Like us on Facebook    

"We are dedicated to providing exclusive , bespoke, upmarket,

tailor-made, luxury safaris and exotic holidays for the discerning client looking for the ultimate, authentic, classical Kenya safari, away from the mass tourism sector".

Governors' Camp Collection News December 2014

We have been privileged to share some fantastic wildlife experiences with our guests across all our properties over the last month. In the Masai Mara the short rains arrived greening the plains and drawing in the resident herds of wildebeest and zebra by the thousand. There are young everywhere on the plains and the resident Marsh Pride of lion has seen new male intruders and an injury and subsequent treatment for Marsh Pride veteran lioness Bibi.
Loldia's leopards have been coming out at night providing amazing night game drives for our guests and there has been great birding in the region.
In Rwanda, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge guests have been enjoying wonderful Gorilla Trekking and back at the Lodge managers Wendy and Finlay organised a really
successful career inspiration day for the children of the local community which was oversubscribed!

November Game Report Masai Mara

Weather and grasslands

November has been a month of mixed weather patterns, some early mornings the air and sky was clear and crisp with a pastel coloured dawn. Rainfalls patterns have been intermittent with rain in the afternoons and evenings, on the 1st of the month we had a huge rainstorm of 45 mm that was followed by very strong winds which caused trees to fall over and branches to drop down, particularly those of the Warbugia and teclea species throughout the camps and within the riparian woodlands of the river. Total rainfall for the month was 116mm. The grass lands have shown a little more resilience which had then brought back more zebra and wildebeest, the topi and hartebeest moved from area to area. There has been some good rainfall within the Eastern Masai conservation areas in the last ten days of the month and this has brought on a green flush which in turn has induced the many of the resident zebra and wildebeest into residence. 

Photo courtesy of Tony Harrison

General game:

Large concentrations of zebra and wildebeest were seen earlier in the month, all over the Musiara, east and west marsh, Bila Shaka, Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. On the 13th and 14th many scattered and some concentrated herds of these resident zebra and wildebeest crossed the Mara River going from east to west at the mortuary crossing point with an estimated 1,000- 3000 seen crossing at any one time. On the morning of the 15th there was a large crossing with an estimated 5,000 zebra and gnus were seen going from east to west, two were taken by crocodile of which one was a young foal. Many of these will still circulate through the Trans Mara and with a few herds coming back through into the conservation areas east and north east of the reserve. In the late morning of the 16th and 17th there were good numbers of resident zebra and wildebeest seen slowly building up at the main crossing points, later that evening they crossed at the main and mortuary crossing points. By the 24th the large numbers of wildebeest and zebra on the Bila Shaka, Topi, Paradise, Rhino Ridge and Musiara Plains had moved back into the Trans Mara and many were seen moving back into the north and north eastern Masai conservation areas. Since the 16th and 24th large numbers of the east Loita or resident herds of zebra and wildebeest are being seen in the Olare Orok and Motoroge wildlife conservancies. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Topi in the latter days of the month we were still seeing giving birth, this is a little late for the Topi although due to weather conditions birthing and oestrous cycles can be delayed or prolonged, many warthogs can also be seen with very young piglets, generally warthogs start giving birth in late August/September and if piglets are being seen now then weather conditions can induce this cycle. Eland in small breeding herds are being seen through the Mara reserve and conservation areas, some large breeding bulls will also be seen, the double crossing and Paradise Plains are good places to see them.

Giraffe are within the Musiara woodlands and conservation areas, on the 15th we saw an extraordinary sighting of a giraffe eating the complete shrub of the Cyphostemma Serpens, the fruit of which is edible by man although the skin of the fruit is very hot and spicy but then giraffe seem to like hot and spicy foliage since they eat the leaves of the Warbugia which is also very hot and spicy to our palettes.

Photo courtesy of Carmel McLachlan

Warbugia Ugandenis or Elephant Pepper trees have started fruiting and this may well bring back the elephant into the camps and the woodlands of the river, both Olive Baboons and elephant like the fruit of the Warbugia. Wild Gardenia are also being seen with flowers and this is a great site when a tree is in bloom with yellow and white flowers, the flowers of the Gardenia ternifolia are white and when they wilt they turn yellow. Elephant at the moment still come and go between the Trans Mara and the Marsh within the Musiara swamp. Eland in small breeding herds and calves in crèches will also be seen within the Masai Conservation areas and also in the reserve and on Paradise Plains.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lumley-Cole

