful Grevy zebra had been eliminated; more than 30,000 animals poached in just eight years. It was uncertain whether any black rhinos would survive in Kenya. Poaching for horn had reduced Kenya’s rhinos from some 20,000 in the mid-1970s to a few hundred by 1986. It was clear that the only way to prevent their complete extinction was to create high security sanctuaries.
Lewa Downs, a cattle ranch, managed for more than 50 years by the Craig/Douglas family became one such sanctuary. Established by Ian Craig and Mrs Anna Merz (who funded the program). They set about capturing as many stray rhino as they could find remaining in the north, and moved them to the safety of the sanctuary.
In 1989 whilst camping in the Mathews mountain range Ian found himself suddenly surrounded by bandits whom he watched, whilst hidden in dense bush, mercilessly set about slaughtering an entire family of elephant, and hack out the ivory from the fresh carcasses. Powerless to intervene and shocked by what he had witnessed Ian vowed to act. As a result of this one horrific incident, and within a very short time Lewa became the headquarters for a non-profit wildlife Conservancy and the catalyst for community based conservation in northern Kenya.
The Conservancy is also now home to the Northern Rangelands Trust, an innovative partnership with a number of communities to the north who have given land for the preservation of wildlife. Now almost a generation later at least 20 preselected rhino’s are being moved back to the northern rangelands from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks, to a newly established sanctuary within the community owned Sera Conservancy in Samburu territory, adjacent to the Mathews range.
Once again black rhino’s are roaming the vast rangelands of the Samburu people where once they had been common sight. For the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signalling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts, and materialising a government promise to support community-based conservation within Kenya. All the rhino’s have been fitted with satellite-based transmitters and will be watched over 24 hours a day by community rangers who have been trained by KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, and bush craft. They will receive support from Lewa, and Kenya Wildlife Services Anti-Poaching units. It’s also hoped that the return of black rhino to Samburu County will be a significant boost to tourism in the area, whilst providing new job opportunities for local communities.
David Chancellor 2015view gallery