An award-winning conservancy in Kenya has been so successful in conserving black rhinos, it is now looking for further land to expand into. Part of its success? The local people….
Ol Pejeta is Kenya’s conservation success story and its CEO, Richard Vigne, believes its success, in part, is down to local communities. “Conservation must benefit humans. Land must be productive as well as conserving wildlife populations. Without the support of the people around us, we cannot achieve conservation on any kind of scale,” he says.
At 400km2, Ol Pejeta is East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. It is home to 115 rhinos, or 16% of the national population. Black rhino numbers here have grown 100% over 10 years and are now heading towards maximum numbers that the conservancy can support, so the next challenge is to secure more space.
At Ol Pejeta, ecotourism and wildlife conservation are integrated with a profitable and sustainable cattle ranching business. The conservancy employs more than 900 people and is home to 6,000 Boran cattle.
Any profits made are reinvested into the conservancy and the community. “We want to show that conservation can pay its own way, contributing economically, socially and environmentally for the benefit of all,” says Vigne. Since 2004, over US$7m has been raised and given to community programmes and over 50,000 local people benefit each year from the conservancy. Innovative projects such as ICT classes in schools, mobile dental camps that can travel to remote communities, drip irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting systems, solar power, and sustainable grazing techniques are all part of the reason local people believe in conservation.
The community, in turn, provide eyes and ears. Complex issues like livestock overgrazing, local politics and illegal arms are also easier to address if the community is on board with the conservancy. Nevertheless, poaching and habitat loss remain major threats to rhino numbers. In the last 10 In South Africa, the number of rhinos poached increased by 9,246% from 2007-14. Recent figures released from the South African government show that poaching is still at crisis levels. Over 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2017, while a decade of illegal wildlife trafficking means that three rhinos are still being poached every day. This is both unsustainable and unacceptable. “The absolute truth is that if we humans do not urgently change the way we interact with Planet Earth and the way in which we consume, we will be left with a home totally bereft of wild things and wild places and we will be much the poorer for it,” warns Vigne.
On 15th March 2018 in London, Ol Pejeta, in partnership with UK charity Helping Rhinos (whose vision is to lead an innovative approach to conservation that will ensure the long-term survival of rhino and other endangered wildlife in their natural habitat) will be discussing seven factors critical to successfully sustaining rhino populations. The event – called Shades of Grey: Seven Saviours of Black and White Rhino – hopes to raise funds for a mobile veterinary unit to be based on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and will explore the complexities of protecting the iconic rhino in its natural habitat.
Helping Rhinos CEO Simon Jones will introduce the evening and provide an update on the work of the charity and how supporters around the world are making a difference in protecting the rhino, before they keynote speech by Steve Leonard. Steve is a wildlife vet, and is well known from presenting many UK TV programmes, including Operation Wild (BBC1), Nature’s Newborns (ITV1) and Trust Me I’m A Vet (BBC1).
Joining Steve will be Founder of Animals Saving Animals, Daryll Pleasants. Daryll will share his unique tales of training dogs to join the front line anti-poaching teams in locations around the world, including Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, will share the successes and challenges of running East Africa’s most successful black rhino breeding programme and provide an update on the northern white rhinos.
Shades of Grey: Seven Saviours of Black and White Rhino will take place at Church House, Westminster, London SW1P 3NZ on Thursday 15th March 2018, from 6:30pm-10:30pm. To attend the event, click here.