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Kenya Ecotourism

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Kuku Field Studies Centre

The Kuku Field Studies Centre is located 225 km south of Nairobi midway between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks and neighbours the Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary. It was established to offer cultural and environmental education opportunities to students of all ages and nationalities.


All revenues generated through the centre are used for educational purposes and for community projects which benefit the Maasai members of the Kuku Group Ranch. The centre acts as a model for financially self-sustainable environmental education in Africa and as an example of the potential existing for communities in Africa to derive benefit from their natural and cultural resources.

Programmes are conducted by local Maasai and include guided walks to learn about the flora and fauna of the region, visits to Maasai villages, and visits to Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. The programmes aim to weave together ecological content, community interaction and cross cultural activities.

Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary

This sanctuary has been set up to create a corridor for the movement of elephants fromShimba Hills National Reserveto a nearby forest area. The sanctuary protects 6,000 acres of the traditional migration route and ranges from sea level stands of boabab trees to moist deciduous forests on the hills and vestigial rain forest along the watercourses.

A fee is payable to the local community for every visitor to the reserve. A fence has been erected to protect man from elephant and vice versa and after initial scepticism from the community the benefits of the sanctuary are now being appreciated by all.

Bamburi

In 1971 the management of Bamburi Portland cement company approved a rehabilitation proposal for land outside Mombasa that had been stripped bare by extraction of fossils from limestone to make cement. Between 1971 and 1990 more than 1 million trees of different species were planted on an area of 750 square kilometers turning Bumburi into a manmade paradise. The result is a completely balanced and commercially viable aquaculture complex which has become an important part of the established eco-system and a fine example of wasteland rehabilitation.

Commercial fish farming was introduced between 1972 and 1982 and crocodile farming got underway in 1990. Bamburi nature trails were introduced to the public in 1985. Many species of wildlife were introduced including crocodiles, hippos, zebras, buffalo, elands, monkeys, snakes and birds. They have thrived in environment and attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists, putting Bamburi on the map as an important coastal attraction.

Ngomongo Villages

Located just outside Mombasa, Ngomongo Villages aims to provide an insight into ten different and diverse Kenyan tribes. Set in a dead quarry which has been reclaimed and turned into a lush forest, the village gives the opportunity to actively participate in a variety of crafts from pounding grain to harpoon fishing and experience a diverse range of cultures.

Kiamaina Farm

Situated in Kikuyu country on the slopes of Mount Kenya the farm shows traditional organic farming in practice. In addition to coffee husbandry there is also bee-keeping, poultry, dairy and horticulture and examples of mixed crop management. Nearby is the second largest open air market in Africa at Karatina.

Elephant and Rhino Conservation

Kenya was a leading campaigner to ban the trade in ivory and the CITES Lausanne Conference in 1989 proved to be a landmark victory for the cause. In July of 1989 President Daniel Arap Moi famously burnt 12 metric tons of confiscated ivory at Nairobi National Park to emphasise Kenya's commitment to the campaign.

After the wholesale destruction of elephant and rhino by poachers in the 1980's which were forcing the species towards extinction, the establishment of the KWS and a hardline policy against poachers is starting to redress the balance.
Rhino sanctuaries have been established within Nairobi. This includes Nakuru, Tsavo West and Aberdares National Parks and private rhino sanctuaries exist in the Laikipia District.

Care for the Wild International run a successful fostering programme for orphaned elephants and rhinos. It does this in co-operation with Daphne Sheldrick who gradually rehabilitates them. Several have been fully integrated back into the wild elephant population of Tsavo East National Park.

The project has funded two boreholes in Tsavo and financed another three in 1998 whilst also supporting the regrading of roads and providing equipment for the park rangers.

Nakuru National Park

In the 1980's the black rhino faced extinction in Kenya due to wholesale poaching. In 1987 Nakuru became the first secure sanctuary for the Kenya Government's emergency Rhino Rescue programme. Sixteen black rhino were translocated from Solio ranch in northern Kenya and more were brought in from threatened areas. These were followed by white rhino from Solio and the Natal Parks Board in South Africa. Both species are now well stablished and breeding.

Aberdares National Park

The Aberdares National Park has been ear marked by the KWS to be entirely surrounded by electric fencing to establish the area as a safe sanctuary. Rhino Ark has taken up the initiative and the Park which is home to 60 black rhino needs 380 km of fencing and once complete this will be the largest wildlife sanctuary in East Africa. Rhino Ark organises many fund raising events including the renowned Kenyan Rhino Charge off road driving challenge.

