“Kenya’s future depends on wise stewardship of its natural resources, and this partnership represents a positive step toward that effort.” —David Banks
By David Banks
The Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) recently presented the Kenyan government with a gift of land that will establish the country’s newest national park. The 17,100-acre Eland Downs property, to be named Laikipia National Park and managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, will secure critical wildlife movement corridors across central Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau. It is good for conservation, and it will benefit Kenya’s economy and the people of this region.
The future Laikipia National Park’s open savannas host a range of animals, including elephant, eland and the endangered Grevy’s zebra. Lesser-known denizens range from the patas monkey to Somali ostrich to beisa oryx.
When the Conservancy and AWF started working together to acquire this former cattle ranch, our goal was to secure a critical wildlife corridor linking together larger swaths of land that could be collectively managed for conservation and the benefits of people.
Our involvement with Eland Downs dates back to 2008. Eland Downs had previously been part of the nearby Ol Pejeta Ranch, which is now a conservancy managed for cattle and wildlife. Eland Downs had been in private ownership for at least the past 50 years.
Conservation work in Africa is often a web of competing interests, needs and priorities involving local communities and indigenous peoples and their access to natural resources. Eland Downs is no exception. As is common throughout the continent, several pastoral families have occasionally ventured onto this land to graze livestock. Conflict over the right to access grass and water remains a serious issue across the Laikipia region. Understanding and respecting rights of people are of critical importance to the Conservancy’s work.
We believe that ultimately the Kenya Wildlife Service will be a good steward of this land and that local families will gain more from KWS ownership than they will from the current state of perpetual conflict and unrest over grass and water. We remain committed to help the government with plans for effective management of the park. Increasing the scale and effect of conservation in this way will generate much-needed jobs and other benefits for local communities so that people will benefit directly from this accomplishment.
We thank our Conservancy supporters who make it possible to maintain the organization’s Land Protection Fund, which provided ready resources to secure this land quickly. The establishment of Laikipia National Park will represent a positive outcome. Kenya’s future depends on wise stewardship of its natural resources, and this partnership represents a positive step toward that effort.
December 20, 2011