February 21, 2015
Through the World Wildlife Fund, households in the Ilpolosat area of Kajiado County have benefited WWF’s Clean Energy Initiative which is being installed and maintained by Michael Mbithi of Lion & Elephants Deterrent Systems (LEDs) and The Wildlife Foundation (TWF).
20 households benefited from the first phase of the project which was undertaken between December 2014 and January 2015. 20 more households are set to benefit from the second phase which is already in progress. The project has 2 components with each household receiving a solar house lighting system and at the same time their livestock being protected from predators through installation of Solar LED lights predator deterrent also known as the Lion Lights.
The success of this project is likely to be higher because each family was required to contribute towards the cost of installation thereby creating a sense of ownership hence responsibility over the systems.
This WWF funded project has boosted the efforts of TWF whose projects continue to significantly contribute to the reduction human-wildlife conflicts in the Nairobi National Park dispersal area.
44 Cyclists and over 50 spectators descended upon the Kitengela in the Bicycles for Wildlife Challenge organized by The Wildlife Foundation and Xtrym Adventures in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service. The challenge which seeks to support Community Conservation efforts was the inaugural event and subsequently, annual challenges will be organized and funds raised will go towards various community projects within the community conservancy to be established through the same event. The area remains critical for the survival of Nairobi National Park whose relatively small area of 117km2 faces massive pressure from the rapid urbanization of Nairobi and urban sprawl in Kitengela. A successful economic model for this conservancy which is the immediate neighbor to the south of Nairobi National Park will set precedence for the establishment of a series of conservancy in the Kitengela wildlife dispersal area thereby securing more space and migration routes for the wildlife of Nairobi National Park.
Mark Kamau conquered the 23km terrain in just under 2 hours to come first in a time of 1:59:05 hours and was closely followed by Brain Maugo and James Saitoti who came in 2nd and 3rd respectively in the men’s race. Ingrid Kruiter finished first in the women’s race in 2:08:34hours and was followed by Stacy Wairimu and Acacia Aggarwal. Oscar Mann was the senior most rider and at 65 years of age, he beat 39 other cyclists to come in 5th. The children’s team was represented by brothers Chris and Kenya Muchai and their cousin Mituri Kiama who braved the scorching sun to finish the 23km challenge.
The non-cyclists had an opportunity to walk through a nature trail in the proposed conservancy area and encountered several wildlife species which cross over from the park into the community lands sharing pasture with the Maasai cattle and sometimes the predators like lions and leopards attacking bomas and killing livestock. The Southern boundary of Nairobi National Park remains open and human-wildlife conflict is common but through the programs of The Wildlife Foundation, the pastoral communities living south of the park co-exist with these wildlife and have become guardians of the same working closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service to protect them.
The Wildlife Foundation has been working in the area for over 15 years and some of its Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs include the Wildlife Conservation Lease Program which put over 55,000 acres of land in the Athi Kaputiei under conservation effectively increasing the space available for wildlife to almost double of Nairobi National Park’s 28,000 acres. Before the coming into law of the Wildlife Act 2014 which now makes provision for compensation to pastoralists who lose their cattle to wildlife through predation, The Wildlife Foundation was already running a Consolation Program which paid the pastoralists for their loses and this significantly contributed to reducing human-wildlife conflict in the area. The organization is now working with Kenya Wildlife Service and other donors to install the recently invented Turere Lion Lights which have not only reduced human-wildlife conflicts but saved the pastoralists their herds with cases of predation having significantly reduced over the last one year since the installation of the Lion Lights began.
Bicycles for Wildlife seeks to also create awareness among the urban population about Nairobi National Park effectively bringing on board more members of the public to participate and support Community Wildlife Conservation efforts thereby protecting the park which remains a unique gem and a natural heritage of the people of Kenya and is among the top 5 parks in Kenya generating revenue through tourism. The park is also listed among the top 10 most spectacular parks in the country and one of the most visited especially by local tourists.
May 22, 2014
If there is a system whose effectiveness and impact can be easily measured and realized within the shortest possible period, it has to be Richard Turere’s Lion Lights Invention in February 2012. After refining the system in August 2012, Michael Mbithi, David Mascall and Sandy Simpson installed over 300 bomas with the system and in the one year that the system has been working, only 3 cases of predation inside bomas have been reported out of the 300 units in Kenya and 25 units installed in Jambezi area near Hangwe National Park in Zimbabwe and farms around Livingstone in Zambia.
