FREE TO ROAM
Wherever wildlife is endangered by hunting, loss of habitat or other threats, Wildlife Works believes there's an opportunity for change - an opportunity to help create an enduring economic basis for wildlife survival.
For years, the land between Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks doubled as home to a slowly failing cattle ranch and the main migration corridor for local wildlife. By the time we first encountered Rukinga, the community and the wildlife were at odds. Rukinga was a bruised, balding land, barren of wildlife and overflowing with despair. Cattle had grazed the fields into dust, poachers slipped on and off the ranch with ease, and squatters had settled in to farm and build mud-and-thatch huts along the area's critical rainwater basin.
In 1998 we established the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary on 80,000 acres of now protected land and did three things to transform the acreage into a wildlife sanctuary:
- began unarmed patrols to remove any snares set for wildlife
- removed the cattle from the land
- established a community works project providing the locals with an alternative income stream in place of poaching and clear cutting
- worked with the community to peaceably move the sanctuary's illegal squatters onto farm land located outside of the wildlife corridor
Every day we see proof that conservation efforts are a success. The elephants returned first, followed by the ungulates (animals with hoofs like zebra) and then the predators. We now have a very balanced ecosystem, with 50 large mammal species, more than 20 species of bats and over 300 species of birds and important populations of IUCN Red List species such as African elephants, Grevy's zebras, cheetah and African hunting dogs.
As many as 450 elephants now call Rukinga home, but their numbers can swell to an estimated 2,000 towards the end of the dry seasons in October and March, when it's not uncommon to see elephants and other wildlife congregating around Rukinga's numerous water holes and tanks. For this, The Kasigau Corridor REDD project was awarded the additional distinction of Gold level status by the CCB for exceptional biodiversity and climate benefits. Chalk one up for Consumer Powered Conservationsm.