Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was previously a cattle ranch owned by David and Delia Craig, who together with Ana Mertz and Peter Jenkins, initially set aside 5,000 acres to protect and breed rhinos, whose population had dropped precipitously from 20,000 to less than 300 in the 1970′s. Within a decade, the success of the project drove demand for more space and, in 1995, the Craigs decided to dedicate their entire ranch to the conservation of wildlife.
Lewa has served as a catalyst for conservation across the region, stimulating the creation of numerous conservancies, both private and community-owned, increasing the amount of land under conservation management in northern Kenya to over almost 2 million acres since the mid-1990s.
Lewa Conservancy and The Northern Rangelands Trust have a dedicated Anti-Poaching team built around the incredible tracking skills of Ruby, a full Bloodhound, and Sacha, a mix of a Dobermann and Bloodhound. Ruby and Sacha replace brothers Tipper and Tony, the two Bloodhounds that have worked with the rangers for years, but are due for a well earned retirement.
Tracker dogs, particularly Bloodhounds, continue to prove invaluable to anti-poaching and community security work. Their extraordinary ability to read terrain and track scents has enabled the rangers and local law enforcement agencies to do what was previously incredibly difficult.
Tipper and Tony have worked hard and the brothers’ have made it possible to catch poachers and other criminals, find illegal ivory, and rescue hundreds of stolen livestock in northern Kenya, saving many livestock farmers from bankruptcy. The retired Bloodhounds can relax and enjoy life in a good home, well cared for and pampered.
Rangers and dog handlers Aloise and Ngila are delighted with Ruby and Sacha and work together as a dedicated team in the field of conservation.
Managed by Elewana, Lewa Safari Camp is owned by the Conservancy itself, with the aim of boosting the conservancy’s revenue through camp occupancy. All camp profits and conservancy fees generated by the camp are reinvested directly into the conservation and community efforts of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
Joseph says that being a ranger for Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is more of a calling for him. He says: “Often, when I meet new people, the first thing they ask me is, what is it like to be a ranger? And why do you do what you do?
My answer is always simple. A ranger is a person. A son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, a mother or a father – a member of society. My father was a ranger for 21 years at Lewa, a part of the team that helped grow a small rhino population of just 15 animals to more than 150 today. Seeing the satisfaction that he got from his job, the sense of purpose, and that the job also enabled him to support my five siblings and I, made me want to be like him. I wanted to continue with his work and legacy.
Why do we rangers do what we do? Why do I do what I do? I realised that as Kenyans, we have a responsibility towards our wildlife and our natural areas. Most of us have never imagined a Kenya without our other wildlife – indeed, that would not be a true Kenya. Our wildlife is part of our identity, part of who we are as a people. I wanted to play a direct role in ensuring its survival. In the past six years I've been a ranger, our team has accomplished a lot.”
Photo credits - Japicha
Lewa Safari Camp has undergone major refurbishments since 2009. Many of the improvements have been “behind the scenes” to make the camp environmentally friendly and a safe and comfortable place to work. Improvements include solar water heating, new small efficient power generators, environmental waste disposal and recycling, as well as new staff housing, kitchen and recreation rooms. The vehicle fleet is still being upgraded to more modern fuel efficient vehicles, and effluent disposal systems are being overhauled.
Lewa Safari Camp has been awarded its first “Gold Level” by Ecotourism Kenya, a great acknowledgement of our progress of upgrading all the back of house systems to make the camp as environmentally responsible as possible; as befits the Conservancy ethos.
Through the facilitation of community conservation and development, protection of endangered species and education of neighbouring areas about the value of wildlife, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has become Africa’s leading model for conservation and low impact tourism.
Being the only tourism property that reinvests all profits into the Conservancy, when you visit Lewa Safari Camp, you inherently contribute to development support for thousands of people in the surrounding communities at the same time as securing a stable habitat for Kenya’s wildlife.
The essence of the community programmes is to reduce human-wildlife conflict and increase the socio-economic benefits local communities derive from wildlife and tourism. Lewa assists these communities with education and health-care support, water and agricultural projects, as well as a women’s micro-credit programme, reaching over 800 members.