The Kitenden Conservancy: Partnering to protect elephants and benefit people in Kenya

Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, and Dr Manu Chandaria, IFAW Board Member, display the three-dimensional model of the proposed Kitenden Conservancy.

On 3rd September 2014, the Engong Narok site in Amboseli’s ecosystem in the South of Kenya was awash with community members looking resplendent in the predominantly red shawls adorned by Maa speakers. The women were bejeweled in multiple colored pieces on their ears, necks, heads, wrists and ankles which added to the celebratory and eager mood in the air.

They trooped in large numbers; on foot, by bicycle, motor cycle and in trucks for the special occasion – to see the unveiling of a Conservancy plan – the Kitenden Conservancy. Once operational the Conservancy will offer a three-pronged benefit to protect wildlife, for the local community through eco-friendly compatible tourism and enterprise projects and for investors through tourism development. The Plan was unveiled by IFAW with support from the executive committee of the Kitenden Corridor Conservation Area.

In July 2013, 1,600 members of the Kitenden Corridor Conservation Area who are members of the larger Olgulului/Olalarashi Group Ranch leased 16,000 acres of land to IFAW. The leasing ensured that the land would be maintained as a critical corridor and dispersal area for elephants and other wildlife. The long term plan of the leased land is to develop the proposed Kitenden Conservancy.

Learn more: Read IFAW President and CEO Azzedine Downes’s account of this historic day.

Having worked in Amboseli since 2012, IFAW has partnered with the community and other stakeholders key among them the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to protect elephants in the larger Amboseli ecosystem.

The involvement of community in ensuring the safety of elephants is critical.

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The Amboseli National Park covers an area of only 392 kilometres squared and is too small to sustain the 1,400 elephants in the ecosystem. The elephants therefore spend over 80 per cent of their time in community land that surrounds the Park. Without the community’s support the elephants would not survive.

The unveiling of the Conservancy Plan was just one of the activities of the day.

IFAW also presented 2 cheques to the members of the Olgulului/Olalarashi Group Ranch – the first to pay for the second year land lease to the 1,600 members of Kitenden Corridor Conservation Area; and another of US$ 200,000 to sponsor 66 needy and bright students at secondary and tertiary level from the Group Ranch over the next four years.

A road named the Kitenden road was also officially opened for use by the community. The road was graded with support from IFAW and KWS and has been instrumental in KWS’ response to human wildlife conflict as well as the community’s use to access amenities such as schools and health facilities.

Invited guests and community members stand at the plaque of the Kitenden Access road. The road was graded with support from IFAW and Kenya Wildlife Service.

Working in conservation especially in an area like Amboseli requires collaboration not just with community but with other stakeholders. IFAW is happy to partner with KWS as the government body responsible for wildlife management and security by enhancing its operational and management capacity.

In this regard IFAW contributed to the construction of an office administration block within the Park headquarters and also donated an anti-poaching vehicle. The partnership with KWS is reciprocal. KWS has donated one of its guest houses within the Park headquarters to be used by IFAW as an office and for housing for the Project staff based in Amboseli.

With these partnerships in place we hope to see members of the Olgului/Olalarashi Group Ranch and the larger Amboseli ecosystem improve their livelihoods and the wildlife protected for generations to come.

--JN

For more information about how IFAW is working to protect elephants in Africa, visit our campaign page.

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