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The Great Grevy’s Zebra Rally 2020 Counties, Conservancies, Communities and Citizens Can Make A Difference.

An image of the rare Grevy’s Zebra spotted by the Laikipia Forum team during the 2020 Great Grevy’s Rally.
This Zebra was located in Moibei, Samburu County

Kenya is home to over 90% of the world’s remaining Grevy’s Zebras. The 3rd Great Grevy’s Rally will help us determine the population health of this endangered species.

Laikipia Forum joined other conservation organizations and conservancies from Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Meru and Marsabit counties for the 2020 edition of the Great Grevy’s Zebra rally. The rally was held on January 25th and 26th 2020 and brought together citizens from across the globe, conservancy organizations, county governments, academic and private sector institutions for this once in a lifetime experience. This year’s rally was joined by the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK) with their families participating!

The rally also included Taita Taveta County and Ethiopia as additional target areas. Grevy’s occur naturally in the Afar areas of Hararghe province in Ethiopia; the Taita population has been introduced.

Some 150 citizen scientist teams were allocated various counting blocks within the counties where the Grevy’s Zebras occur. Each team is equipped with a GPS enabled camera and a special set of instructions – to photograph all the Grevy’s Zebras they come across, with a particular focus on the stripe patterns of the right side. Since each zebra pattern is unique, the pictures obtained from the field will be processed and analysed to determine the exact number, sex, age, distribution, range, and relative fitness of all Grevy’s counted in Kenya.

The Grevy’s zebra – easily distinguished by its thin, elegant stripes, striking frame and gait – once freely roamed much of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and western Somalia. In Kenya alone, it is estimated we had as many as 15,000 individuals in the 1970s. Today, only a small fraction of that number remains. Until a few years ago, it had been difficult to know exactly how many Grevy’s zebras exist in Kenya. However, with computer science, artificial intelligence, and GPS cameras, we have the ability to accurately estimate the population, and therefore inform management decisions that will shape the future of this zebra in Kenya, and of course, its ultimate survival on the planet.

The first biennial Great Grevy’s Rally, held across four counties in 2016, and helped conservationists establish that Kenya was home to 2,350 Grevy’s Zebras.

The second rally held in 2018, was expanded to include more areas, and enabled us to monitor the species across its vast range, where 2,812 Grevy’s zebras were photographed and identified.

The results from both events have indicated a stable population for Kenya, and have been a cause for optimism for the conservation of this rare zebra.

As a continuation in engaging citizen scientists in the collection of this invaluable scientific data, the conservation organisations working in the landscape that is home to the Grevy’s zebra came together once again, with invaluable support from their respective county governments, to organise the rally.

Get ready for the 2020 results to be released later this year, after the computers go through more than 50,000-80,000 images!

Big infrastructure projects, planned for the north, will likely impact the success of the Grevy’s status, so please follow their plight with us. Keep informed; stay engaged!

 

 

 

 

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Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) Adventure Sports and Tented Camp Standards

TRA is at it again…………developing more standards, guidelines and regulations for our Kenya Tourism HOTSPOT Destination 2020. We welcome the initiative, as there are increasing numbers of black-market and fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants operators.

Draft standards have been posted, with public response expected on January 31. Unfortunately, the distribution of the guidelines and standards were only released to KATO members, and so a good portion of the adventure tourism and tented camp businesses in our landscape did not have a chance to participate in the feedback. This is a lost opportunity, as we are renowned for our adventure products and tented presentations.

You can find these draft standards here:

 

The Laikipia Tourism Association did get a chance to respond to the adventure tourism standards. Key adventure tourism providers, at the top of their profession, reside in Laikipia, and none of them were previously counselled. Their response to KATO and the TRA can be found here.

