Category Archives: conservation issues

COMMUNITY BASED GIRAFFE CONSERVATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN GARISSA DISTRICT, KENYA: Approaches, Challenges and achievements

  Background

The Garissa Community Giraffe sanctuary (GCGS) falls within the immediate sub urban environment of Garissa Town bordering the dry dusty Bour-Algi village. The Village located 3 KM south of Garissa Town, found itself, in the early 1990s, at the centre of a surprising influx of giraffes. These were internally displaced and migrants giraffes from the border areas, that run for safety following the collapse of the republic of Somalia. With exceptional reception, more giraffe continued to arrive from far areas of Garissa district and Somalia where poaching was still rampant. Initially 30 individuals arrived and in less than 4 years, the Giraffe population in the Sanctuary had increased to over 300 individuals.  Currently, the giraffes are the most visible beneficiaries of the tolerance of local people becoming so habituated to a human presence they could be seen browsing from the tops of the abundant Acacia tortilis that dot the area. The giraffes move freely within human settlement, or stoop to drink from close to where the local women are drawing water. Villagers came to view these giraffes –now nearly 400 of them, treating them with respect as fellow members of the community. Many tourists particularly UN and the strong NGO work force in the area flock the area occasionally, dumbfounded by extraordinary acquaintance of trust that seems to have developed between these giraffes and the locals. 

Sanctuary Management

 It was the year 1995 when four community members formed community based organisation at village level to offer protection not just for the giraffes, but for other mammals as well. The group lead by Mr. Hassan Afey became a strong voluntary force and proved to be remarkably dedicated in undertaking regular wildlife patrols and desnaring sweeps. The concluded Trans-boundary Environmental Project (TEP), funded by the European Commission and implemented by Terra Nuova in association with Arid lands, has – since June 2003- supported the first phase of the sanctuary, where the sanctuary was transformed from single CBO affair to a participatory community owned project. A number of activities were done including stakeholder’s analysis, exposure tours, and organization capacity assessment leading to the formation of strong interim management committee, appointment of 14 community scouts and formal recognition of the sanctuary by both KWS and the county council of Garissa and the subsequently receiving of a registration certificate. With these efforts, more members were recruited from neighbouring villagers mainly; Annam, Qabobey, Bula Wanawake, Jarirot, Hanjoley, Bour Algi, and Bula Sheikahmed leading to a broad acceptance and appreciation of conservation and ecotourism among the pastoral Somalis. The livelihood activities for these communities include: charcoal burning, livestock rearing & trade, quarrying / sand harvesting, fuel wood sales , building poles harvesting, poaching among others. Since Terra Nuova left in September 2007, I remained with the community and currently work as a volunteer, working closely with the sanctuary warden and the board of directors. Based on my experience in community issues and being a member of this community, I try very much to link and network  on behave  of the community and the giraffes through my online diary that links front line of conservation to the rest of the world.  I update and maintain the sanctuary blog hosted by the WildlifeDirect organisation to create awareness and fundraise from well wishers: (www.giraffesanctuary.willdlifedirect.org). I also manage all of the Giraffe Sanctuary activities and co-ordinate official visits from government agencies, donors, film crews, journalists, researchers, NGO’s and other approved official guests. Most of all I develop project proposals and manage the 14 Scouts and other support staffs in liaison with sanctuary Warden. I have so far managed to get one laptop from this initiative and raised some little cash which need not mange to meet the needs and the requirement of the sanctuary. 

Wildlife and Ecotourism Potential of the area Wildlife & Habitat diversity

 The area is an Acacia-Commiphora dominated woodland with scattered bushes / thickets. Apart from the Reticulated Giraffe (estimated at 400 individuals), other wildlife species include; Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Cheetah, Hippopotamus, Guinea fowls & other passerine species of birds, Common Zebra, Warthog  (declining population due to poaching), Ostriches (Somali race), Hyena ( common and stripped), Lions among others. Two critically endangered species mainly Grevys Zebra and the African wild dogs have been occasionally reported.   

