Wildlife Population, Habitat Flourish At The Lewa-Borana Landscape

Meru, 16 May 2019: A new report released today by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy reveals that wildlife populations continue to flourish on the Conservancy, with the latest annual wildlife census revealing that the numbers are either increasing or stable.

The annual exercise conducted ahead of Endangered Species Day on 17th May is compelled by the need to know how wildlife populations are responding to Lewa’s conservation efforts. Lewa manages its wildlife and carries out conservation work in partnership with its western neighbor, Borana Conservancy. The Lewa-Borana Landscape is home to growing numbers of both critically endangered black rhino and the southern white rhino. In the past four years, black rhinos have increased by 25 percent. Recently, the Lewa-Borana Landscape celebrated the birth of the 100th black rhino, making the landscape the third “Key 1” black rhino population in East Africa. There were 10 births last year and no mortalities.

Southern white rhinos increased by 24 percent. The species, though native to South Africa, is doing well in Kenya. It is a conservation success story, having been brought back from the very brink of extinction in the 20thcentury.

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the end of 2018, Kenya had close to 1,400 rhinos, and the Lewa-Borana Landscape is home to 13 percent of this population.

There has been no poaching on the Lewa-Borana Landscape in six years, despite the continued pressure and demand for rhino horn in the Asian black markets.

According to a report released by the Kenya Wildlife Service in 2018, Kenya has only about 2,000 lions left compared to 2,280 in 2004.

It is estimated that the African Lion Populations have dropped by 42 percent in the past 21 years. The majority of this decline is attributed to the loss of habitat, decline of prey species numbers and human-lion conflict. Together with conservation partners and neighboring communities, Lewa and Borana have implemented monitoring and conflict mitigation initiatives to promote human-lion coexistence.

In 2018, 47 lions that reside in the landscape were monitored. This population has remained stable in the past few years, benefitting from an abundance of prey species and a safe and secure habitat.

Endangered Grevy’s zebra have also remained stable, increasing by 5 percent, with 313 counted. The Grevy’s zebra is endangered with approximately 2,800 left worldwide, 11 percent of which are found on the Lewa-Borana Landscape.

Lewa’s Head of Conservation and Wildlife, Geoffrey Chege who has steered various efforts in support of species’ recovery on Lewa, Borana and beyond for the past 15 years, is optimistic about the future of endangered species and is excited to observe positive trends in wildlife.

“We have steadily built up our rhino populations from 15 individuals in 1984 to close to 200 animals today. We are now a “Key 1” black rhino population on the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group categorisation. The Grevy’s zebra numbers are increasing, lions are stable, and ungulates are also increasing,” he said.

The Head of Lewa’s Anti-Poaching, Edward Ndiritu, points out that conservation efforts can only be successful and long term if they involve partnering with communities.

“Our anti-poaching work, in line with Lewa’s philosophy, has seen us over the years work with local communities who provide the first line of defense against poachers. They are our partners in conservation,” he said.

In just four years, the buffalo population in the landscape has increased by 43 percent to 1,753 animals. This expansion of the buffalo population indicates that the ecosystem remains healthy for ungulate species, which have shown resilience despite disturbances mainly caused by rainfall inadequacy.

Lewa’s Head of Research and Monitoring, David Kimiti PhD, says that monitoring populations is a major prerequisite in the management of wildlife.

“Information about these trends allows us to make reliable management decisions and take corrective action when necessary. They allow us to know what conservation interventions are working, which ones are not, and what we need to do to ensure that wildlife prospers sustainably.”