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Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Archives - Rhino Review

World may be on lockdown, but more people than ever are going on safari

By Conservation
Jen Murphy, BizNews | April 6, 2020

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More than half the world may be on lockdown, but more people than ever are going on safari.

Jarryd Du Preez, a guide at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, recently fielded questions from safari goers in India, Chile, Bahrain, Germany, Canada, the US, the UK, Saint Lucia, and Russia as he pointed out two white rhino calves hidden behind an adult female. Can you tell the sex of the calves? (They were males.) Are poachers a danger? (Always.)

Africa’s golden light cast its magical glow as a soft breeze rustled through patches of shrubbery called stinking grass. “What does stinking grass smell like?” someone asked.

Success came so fast and furiously that within four days, the company was supplementing its efforts with twice-daily, three-hour-long “WILDwatch” broadcasts in collaboration with WildEarth on Facebook and YouTube, where the longtime purveyor of safari videos is also garnering record-setting numbers.

These livestream game drives aren’t just a promising pathway toward economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, says Robinson. They’re also a desperately needed balm for quarantine wanderlust and, in less obvious ways, an important lifeline for the animals on screen.

Original photo as published by BizNews

Beyond Armchair Travel

Like andBeyond, Singita — which operates 15 ultra-luxe lodges and camps across four countries in Africa — has been livestreaming virtual game drives twice daily on Facebook and Instagram since March 25. They’re led by resident photographer and former guide Ross Couper, whose broadcasts have included a female leopard and her two young cubs, the roaring Nkuhuma pride of lions, and parades of elephants.

“Giving our viewers a daily, live glimpse of our wilderness areas reminds one of the simplicity of nature,” says Couper. “It’s soul restoring.”

The drives also elicit important discussions about conservation. While answering viewer queries about how social distancing works in the bush (no more than two rangers in a Jeep, sending home all but a few staffers kept on to maintain lodges), Couper and his colleagues have spent time discussing the importance of not sheltering in place within a game reserve: It would put the animals at risk.

Without guests, they explain, guides at these lodges have taken on additional patrolling responsibilities. Fewer tourist vehicles mean fewer eyes and ears on the ground. And that means more potential poachers.

Coronavirus vs. Conservation

“If tourism collapses, the ripple effect could wipe out decades of proactive conservation work on the continent,” warns Luke Bailes, Singita’s founder and chief executive officer. Financial strain among rural communities tends to link directly to a rise in illegal bushmeat hunting and poaching, he explains.

Then there’s the question of conservation NGOs running out of money in the absence of tourism revenues.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which operates nine lodges in Kenya, has also recently launched live safaris. CEO Mike Watson says the halt in tourism will deplete more than 22% of the Conservancy’s core revenue, or roughly $1.2m in 2020 — all money that ordinarily supports wildlife conservation and vital community programs. Worse, he’s anticipating increased poaching pressure in the coming months; some reports in Asia are touting rhino horn as a cure for this coronavirus.

“Without guests staying with us to experience Africa’s most extraordinary wilderness areas, our ability to fund their ongoing protection will erode fast,” says Keith Vincent, CEO of Wilderness Safaris, referring to the small conservation levies baked into the price of luxury trips. (It often costs as little as $5 per person, per night, but adds up.) On April 2, his 41-camp company joined its friendly rivals in sharing guided nature walks on Instagram stories and, where Wi-Fi allows, Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

“It is in difficult times like these that we need to come together with creative solutions to ensure a sustainable future for ecotourism,” Vincent says. He hopes that creating grassroots awareness of these issues might inspire small donations to compensate for the incremental fees that customarily fund philanthropic work.

Striking the Right Tone

Given the urgency of the pandemic and its downstream implications on wildlife, social media managers such as andBeyond’s Robinson are trying to toe the lines between sensitive marketing, philanthropic calls to action, and pure escapism.

A refreshing alternative to the Netflix series Tiger King, footage of hippos laughing in a watering hole and baby elephants at play has gotten people yearning for the bush at a moment of insatiable wanderlust. “This is getting me through quarantine” and “wonderful escape from isolation status” are common sentiments shared by viewers. Many say they “can’t wait to take a trip in 2021.”

It’s too early to tell if they’ll follow through with bookings, says Robinson, but she hopes that “if people engage with our guides and fall in love with andBeyond now, they’ll keep us top of mind when they are ready to book.”

Singita’s game drives engage viewers in a deeper way than still images on social feeds do, says  Lindy Rousseau, marketing director. She adds that live safaris have yielded a 351% increase in impressions and a 407% increase in engagement, with comments skewing more toward optimism (“you are giving me hope”) than the superficial (“wow, pretty”).

This engagement has helped maintain a trickle of inquiries and some new bookings for later this year and 2021. Every bit matters for a company with just 298 guest beds in its entire portfolio. Deposits for future trips can help retain Singita’s 1,600 employees, including 130 poachers-turned-game scouts.

Not everyone has the good fortune of being able to livestream from the bush; Beks Ndlovu, founder of African Bush Camps, says his camps are too remote for reliable Wi-Fi. But many small safari businesses are still finding ways to get in on the trend. For example, Tswalu, a private game reserve in South Africa, and Angama Mara lodge in Kenya have been streaming Q&As with resident researchers and photographers.

