Pastoralists in bid to boost wildlife conservation

The land making up the new Illaingarunyoni Conservancy is an important wildlife corridor and dry-season refuge for the pastoralist Maasai community. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Some 1,000 landowners in Mashenani, Kajiado county have agreed to utilise their parcels of land to protect the last remaining migratory route between Kenya's two key wildlife landscapes.

The move will see rare African elephant species and community livelihoods safeguarded.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) which will lease the land, in a statement said that 1,000 landowners from the Maasai community unanimously agreed to individually commit their parcels of land to conservation by leasing them to IFAW.

The land is nestled within the last remaining natural corridor that allows wildlife to move between Amboseli and the greater Mara landscapes.  

"Through this innovative programme, IFAW pays the community landowners for the land protected under a special agreement," IFAW said.

This places over 29,000 acres of community-owned land under the stewardship of IFAW for wildlife conservation as part of the organisation's 'Room to Roam' initiative.  

The project, spearheaded by Olgulului Land Trust, and entrusted to IFAW, aims to safeguard wildlife species and human livelihoods from, among other things, the unforgiving grip of climate change and extreme weather events.  

The land making up the new Illaingarunyoni Conservancy is an important wildlife corridor and dry-season refuge for the pastoralist Maasai community.

It is also a vital dispersal area for over 2,200 elephants and other wildlife species to roam freely in and out of Amboseli National Park.

"The protection of this important habitat deters other land use forms, further helping to restore healthy resilient ecosystems that are critical to absorbing carbon into the soil and supporting community livelihoods through tourism enterprises as well as employment opportunities," IFAWn said.

As a dry-season refuge, Illaingarunyoni Conservancy stands out as a critical space for the survival of wild animals and community livestock during extreme drought. 

“By establishing the Illaingarunyoni Conservancy, we the community, are demonstrating our steadfast commitment to safeguarding our future and the future of elephants in Amboseli,” said Olgulului Land Trust chairman Daniel Leturesh.

Habitat loss has, over the years, exacerbated human-wildlife conflict in Amboseli as wildlife species and local communities struggle to access water and pasture in diminishing spaces.

Aside from securing habitat connectivity, the Illaingarunyoni Conservancy will foster peaceful co-existence between human and elephant communities because it is a dry-season reservoir for wildlife and livestock. 

Illaingarunyoni is home to rare wildlife species such as African wild dogs, pangolins, and the bat eared fox.

It is a vital piece of the Room to Roam puzzle-IFAW’s flagship conservation initiative in Africa. 

“Human and wildlife coexistence is a vital part of our planet's future, both species cannot survive unless we work together," said IFAW Africa director James Isiche.

"The best way we can do it is by empowering the community to be part of the solution. Illaingarunyoni Conservancy proves that local communities are committed to, and have a vital role to play in conservation,” said Isiche.