Boost for Tsavo rhinos

British charity helps prevent poaching in Tsavo

Conservationists from the British charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has won the £500,000 (Ksh70 million) Google Award to use for deploying state-of-the-art camera traps in the expansive Tsavo ecosystem to help stop the massacre of rhinos and elephants. The funds will be used to buy and install a network of next-generation cameras to help stop rhinos being slaughtered by gangs of armed poachers.

The funding from Google will see cameras with automated sensors installed in poaching hotspots. As well as instantly transmitting images of intruders to park rangers, the cameras can detect vibrations from vehicles and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene.

A public surge of support for the project saw huge numbers of people vote online for ZSL to receive this critical funding, ahead of nine other finalists. ZSL’s campaign was backed by celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton.

KWS Director Mr William Kiprono said the award was a big milestone in the protection of critically endangered species in large areas such as Tsavo. This funding by Google through ZSL fits well with the KWS vision of ‘saving the last great species and places on earth for humanity’ and the national strategy of having 2000 black rhinos conserved in their natural areas. This year alone Kenya has lost 24 rhinos to poachers. The country had 631 black rhinos and 394 white rhinos by the end of last year.

Wildlife benefits
Efforts are underway to provide community enterprise projects for communities living around Sibiloi, Central Island and South Island National Parks. KWS is working with the Dassanach, Elmolo, Gabra, and Turkana in capacity building and enterprise development. This new initiative, in the area considered the ‘Cradle of Mankind’ due to its rich prehistoric fossil heritage dating over 100 million years, is aimed at providing the communities with alternative grazing grounds, water sources and livelihoods support.

New Agency for Congo
The Republic of Congo has sought Kenya’s expertise in building the capacity of the newly-established Congo Agency for Fauna and Protected Areas. The Central African country needs skills in resource mobilisation, ecotourism projects, wildlife management and security, and the promotion of Congo as a tourism destination. Mr Jean Pierre Ossey, the Congolese Ambassador to Kenya and Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN Habitat, said his country had approached Kenya as the first partner because of Kenya’s experience and leadership position. The creation of the agency, gazetted in October 2012, is supported by the EU. Congo is among the 37 African elephant range states and is also home to endangered great apes. Kenya has been supporting other African states in wildlife conservation, especially South Sudan, Cameroon, Gabon and Gambia.