Are you one of those who registered for the Safaricom Marathon in Lewa?
(2012 Marathon Registration now closed to runners, few chances for spectators and the children’s race)
I would imagine that if you did, the one thing that would be in your mind is whether you’re secure as you chase your dream to the finish line.
Well, worry not…. There’s ample security within the conservancy, and not just for you, but for the animals living in the sanctuary, as well as the community that lives around them.
As you drive into the Lewa Conservancy, the one thing you don’t notice is the presence of security personnel. You only notice the fencing at different intervals if you pass through a gate in the conservancy, or if you drive out to the boundaries. But even beyond these, there is a sense of being secure within and surrounding the area of the conservancy.
With all the wildlife in the area, and especially the ever so precious rhinos (population 130), there is a great need to keep the wildlife and people safe within the environs of Lewa.
Kenyan wildlife has been under an onslaught from poachers since the 1970, and before that, from sport hunters in the colonial period who enjoyed killing the animals and keeping trophies such as ivory and hides. The rhinos have become some of the most endangered animals in the world, with their horn fetching a tidy sum especially in the Far East. It is no wonder that some people turn to poaching as a livelihood.
We had a chance to chat with Edward, the deputy chief of security at Lewa. A quiet, calm man of few words, he explained to us what has been at stake with the formation of the conservancy and what it takes to get the community to defend what is their heritage.
With several attempts, and some successes at poaching rhinos, security is a major concern in Lewa. Other animals such as elephants don’t pose as big treasures to the bandits, since they seem to be easier to poach elsewhere in Kenya. The community comes as the first line of defense, given that Lewa employs at least 90% of its staff from the area.
Among the defensive measures that the conservancy has undertaken is providing enough personell. All the rangers at the conservancy are well trained at tracking the animals in their keep, as well as spotting intruders. The anti-poaching team is governed by KWS laws, and guard the 19 blocks that form the conservancy. They also have a team of superbly trained bloodhound dogs to guide them as they use their super-sniffing senses to root out the intruders.
They also provide crucial security for the individuals that come to race at the marathon, providing a unique yet secure experience of running in the wild that is unrivalled by none other. I mean, what better way to spend a day knowing that just out of your eyesight is an elephant or lion, enjoying his day as you run along. If not anything, it might prove motivation to run even faster!
However, while the animals have a chance to live a full and healthy life within the conservancy, there is always a chance that poachers do manage to target and kill an animal. This is where it calls for the community, even beyond Lewa to be vigilant. The trade of rhino horns and animal parts for needs to be stopped, as they are destroying the beautiful heritage that we cherish. We as Kenyans can be the first line of defense, by reporting on such trades and the individuals involved, and blocking routes that we know are used by poachers and such traders.
Read more on how the Safaricom Marathon is supporting farming and implementing better use of water in Manyangalo