Ecotourism products and potential

Natural resources (forest, wildlife, water among others) are inherent and appropriate targets from which Communities can derive livelihood improvement and income generation activities that can have a positive long-term impact on poverty with a significant contribution to the millennium development goals. The establishment of the Garissa Giraffe Sanctuary will be a deliberate venture to develop a nature based business that will contribute towards uplifting the economic status of the Bor – Algi community in tandem with the MDG goal –1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger currently rated at 58% in Garissa with 73% rural and 65% Urban (ref). The income generated from the project will enable parents afford education for the children many of who are not attending school or have dropped out of school. The literacy rate of 15 – 24 years olds in the area stands at 26.1% with the average years of school attendance being 4 years.  The area has a great potential for natural resource exploitation for alternative incomes  by the communities, especially in rural pastoral areas and at the same time involving communities in natural resources management and conservation, hence ensuring sustainable use of natural resources by communities living adjacent to it. Some of the unique ecotourism products that can be developed in this area include: Camp sites, Botanical gardens, Somali cultural museum / centre, nature trails, camel rides, boat riding, cultural bandas as well as the famous religious festivals such as the Eid and Moulidi festivals which are huge attractions in areas like Lamu and Zanzibar. The Bour – Algi community has many active women with a rich cultural heritage that can be used to develop outstanding cultural products e.g. craft village, cultural centre that will bring women on board ensuring incomes to support the household economy and provide education for the girl child, thus realizing the MDG goal – 3  Genders Equity and Empowerment Of Women. Currently in Garissa, Female Net Enrolment ratio stands at 7.4% with Female Primary School Transition rate 45.1 % (MDG Profile data for Garissa 2003 -2005).  

Current situation and Challenges ahead 

Currently in this unique wildlife habitat yet a potential ecotourism hotspot, has not being exploited to benefit the local’s despites securing the land to conserve the existing wildlife and habitat diversity. There is no development plan in place to direct settlement and safe guard the existing ecological diversity. The proposed sanctuary area is a trust land held in trust for the local community by the Garissa County Council (GCC) as provided by Cap 208 of the laws of Kenya. Several efforts have been made by the TEP in collaboration with local CBOs and other partners like NEMA, KWS, WCK, geared towards environmental education campaigns and active ecological data gathering & monitoring to create awareness among stakeholders and local community on the threats to existing rich wildlife and habitat diversity. However, the fact that the sanctuary does not generate any income to the locals is a major setback in wining their support. Instead, communities members engage in unsustainable land and resources utilisation practises. Most evident are; charcoal burning targeting the Acacia trees, over grazing, blockage of access routes for wildlife and livestock to watering points by farming community, increasing human settlement in the area and  wood and fuel wood harvesting. Also key catchments areas are under threat from uncontrolled grazing and human settlement. Despite the unique location of the sanctuary and accessibility (the main road from Garissa to Ijara), the area lacks a developed tourism support infrastructure and neither does it fall within an established tourism circuit. Albeit, the area is occasionally frequented by the curious tourists and no levies are charged neither.  As a manager and supporter of this initiative, this makes me a worried man.

 Appeal for Assistance – Support and Implementation of the Next Phase of the Sanctuary.

Following the conclusion of the Terra Nuova project, activities in the sanctuary have been stand still, simply due to the fact that we were not able to attract the attention many donor organisation in the area that are concentrating on the humanitarian and the refugee crisis in Garissa district. The key thematic areas that will form basis for the next phase of the sanctuary and are of highest priority include: 

  • Capacity building ( Physical and  Human resource development
  • Development of tourism related infrastructure and livelihood programmes
  • Building Networks and Partnerships for the sanctuary and ecotourism products.
  • Establishment of ecological monitoring and research unit in the sanctuary.  

 On behalf of the community and the sanctuary, I would like to appeal to interested organisations, well wishers and individuals to come to the rescue of this sanctuary and secure the land for the giraffes. You can reach us using the details provided below.

 Ali A Hussein, Sanctuary Manager,Garissa Community Giraffe Sanctuary,

P.O. Box 993 • 70100, Garissa, Kenya.Mobile: +254 722 772113

Email: [email protected]           www.giraffesanctuary.willdlifedirect.org   

Road accidents major threat to wildlife in Garissa

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Dear readers

It sad to mention that due to low level of awareness among the locals and increased negative attitude towards large carnivores in the area, hyenas, lions and cheetahs are being killed wherever they encounter with motorist or pastoralist. Crude methods such as knocking down, spearing and poisoning are employed to control carnovores in the area. Carnivroes are also causing a lot of economic lossess to already pressed pastoralist. This Hyena was knocked down near Garissa town, for simply crossing the road. I got an opportunity to question the driver, who simply gave no apparent reason but  said he just wanted to kill because it also kills livestock. This is disturbing trend that is slowly looming in the area and the government agencies need to come in.

Facts about the reticulated Giraffes.