A female side striped Jackal was seen in the rocky slopes of the west Rhino Ridge fan, she has two pups who are hidden in a termite mound and are estimated at two months old, there are not many sightings of Side Striped Jackals in these environs and perhaps competition with their cousins the Black Backed Jackal has eluded good sightings. Side Striped Jackals have a narrower muzzle and are more insectivorous in their diet and will lend to which habitat best suits their niche. A family of Black Backed Jackals were seen further south on Paradise Plains, the dog and bitch play an equal role in the rearing their offspring with both parents attending to their pups.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

There are many Spotted Hyena on Rhino Ridge, Bila Shaka and on Paradise Plains. There are large clan sizes now in the reserve; spotted hyena will harass cheetah, leopard and lionesses for prey. In the conservation areas east and north of the reserve there are equally large numbers of Spotted Hyena, often resulting in the remark 'not enough lion' to keep the numbers in check.

More Serval cats and Caracals have been seen recently. These caracal sightings have been near the Mara River where there is granite hills known as Kopjes and these are good places to see both rock and bush Hyraxes which is what prey species Caracal generally prefer. The Serval Cat is more of a grassland species with rodents and ground birds being preferred prey.
Many Olive Baboons and impala herds are being seen in the west side of the Marsh. Grants Gazelles will also be seen here in the Marsh, Musiara Plains and Bila Shaka whereas the Thomson Gazelle is more commonly seen on the short open grassland plains. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Martial eagles, the largest of the savannah eagles have been very active, Monitor Lizards, Thomson Gazelle fawns, Impala fawns, mongooses and lion cubs have all been seen taken this month. On the 21st a large Nile monitor lizard was taken near Bila Shaka with the struggle going on for more than one hour. Steppe Eagles have also been sighted in large numbers with many of them perched on termite mounds while feeding off the termites that have been building particularly after a little rain.


On the morning of the 16th the new two black manned lion Blackie and Lipstick were seen mating with the 1st breakaway pride Madomo's sister and her sub adult lioness on Rhino Ridge. Madomo herself had been mated earlier by both Blackie and Lipstick, these new males had disappeared earlier on in the month and are now back again, the two black maned lion may have come from the Talek area or even as far in as the Trans Mara. We are told that they are the offspring from one of the Notch males which is highly likely. We understand by the 18th Lipstick and Blackie had moved out of the west Rhino Ridge Plains and were not seen in this immediate area again until the 20th when they were both seen heading south of Emartii Hill. Two of the Musketeers Sikio and Scar were seen in the lower Paradise area with Sikio mating with one of the Paradise Pride sub adult lionesses, this was a very quick affair with Sikio mating and then disappearing very quickly afterwards, this was extraordinary behaviour and perhaps the new male arrivals may have something to do with Sikio's nervous behaviour. Scar seemed very subdued and was some distance away from Sikio. The two Paradise lionesses with their six three month old cubs were seen south of the croton hill on Paradise Plains. The two sub adult male lion from the 1st Breakaway pride have moved out and away since the arrival of the

two black manned lion, this is a normal phenomenon so they may well join up with other ousted males and form a coalition. Later in the month they had been seen with three other sub-adult males that had come from the Trans Mara area.

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku

On the 19th Scar had come up from Paradise Plains and was seen with Morani when they had eaten the zebra that was killed by Charm and her sub adult Rembo and Bibi. This is really not far from where those two black manned lions were seen, although the two black mane lion had actually moved on out. On the 25th Scar, Sikio, Hunter and Morani have been seen again in the Paradise area and mating with lionesses of the Paradise Pride and one of the Madomo pride lionesses although earlier the two black manned lions were seen mating with them so this will be interesting. Conception occurs on the 4th or 5th day of oestrus with a conception rate of 35-40%. With the arrival back again of the musketeers this may have caused the two black maned nomadic lion to move away so that conception may or may not have happened. On the 28th Scar, Morani and Sikio were seen mating with two lionesses of the Paradise females and one lioness of the 2nd Breakaway pride members. The four musketeers still travel back and forth between the Trans Mara and Paradise Plains.

Siena and her three 11 month old cubs, Charm, Bibi and the sub-adults have been very active within the west side of the marsh. They killed another Cape Buffalo in the environs of Private Camp and two zebra near th Lake Nakuru area and a Gnu on the 29th was nearly taken behind tent two at IL Moran camp, security guards who came to see what the commotion was thinking that guests were having a fracas actually turned out to be two lionesses in the process of pulling down a wildebeest near the veranda of a guest tent. The buffalo herd that resides on the west side of the Marsh

are in constant contact with the Marsh Pride, they are often chasing one another back and forth, and this phenomenon is typical of Agonistic Behaviour between predator and prey.