Masai Mara Forestry Project

Friends of Conservation have secured land next to the Talek Gate of the Masai Mara National Reserve for a forestry project. The project aims to teach local people how to plant enough trees for firewood, fodder and construction needs. Free formal training in tree nursery and woodlot maintenance is provided and also training for employment in local lodges and camps.

Lewa Downs Wildlife Conservancy

Lewa Downs, located north of Mount Kenya, was primarily established as a rhino sanctuary in 1984. With financial aid from donors the whole of Lewa and the surrounding Ngare Ngare forest has been fenced giving a protected area of 213 sq.km with a 30 metre gap on the northern side acting as a migratory route. Now the sanctuary has over 20 black rhino and a similar amount of white rhino, over half of which have been born there.

Community conservation

Significant proportion of Kenya's wildlife live outside protected areas. This often results into conflicts when game rampages destroy or damage cultivated fields. For Kenyans therefore, living in close proximity to wild animals can be a painful and expensive exercise and at times tragic.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is the national body tasked with the protection of crops and humans. One of its departments attends to community-driven projects, which take responsibility for natural resources, including wildlife. Communities are lobbied through the department to embark on wildlife measures through which they earn direct returns from accommodating wildlife.

The Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary is one of such projects. It became for Kenya in 1996, the country's first park beyond parks'. This was followed by the Ngwesi Group Ranch tourism project in Laikipia, situated in Kenya's semi-arid north. The community there is often severely affected by the migration of elephant and smaller plain animals.

The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, in Kenya's coastal region, set up to protect some 6,000 acres of a traditional elephant migration route is another example of these projects. Several local Duruma small-scale farmers had to move elsewhere to permit development, and money from a luxury-tented camp replaces lost income.

Authorities hope that wild animals that spend most of their time outside the protected areas will have a future and that Kenya's unparalleled national wildlife heritage will be secure if such the projects do work.Amboseli, a period when 95% of the Amboseli rhino fell to poachers. Eventually the Kimana Maasai approached the KWS to suggest the sanctuary and ask for assistance in setting it up. Whilst the Maasai were autonomous in their decision making the KWS provided consultancy, a road network and trained Game Scouts.
The sanctuary charges considerably less than the Amboseli and each group ranch member receives an annual dividend whilst some money is retained for joint community projects.

In recognition of the success of Kimana, Care for the Wild International is supporting a pioneering new project called Porini. This will fund a project manager to work with Maasai communities to help them establish conservation areas on communally owned land in the hope that small scale sustainable tourism will generate income for the community.

Shanzu Traditional Workshop

Located just north of Mombasa, Shanzu is a sheltered workshop for disabled young women where they learn skills which enable them to become productive and confident members of the community. Trainees graduate after 2 years having received vocational training, learnt production skills and gained business experience. The workshop is open to vistors to see how the girls live and work and there is a shop selling their products.

The Rhino Orphans

Rhinos live half as long as elephants (45 years} and develop twice as fast, in the case of females, ready to breed aged five, but males mature more slowly and have to fight for rank in order to breed.

Rhino babies need a full-cream humanized milk formula, (such as Nestles Lactogen), with added carbohydrates later. Throughout infancy they must be fed at four hourly intervals during the day only. A comfortable stable, a little mudwallow, a "midden" or dungpile, and a mother figure, are all it takes to make a baby rhino contented and happy.

The orphaned rhinos hand-raised by the Trust in Nairobi National Park ultimately live perfectly normal rhino lives within an established wild community. Rhinos are extremely ancient animals, unchanged by evolution through millennia, and therefore, in terms of Nature, "perfect" animals for the role within the environment for which they were designed. This is a pruning role, which is extremely beneficial to the balance of the pastures that support all the indigenous species. With huge grinding molars, a rhino keeps the shrubs and bushes short and within the reach of others, stimulating new, soft growth that other species with softer more tender mouths can utilise.

Many people think that rhinos are aggressive and stupid, an idea rooted in ignorance. In fact, rhinos are extremely sophisticated and successful animals and were it not for the myth surrounding their horn, and human greed, the two species indigenous to Africa wouid still be represented in sizeable numbers. Sadly, rhino horn (compressed hair or kerotin, the same substance as fingernail} is valued highly in the Far East for medicinal and aphrodisiac purposes, and, in the near East, for its phallic symbolism, which supposedly makes a man in possession of a rhino horn dagger handle invincible. Formerly, only the elite could afford such a luxury, but oil wealth has now put rhino horn within easy reach.

