Watch the presentation here.
In 1969 Dr. Western gave a public talk at the National Museums of Kenya urging the need to engage communities and general public in wildlife conservation. Over 50 years later he reviewed the strides Kenya has made yet the continuing failures to halt wildlife declines. In his talk he reviews how Kenya turn the tide and make its wildlife conservation a real success story.
Watch the presentation here.
African Conservation Centre founder, Dr. David Western, is a nominee for world’s biggest conservation award, the 2016 Indianapolis Prize
The African Conservation Centre is pleased to announce that our founding executive director, Dr. David Western, is a nominee for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize. Initiated in 2005 by the Indianapolis Zoo, this prize is recognized as the world’s leading award for animal conservation. The Indianapolis Prize is awarded biennially to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts involving an animal species or group of species. In addition to a $250,000 cash award, the winner — selected from among six finalists — receives the Lilly Medal and each of the other five finalists receives $10,000. Finalists will be honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala to be held Oct. 15, 2016.
Dr. Western was selected as a nominee for his more than 48 years of pioneering research and community-based conservation strategies in East Africa. He was among the first scientists to recognize the limitations of national parks and investigate how humans and wildlife can coexist. His pioneering community-based conservation work has served as a model for finding a place for wildlife beyond parks around the world.
As former executive director and current chairman of African Conservation Centre, director of Kenya Wildlife Service and conservation director for Wildlife Conservation Society International, Western has been a leader in many areas of conservation, including research, international programs, short and long-term conservation planning, ecotourism, training, directing governmental and non-governmental organizations and public education.
He established the Wildlife Planning Unit in Kenya in 1978, was the chairman of the African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group in the 1980s, founding president of the International Ecotourism Society, chairman of the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Carter Chair of Conservation Biology, Wildlife Conservation Society. He established the “Parks Beyond Parks” movement to promote communities setting up their own wildlife sanctuaries and enterprises and led efforts to set up the first community-based wildlife conservancies in Kenya. Western also promoted horizontal learning exchanges in East Africa and around the world so that communities can learn first-hand from each other’s experience.
During his many national and international assignments, Western has continued his groundbreaking research in Amboseli. The Amboseli Conservation Program he set up in 1967 is the longest running ecosystem research program in Africa. His research has pioneered the integration of human-wildlife studies, underscored the significance of pastoralism in savanna ecosystems, shown the underlying basis of human-wildlife coexistence in the savannas and developed many of the basic techniques for studying and monitoring large mammal ecosystems. His research into the life history and ecology of large mammals has been cited as one of the foundational studies in the new field of macroecology. His articles have appeared in Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Bioscience, PLoS, Ecology and other prominent science journals.
His honors include the World Ecology Award, Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; Conservation Medal, Zoological Society of San Diego; Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Ecotourism Society; Order of the Golden Ark; San Diego Zoo Conservation Medal, Cincinnati Zoological Society; and Elder of the Burning Spear.
Western’s publications include Conservation for the Twenty-first Century (OUP, 1989), Natural Connections: Perspectives in Community-based Conservation (Island Press, 1994) and In the Dust of Kilimanjaro (Shearwater, 2001). He earned his bachelor’s degree from Leicester University in England and his doctorate from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Leicester University awarded him a prestigious “Doctor of Science” in 2002.
For more information about the Indianapolis Prize, please visit: www.indianapolisprize.org and accafrica.org.
1st Annual Rangeland Congress of Kenya
11th and 12th August 2015
The future of rangelands is at a crossroad. Covering three quarters of Kenya, supporting 60 percent of national livestock herd and 90 percent of all wildlife, the rangelands face grave threats. The threats include population growth, poverty, land degradation, recurrent drought, loss of rivers and wetlands, declining wildlife and climate change. The collapse of subsistence economies and cultures has left families destitute. Land subdivision and sales, the extraction of charcoal, sand, building stone and wildlife poaching have risen with poverty and social disruption. Poor social services and lack of technical skills hamper opportunities for alternative livelihoods in a tight job market.
Despite the enormous threats facing Kenya’s rangelands, the opportunities to reverse the trends through improved breeds, better husbandry and marketing skills, range restoration, grass banks, arable and irrigated arming, wildlife enterprises, ecotourism, renewable energy, carbon markets and natural resource businesses have been poorly developed. The 2010 constitution sets the tone for rangeland communities to form a strong constituency, set the agenda and build the skills needed to conserve and develop the arid and semi-arid lands.