Photo courtesy of Tony Harrison

On the 12th the Musiara marsh lioness 'Bibi' was treated for a wound on her left rear paw at 4.00pm. Bibi is an old lioness and approximately 15-16 years old who has resided all this time within the Marsh and Bila Shaka environs. The left rear paw appeared to have been bitten and we suspected to be that from a fracas with spotted hyena. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust office quickly notified the area Mobile veterinary team, they arrived with Dr Limo from the Kenya wildlife services at approximately 3.30pm with medical treatment commencing at 4.00pm, treatment finishing at 5.20pm. The first phalange bone on the rear left claw pad had been broken and Dr Limo took the decision to remove the lower part of the phalange bone with some sutures being used in place where the bone had been removed. The claw sheath part of the extensor process appeared inflamed from infection, this area was cleaned out. Bibi is being seen daily, on the 26th and 28th with her physical condition showing that she is slowly improving and for an old lioness she is healing slowly although she is being seen walking relatively well but she does have to stop frequently. In the last few days Bibi is walking much better and is definitely putting more pressure on her left leg, despite being chased by Buffalo she still can out run them!!

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The Marsh lioness Charm and her two cubs that are nearly four months old are often seen south of the Marsh with her sub adult female now called Rembo, Tatu the sub adult male and also another sub adult lioness. They have been feeding of the many zebra that were in the southern areas of the Marsh. In the early morning on the 16th they were all seen huddled together when a breeding herd of Elephant turned up and dispersed them. Sienna and her three cubs that are 11 months old will be seen within the West Marsh areas, Sienna is often seen with her sub-adult lioness Yaya and Red the sub adult male.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Sila the lioness of the 2nd breakaway pride and daughter of sienna who has two cubs that are three months old are being seen in the Lake Nakuru area of the west marsh, on the morning of the 25th she was seen near the culvert and she was looking very well. On the 17th Sila looked like she had been bitten on the rear of her body, we were told that guides had seen a lioness in the evening being harassed by spotted Hyena, she is looking very well and appears to be walking very normally. Sila's other pride members Lippy, Kini, Jicho and Musiara and their cubs are in the Trans Mara since the 12th of September. A quick break down of the 2nd Breakaways that are now in the Trans Mara:

1. Musiara - has 2 five month old cubs - Mother is Sienna

2. Sila - has 2 three month old cubs - Mother is sienna and she is still at present
in the marsh area.

3. Lippy-has 3 thirteen months old cubs - Mother is Bibi

4. Kini- has 4 four month old cubs - Mother is Charm

5. Jicho - had 1 cub who sadly went missing in July-august - Mother is White
eye who disappeared into Masai land and presumably died, we have no further records of white eye.

Musiara and Sila are sisters. The eldest of the breakaways is Jicho, there was strong feline politics between with Sienna and Charm subsequently spent much time away from the main marsh females.

Another older nomadic male lion called Romeo 2 was seen near the double crossing and also two other nomadic males have been seen not far from Emartii hill which is the east fan of Rhino Ridge.


Romi the female leopard was seen clearly on the 16th and 19th near Governors Private Camp, we still have not seen or heard the whereabouts of her cubs so we are wondering what may have happened? The large male leopard at the mortuary crossing point has also been seen, he has been preying on the wildebeest that have passed through here while crossing from east to west.

Photo courtesy of Tony Harrison

Siri the female leopard with her one 5 month old male cub has been seen often south east of the Mara River near the Serena pump house area. She has been feeding off impala and Thompson gazelles.


The female cheetah Malaika with her five cubs who are five months old will be seen within the Hammerkop and Topi crossing in the Trans Mara they all have been the highlight of many game drives. She has been feeding off Thompson Gazelles and Grants Gazelles.

The young male cheetah and son of the female cheetah Narasha is seen often on Paradise Plains and will often get onto the bonnet of game drive cars. This male is an active hunter and feeds regularly off warthog piglets and Thompson Gazelles.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

A female cheetah was seen on the 27th and 28th on Topi Plains, she was seen with a young male from the Paradise area who at the time was some distance away, and when he approached she just hissed and he would walk away. On the 29th two males one of which was younger than the other, when they met up the older male hissed which again made the young male walk off, this young male is suspected of being perhaps only 18 month old in which case it has only just left the maternal care from the mother and in these cases some individuals can be or are insecure.

We hope to welcome you to the Masai Mara sometime soon.