Says Wilderness Safaris’ Vincent: “We hope that when we all come out of this crisis together — stronger and more unified — the world’s intrepid travelers will come back to visit us in Africa to experience life-changing journeys that make a difference.”

How to Help

If planning a trip isn’t possible, consider donating to any of these organizations — all working in collaboration with the outfitters mentioned above.

Singita Lowveld Trust Anti-Poaching Unit is a highly skilled team of tracking dogs and handlers that pursue intruders and sniff out rhino horn and ammunition at Singita Sabi Sand in South Africa. The annual operation costs $240,000, one trained tracking dog, $7,000. Donations of any amount are accepted here.

Wilderness Safaris’ Wildlife Trust funnels funds to its many projects, including the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and ranger teams that guard desert lions in Namibia.

Empowers Africa is a US fiscal sponsor that supports programs in sub-Saharan African, ranging from Pangolin.Africa to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Africa Foundation, andBeyond’s community development partner, has prioritised water and sanitation projects to increase communities’ resilience to Covid-19.

Rhinos without Borders is accepting donations to help offset the monitoring of andBeyond’s translocated rhinos in Botswana during this time.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy offers options, from adopting a rhino to covering educational costs for local students in high school or university.

Natural Selection Covid-19 Village Support Program is fundraising to transport food parcels to remote villages in Botswana and Namibia amid this unprecedented emergency

Two white rhinos killed in Kenya, horns stolen

By Uncategorized
The East African | December 9, 2019

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Two southern white rhinos have been shot and killed in central Kenya, and their horns stolen.

The raiders gained access to the highly secured electric-fenced Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Meru County around 11pm Friday night, Chief Operations Officer Dr Tuqa Jirmo confirmed.

In a statement to media, he said; “This incident serves as a reminder that the threat from poaching is ever present, and all sanctuaries holding rhinos cannot afford to be complacent. The poaching scourge and illegal rhino horn trade continue to put the survival of rhinos at risk across the continent.”

He added that the conservancy is working with the police and Kenya Wildlife Service over the incident.

Zero poachings, 26 births recorded at Lewa Conservancy (Kenya)

By Antipoaching, Land conservation, Uncategorized
Gilbert Koech, The Star | September 20, 2019

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There has been no poaching at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in six years. This is despite the demand for the rhino horn in the Asian black markets remaining constant in the period.

Lewa head of conservation and wildlife, Geoffrey Chege said the conservancy has been devoted to protecting the rhino population and other wildlife by maintaining a sustainable natural habitat. “We are really impressed by the thriving rhino population across the landscape. The gains show that our conservation efforts are paying off,” he said.

The conservationist has steered various efforts in support of species’ recovery on Lewa, Borana and beyond for the past 15 years.

Chege said Lewa is now a “Key 1” black rhino population on the International Union for Conservation of Nature African Rhino Specialist Group categorisation.

Original photo as published by The Star of Kenya: Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers and vets try to move a tranquillised wild female black rhino named Tupac at Lewa Wildlife conservancy on August 27, 2013. (Image: FILE)

The mission of the specialist group is to promote the development and long term maintenance of viable populations of the various sub-species of African rhinos in the wild.

Membership consists of official country representatives from the main African rhino range states and other specialists.

Founded in 1995, the Lewa Conservancy spans 61,000 acres and catalyzes conservation across northern Kenya.

Lewa holds 13 per cent of Kenya’s black rhino population and 12 per cent of the world’s Grevy’s zebras.

There are currently 105 and 99 black and southern white rhinos respectively at the conservancy, with 26 rhino births recorded by September 1.

Kenya is now home to just over 760 black rhinos and 620 southern white rhinos. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the end of 2018, Kenya had close to 1,400 rhinos, and the Lewa-Borana landscape is home to 13 per cent of this population.

The black rhino is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

The latest Lewa annual wildlife census shows that in the past three years, Southern white rhinos have increased by 24 per cent. The species, though native to South Africa, is doing well in Kenya.

It is a conservation success story, having been brought back from the very brink of extinction in the 20th century.

Conservation efforts on Lewa began in the early 1980s to protect the last of black rhinos from extinction. At the time, there were only 15 individual rhinos.

Lewa head of anti-poaching, Edward Ndiritu said that the most pressing threat to the rhino’s continued survival is poaching for the illegal trade.

Ndiritu said Lewa continues to adapt to the rapid threat of poaching to protect the critically endangered species.

He attributes their success to close cooperation with the local communities, well-trained and motivated anti-poaching conservation heroes such as rangers, and the use of technology.

“We are now more than ever determined to work tirelessly and demonstrate to the world that zero poachings can be achieved. It is a fact that poaching is incredibly detrimental to the population of the critically endangered rhinos and also damage livelihood and growth of local communities,” he said.

In Asia, rhino horn is believed to be having curative values.

World Rhino Day will be marked on September 22. Rhino horn trade has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1977.

Over the years, rhino numbers have increased on the landscape due to successful conservation efforts.

Lewa manages its wildlife and carries out conservation work in partnership with its western neighbour, Borana Conservancy.