Model Park Restoration Projects – Kenya’s Meru & Tsavo Conservation Areas

Meru National Park: Return to Eden

In 2000, IFAW began a five-year (2000-2005) working partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to restore Meru National Park.

Until the late 1980s, Meru National Park had been a showcase of environmental diversity – as well as the home of Elsa, the lioness of Born Free fame. Then wildlife poachers invaded. They slaughtered up to 90 percent of the elephants and almost completely wiped out the park’s rhinos. Buffalo numbers plummeted due to disease.

The infrastructure, including roads, park buildings and tourist facilities, was shattered. With the death of George Adamson, then Meru’s park warden, and a significant reduction of tourism in the park, many thought this protected area’s fate was sealed.

Thanks to the efforts of IFAW, KWS, the Groupe Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the local community and other donors and investors, Meru was able to reclaim its status as a crown jewel in Kenya's national park system.

Visitors to the park can now enjoy the spectacular view of animals such as the once-endangered white rhino, elephants, Grevy's zebra, giraffes, impalas, serval cats and cheetahs, among others. With the return of the larger mammals, the magnificent bird life has come alive again. A drive within the park quickly reveals the stunning variety of bird species.

KWS now has the situation in Meru well in hand. Basic park operations have revived, wildlife restoration management has recovered tremendously, community relations have improved and poaching has been drastically reduced.

Tsavo National Park: A Conservation Success

Based on lessons learned from the success in Meru National Park, IFAW began a similar project to enhance and protect the rich biodiversity of Kenya’s Tsavo Conservation Area.

The Tsavo ecosystem is enormous – 40,000 square kilometres (15,444 square miles), larger than Israel. It is home to the largest single elephant population in Kenya. Its close proximity to the Somali border has led to high levels of poaching, and a rise in human populations and changes in land use have resulted in escalating human-wildlife conflicts.

IFAW’s five-year (2005-2010) Tsavo habitat management project addressed these challenges through a holistic approach focusing on six key areas: (1) basic park operations, (2) law enforcement, (3) human elephant conflict resolution, (4) management-oriented research, (5) conservation education and (6) community outreach.

IFAW helped KWS protect the park and its wildlife through purchases of anti-poaching equipment such as patrol vehicles, light aircraft, radios and helicopter equipment, and through training for KWS pilots and rangers.

Even after the five-year plan was completed, in early 2011, IFAW helped KWS conduct a critical elephant census. Together we fitted satellite radio collars on eight elephants to help design intervention measures for security operations and human-elephant conflict mitigation.