Feature: Life of wardens in Kenya's wildlife conservancies
02 November 2015, 21:28
Nakuru - Kenya draws a world attention for being a famed destination for nature and wildlife tourism leaving visitors with souvenir memory and anticipation for next visit.
The drive to entice tourists never leaves a chance for the parks and conservancies management to put their foot forward and give the best while hosting both the local and foreign visitors.
At Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Mara region in the South Rift, where visitors are allowed for nature and night walks, considerable surveillance and monitoring of the wildlife is done.
Simon Nkoitoi, the senior warden, said they always ensure they are aware of the location of the carnivorous animals such as the cheetahs and leopards.
"We always use our vehicles to take the visitors around the park. We do not allow any other vehicle into the conservancy unless they belong to the company," said Nkoitoi in a phone interview.
Ol Kinyei is among the conservancies which received anti-poaching machinery jointly donated by a Chinese-founded Mara Conservation Fund (MCF). The off-road motorcycles enhances surveillance in the conservancy hosting lions, leopards and elephants among other big animals.
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Other conservancies with similar status of the glory of the wildlife include Naboisho, Olare-Motorogi Conservancy, Pardamat Conservation Area and Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancy Association.
During a visit to the upmarket conservancy, the tourists are informed of what is expected of them as they go around to have a view of the wildlife.
"They know the do's and don't's. They are not allowed to feed the animals and throw anything around," said the senior warden.
"They are also not allowed to take photos where prohibited and if they must, they must be permitted to do so," he added.
They have tents which can accommodate 52 guests at a time and have enough rangers to keep safe the environs while the visitors take a rest.
Nkoitoi said they are very active in sensitizing the community on conserving the environment since any destructive activity in the surrounding will greatly affect the activities in the conservancy.
"We go around with the motorbikes and vehicles to talk about the necessity of taking care of the surrounding environment," he said.
He said the conservancy has contributed to the good use of the land, largely promoting to the protection of the biodiversity in the Maasai Mara region.
At the Maasai Mara National Reserve which attracts more than 2,000 tourists a year, the community takes core role in protecting the natural treasure. The reserve draws Kenya at least 34.5 million U.S. dollars annually.
Lying within the Mara and Serengeti ecosystem, Maasai Mara National Reserve is an unavoidable tourism site to visit with its popularity of the annual wildebeest migration.
More than 600 species of both birds and wildlife are found here including rhino, lion, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, hippos and crocodiles. This is a special reserve in Kenya where a tourist can locate a rhino, elephant, leopard and lion within the same wildlife boundary.
Moses Parkei, the chief warden, said they receive an average of 100 visitors daily with the community getting more involved in attracting the tourists and protecting the ecosystem.
Parkei said they have adequate rangers regularly patrolling the reserve to ensure the safety of the wildlife and the visitors.
And just as in Ol Kinyei, all visitors are accompanied with rangers during their visit to the wildlife sites within their boundaries.
"We have enough rangers who are so passionate about their work and community which is devoted towards protecting this reserve," he said.
On monthly basis, he said they hold sensitization forums with the communities during which they create awareness on the importance of the tourism site and protecting the ecosystem from conservation.
"You must realize that the community play a great role in the survival of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and that is why we make an effort to reach out too them regularly," he said.
The chief warden said they partner with lodges and camps in the reserve in sensitizing the communities and promoting the conservation of the ecosystem.
Nicholas Murero, co-ordinator of the Mara and Serengeti ecosystem, is passionate about the conservation of the Maasai Mara ecosystem and protection of the wildlife.
"I am always on watch on anything going on in the Maasai Mara. There is nothing that hurts me more than hearing that an elephant or rhino has been killed," he said.
Murero said he has been on the forefront in educating the communities on the various ways they can conserve the Mara environment.
Among them being training them on how to convert the cow dung into biogas for use in cooking and lighting.
"The Maasaai have many cows which produce a lot of cow dung left on the surface and this emits a lot of carbon gas which is harmful to the survival of the environment," he said.
To ensure the success of his community awareness program, he said he has collaborated with the lodges and camps which buy the cow dung for biogas.
He said the Mara ecosystem will not be in existence in the future if the adjacent communities are allowed to continue cutting trees to meet their wood and charcoal demand.
Recently, East African Community Lake Victoria Basin Commission Secretariat indicated that Mara ecosystem has been exposed to rapid clearance of trees for the past 50 years. This is because households continue to grow by 13 percent.