Through the support and sponsorship of the Emakoko, Ololo Lodge, Brookhouse Schools, Michael Mbithi and Sandy Simpson, the Lion Lights System has not only been installed in the Athi Kapuitiei dispersal area that remains of critical importance to Nairobi National Park but to other areas across the country that are adjacent to National Parks including those in the Masaai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli and Tsavo West and in Laikipia. Other areas with the systems installed include the Machakos ranches, Samburu and Isiolo.
Other than having considerably reduced incidences of predation, the system has gained popularity among pastoral communities in that it is a preventing measure and as compared with the Consolation Program previously run by Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP) and The Wildlife Foundation (TWF), it is less cumbersome. The Consolation Program had stalled several times due to lack of funds and the livestock owners had to make several trips to Kenya Wildlife Service often returning home empty handed and disappointed. The Consolation Program also only paid a small token that was not equivalent to the value of the livestock killed and basically served as cooling of tempers and insurance of wildlife. The basic logic was that there was need of having a livestock and wildlife carcass and the livestock owners were “consoled” so as not to retaliate and kill wildlife. The Consolation program also involved a lengthy and often tedious verification process and payments would take long due to fundraising challenges. Some livestock owners would in the process not report predation cases and remained disgruntled. To have skipped December 2013 without lion killings in the Kitengela was a great relief for many having lost 6 lions in June 2012 and 3 in December of the same year due to retaliation by community members.
FoNNaP, through the sponsorship of Cheli and Peacock, installed 3 bomas with the system in the Kitengela. 25 bomas in the area have had the system running for one year now and The Wildlife Foundation has financed the repair of these systems. Michael Mbithi has been in the field for the better part of February and March doing the repair works which also includes upgrading the system with adjustment including wiring protection and installing of an automatic lighting system as well as change of deflectors from white to blue. The Kenya Wildlife Service has also finished the initial procurement process and will be financing the installation of the improved system in 30 bomas in Kitengela, Kipeto and Isinya.
The Kenya Wildlife Service on its part has provided funding for the installation of 25 bomas in phase I of the installation of Lion Lights in the Athi Kaputiei dispersal area. The Wildlife Foundation team together with the Nairobi National Park Community Warden have been out in the field the past 2 weeks to witness and participate in the installation of these systems as well as get to interact with the community members.
October 16, 2013
In 2003, the worst kind of slaughter of the wild saw Nairobi National Park jungle left with only 9 kings! 11 lions were brutally killed during the wet season after the community could no longer watch helplessly as the lions day in day out feasted on their most prized possessions – Livestock. The Consolation Program which has been managed by both The Wildlife Foundation and Friends of Nairobi National Park was initiated as an emergency measure to keep the retaliation attacks by the community in check. The program and other conservation initiative by the Kenya Wildlife Service has seen the lion population in Nairobi National Park grow to over 40 individuals as identified by lion researchers Michael Mbithi and David Mascall in their June 2011 Nairobi National Park Lion ID database. The Mbithi-Mascall identified each individual lion using 6 special features on each lion; Whisker spots, Ear tears, Mane development, Missing tail tuft, Broken teeth and large injuries, and Nose spotting.
While the lion population has experienced retaliation from time to time especially when there is no funding for the Consolation program, the other predators – leopard, hyena, crocodile, wild dogs and cheetah – hardly get to experience the wrath of livestock owners who lose their livestock as prey. The lion has been targeted one occasion too many that Predation has synonymously been referred to as Lion Kills. That could be true in the case of the Lion where it is the most endangered and likely to get killed in the case of retaliation for a predation. But in the case of livestock, predation is by more than just the lion. All predators are responsible for livestock kills.
If there is more than just lion kills, why is the lion the easiest target for retaliation?
I spoke to Nickson Parmisa, a conservationist by passion and a local chief living in Triangle One (i.e. the open land south of Nairobi National Park that is closest to the Park and experiences most predation because of its close proximity). Nickson explains the behavior of the lion vis-à-vis that of other predators that makes it an easy retaliation target.
“First, it is important to understand that each of the three triangles in the dispersal range of Nairobi National Park wildlife experiences different predators. Lions mostly attack in Triangle 1 (also known as Kitengela). Triangle 2 (also known as Isinya), which is to the East of Kitengela gets most attacks by Leopards and Cheetahs, while the most common predator in Triangle 3 (also known as Kipeto and is to the West of Kitengela) is the wild dog.”