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/d53d01de8887e62f430469897/files/d2e89ef9-10de-4f6a-ae0f-e32ea8deeee8/Final_TRA_feedback_on_Adventure_tourism.docx

Now is the time for the Ministry and its instruments to use the experience and self-regulation of the professional tourism industry to inform regulations, guidance and standards. There are many international standards from which to draw, and we don’t have to keep creating standards from scratch. Kenya professionals already offer top-notch, safe adventures, and can help the industry with operating standards.

TRA – engage us, and we will deliver!!

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Kenya Tourism Board Strategic Plan Validation

The Kenya Tourism Board is finalizing its national tourism strategy.  The Strategic Plan (here) is designed to take us from 2018- 2023. Check out the tourism statistics for this same period on slide 39.

A Validation Meeting to review the draft plan was conducted in Nairobi in December at the Fairmont/Norfolk Hotel. LTA members attended.

Overview: the Plan calls for a “reinvestment” in many of our existing tourism core values. It importantly highlights the improvements of a domestic tourism market.

In particular, it calls for greater collaboration with the Kenya private sector as this is noted as one of the strategic issues:

Strategic Issue 12: KTB Misalignment with private tourism and travel industry sector

Strategy issues to be addressed:

  • Deliver an operationally excellent value-added portfolio of services to local industry to convince them that KTB is their preferred marketing partner interested in improving their business performance.
  • Convince different types of stakeholders that KTB understands their specific needs and gives timely answers to them through the most effective channels.
  • Make communication between KTB, the tourism industry and other stakeholders highly effective, supported by the most appropriate channels, with owned platforms as the main pillar.

Strategic Objective: Improve participation, ownership and marketing performance of the Kenya Tourism Industry and other stakeholders.

Sadly, the plan does not yet take into account the values of an industry that needs to do better in its support of sustainability and green tourism.  There is no emphasis on the major elements of a strong, sustainable tourism industry. We failed to find a focus on (environment) energy conservation and management, recycling, water, waste, etc. (economic) employment, skills development, training, service delivery, destination marketing, etc.; and (culture) investments in the promotion and understanding of our communities, cultural diversity, history, social structures, legends, and beliefs.

Sustainable tourism is defined as hitting all four cornerstones of this industry – Commerce, Culture, Conservation and Community. Learn more about leading models of sustainable tourism here: https://www.thelongrun.org/.

Laikipia is increasingly characterized by this model of tourism – making us a truly unique destination in Kenya.

 

 

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Save the Rhino International and the Association of Private and Community Land Rhino Sanctuaries host Important Rhino Conservation Meeting for Kenya and the Greater Laikipia area

Wondering about the future of rhino conservation in Kenya and the planned goal of 2000 black rhinos in Kenya by 2030? How realistic is this goal, and what needs to be done to achieve it?  {Kenya Black Rhino Action Plan }

These were some of the questions raised by more than 30 professionals at the meeting held at the Mpala Research Center in November. Rhino biology, habitat, population dynamics, translocation techniques, security, and KWS policy and guidelines were all examined in some detail. Additional information about rhino population growth, translocation, and custody was shared by visitors from Southern Africa.

As of the end of 2018 – here are some key statistics regarding black rhino conservation in the Country:

Rhino lands total Area (Km2)
State lands (#9 populations) 375 16,963
Private lands (#4 populations) 331 894.4
County lands (#1 population) 45 1,510
Community lands (#1 population) 15 107
TOTAL (# 15 populations) 766 19,474.4

 

This total population of Eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) forms part of a national rhino population including southern white rhinos and two remaining northern white rhinos. The total at the end of 2018 was 1390 individuals.

The Greater Laikipia Landscape features prominently in possible plans to increase the area under rhino conservation – but key issues of communities, counties, cultures and costs prevail. About half of the present population of black rhinos can be found in our landscape.

Existing black rhino conservation areas

 

Stay tuned for the final report resulting from this meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Laikipia Tourism Association General Assembly Meeting; A moment of self-reflection

More than 35 members of the Laikipia Tourism Association joined in a meeting to review their status, membership and relationship with the County Government of Laikipia.