Many progressive landowner associations have taken the initiative in recent years to redress the threats and open up new opportunities for managing and sustaining the rangelands. The Rangelands Association of Kenya, in collaboration with the African Conservation Centre, University of Nairobi Centre for Sustainable Drylands Ecosystems and Societies and the International Livestock and Research Organization, hosted the congress at the Commercial Bank of Africa Conference Centre in Nairobi on the 11th and 12th of August 2015. The congress brought together the voices and views of land owner associations invited speakers, government and country governments, national and international agencies to highlight the status, threats and opportunities in the rangelands and chart the way ahead.
David Western and Lucy Waruingi of African Conservation Centre were key speakers. Courtney White, founder of the Quivira Coalition based in New Mexico, gave a talk on the New Ranch concept emerging in the US to ensure sustainable and resilient ranching practices and restore degraded rangelands.
After the congress members of the Rangeland Association of Kenya held a one-day meeting to decide on the way ahead. The steps will include recruiting as many rangeland communities and associations as possible in the coming year to give them a strong voice in the conservation and management of their lands; address the marginalization of pastoral societies; engage national and county governments on policy and planning matters, build up the management capacity of communities in collaboration with NGOs, improve access to education and information; promote sustainable livestock systems and wildlife conservation enterprises, and draw on the best of traditional and modern husbandry practices in guiding the transition from subsistence to market economies.
At the closing of the congress David Western formally launched the Rangeland Association of Kenya, representing landowner associations. Prof. Jessi Njoka of University of Nairobi announced the launch of the Rangeland Society of Kenya, representing professional managers and scientists.
The Amboseli Conservation Program teamed up with the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, the African Conservation Centre and Big Life in winning support from the NAGA Foundation to restore fever tree and tortilis woodland in and around Amboseli National Park damaged by many years of heavy elephant concentration. The program will also restore pastures damaged around permanent livestock settlements by setting a series of traditional olopololi, calf grazing areas protected by thorn fencing.
The start-up funding in the first year will cover the cost of setting up and monitoring three high-level electric fences that exclude only elephants, allowing seedlings held in check by heavy browsing to mature and regenerate the once abundant woodlands of Amboseli. More details of the restoration program will be posted shortly.
The restoration plots will be based on the design of the Ilmarishari restoration plot set up by ACP in 2001 to restore fever tree woodlands lost to heavy elephant browsing in the national park. Many bird species, impala and lesser kudu that had disappeared in the area have recolonized the restored woodland.
I flew an aerial count of the Amboseli basin on 30th July and did a ground survey with David Maitumo and Victor Mose on 14th August. The increase in wildlife in the last few months was astonishing. The herds are rapidly rebuilding to their pre-drought levels after being held down by predators in the years since the devastating losses of 2008. I counted some 330 buffalo, up from 160 after the drought and halfway back to the 600 level of 2009. The zebra population is continuing to climb steadily and wildebeest numbers have jumped since earlier this year. I suspect the increase is in part due to an influx from Tsavo or Tanzania this dry season.
The biggest surprise to me was the number of hippos. Once few and illusive, groups of ten or more are visible all along two large swamps and out on the banks sunning to the delight of park visitors. The highest number I’ve counted, around 100, was shortly before the 2008 drought when over 30 hippos died of starvation. Although I didn’t do a full count, I put their numbers now at 200. So what accounts for their increase?
The most likely reason is the rich matt of grasses that have sprung up across the swamps after the elephants chomped down the tall sedges. I watched a group of seven hippos half submerged in the swamp snatching at dense wads of forage in the middle of the day without having to budge.
Reedbuck are also more common in Amboseli than any time in decades, no doubt due to the same dense grazing lawns attracting other grazers.
This year is shaping up for drought around Amboseli if the short rains on October fail. With two months yet to go, the Maasai are worried about the ailing condition of their livestock. In contrast, Amboseli’s wildebeest and buffalo are in good condition and their calves are doing well, buffered by spreading swamp waters and a flush of new grass.
I’m puzzled by the spreading swamps. I’ve seen them rise in dry spells before, but seldom as extensively. The rising water has flooded David Maitumo’s house and is eating away at the foundations, forcing him to evacuate furniture and equipment.
