A year ago we successfully began our Anti-poaching operations in Kipini, part of the Lower Tana Delta in Kenya. I remember sitting down with my rangers and telling them I could possibly only keep them for a year, but even if that is all we are able to manage, we will have saved a few lives and it will be worth it. They had a somewhat confused look on their face and said, “Ok madam.”
Getting into our second year of operations, I now understand why they seemed so bewildered. They had a faith and confidence in me that I didn’t fully have in myself.
I knew I could manage the team, and structure our operations well enough to combat the poaching here. I was confident about all the relationships I had quickly fostered with local administration and partners in conservation, and we hit the ground running. What I was unsure about, was our funding. We have been reliant on a goodwill donor who gave us an initial boost that allowed us to begin operations, but otherwise have been largely dependent on crowdfunding. The advent of Covid-19 significantly dented this but we carried on nonetheless.
I am happy to report thay in 2020, we recovered over 100 various poaching apparatus including lamping equipment, snares and spears; recovered over 500 pieces of timber; and treated 16 animals for snare and arrow injuries. We also made 21 arrests- sending out a strong message that poaching is no longer any man’s game, you can and will- get caught.
We also hit another major milestone in 2020- we are surrounded by communities who rely on livestock and farming, and Human Wildlife Conflict cases have risen by an estimated 300% in the last 10 years. Depredation resulted in the retaliatory poisoning of at least two lions in 2019. In order to prevent this (and further livestock losses to the community), we collared a male lion who had taken down some goats and continue to monitor him on a daily basis. We have had zero cases of lion poisoning, and only one case of a cow that was grazed by lion.
I sit here in my camp today, overlooking a waterhole after returning from some road maintenance work. The sands are telling me a story of hope- the pug marks of a lioness with tiny paws walking around her, heading into the forest.
I haven’t seen these little ones yet, but with your continued support I am confident that I will- and they will be all grown up and not eating goats for dinner! (Our prey species population is on the rise). Speaking of which, the rangers sighted a white waterbuck the other day. I still have to get a better photograph of her, but this is quite remarkable indeed.
Thank you for helping us get this far, and I hope someday you will have a chance to visit this incredible ecosystem. This is where my heart lies.
Exec. Dir. Ulinzi Africa Foundation