SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY-BASED CONSERVATION OF ELEPHANTS IN THE NDOTO
RANGES, NORTHERN KENYA
Final Report to International Elephant Foundation
In January 2007, the Northern Rangelands Trust received a one-year grant of US$ 9,155 from IEF to support elephant conservation in the Ndotos Range area of Samburu District in Northern Kenya. The aim of this project is to support and enhance the capacity of the Milgis Trust (MT) in order to:
improve security for elephants in northern Samburu District through support for community scouts;
improve communication between the Miglis Trust and other community, government and private conservation organizations working in the area to ensure effective and timely response to incidents of insecurity;
and establishment of systematic monitoring of wildlife and security incidents by community scouts.
The Milgis Trust, which is affiliated with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), was established in 2004 as a result of growing insecurity leading to the poaching of wildlife and over-extraction of declining natural resources. Objectives of the Milgis Trust include improving security and protection of wildlife, addressing destruction of natural resources, increasing awareness of natural resource conservation among local pastoralist communities, improve access to education and healthcare among
Major achievements during this project were:
1. Purchase of radio communication equipment for Milgis Trust scouts, to enable effective communication between Milgis Trust outposts and the MT headquarters.
2. Recruitment and support of MT Manager to improve and facilitate community awareness and liaison.
3. Recruitment of 10 additional scouts (with support from Shikar Safari Club International) to boost scout numbers to 24, including 2 radio-operators.
4.Improved wildlife monitoring through systematic recording of daily wildlife observations from MT outposts in Occurrence Book at MT headquarters.
Project Management & Community Awareness
The Milgis Trust employed a Project Manager in April 2007, Moses Lesoloyia. The Manager has been instrumental in increasing liaison and awareness between MT and community members in areas covered by the Trust. The Manager has been provided with a motorbike to facilitate his work and covers enormous distances engaging with local communities, as well as coordinating the work of the scouts together with the security manager. Of particular importance is the increased awareness of forest fires and the threat they pose to the unique Matthews and Ndotos forests which has been created through the work of the MT Manager. As a result, forest fires have decreased over the last 12 months. The Manager also plays a vital role in liaising with other conservation organisations in the region, such as the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust (a community member of NRT) and Kenya
NRT Technical Support
NRT provided technical support to the MT in community-based conservation, security and monitoring of wildlife. In February 2007, the NRT executive team (including Executive Director, Director of Operations, Community Manager and Research & Monitoring Coordinator) visited the MT headquarters at El Kanto to review and discuss the structure and conservation priorities of the MT. As a result of this meeting NRT was able to make recommendations on restructuring of the organization to improve community representation and decision making, and recommendations for more systematic reporting and recording of wildlife observations by community scouts. NRT also facilitated a donor visits to MT by Zoological Society of San Diego.
Wildlife Security & Monitoring
The Milgis Trust Headquarters is based on the top of Elkanto Hill at the Juncation of the Laananikan and Parsaloi luggas where they become the Milgis Lugga. This location provides 360 degree views of the luggas and a good vantage point for observing elephants. MT personnel have observed that the elephants in the Laananikan and Parsaloi luggas head downstream (east towards the Milgis lugga)
when it is about to rain, and within two days rain has fallen in this area. As the Milgis dries up the elephants head back upstream (west and south) and up into the mountainous areas of the Matthews and Ndotos ranges.
There has been good rainfall in most of the MT area since late 2006. As a result surface and subsurface water has been plentiful in the luggas providing elephants with water. MT scouts provide daily reports of sightings of all wildlife and other incidents (security, poaching, fires etc.) to Headquarters, this is recorded in an Occurrence Book and data summarised on a weekly and monthly basis (Appendix 1 shows total numbers of elephants sighted per week in each outpost area from September 2007 – March 2008). Observations of elephants by MT personnel suggest elephants are being sighted more frequently in the north and north-west of the Ndoto Mountains over the last two years. Scouts recently recruited in this area will be able to provide regular reports on wildlife in future.
There was very little elephant conflict during 2007, only a few close encounters between people and elephants when elephants ventured close to settlements or dams. A Milgis Trust scout was chased by an elephant on 10th March 2008, however managed to escape with no injuries.
In 2008, MT introduced a monthly census of all wildlife, scouts record all wildlife sightings and tracks of key species along a 20 km transect. This is repeated each month and will provide information on wildlife trends in this area. Results have not yet been analysed but will provide long-term trends in wildlife abundance and possibly density estimates of wildlife in this area.
There was no elephant mortality reported by Milgis Trust scouts during 2007 or early 2008. Milgis Trust scouts provide a dual role of security and community awareness/liaison. Scouts are widespread; recently MT scouts have been recruited in areas important for Grevy’s Zebra, particularly West and north-west of the MT headquarters towards Baragoi and El Barta. An important role played by scouts in the Matthews Range is to locate forest fires and help reduce this threat to wildlife and the unique forest found in these ranges. Other roles played by MT scouts are ensuring wells in dry river beds remain open and accessible for elephants and other wildlife and repairing these wells when they are destroyed/collapse as a result of elephant use; in some areas communities are closing these wells with thorn barricades to prevent wildlife accessing the water.
Graphs below provide a summary of the total number of elephants sighted per month in 7 key areas of the Milgis Trust from September 2007 – March 2008. Key areas for elephant monitoring are identified as:
1. Matthews Ranges (north/north-west of Matthews)
2. Lanaanikan (Lanaanikan lugga running along western fringe of Matthews)
3. Lkerei (Milgis lugga east of HQ)
4. South Ndoto
5. South-West Ndoto
6. Milgis Base (HQ – convergence of Barsaloi and Lanaanikan luggas)
The map in Appendix 2 shows the approximate area of coverage of scouts based in these key areas. Data on elephant sightings does not provide information on population numbers of elephants, however, provides an indication of the relative abundance of elephants in different parts of the MT each month. The highest numbers of elephants were sighted in Lkerei (Milgis Lugga) east of the Milgis HQ. This highlights the importance of this area for elephants, particularly as a migratory
corridor with large numbers of elephants moving east just prior to the rains (e.g. September 2007) and back west after the rain. High numbers of elephants were also seen in Matthews Ranges area, Milgis Base and South-West Ndotos. Elephants were only sighted in Barsaloi during wet months (late September – November 2007) and in relatively low numbers. Elephants were sighted during most months in south Ndoto however in relatively lower numbers than other areas.
Total number of elephants sighted per month at different Milgis Trust outposts
September 2007 – March 2008