Where rhinos have been ruthlessly persecuted, they can be aggressive, simply because they feel threatened since attack is their means of defence. Unmolested, rhinos are extremely docile animals and easy to tame. "Instinct", however, within these ancient beings is very strong, and needs respect and understanding. In a situation involving survival, territory, or confrontation for rank, a rhino switches instantly into "auto mode", and all its responses will be governed by instinct. At such times, the only thing to do is to get out of the way fast, for the animal is not in conscious control of its actions.

Black rhinos are solitary in nature, their lives governed entirely by scent, hearing and a phenomenal memory. Eyesight is poor, but simply because it is seldom needed, since all the other senses are so acute. Vision comes into play only at close quarters, during conflict or to detect movement nearby. Rhinos live in a loose community and know one another by scent, where dung piles (or "middens") and urinals (bushes on which urine is sprayed) play a significant role demarcating boundaries and advertising hormone levels that affect rank and status. Rhinos always kick their dung with their hind feet, leaving a personal scent trail for others to interpret. A calf born into the community wouid normally be protected by its mother, its specific scent trail mingling with hers until the next calf is due, by which time the baby will be accepted by all other members of the community as rightfully "belonging".

Since the life of these ancient beings is governed by scent, it is through scent that the introductions must be made. The droppings of any newcomer are added to the established middens of the residents for many months before physical contact is allowed. The relocation of hand-raised rhinos into an established wild community is therefore a lengthy and complicated process.

The Orphans

Magnum: born at 4:00 pm on the 30th of January 1997, is a calf of the orphaned rhino "Scud", born in Nairobi National Park during the Gulf War in February 1991, hence the name. She was the calf of a cow named "Main Gate" who was found dead when Scud was just three months old.

Scud, who had defended the body of her mother valiantly against hyenas and vultures, was minus a tail when she came in, having been mutilated by hyenas on her hindquarters. She was so fearful on arrival that it took six long weeks to persuade her to leave the security of her stable, but she grew up to become fully integrated into the wild community of the Park and was, in every sense, a wild rhino again, returning to base only intermittently. We fully believed our role had been accomplished and that we could count Scud as one of the Trust's successes, until the 20th May 1996, when she laboriously brought herself home using her chin to support her weight, her right foreleg limp and useless. There were no serious wounds to suggest anything other than a serious crash on the right shoulder, possibly caused by putting a foot down a pighole at full gallop.

The veterinary prognosis was never encouraging. Basically, there was nothing that could be done, since the radial nerve which motivates all leg muscles was obviously damaged. Only time could heal that, if at all. We did all we possibly could to promote healing, but, sadly, we finally had to accept the awful truth that Scud faced life as a cripple.

She got around as best she could on three legs, still a law unto herself, but now accompanied at all times by her keepers, since she was not sufficiently agile to take evasive action should the need arise. We kept her well-fed and as comfortable as possible until the birth of her baby ten months later. By this time, though, massive pressure sores had developed on the damaged limb, which simply could not heal. Eventually, a bone infection set in and when Magnum was 3 weeks old we knew then that we had lost the battle to save his mother. Now, it was time to think of him. Scud was euthenased on the 21st February and Magnum became on orphan of the Trust.

Magnet: is a calf of Nairobi National Park's "Edith", who is, in fact still living. K. W.S. brought Magnet to us on the morning of 14th February 1997 having become separated from her mother during the previous night, due, we suspect, to the incursion of Masai cattle into the park. A calf is most unlikely to have survived, had predators been the cause, since a baby rhino is very small at birth, only about 18 inches high and weighing between 60 to 80 pounds.

By the time the K.W.S. Surveillance Team had been able to locate Magnet's mother "Edith", five days had passed and the likelihood of her rejecting the calf, due to the human scent and time lapse was very real. It was decided not to jeopardise the life of the female calf particularly in view of the fact that the mother would fall pregnant again quickly once lactation ceased, and produce another calf that much sooner. Hence, Magnet joined Magnum to be raised by the Trust as an orphan. Eventually, once grown, they will both either be reintegrated back into the Nairobi National Park community or else relocated to Tsavo East National Park, to join the Trust's earlier success story "Amboseli" who is the last remaining Amboseli rhino left alive today.

Amboseli: arrived in the nursery at six months of age in August 1987. Therefore, she was born in April 1987. The Masai speared her mother in Amboseli National Park. For five days before being found, Amboseli gallantly protected the body of her slain mother from both vultures and all other predators. Being old enough to understand who had killed her mother, her hate of humans was such that it took us many weeks to tame her down. To this day, she has never been fully comfortable in human company. Normally rhinos are the easiest of animals to tame, even when adult, but Amboseli proved the exception.

Last Updated on Tuesday 24th November 2009

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