The Laikipia Tourism Association is an assembly of tourism service providers in the landscape with a commitment to “bringing together all tourism operators and destinations for increased collaboration and to influence the directions and contributions of this sector in the County and to the Greater Laikipia Landscape’s development and management.” The Association promotes sustainable tourism, and the Greater Laikipia Landscape as a preferred destination for visitors.

Three issues dominated the discussions:

  1. Laikipia County taxes and levies that were adversely affecting the tourism sector.
  2. Calls for a revived and increased membership and elections of a new executive committee early in 2020.
  3. Identification of an Advisory Council that will help promote and guide the Association, and strengthen its advocacy at County and National levels.

Several new members were added to the Association’s ranks, including Penguin House, Serena/Sweetwaters, and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club.

The county tourism bill of 2015 continues to languish despite the pledge of County Government to ensure its passage. The bill would formalize the relationship between County Government and the tourism sector through the formation of a Laikipia County Tourism Board. The Board would help to organize the important coordination needed for tourism data collection and statistics, training and skills development, inter-agency cooperation, economic participation, registration, circuits, tourism information, etc. See the draft bill here.

Unfortunately, the Laikipia Governor and CEC for Trade, Tourism and Cooperatives had confirmed their participation, but both failed to attend the event. Thus there is no further update on the status of the tourism bill, coordination with “Destination Laikipia”, or the MOU that the CEC for Tourism has been promoting with the LTA.

Stay tuned for more information early in the New Year!

 

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Laikipia County Shines Yet Again at the 14th Edition of the Eco Warrior Awards

The manager, Ekorian’s Mugie, John King’ori (left) receives Mugie’s award for Tourism and Green Jobs,  from the CS Tourism and Wildlife, Hon Najib Balala (right) and the principal, Kenya Utalii College, Hashim Mohamed (centre).     The award was sponsored by Kenya Utalii College

Over the last four years, Laikipia County has continued to demonstrate its exemplary contribution to ecotourism, not only in the County, but in the country at large. Our success is attested to by the numerous awards nominated and won by the conservancies and tourism operators/destinations from Laikipia County at the prestigious Eco Warrior Awards, led by Ecotourism Kenya.

History of Eco warrior award winners from Laikipia

2019

Tourism and Green Jobs Eco Warrior: Mugie Conservancy

Social Impact Eco Warrior: Il Ngwesi Eco Lodge – 2nd Runner-

Laikipia LTA partner – UniGlobe Let’s Go Travel for Green Tourism Champion Tour Operator

Rhino Porini Camp – Gamewatchers

Ngarae Ndare Forest Trust – for Social Impact

2018

Laikipia LTA partner – Uni Globe Let’s Go Travel for Tour Operator

2017

Two awards to Ol Pejeta Conservancy for their performance on (SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth, SDG 15: Life on Land

El Karama for their performance on SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Laikipia LTA Partner – Uni Globe Let’s Go Travel – for SDG 4 – Quality Education

2016

The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille Conservancy – for community conservancy

Ol Pejeta Conservancy – for overall Conservancy (private)

Borana Conservancy – runner up

Ol Jogi Conservancy – runner up

Gamewatchers Porini – winner for their tented camps

These awards recognize efforts, innovations and exceptional achievements among our community for promoting responsible tourism and enhancing tourism sustainability. These businesses and organization are directly concerned with the natural environment and are all linked to local communities through mutually beneficial partnerships. Nature conservation and community development through responsible tourism are the essence of ecotourism.

The Laikipia Tourism Association continues to serve as the umbrella body promoting our eco warrior award winners, and the principles and practices behind sustainable tourism.

 

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Laikipia County Government Endorses Laikipia Tourism Association at the Hoteliers Conference and Expo

“There is no better or more efficient way of promoting tourism and hospitality in our County than working together under one umbrella, which is the Laikipia Tourism Association.” These were the sentiments of Laikipia County Tourism Officer, Mr. Patrick Ole Kirimi, at the Laikipia Hoteliers’ conference and expo at the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel on the 18th September 2019.

