Meru Bongo,Rhino Conservation Trust obtain US import license

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Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust (MBRCT) has secured a licence from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to import Bongo from the Florida Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, based in the United States of America.

Speaking after inspecting the progress in the building of the Bongo Bomas and Paddocks at the sanctuary in the Ntirimiti area, which is 95 percent complete, The Trust patron, who is also Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, said the sanctuary predator-proof perimeter fence of over 25 acres of Bongo breeding area was also almost complete.

She added that their partners from Florida Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) are also preparing to repatriate 25 bongos, which are expected to arrive by early January next year.

“I take this opportunity to thank all our partners, including Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Ntimaka and Kamulu Community Forest Associations, Lewa Conservancy, and my board of trustees led by Chairman John Kinoti, for the great energy and outstanding steering of the project, which is moving at a great speed,” said Governor Mwangaza.

She added that she will be leading a delegation to Florida in the coming months to select the animals and that in August, they will have the official opening ceremony of the completed sanctuary sitting on a 250-acre piece of land in Marania and Mucheene Forest donated by KWS.

The MBRCT Chairman, Mr. John Kinoti, said that previously widely distributed across Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, Mau, Eburru Forest and their environs, the wild Mountain Bongo population has significantly declined to less than 100 animals due to habitat degradation, forest fragmentation, poaching and other human-related activities.

He said that the Mountain Bongo has even disappeared from Mt. Kenya, which was once the animal’s home.

“This project aims to restore the wild Mt. Kenya population, engage local communities in eco-tourism and eco-friendly sustainable agriculture and leverage protection for biodiversity across the Mt. Kenya ecosystem,” he said, adding that the initiative will be carried out in stages, with Bongos being introduced into the sanctuary during the first phase and Black rhinos introduced in the second.

Once the Bongos arrive from America, he added, they will be placed in spacious, specially built, fence-protected enclosures where they will be closely observed to ensure their acclimation.

The new sanctuary enables Bongo groups to breed and thrive, allowing future generations to be re- wilded into Mt. Kenya’s forest ecosystem.

Meru Bongo and Rhino Conservation Trust Chairman Mr John Kinoti addressing the press.

“This project demonstrates the first effort in several decades of a public-private partnership of its kind in Kenya aimed to re-introduce a wildlife species that had gone extinct within the northern slope of the Mt. Kenya Forest.”

“It brings together key stakeholders with the highest level of experience and expertise in wildlife conservation to join hands with the local communities to bring back and protect rare species for the benefit of conservation and economic development,” Mr. Kinoti said.

He added that the Bongo and Black Rhino Initiative exemplifies the core of community-based conservation as a long-term, multi-stakeholder, public-private partnership.

The County Government is championing the new Bongo and Black Rhino Sanctuary through an ongoing Public Private People Partnership (PPPP), which broke ground on the 250-acre parcel of forest land on February 21, 2023.

By Dickson Mwiti

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