We are over the moon to announce that Kitich Camp, Elsa's Kopje and Lewa Safari Camp have been awarded a Gold Eco rating by Ecotourism Kenya, while Joy's Camp managed to retain its current Gold status!

Evaluated on criteria aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria formed under the umbrella of the UN, this marks a significant achievement and brings the total of Gold eco rated camps & lodges in Kenya to 17. It also makes us the only collection of properties with such outstanding environmental credentials in Kenya!

Elephant Pepper Camp and Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp received their Gold Eco rating end of last year and earlier this year respectively. Tortilis Camp currently has a Silver eco rating but we hope that, following the next evaluation in January, they too will join the others in the Gold Club!

Stefano Cheli comments:

"Our ethos has always been to establish eco-responsible camps and lodges and to create conservation models in direct partnership with local communities. These awards not only acknowledge our continuous efforts, but validate why it is that we do what we do, bringing us one step closer to achieving Gold Eco Certification all round. I would like to thank and congratulate all the teams who have worked tirelessly to uphold our morals and values and brought this to fruition. We are very proud!" 

The Ecotourism Committee notes:

"The facilities show superior and remarkable levels of excellence specifically in responsible resource use, socio economic and social cultural aspects. They all have demonstrated impressive and consistent efforts and best practices in their business operations."
Congratulations to the all the teams!

Best wishes,

Stefano & Liz 


...and a new Family Cottage!

It's hard to believe that Elsa's Kopje could possibly look better, but that is exactly what happened. A recent makeover of the lodge enhances its elegance and imaginative design.

New Honeymoon Cottages

The most romantic hideaway in Kenya is now even more romantic with the upgrade of two rooms into Honeymoon Cottages. Together with the original Honeymoon Cottage number 10, a triple level cottage, with a sitting room, double bed, en-suite bathroom, Elsa's Kopje now has a total of three honeymoon units for the romance seekers.

Honeymoon Cottage #1

The refurbished Honeymoon Cottages 1 & 2 are spacious en-suite cottages with cosy double beds, private decks, outside baths and spectacular views. After a thrilling day of exploring Meru National Park, nothing beats a long, warm soak in the outside bath, surrounded by candlelight and with a glass of bubbly in hand.

Honeymoon Cottage #2

Brand New Family Cottage

Increasingly, more clients want to bring their families on safari and for this reason, we've built a brand new Family Cottage. This is a spacious 2-bedroom cottage with a double and a twin room, both en-suite, a beautiful living room, large private deck and an outside bath by the master bedroom.

Added to this is a range of family-friendly children's activities that make for an ideal family holiday at Elsa's Kopje.

Family Cottage Sitting Room

The New Rooming Line Up

With a total of 11 cottages, the room configuration at the lodge is now:

* 6 Cottage Suites - 4 doubles and 2 twins, with ensuite bathrooms; 4 cottages can fit 1 extra bed

* 3 Honeymoon Cottages - spacious ensuite doubles with private decks, and two of them with outdoor baths. Honeymoon Cottages 2 and 10 can fit 2 extra beds for children under 16 years

* 1 Family Cottage - 2 bedroom Cottage (1 double, 1 twin, both ensuite), a sitting room & private veranda and an outdoor bath

* Private House - 1 double & 1 twin room, both ensuite, sitting room,
veranda and private pool

We look forward to having you stay.

Best wishes, Stefano & Liz Cheli

Elsa's Kopje Camp Manager's Diaries

WHY DID YOU COME HERE? - Philip and Charlie Mason

Philip & Charlie by the infinity pool

We all spend a huge amount of time and energy trying to make our camps look smarter and more luxurious. We spend hours agonising over thread counts for linen and the particular shade of beige for the scatter cushions.

We have photographers fret over perfect exposures and worried helpers tweak the positioning of highly polished glassware for that award-winning image. We get glossy ads in pricey magazines and yards of editorial about the wonders of each particular camp to woo the prospective guest to rest their heads on our ever softer pillows.

High definition pictures of bored leopards, lions yawning (or is that a Metro Goldwin roar) and sleepy crocodiles sunning themselves on the mud bank are meant to lure you into our somewhat unreal oasis of luxury. So I am often ask the question "Why did you decide to come here?"

The initial reasons vary from a childhood dream, often tempered by a Christmas viewing of the 'Born Free' adventure, to a bucket list desire to visit Hemingway's playground, or a simple love of Africa and a desire to return to the 'big skies and big cats'.

