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Conservation with benefits; how Lewa is leading the way

Friday September 23 2016

Black rhinos rest under a tree at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on September 22, 2016. Rhinos are an endangered species. They are among the most poached animals in Kenya. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Black rhinos rest under a tree at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on September 22, 2016. Rhinos are an endangered species. They are among the most poached animals in Kenya. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KENNEDY KIMANTHI
By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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BRUHAN MAKONG
By BRUHAN MAKONG
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The World Rhino Day was marked Thursday with wildlife-based conservancies being urged to enable people around them to profit from tourism.

Mr Edward Ndiritu, the head of the anti-poaching unit at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, told the Nation that the peoples neighbouring Lewa have received financial assistance for education, health care, agriculture and water.

The official said none of their black and white rhinoceroses had been poached in the past three years.

“We have 14 per cent of Kenya’s rhino population,” said Mr Ndiritu. “This success shows the importance of transforming the livelihoods of local people.”

It was celebrations at Lewa as reports indicate the number of rhino there has been on the increase.

Lewa is a vast, internationally recognised Unesco World Heritage Site that straddles Meru, Laikipia and Isiolo counties.

The Lewa-Borana landscape is the biggest rhino sanctuary in Africa with 84 black and 72 white rhinos.

The two family-run conservancies merged two years ago to create one conservatory of 93,000 acres with 156 rhinos.

Rhinos are an endangered species. They are among the most poached animals in Kenya, with their population dwindling in some parts of the country. They are now kept in protected areas.

They are mostly killed for their horns — due to the belief in some Asian countries that they cure diseases, including cancer, and can be used as an aphrodisiac.

In 2015, some 11 rhinos were killed according to the Kenya Wildlife Service, which say there are only about 1,000 left in the country.

Mr Ndiritu said they had improved surveillance technology to monitor the rhinos in the Lewa-Borana landscape.

“Kenya is ahead of the pack in rhino conservation because of the collaboration with the people and the goodwill from several ministries of the national government,” said Mr Ndiritu.

Owing to the success of its conservation, Lewa has been transferring some of the rhinos to neighbouring Laikipia and Samburu sanctuaries.