MediaMax

Kenya is known for its diversity, but the dwindling numbers of wild animals has seen the rise of conservancies to protect species living outside the 54 parks and reserves. Lumo Community Wildlife Conservancy is one of them

Wambui Virginia @virgie_wambui

Tourism is one of the biggest foreign exchange earners for Kenya, and various initiatives have been set up to make it viable for individuals and the country.

Reports indicate that Kenya has lost nearly 70 per cent of its wildlife in the last 30 years, and it is for this reason that conservation and management of wildlife is necessary.

Over the years, there has been a push for new and innovative ways to ensure the continuity of wildlife, both animal and plant.

Among these incentives are wildlife conservancies, which help the 65 per cent of wildlife found outside national parks. They are also vital in enhancing community livelihoods.

One such conservancy is Lomu Community Wildlife Conservancy in Tsavo West, Taita Taveta county. Started in 1997, it sits on 48,000-acres, a combination of Lualenyi, Mramba and Oza ranches. The conservancy was registered as Self-Help group in 1998 and in 2001 as a trust.

Lumo is part of the historical elephant migration corridor linking Tsavo ecosystem to the Shimba Hills in the neighbouring Kwale county. The area has the big five— lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo—an advantage to the conservancy.

Community involvement

“Lumo is a wildlife corridor between the Tsavo National Park and Tanzania. Animals keep moving back and forth. During the wet season, the animals move into the national park and when it is dry, they flock into the conservancy mainly because of water.  So the number of animals within the conservancy varies with season,” John Kombu, the chairman of the conservancy, mostly savannah and home to over 350 bird species.

John Kombu, the chairman of the conservancy. Photo/VIRGINIA WAMBUI

The sole purpose of conservancy is to benefit the community by creating employment opportunities: almost all the rangers in the conservancy are from the same community.

“Lumo has also been a part of the major improvements within the community. This is mainly through improving their education as well as infrastructure. Lumo recently donated school desks to Msorongo Primary School and we also give students bursaries.

“We have come up with a grazing plan for the community to accommodate both the livestock and the wild animals. We need to educate the people on how they can co-exist with the wild without tension. We have seen it work in Masai Mara,” he explains.

Kombu adds that a stocking rate has to be agreed upon because if the community brings in more livestock then the wildlife would suffocate, and they would end up moving into the national park.

Besides the benefits to the community, the conservancy has helped boost the number of tourists in the country. It took advantage of the fact that most tourists prefer remote and private areas as opposed to crowded destinations. It built the Lion’s Bluff Lodge, which offers accommodation, bush breakfast, nature walks and bird watching tours. The conservancy recorded 3,500, 3,800 and 4,027 tourists in 2016,  2017 and at the end of 2018 respectively.

Boosting conservancies

Lumo was among the beneficiaries of the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) project, which donated off-road motorcycles to selected conservancies in Kenya. The motorcycles were to help the conservancies step up anti-poaching patrols as well as speed up response to poaching.

“We were really grateful for the donation. Our rangers had difficulty reaching certain areas. Part of the terrain is still terible and some areas are quite uphill. Since the conservancy borders Tanzania, poachers would find entry and hide where the rangers could not reach. However, with the motorcycles now navigating through the conservancy has been made quite easier,” says Kumbo.