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The Somali Giraffe (photo courtesy of federicco vernossei)  or Reticulated Giraffe , Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata , is a subspecies of giraffe native to Somalia and Northeastern kenya. Reticulated giraffe can interbreed with other giraffe subspecies in captivity or if populations are low in the wild.

The reticualted giraffe is the most well-known of the nine giraffe subspecies, and has large, polygonal liver-colored spots outlined by a network of bright white lines. The blocks may sometimes appear deep red and may also cover the legs. The giraffe s are  native north-eastern Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The extraordinary height of giraffe s allows them to browse on branches of trees that other hoofed animals can’t reach. This has helped make them one of the most successful animals of the African savannah. Giraffe s are also fast, able to gallop up to 56 km/h (35 mph). Mothers aggressively defend their calves, kicking out with their feet at the approach of lion s or hyena s.

The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world. Males reach a towering 19 feet tall and weigh between 2400 and 4250 pounds. Females measure up to 17 feet tall and weigh between 1540 and 2600 pounds. A lot of this height and weight is because of the giraffe??? incredibly long neck, which can be 8 feet in length and can weigh almost 500 pounds. Even though the giraffe??? neck is taller than most humans are, it is still made of only 7 bones. This is the same number of bones that are in the human neck. On the top of their heads, giraffes have horns made of solid bone and covered with skin. These are used for sparring between males. The giraffe is also known for its spots. In fact, the Romans called the giraffe “camelopardalis,” meaning “camel marked like a leopard.” These spots are unique to each giraffe, much like fingerprints are unique to each human. In fact, people who study many giraffes can distinguish between the different giraffes just by looking at their spots. Another unique feature of the giraffe is its unusually long tongue. This pink and black tongue can be 22 inches long and is used to grab food from the trees.

The giraffe feeds mainly on Acacia and Combretum trees, but will eat as many as 100 different plants depending on which are available at the time. Since giraffes have such long necks, they can reach a 6-foot band of foliage that is above the reach of all other animals except the elephant. The giraffe will use its upper lip and long tongue to strip the leaves, shoots, flowers and vines from the trees. It needs 75 pounds per day of vegetation. However, it only drinks water every 2 to 3 days when it is available and can go for weeks without drinking any. The giraffe gets a large amount of water from the dew on the leaves and from the water in the leaves. When it encounters a watering hole, it will drink up to 12 gallons of water at one time. Giraffes have four stomachs just like cows.

Giraffes are native to only Africa. They used to be found throughout the dry savanna zones south of the Sahara Desert, but today have been eliminated from most of West African and southern Kalahari range. However, they are still fairly common.

Adult giraffes are too big to fall prey to the predators of Africa. However, the young giraffes are hunted by lions, hyena, leopards, and African wild dogs. A mother will stand over her calf to protect against the lions, which run the risk of getting killed by a kick from the mother’s powerful legs. Even with this protection, 50 to 75 percent of all calves are killed during the first few months. For the survivors, the life expectancy is 20 to 25 years.

The giraffe herd is not as rigidly structured as that of other animals. At any given time, the herd may consist of all males, all females, a mix of females and young, or a mix of all. Unlike most herds, the giraffe herd of 20 animals has no leader. Because of their large size, it is not necessary for the giraffes to stay in a tight group. In addition, they are tall enough to be able to see each other at long distances. The result is a herd that may be spread out over half a mile. Males spar in daily contests to determine mating rights, using their horns and strong necks to deliver heavy blows to each other. By the time that a female is ready to mate, the dominant male has already beaten all the other males in these contests. Once rank has been determined, the giraffes usually live peacefully alongside each other.

Giraffes breed throughout the year, but most often after the rainy season. After a gestation period of about 14 to 15 months, a 6-foot tall baby giraffe, called a calf, is born. For the first 2 weeks, the mother guards her young, who spends most of the time lying down. If there are a lot of calves in the herd, one female may take care of all of them until they get older.

Giraffes have very keen eyesight, allowing them to keep other members of the herd in sight. They also have good hearing and sense of smell. Giraffes have scent glands that give off a pungent odor. Many believe that the giraffe is mute, but this is only a myth. Though they are normally silent, they can grunt, snort, growl, sneeze, snore, moo, bleat, and cough

Another giraffe dies of road accident

dsc00579-2.JPGDear freinds I am saddned to share that we lost another male giraffe to over speeding track driver along Garissa Ijara road which directly passes through the sanctaury. The un identified motorist knocked down the giraffe and never stopped to see what happend. The scouts have confirmed that it was a long vehicle that vanished immediately after the incident. I woud like to thank MR. Mohamed ahmed of Wildlife Clubs of kenya for facilitating our scouts to carry out patrols in the sanctuary and for reporting this particular incident. It is sad for us and we may need to put warning signs announcing the presence of giraffes along the road.

