Borana Conservancy

Project LocationLaikipia, Kenya
Project TypeWildlife and habitat conservation, Endangered species protection
Endangered Speciesblack rhino
Project Websitewww.borana.co.ke/conservation-community.html

Borana Conservancy

The Borana Conservancy is the non-profit conservation organisation dedicated to the sustainable conservation of critical habitat and wildlife. Borana’s mission is to provide a sustainable ecosystem, in partnership with their neighbours and community, for critically endangered species on the brink of extinction.  The holistic approach commits tourism, ranching and other enterprise to building local livelihoods and enhancing ecosystem integrity.

Borana Rhino Conservation

Rhino are one of the most important species in Kenya to be threatened by extinction.  A large and unscrupulous market for rhino horn products in the Far East fetches prices that rival gold. As a result, poaching gangs in the country have escalated on an unprecedented scale. 2013 saw the largest decline both nationally and globally of rhino due to poaching. As a knock on effect, the security measures needed to protect rhino are vast and prohibitively expensive. As a result, many conservancies lack the capacity to protect rhino, meaning that habitat for rhino is more and more scarce. This directly affects breeding rates, which further confounds the survival of the species.

In response to this crisis, Borana Conservancy introduced 21 black rhino in August 2013 in an effort to contribute to both the short-term and long-term goals of the national Strategy for Black rhino.

In August 2013, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy moved 11 critically endangered black rhino to the neighbouring Borana Conservancy in one of Lewa's biggest translocations yet. The translocation has decongested Lewa's rhino population and reintroduced black rhino to Borana Conservancy, an area they last inhabited in the 1970s. Also involved was the Kenya Wildlife Service, the state corporation mandated to conserve and manage Kenya's wildlife. Borana also received 10 black rhino from Nakuru National Park, another area with a dense rhino population.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which borders Borana, has exceeded its Ecological Carrying capacity (ECC) for black rhino (estimated at 70). There is a need for more habitats on a local level and the introduction of rhino on Borana pre-empted the fence between the two conservancies being brought down. The resulting 94,000 acres of contiguous ecosystem will help negate any decline in breeding rates arising from an exceeded ECC on Lewa, as well as significantly contribute to the overall need for secure habitat in Kenya.

Given the fact that rhinos are facing the greatest threat in history from poaching, this is a positive story in the midst of bad news. Borana's pledge to conservation will see black rhinos introduced to an area they last inhabited decades ago. This is a commitment which few others are willing to take on, given the cost and security risk associated with holding rhinos today.

This translocation is also a big celebration of Lewa's success as a rhino sanctuary. Years of conservation efforts have seen Lewa reach its maximum black rhino carrying capacity and the Conservancy is now able to restock areas that previously held this endangered species.

Anti-Poaching Initiatives

Elephant ivory and rhino horn now rivals gold for value and the greed of a wealthy elite in East Asia has seen one of the worst poaching spikes in Kenya’s history. Borana’s anti-poaching security team now numbers over 100 men, who are continually trained and are deployed day and night to provide the eyes and ears to make sure that wildlife remains safe.

Borana’s wildlife security consists of two facets: The armed anti-poaching unit and the scouts who monitor the wildlife. The scouts, numbering 42 men, operate in the daytime. They patrol designated zones, reporting in sightings and tracks of rhino to the monitoring supervisors as well as performing daily game counts. They patrol in all conditions, and are crucial to not only the in-depth knowledge of the wildlife on the conservancy, reporting injured or sick animals, but also the daily whereabouts of the rhino, and subsequently allow for the efficient deployment of the armed anti-poaching team. The anti-poaching team operates almost exclusively at night, with the exception of special operations with specific intelligence reports. They consist of rapid response teams in a vehicle, and two-man standing patrols that are deployed where rhino were last sighted. They are issued with government weapons (7.62mm HK G3’s or FN’s) and are the last line of defense against poaching.

All these men operate in tough conditions, and cover vast areas on foot each day. In order to do this they need top-quality clothing that is suited to the warm days, cold nights and tough terrain.

Community Engagement

A conservancy cannot only focus on the protection of land and wildlife itself, but also needs to acknowledge the relationship of the environment to its people and the ever-increasing competition between humans and wildlife for vital resources - land, food, and water. 

Managing the interaction between humans and wildlife is one of the core objectives of the Borana conservancy - a harmonious balance needs to be maintained. Borana works to ensure that their conservation efforts go hand in hand with infrastructure improvements, strategic fencing, maintenance of roads, upgrading of school facilities, access to medicine and healthcare, and efficient management and distribution of water. Advice on all rangeland management and access to certified and appropriate seed along with modern agricultural technology is also provided. Obviously this all takes time and investment, however slowly but surely the conservancy is demonstrating the positive effects of conserving wilderness, by allocating income that has been generated through Borana to community projects.

Tusk Support

All of Borana's rangers operate in tough conditions, and cover vast areas on foot each day. In order to do this they need top-quality clothing that is suited to the warm days, cold nights and tough terrain.  Funding from Tusk and the Safaricom Marathon have allowed Borana to equip its rangers with boots and wet weather equipment to aid in the monitoring and protection of its newly acquired black rhino population.

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