The final choice is almost inevitably made on a friend or the agent's recommendation to a place that they have been to and loved. The website or other traveller's reviews might seal the deal but it's the personal experience that counts. Although creature comforts are a pleasure - any fool can be uncomfortable - it's sometimes the less than perfectly manicured moments that are more memorable. A disrupted game drive to give the vet a lift across the plains to a wounded animal.

Getting back to camp late and hot after realising the day has passed by too fast with too much to see. Midnight rumblings of an elephant's tummy outside the room. And sometimes the unexpected friendships that develop in good company. 

Any these will make one camp stand out amongst the kaleidoscope of equally lovely places and are what make an ever ever-increasing number of people come back to Elsa's.

Africa's Finest...

Out of choice we prefer to run what is called these days a "green" or at least reasonably socially responsible camp. Mostly this is a deal of common sense combined with a clean and tidy operation. Hardly earthshattering stuff but as more and more people share the same ethos, it becomes more and more important. 

Game Drive in Meru National Park, Kenya

We were happy to welcome a couple of guests who seemed to have a more than superficial interest in the 'back of house' goings on at camp and I am always happy to show interested guests how it all works. Colin Bell and David Bristow told me that although many African safari lodges and camps sell themselves as being eco-friendly they had found that some merely "green wash" the nuts and bolts of responsible management. 

In 2013, the two released "Africa's Finest", a comprehensive guide of the 50 finest, most eco-friendly accommodations throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Seychelles and Madagascar. 

The pair had spent two years visiting over 1,000 properties, before narrowing it down to 170 finalists. They then invited nine environmental specialists to travel with them for another two years, as they extensively evaluated those properties. Each property was also graded on a scale of ten, based on operation, conservation, and community effort.

It shouldn't have come as such a surprise when we found we were at the top end of the best in Kenya. This is what they had to say about us:

As the sole lodge in Meru National Park, Elsa's Kopje reduced its environmental footprint by running on LED and energy saving bulbs, solar power and dead or renewably sourced wood for timber. Elsa's Kopje also supports local schools; in the past year alone the camp raised $10,000 to support the 340 children and teachers at Ura Gate primary school through textbooks and school repairs.

Students at Ura Gate receiving school books by Elsa's Kopje Guide

Winner of the Good Safari Guide's 'Best Safari Property in Africa' Elsa's Kopje is renowned for being one of the most elegant lodges in Africa, with an award winning design with stunning views from every room, Elsa's Kopje is almost invisible. It blends into the rocky crags of the hillside and every sumptuous cottage is the ultimate 'room-with-a-view'.

And that's what they said...come and see for yourself. 

Do you ever get bored with it? No we have not had the time yet!

Hope to see you soon.

Philip & Charlie Mason

Elephant survives attack by 14 lions

A young elephant somehow was separated from his herd when a 14 member pride of female lions descended on the helpless animal at Norman Carr Safaris Chinzombo Camp in Zambia. Clearly outnumbered, the elephant managed to bravely fend off the attack despite having three lionesses on his back at one point!

This event was captured by journalist Jesse Nash, artist and professor at CW Post College in New York, Dan Christoffel, UK naturalist, Steve Baker, and Australian TV personality, Nina Krakowski. At sunset, suddenly they stumbled upon this extraordinary sight and battle for survival. But this little guy beat the odds, fought back and got away. 

"In the many years I have been a safari guide in Zambia at South Luangwa, never have I seen anything like this," said Innocent, one of the top safari guides that works with Norman Carr Safaris. "We were all so worried the elephant would be killed right before us. What a fighter. It fought off all 14 lions. Incredible." 

We've named the little fellow Hercules.

Another orphaned rhino rescued

On Sunday 16 November 2014, The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre got a very important call to say that Dr Rogers was on his way to collect a rhino calf, and that we should be prepared to take it in immediately. In what felt like a matter of minutes, the boma where Gertjie (the baby rhino we took in on 8 May 2014) usually sleeps was cleaned and prepared with bedding, infrared lighting and a heater. With no further information, we waited in anticipation for the next call.

After what felt like hours we were notified that Dr Rogers and his team would be arriving with the calf in 20 minutes. It was with mixed emotions that we waited. While we were excited at the prospect of saving a young orphan, we all felt deeply saddened at the fact that yet another innocent animal would be forced to be raised outside of its natural environment. The team finally arrived, and it was with amazement that we took in the size of the tiny sedated rhino. A very young bull of just a month old, he could fit comfortably in the back of Dr Rogers' Toyota Prado. He weighed a paltry 60kg!