Nickson explains that Lions are at a disadvantage because of their behavior. “Lions hang around after a kill while most of the other predators disperse immediately and are not easily traceable. Lions also walk in a big group and that’s why you will find more than one has been killed in a retaliation attack.”
Not every predation case is a lion kill. The Kenya Wildlife Service Patrol team, The Wildlife Foundation scouts and livestock owners are able to identify the predator responsible through a thorough verification process that is called tracking.
The Consolation Program compliments the Wildlife Conservation Lease Program by ensuring that the wildlife protected in these dispersal area co-exist with the landowners with minimal human-conflict. The landowners who lose their livestock to predation get a small consolation payment to ease their fury and in turn they rarely retaliate and they tolerate the predators and even protect them when they are in danger. On several occasions, the community will drive stray animals back into the park when they know it is dangerous for them to be out of the park. One such incidence was when a stray rhino wandered out of the park into the Kitengela area and the community members gently drove it back into the park. With increased cases of poaching in the country, the only safe place for a rhino to be in is the park and as much as the dispersal area is open and safe for other wildlife, the community understands that wildlife such as rhinos cannot thrive in the dispersal area as they may attract an influx of poachers in the area which also puts the other wildlife and their livestock at risk. When a poacher misses his target, he doesn’t go home empty handed, he finds an alternative.
October 10, 2013
The Wildlife Foundation Community Scout Moses Parmisa elevated his status in the community by bringing home a bride. Every young man in Maasai land is expected at a certain age to get married and start a family. This effectively elevates him to a higher level of respect than that of his peers who are not married. He can now then carry on with his affairs without interference. The community is then able to entrust his with certain responsibilities and leadership roles that he could not hold before marriage. Moses is of the Ilkineku age group. The age group traditional system is one of the community’s social organization systems that have been passed on from generation to generation to generation. Moses is now no longer a boy but a man!
His beautiful bride, Jane Koinato, too is from the same Maasai community. Koinato is educated, working and of a marriageable age. The young bride represents the E-Volutionized Maasai bride i.e. the brides that have experienced the Girl Child Education revolution in Maasai land. The Maasai traditional cultural systems are still very much alive and despite the interactions the community has had with numerous other cultures, their value systems have remained one of the least influenced cultures in Africa. These are deeply entrenched in its children and are passed on from one generation to the next with very minimal cultural erosion.
Despite their deep rooted values, the Maasai are also alive to the changing world and as they pass on their value systems to the next generations, they discard practices that pull them behind and embrace those that add value to their already existing value systems.
Education, especially that of the girl child is one of the modern practices that the community has embraced. A few years ago, Koinato would have been married at the age of twelve or thirteen as a fourth or fifth wife to an old man. She would not have gone to school and her job description would be taking care of the affairs her homestead like milking cows, taking care of her husband and children. Female Genital Mutilation was one of those passage rights she would have undergone before marriage. Not so today.
Today, Jane underwent alternative passage rights to become a wife. She is 25 years of age, has a college certificate and is working and Moses has no objection to her pursuing further education. She is a first wife to a young man who has no plans of taking in more wives. But even as she enjoys these, she too appreciates her traditional roles as a wife and mother and she is keen in building her family within the Maa value system. And on her wedding day, she adorned herself with both the old and the new. Her Maa traditional jewellery complimented her Victorian white gown strongly signifying the enriching of the old cultural system with modern practices that add value to the family set up.
I ask Moses why he married an educated wife and not a twelve or thirteen year old. In response, he says, “the law does not allow me and life is changing. A twelve year old has not yet understood the realities of life and is not mature enough to handle the responsibilities that come with modern day marriage set up.” He adds regarding the role of a modern Maasai wife, “she will be able to participate and contribute financially to the household. The economy no longer appreciates a stay at home wife for an average middle class family.”
David Sorimpan is also a scout for The Wildlife Foundation, a honorary warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Manager of the Olerai Conservancy, an 8,800 acres pristine wildlife jungle in our project area. David’s wife, Emily Sorimpan, is back in the classroom. Why?
Join us in the coming week as we follow Emily to class and meet other older generation Maasai women who are back in class. We are curious too as to why Sorimpan has sent his wife back to school. The Wildlife Foundation Wildlife Conservation Lease Program has seen a rise in enrolment of girls in schools by 54% in the project area in the past 13 years. We next look at how many older women enrolled in schools benefit from the Lease Program.
Emily Sorimpan, TWF Chairman Ed Loosli and David Sorimpan at their home in Olerai Conservancy
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