Over the past 10 years, Kenya has experienced a rapid change in land use from the previous communal land ownership, to group ranches, to the current individualized land holding system. Increasing human population and uncontrollable encroachment of urbanization has accelerated fragmentation of the ecosystem whereby most areas are now delineated by electric or wire fences. These manmade boundaries pose a major threat to wildlife through injuries from snares, loss of habitat, and migratory corridors creating unconnected areas known as wildlife islands. These wildlife islands are characterized by poor gene pools, high susceptibility to disease, dwindling wildlife populations and target rich areas for poachers.
Close to 70% of Africa’s wildlife lives outside protected areas such as National Parks and Reserves. Community conservancies, like Olerai Conservancy, play an important role in not only giving wildlife more space to prosper without fences, but also enhancing livelihoods of the local community. In 2017, landowners from the Ndoinyo community on the border of the Maasai Mara National Reserve cumulatively leased 5,000 acres of family lands to create Olerai Conservancy.
Where landowners once managed to live on the unpredictable income from the sale of cattle, they can now count on the conservancy for predictable rental income for their pastures, plus job opportunities to work in the conservancy as rangers, safari guides, drivers, and camp staff. Up to 95% of the staff working in conservancies come from the local community. Through the monthly land lease fees received, bed occupancy rates, and sale of souvenirs, Lerai's landowner community’s standard of living has increased.
Beyond jobs, conservancies integrate themselves in the community, supporting schools, businesses, and allowing other landowners to graze their livestock in the conservancy which contributes to improved health of their livestock, quality of meat and weight, and therefore increased profits from sale of their livestock.
Covid-19 has put all of this good work - the wildlife protection, the increased livelihood of the community, and conservation in jeopardy. While the impact of Covid-19 on humans and wildlife is impacting countries around the world differently, Kenya it is feeling the effect from both sides – humanitarian and wildlife. Olerai Conservancy and Kenya’s game parks rely on tourist dollars to pay rangers and staff to protect Africa’s remaining precious wildlife from illegal poaching. Without rangers, staff, tourists, and safari vehicles in these areas, wildlife poachers have unsupervised access to kill elephants, rhino, lions, giraffe, and other bush meat animals for profit.
As a leading tourist destination for wildlife in Africa, Kenya faces the dark reality that it could take decades to recover from the loss of wildlife caused by this epidemic.
Every day 12 rangers risk their lives to protect Olerai Conservancy and its wildlife. 30 families have leased their land to Olerai Conservancy for the benefit of wildlife and to better their future. Every day 50 staff go to work at Olerai Conservancy to support their families and put their children through school. Covid-19 has severely impacted these efforts.
In Kenya, as many as 10 family members rely on the income of one salaried person. That means that as many 1,000 people in the Olerai Conservancy family are being affected by Covid-19. Without tourist dollars coming in, Olerai Conservancy needs your help in supporting their extended family.
We are requesting donations to pay the salaries of the rangers, food packages for our staff, and rent to the family farms.
Your donation, no matter how big or small, will help protect the lives of wildlife and of many people in Kenya. To understand the impact your gift can make, a donation of $40 feeds a family of 6 for two weeks; $100 pays the monthly rent on 70 acres; $250 pays one ranger’s salary for a month.
We thank you for your generosity and support,
The Olerai Conservancy Team