As he was heavily sedated for the trip to the centre, he was immediately carried to the space prepared for him so that Dr Rogers could reverse the drug and wake him up. 

It is hard to describe the collective emotion in the room as we all took in the very small life that lay motionless in the middle of the floor.

When is this cruelty going to end? His mother was shot and poached for her horn, leaving him behind - utterly defenceless - to die. While details are still not clear, it appears that the incident took place on the evening of Saturday 15 November in the Hoedspruit area. The calf was found close to her lifeless carcass. Both animals were still covered in mud, and it is highly likely that the young orphan had just enjoyed his first mud bath before his mother was killed. 

Shortly after waking, the young rhino made it clear that he was very hungry by trying to suck on his blanket. He was very confused - a new area, new smells and no mother. Even though he was still 'groggy', he was deeply traumatised and evidently petrified.

Everyone left the boma, and Karien Smit (assistant curator) stayed behind with a bottle of formulated milk. The first bottle is crucial for the baby's survival, and we are very happy to report that he took it in with gusto. He is now feeding every three hours, 750ml at a time, and his current daily intake is around 6 litres. This will increase exponentially as he grows. 

The baby rhino has been named Matimba which is a local Shangaan word meaning "strength" or "power". He may be tiny in body, but his spirit is strong. Matimba has been kept within his little 'house' over the last few nights with red lights and a heater. Karien has been accepted by him and he feels very comfortable with her. For this we are extremely grateful. 

As the sun came out over the course of the morning of the 17th, Karien decided to let Matimba out to spend some time in its warm rays. As any curious baby would, Matimba immediately started to explore, but never moved far from his companion. And for that fraction of a moment, he seemed happy. It's all the other moments, when he cries inconsolably, that the true story is obvious.

Said Greta, manager of The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, on 19 November 2014: "Christo and I slept with him last night. I was so emotional as he was crying so much it made me sick. He eventually went to sleep, and thankfully slept peacefully for the rest of the night. We can only hope that tonight, and every night thereafter, will improve."

Each hour is critical at the moment, and we are 'all-hands-on-deck' to do what we need to to ensure that he does not become yet another tragic statistic.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is Recognised as one of the Best Managed Protected Areas in the World

Lewa is one of only two properties in Africa to feature on the first Green List honour by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

On the 14th of November, IUCN announced its first Green List of Protected Areas in Sydney, Australia. The Green List is described as "a new and progressive initiative that encourages and celebrates the success of protected areas that reach excellent standards of management."
This list will generally establish the first global standard for protected natural and conservation sites.

Lewa is immensely proud to be one of the two properties from Africa featured. The sites were evaluated against a set of criteria including the quality and management of the natural resources, tangible benefits to communities and sustainable conservation outcomes.
The Conservancy was particularly recognised for its excellence in wildlife conservation as well as its numerous community development programmes in education, health, women and youth empowerment that have transformed thousands of lives.

Benefits of the listing include international recognition, increased potential for financial support, motivation of protected area managers to meet and maintain high standards of management, recognition by the international tourism industry among others.

Lewa's CEO Mike Watson says:

"This listing is a fantastic way to end the year on Lewa; it reinforces belief in our conservation and development practises perfected over decades. It gives us confidence to know we are doing a great job worthy of international recognition".

The announcement of the listing comes barely a week after the Conservancy's win of two global awards in London - silver award for Poverty Reduction awarded by the World Responsible Tourism Awards and Runner up in Wildlife Conservation by Safari Awards. 


We're really delighted that NRT Trading Ltd has now been established as a 100% NRT-owned trading company which will drive commercial activities in the conservancies, act as a business incubator, attract social investment finance, and itself trade in beads, cattle and other businesses that create markets for conservancy members and attract levies to fund conservancy operations. Anne Knapp, seconded from our close partners The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is the first CEO. November has also seen more welcome but somewhat patchy rain in the north, and the stresses of late dry season are passing. But the tensions remain, and we have seem a number of fatalities in clashes between youth from different ethnicities. Read below about the NRT Conflict Resolution team's special approach to addressing this problem. We have also this month hosted all 20 northern conservancy managers to prepare for the 2015 round of competitive bids to the NRT Pooled Conservancy Fund. This year we have from USAID an additional $250,000 in the pool for special livelihood projects, that will help more explicitly link local benefits to successful conservancies.

We all in NRT wish you a restful end-of-year break, those of you who are taking time out.

Mike Harrison Chief Executive Officer

Northern Rangelands Trust

Morans on a Mission

Morans from Kalama and Namunyak Conservancies encounter a rhino for the first time while on a field visit to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy - the visit was part of a livestock/wildlife integration field trip organised by elders and NRT.

