There is beauty in ownership. Ownership of a project, property and even rights. But there is greater beauty in conservation when a community owns iconic wildlife heritage bestowed on them and willingly offer to defend them. This is the story of community scouts in the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem.
Imagine a family in a remote part of Kenya, offering its most able-bodied and promising sons of the soil to join a paramilitary training for the sole purpose of producing well-trained young men to protect wildlife. This is a most worthy sacrifice. And it is not that the young men, traditionally known as ‘morans’ have little or nothing to do. The Maasai’s are well known to be nomadic pastoralists and the young men could fit in very well to take care of the hundreds of herds owned by their families. But they opt for the former. A more worthy duty to humanity.
It suffices to note that the community jointly owns the greater Maasai Mara ecosystem with some pockets being privately owned while others have been converted into private wildlife conservancies. This means that the management of the wildlife in the Maasai Mara ecosystem is in the hands of the community through the local county government. In addition, in Kenya, more than 70% of wildlife is found in unprotected land, again, communities own that.
As we celebrate World Ranger Day this year, let us all recognize the important role played by these daring and passionate community scouts who have offered to be the first line of defense for our wildlife. They are simply ordinary community members with the extra-ordinary responsibility to protect Kenya’s wildlife heritage.
Maasai Mara is the home of more than 50 - black rhinos. Concerted effort through the assistance of WWF has seen the rhinos micro-chipped to enable their easy monitoring and surveillance. (Insert Video link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_Mze7oWTHA).
In the Mara Triangle, a considerable rhino population thrives all thanks to a dedicated team of Community scouts who keep vigil to keep marauding poachers at bay. In this video shot by global news network CNN as part of highlighting WWF’s work in protecting wildlife in the Mara, daring community scouts engage and arrest armed poachers using the infra-red night cameras. (http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/06/27/inside-africa-kenya-the-camera-that-catches-poachers-in-the-dark-a.cnn)/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGFJ1u4lRDI
Through the assistance of WWF, recently trained community scouts within the Oloisukut and Mara-Siana conservancy are now better equipped with wildlife monitoring equipment including binoculars, tents, sleeping bags, water bottles and smartphones with apps to identify wildlife locations within the ecosystem.
In my first assignment in WWF, I was privileged to attend and interact with fresh community scouts during their passout ceremony. (Insert Video Link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24XMG_DsTiQ) The raw energy and passion was just amazing. The two Geoffrey and Tom are true definitions wildlife defenders who abandoned their businesses to ensure future generations do not just read and watch in videos about iconic wildlife species like the rhinos and elephants.
Happy Rangers Day!
Rhino Conservation in Kenya- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upuAuFHzIwk