Birds in the midst of pastoralists

sanctuary.jpgbour-algy-29-06-06_3507.jpgThe sanctuary is not only famous for the beautiful reticulated giraffes but also offers wide range of other sceniic sites that could excite bird watchers. A survey earlier carried out in the sanctaury recorded over 200 species of birds in the sanctuary. However the current estimate is much higher than this. Schools in the districts are the only formal groups that do bird watching exercises in the sanctuary. Our dedicted warden Mr. Hassan affey is however, currently carrying out eduction programmes to popularise  bird watching as lesiure activity for the pastoralist in the area.

The Sanctuary at a glance.

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Dear readers, I would like to take  this opportunity to thanks all our donors and supporters for this initiative.  This picture above is me for those we have not met and in this particular post I would like to share quick background of the sanctuary. The  Garissa Community Giraffe sanctuary (GCGS) falls within an immediate sub urban environment of Garissa Town. The local community consists of the Bur algi community of a predominately pastoral Somali clan and the Malakoti who are hunter gatherers settled along the Tana River. Over the years the settlements have expanded into more permanent settlements while the local Malakotis along the river have opted to selling their traditional lands to Somali farmers involved in irrigation agriculture.

 The key human settlements (i.e. nomadic, semi – permanent and permanent) include; Annam, Qabobey, Bula wanawake, Jarirot, Hanjoley, Bur Algi, Bula Sheikahmed among others .The livelihood activities for these communities include hunting, charcoal burning, livestock rearing & trade, Quarrying/ Sand harvesting, fuel wood sales , building poles harvesting, Poaching among others.

Wildlife & Habitat diversity

The area is a brachystalgia acacia woodland with scattered bushes/thickets. There is a key habitat for the Reticulated Giraffe (estimated at 144, adults-107 and 37 young). Other Wildlife species include; Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Cheetah, Hippotamus, Guinea fowls & other birds, Grevys Zebra, Common Zebra, Warthog  (declining population due poaching), Ostrich Somali race, Hyeana, Lions among others. Details of this information is available in this link. http://www.terranuova.org/articoli/transboundary-environmental-project or  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bour-Algi_Giraffe_Sanctuary

Current situation

Currently in this unique wildlife habitat yet a potential ecotourism hotspot,  has not yet gotten the necessary attention to conserve the existing wildlife and habitat diversity from both the government and other organisations. There is no development plan in place to direct settlement and safe guard the existing ecological diversity. The  sanctuary area is a trust land held in trust for the local community by the Garissa County Council (GCC) as provided by Cap 208 of the laws of Kenya.

Several efforts have been made before by the Terra Nuova, an Italian NGO for cooperation and development  in collaboration with local CBOs and other partners, in environmental education campaigns and active ecological data gathering & monitoring to create awareness among stakeholders and local community on the threats to existing rich wildlife and habitat diversity. However, the fact that the conservation area is not actively protected there is evidence of severs habitat encroachment and Poaching in the area. Most evident are; Charcoal burning targeting the acacia trees, over grazing, blockage of access routes for wildlife and livestock to watering points ‘Malkas’ by farming community, increasing human settlement in the area and  wood and fuel wood harvesting. Also key catchments areas are under threat from uncontrolled grazing and human settlement. The area is dissected by the main road from Garissa to ijara but lacks developed tourism support infrastructure neither does it fall within an established tourism circuit. Albeit, the area is occasionally frequented by the curious tourists, no levys are charged neither do local communities benefit from such visits. It is on this basis that i would like to appeal to agencies to come and help in securing place for the giraffes in the midst of pastoral communities.

Emerging Threats in the sanctuary

bour-algy-29-06-06_3491.jpgbour-algy-29-06-06_3493.jpgbour-algy-01-07-06_3765.jpg Dear readers
This post is just to share with you some of management issues we are currently facing in the sanctuary. Their are number of human activities which are currently exerting great pressure in the habitats of the giraffes. one such problem is charcoal burning which is the biggest threats to the Acacias in the sanctuary. Every days we loose good number of acacia trees to charcoal burners as can be seen in the pictures above. Other human activities include sand harvesting, farming and expanding settlements(notice one the villages in the middle of the sanctaury). we are currently trying to cope up with some of these managemnt issues threatening the giraffes.