Lewa Conservancy is banking on community awareness on conservation issues as a key strategy to curb the poaching of rhinos, which have been identified as endangered species.
According to the conservancy’s head of general security, Mr. John Panieri, the strategy has proven to be working at the conservancy, with the last case having been reported about five years ago.
“Engaging the surrounding community as well as sensitising them on the need to conserve rhino is one of the greatest and most effective strategies that we have been using here.”
“The community has been the first line of defence, and if we don’t engage them, this would be dangerous as most of the animals are out of the park where communities live,” said Mr. Panieri, who was speaking during this year’s celebrations of World Rhino Day.
He said poaching is usually a long-organised chain involving people even from Asia but could be easily curbed by sensitising the surrounding community, who are mainly used to execute the poachers’ plans.
“Since we started engaging the community, there are indications that poaching has decreased with the increased street value for rhino horns, which means they are not easily available,” said Mr. Panieri.
He added: “The poachers mainly buy a few greedy community members, and this is the reason we are focused on winning them by initiating various development projects that can have impacts on their lives.”
He said the conservancy, which has a total of 262 rhinos (white rhinos 132 and black rhinos 130), the highest in the region, was working around the clock to improve security measures for the animals as well as learning the emerging new techniques being used by poachers so as to enhance mitigation measures.
Head of conservation and wildlife at the conservancy, Mr. Dominic Maringa, said they were doing everything possible to raise awareness about rhino conservation considering their dwindling numbers, with only 960 black rhinos and 2000 white rhinos as per the last census, in the entire country.
“We want to thank the community and other stakeholders who have been helping us in the anti-poaching campaigns, and we are also happy that the awareness level even amongst the children from the neighbouring community is so far very high,” said Mr. Maringa.
He said the conservancy has also put in place various conservation measures, including conservation education, to instill knowledge about conservation among young children.
“We have an opportunity to co-exist with these animals. We also need to be innovative and create space for them in the universe,” said Mr. Maringa.
He said co-existence was the only sure way to enhance the animal’s security and productivity, which helps the community reap big benefits from the creation of employment as well as the financing of children’s education through bursaries, among other programmes.
Mr. Maringa said the rhino has been a target for poaching on the pretense that their horns are used for medicinal purposes, especially in Asian countries.
By Dickson Mwiti