Young warriors (morans) can be frequently seen across the shimmering landscape of northern Kenya. While these young men carry the title of moran, they are nomadic, responsible for travelling far and wide with nothing but a cow hide to sleep on, in search of the best grazing for their family's livestock. They often have to fulfil a traditional role of protector, provider and soldier for their villages too, so it is no wonder that they are most often the people involved in ethnic conflict and cattle rustling. Yet, with their nomadic wanderings, they are a rich source of up to date information about the latest community matters. Getting these warriors more involved in conservation and grazing management, and tapping into their unrivalled knowledge of community politics, is now a primary focus for the NRT peace and livestock teams. 

Late in October 2014, 88 young warriors from Sera Conservancy were invited to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a close working partner of NRT. Ol Pejeta have been integrating cattle and wildlife for a long time, and the results speak for themselves - healthier cattle, better grass, more wildlife (which encourages more tourists). They were shown first hand how this can work in their own conservancies, and returned enthusiastic and keen to work with the Sera grazing committee.

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy's Boran cattle grazing with an elephant - wildlife/livestock integration works well here. Photo courtesy of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

This month, 45 warriors from Kalama, and 60 from Namunyak conducted a similar visit to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Cattle bought from NRT conservancies in the 'linking livestock markets to conservation' programme are quarantined on Lewa, where they are also fattened up before being sent to slaughter on Ol Pejeta. Some of the warriors even recognised their own cattle, which they had sold to NRT just a few weeks before. They commented how much fatter their livestock looked, a true visual representation of how cohesive grazing and wildlife management can work.

NRT's grazing coordinator, Titus Letaapo, challenged each of the warriors to go home and tell 10 friends about their trip. With mobile phones now so affordable, most of the warriors will be able to share photos they took on their mobiles, which will be an immense tool in changing mindsets. "We had some morans  who were very hesitant about coming to Lewa and Ol Pejeta" says Titus, "we even had some members of the community trying to dissuade others from going! But the morans came back and recounted what they had seen, and then went straight to the elders to see how they could help with the grazing plans. Their actions are changing the mindsets of the people that were initially reluctant to get involved." The aim is to conduct visits to Lewa and Ol Pejeta for 400 morans in the coming months. 

During their time in Lewa, the morans had a chance to meet two orphaned black rhino calves, currently being hand reared by Lewa rangers. This was the first time many of them had seen a black rhino, let alone got close enough to touch it! It was a valuable experience that it is hoped will raise awareness amongst the moran about the importance of endangered species conservation, and the role that they play in this. 

Inside NRT - Empowering Women Leaders in Conservation

According to a UNESCO commissioned report published in October 2012 - one million children are still out of school in Kenya. While this is almost half the number it was in 1999, it is still the ninth highest of any country in the world. Children in the arid and semi arid regions of Kenya have the lowest enrollment levels in the country, and there is a notable gender disparity of those that do enroll, with far more boys in primary education than girls. This disparity is even greater at a secondary school level in these regions.

Needless to say, for a girl born within and around an NRT conservancy; most of which are situated in the regions mentioned above, the chance of a higher education is a minute and distant one. Statistics show

she is far more likely to feel the burden of an early arranged marriage, household chores, teenage childbirth and female genital mutilation. These factors will affect, among other things, a woman's chances of earning an independent income, and taking on leadership roles within the local community. Hardly surprising then, that in the recently published NRT Strategic Plan, one of the weaknesses identified by NRT member conservancies was the under-representation of women in their institutions.

"Getting women more involved community conservation, both at decision-making levels and at a household level, is one of NRT's biggest challenges" says Gabriel Nyausi, NRT's Community Development Officer. "Livelihoods in the conservancies revolve around pastoralism, and the place of women in this is far away from men. This is the cultural perception we are up against."
There are currently just a handful of women in NRT conservancy leadership roles. Josphine Ekiru, now NRT's Conflict Resolution Officer, made local and international headlines last year when she encouraged peace talks with two warring ethnic groups, whose conflict was impacting both people and wildlife in the local area. These talks resulted in the formation of Nakuprat-Gotu Community Conservancy, of which Josphine is now chairperson. Not only that, but Josphine almost single handedly exposed the areas most notorious poachers, and despite facing death threats used dialogue to change the mind-sets of hardened criminals. Several of these reformed poachers have now found employment as conservancy rangers. 

