Meru County government is finalizing a plan to establish a Rhino and Bongo sanctuary in the region.
The sanctuary is expected to be established in Mt. Kenya at Mucheene and Marania forests.
Last week, Meru Rhino and Bongo Sanctuary Trust held a meeting chaired by the Trust Chairman Mr. John Kinoti, and CEC member for Tourism Maingi Mugambi, where they received a briefing on the preliminary research findings by the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service scientists before the issuance of a user license for the project to begin.
KFS scientists led by Head of Forests Health and Biodiversity Mr. James Mwang’ombe, and those from KWS led by Anastasia Mwaura briefed the board on their research findings and requirements that have to be met in the upcoming final phase before the Rhino could be put into the sanctuary and the Bongo repatriated from the State of Florida in the United States, and the eventual operationalization of the sanctuary.
Speaking at the function, CEC member Mugambi said the massive project was expected to boost the tourism sector in Meru by introducing new products which would in turn increase tourists flow, introduce new opportunities and contribute to the growth of the County’s economy.
He said the establishment of the sanctuary would not only address conservation challenges but also promote local and international tourism.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy CEO Mike Watson said the public-private initiative would promote the conservation of the two animals. He said partnering with other wildlife protection agencies was key to the conservation of endangered species.
In May this year, a multi-agency team was set up to help in the conservation of the critically endangered Mountain Bongo and Black Rhino.
Experts say although the Mountain Bongo, a large forest antelope, was native around Mt Kenya, human activity has wiped them out.
Meru County Government, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have partnered to restore and protect the two animals in the new sanctuary.
The Mountain Bongo is expected to be flown into Kenya from the United States in December this year, according to John Kinoti, Lewa Conservancy’s Community Development Manager.
Kinoti said the project would see the Bongos flown in to be protected at the sanctuary and a breeding programme established to increase their numbers.
By Dickson Mwiti