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A New Generation for Conservation

Spreading the conservation message to youngsters in the local communities

By Aleema Noormohamed at Gamewatcher’s Safaris in Kenya

(Caption: Teachers and pupils from Ol Kinyei Primary School with Porini Mara Camp staff and Managing Director, Jake Grieves-Cook.)

As part of our ongoing work to improve the relationship between wildlife and communities, Gamewatchers Safaris and Porini Camps recently invited 42 students from neighbouring schools to the Ol Kinyei Conservancy situated in the Maasai Mara to visit the Porini Mara Camp and to experience a game drive in the conservancy.

Gamewatchers Safaris is the pioneer of community-owned conservancies in Kenya, with land being leased from Maasai communities and set aside for wildlife habitat. Following the establishment of Selenkay Conservancy (Amboseli) in 1997 and Ol Kinyei Conservancy in 2005, the company has striven to strengthen the relationship between Maasai communities and wildlife. With human-wildlife conflict on the rise due to growing human populations encroaching on wildlife territories, exposing children to wildlife and allowing them to understand the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation is of paramount importance to the security of flora and fauna in Kenya's ecosystems. Many of the children visiting Ol Kinyei Conservancy and Porini Mara Camp during the month of April had never seen elephants, lions or cheetahs before, with many of the Big Cats being viewed in a negative light due to attacks on their treasured livestock.

(Caption: Pupils learn from Silver Guide Jackson Liaram about managing a safari camp.)

Maasai bomas (livestock enclosures) outside the Ol Kinyei Conservancy have suffered from lion attacks in the past.  Due to the heavy rains, which cause the scattering of the wild plains animals (the lions' natural prey), resident lions sometimes stray beyond the conservancy and take to preying on the livestock of some Maasai cattle herders causing substantial loss. Because of this, a few of the aggrieved Maasai have threatened to take action by killing any lions that attack their livestock.

In recent years the lion population has been diminishing largely due to this sort of human-wildlife conflict as well as loss of suitable habitat. Their numbers have decreased from 20,000 to a staggering 2,000 across the entire country.

(Caption: School children try out a swing chair at Porini Mara Camp.)

However, after having seen the wildlife from a game drive vehicle and being educated by our skilled local Maasai safari guides and spotters, local children have begun to appreciate and understand what makes the conservancies so important as a wildlife sanctuary and also for creating employment opportunities for the local population. The children went on game drives and took tours of the camp. They were given various talks by our guides, chefs, waiters, room stewards, and the camp manager in order to fully understand future career possibilities. Land owners were also present to educate on the benefits of conserving the environment, as they themselves were involved in the entire process, thus making these talks more authentic to the children. Exposing youth to wildlife allows them to understand why Kenya is one of the world's best tourism destinations, and how and why responsible tourism is becoming the preferred form of travel.

(Caption: Seeing the kitchen at Porini Mara Camp.)

Over the next year, Gamewatcher’s Safaris is hoping to have many more students and community members visit the conservancy, with the expectation of continued improvements in viewing wildlife and the need to conserve them in a more positive light.

May 27, 2014

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