The purpose of the LTA is to bring together tourism operators/destinations in Laikipia for increased collaboration and to influence the direction and contributions of this sector in County and landscape development, management, and livelihoods.

In an event that brought together hoteliers, tourism firms and suppliers, the Laikipia Tourism Association became a focal point of discussion, with the majority of the participants requesting for a more vibrant association.

Mr. Titus Korir, from Insight, and Ms. Grace Wanene, from Destination Laikipia, highlighted the relevance of the expo and encouraged more sector players to engage in such events, as it enhances partnerships, business growth and networking opportunities.

Laikipia Forum is the host of LTA, and has been working to revitalize the role of the LTA in regional and local economies, as well as in the role of Destination Management.  The LTA has lacked leadership this past year, and the industry is demanding that the LTA pick up their mandate and move it forward. LTA has missed out on number funding opportunities, national and regional engagements, and needs to help the Laikipia tourism industry focus on all matters impacting tourism.

For more information on LTA and on how to become a member, kindly email tourismlaikipia@laikipia.org  or call 0773 241 727

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Laikipia leadership and commitment to ecotourism reflected in the upcoming eco-warriors awards

Laikipia’s abundance of nature-driven tourism activities has for many years created attention to ecological sustainability, human well-being and profitability of the tourism businesses which forms the basic components of the sustainability of tourism businesses.

It is the pride of every Laikipian to see tourism properties within this great landscape crowned and celebrated for leadership in industry sustainability. The Laikipia Tourism Association joins other Laikipians in celebrating tourism players who have made it in this year’s long list of eco-warrior awards by ecotourism Kenya, an event that recognizes and celebrates champions of best practices in the tourism industry.

These Laikipia based tourism properties made it to the long list of nominees in different categories:

Tourism and Green Jobs Eco-Warrior:

Mugie Conservancy: LTA member

Ekorian Mugie Camp:  LTA member

Sweet Waters Serena Camp

Social Impact Eco Warrior:

Il Ngwesi Eco Lodge – LTA member

Mugie Conservancy – LTA member

Green Tourism Eco Warrior: Tour Operators Category

Let’s Go Travel – Uniglobe – LTA member

The full long list of nominees can be accessed via this link below:

https://ecotourismkenya.org/ecowarrioraward/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/08/Announcing-the-2019-Eco-Warrior-Award-Long-List-by-Ecotourism-Kenya1793.pdf

Winners in each category will receive their recognition and awards in a Gala dinner held on the eve of the world tourism day, 26/09/19 in Serena hotel in Nairobi. The short list of winners will be released by EK one week to the D-day.

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Changing the Narrative on Wildlife Conservation: Kenyan Conservancies Speak Out!

Communications experts and practitioners working in Kenyan Conservancies across the country unanimously agreed to work in a coordinated manner to change the negative narrative that has for too long time engulfed the conservation space.

This collaborative action was agreed at the first Conservation Communication Forum organized by Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association on 7th March 2019, at the African Wildlife Foundation. The forum brought together communication practitioners from over 20 conservancies in the country with an aim of brain-storming ways to correct the apparent “communication disconnect in Kenyan wildlife conservation” as well as create collective action and harmony to ensure that our national conservation effort is projected to the world with an improved perspective and through various media channels.

Communication experts listen in to the KWS Ag. Director General Prof. Charles Musyoki while delivering his speech at the Conservation Communications Forum in Nairobi

The negative publicity around conservation was majorly attributed to the competitive nature of conservancies for donor funding.  As a result, success stories such as: women shattering the conservation “glass ceiling”; the downturn in poaching; the recovery of vulnerable species; and the fact that Kenyans are at the helm of conservation; these themes barely see the light of day. In addition, seldom do the individual efforts of conservancies contribute to the national and international perspectives and messaging so important to the emerging national narrative on conservancies. Read more