NORTHERN TANZANIA ECOSYSTEMS MONITORING WORKSHOP
Mbirkani Group Ranch
14th to 16th August 2015
The workshop brought together conservation organizations interested in setting up ecosystem monitoring practices in northern Tanzania under the umbrella of the Borderlands Conservation Initiative (BCI) and the Northern Tanzania Rangeland Initiative (NTRI). The two-day training workshop included participants from HoneyGuide (HG), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Tanzania People and Wildlife (TPW) and Progetto Oikos. The Uaso Nyiro Baboon Project in Kenya also attended. The workshop was conducted by David Western, Victor Mose and David Maitumo of the Amboseli Conservation Program (ACP) and the African Conservation Centre (ACC), with support from the Amboseli Resource Assessors (RA’s), Paul Kasaine, Samuel Lekanaiya and George Sunte. The workshop covered the monitoring techniques developed and conducted in the Amboseli ecosystem over many years. The workshop was designed for heads of programs and those overseeing the monitoring. Training for community-based RAs will be given on the ground, preferably in Tanzania, once candidates have been appointed.
An introduction to the long-term monitoring Amboseli program was given on site in Amboseli on 14th August ahead of the workshop. The workshop, held at Big Life on Mbirikani Group Ranch, took place on 15th and 16th August, demonstrated all aspects of monitoring design, methodology, field equipment, data storage, and applications to rangeland conservation and management. The workshop began with a demonstration of how to measure a rangeland plots and code, record, enter and process data using open source software to produce rapid statistical and visual outputs for immediate application.
The workshop covered the following aspects, including designing and setting up an ecological monitoring scheme, sampling design, tools, and communicating the findings to decision-makers and on websites. The role of RAs and their value in collecting and providing information to their communities has grown steadily in recent years and includes, natural resource mapping; land use surveys; testing and assessing the impact of development and restoration programs; socioeconomic and attitudinal surveys, and information communication and outreach.
SETTING UP AND INTEGRATING MONITORING PROGRAMS
The final session discussed how to set up, fund, integrate and coordinate rangeland monitoring among the participating partners in northern Tanzania between partnering organizations in Kenya. It drew heavily on the organizational approach for coordinating research, planning and management adopted by the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust. HG, Oikos, TPW and WCS have submitted a proposal to US AID under the umbrella of NTRI to set up monitoring programs in northern Tanzania. The organizations present agreed to link up monitoring projects southern Kenya and northern Tanzania through BCI’s community-driven program. Subject to funding availability, ACP will set up a Windows-based platform that includes databases and analytical packages based on open-source software.
The workshop concluded with an agreement to work towards a common website that would provide a monthly assessment of range conditions across the borderlands region and early-warnings of pasture shortfalls and hard times for wildlife and livestock.
Sam Shaba HGF
Daudi Mollel HGF
Boniface osujaki WCS
Paul Baran Kirway WCS
G. Mollel Oikos
Sivia Ceppi Oikos
Fabrizio Orsini Oikos
Charles Trout TPW
Neovitus Sianga TPW
Victor Mose ACP
David Western ACP
David Maitumo ACC
George Sunte ACC
Paul Kasaine ACC
Samuel Lekanaiya ACC
David Muiriri of the Uaso Nyiro Baboon Projects attended as an observer and
Howard Fredrick of the Tanzania Conservation Resource Centre joined the field program in Amboseli.
At a special session of the World Parks Congress held in Sydney, Australia, on November 2014, David Western gave a presentation on the role of community-based conservation in winning space for wildlife beyond national parks and in reducing human-wildlife conflict.
Amboseli played an important role in gaining recognition for community-based conservation as a complement to national parks when David Western gave a presentation at the World Parks Congress in Bali in 1982. The first of its kind in Kenya, the initiative launched in Amboseli in the early 1970s led to a new nation policy aimed at ecosystem-wide conservation through the engagement and to the benefit of local communities.
Amboseli has since been a test-bed for new conservation policies and practices that have become widespread throughout Kenya and internationally. The most recent advances are the adoption of the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan following the completion of a Strategic Environmental (SEA) commissioned by the National Environmental Management Authority. The SEA approval makes the Amboseli ecosystem plan to first of its kind to be given legal recognition and enforcement through the higher national authority.
A full account of the role Amboseli has played in developing and promoting community-based conservation and the success of the movement over the last forty years can be found in the accompanying article: Finding space for wildlife beyond parks through community-based conservation: the Kenya experience. David Western, John Waithaka and John Kamanga. Parks 21. 1. 2015.