Josphine isn't the only woman shaking things up in the NRT community. It seems that although they may be outnumbered, they certainly are not reticent. Beatrice Lempaira, who was awarded Conservation International's Indigenous Fellowship prize last year, is one of just two NRT member conservancy managers. "Women are severely underrepresented in NRT conservancies and this has to change" she says. "Women have a crucial role to play in the future of community conservation. For a start they form a considerable proportion of the population across NRT CCs, and they interact with their natural resources

every day. They understand the landscape, and have a unique traditional knowledge of it. Also, although the men might never admit it, women play a unifying role within the household. They can be a powerful tool in conflict resolution. Moreover women have a right to be involved in community conservancy decision-making, and there needs to be widespread awareness-raising of how they can exercise this right."

So what is NRT doing about this?

NRT are working with USAID and the Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) to design a programme specifically to encourage women leadership. The SGF was founded by Josephine Kulea, a Samburu woman and child rights activist, to address the issue of female empowerment in northern Kenya. Josephine has rescued over 80 girls who have fled to her seeking refuge from arranged marriages (often to men three times their age), being taken out of school, genital mutilation, and other harmful practices. The SGF helps young women to tackle these tricky cultural issues, and advocates the power of education for girls. Josephine is having such an impact on the girls and young women she works with that she received an award from the United States Ambassador in Kenya for her outstanding work as an advocate for women. She was also nominated the United Nations Person of the Year in 2013. 

With funding from USAID, NRT and the SGF hope to raise the profile of women in community conservation. If statistics from this article show us anything, it is that the few women already involved are having a massive impact on improving livelihoods, conserving wildlife and securing peace in northern Kenya. An impact that is not only being noticed locally, but at an international level too.

Josephine Kulea. Photo: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard


On the 22nd October Richard Roberts from the Mara Elephant Project contacted us about the plight of a young milk dependent calf, approximately 10 months old, whose mother had been found dead on the plains of the Masai Mara that day. Closer inspection of the dead mother revealed that she had been poached and died from a poisoned spear wound on her cheek. She had been photographed by a visitor happily feeding with her little baby underfoot, both alive and well.

The next day the tragedy unfolded and the same visitor found a very different scenario with the baby confused by her dead mothers side, but in the company of the rest of the herd, trying to come to terms with it all. The little calf was then whisked away by the rest of the herd but not before she had said her painful goodbyes to her lifeless mother. As a milk dependent baby she would have little hope of survival without being rescued as a lactating mother in the herd would never have enough milk to satiate two calves. The tragedy was reported to the Mara Elephant Project and KWS. Everyone realized that her young milk dependent calf had little hope of survival without her Mum and that she needed to be rescued before the herd travelled great distances with her, possibly into Tanzania where the hope of any rescue would be lost forever. The baby without sufficient milk would only get weaker and weaker and eventually be unable to keep up with the herd, and be left behind. 

Coordinating together with the DSWT elephant Keeper rescue team, who had by now landed at Olare Orok airstrip, Richard Roberts of MEP had the unenviable fraught task of separating this baby from the herd before she was spirited away and lost. With careful manoeuvring the calf was separated by vehicle in order to enable the DSWT Keepers to quickly leap from the moving land cruiser and restrain the baby. This took some planning as the matriarch was extremely protective of the young orphaned baby. What had been observed in the meantime was when the orphaned calf tried to suckle her (She had her own calf a little older than the orphaned baby so was lactating) she would push her away, not prepared to share her milk and deprive her own baby. The separation was done extremely effectively by the DSWT, so experienced in restraining elephants, and with so many others from the MEP prepared to jump in and help. The little calf was wrapped and strapped and prepared for her flight to Nairobi, while the rest of the team from the MEP together with the DSWT funded Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit headed by KWS Veterinary 

Officer Dr. Limo went to do an autopsy on the dead mother to absolutely confirm her cause of death. Her tusks in the meantime had been removed by the authorities. 

We named the little girl Roi and she was watched and cared for closely throughout the flight by the DSWT Keepers and given some tranquilizer to take the edge off what had been an extremely traumatic and heartbreaking day for her. She finally arrived at the DSWT Nursery in Nairobi National Park after dark. She was a very robust baby from the outset not having been without mother's milk for long, and thankfully very soon took to the bottle which made things simpler. She was confined to a stockade for a couple of days but remained aggressive and clearly agitated when the others left her orbit for the day out in the Park. We made the decision to let her out despite her not having tamed down as much as we would ideally like and this made all the difference. She was immediately comfortable and content amidst the older orphans who paid her attention and provided her with the elephant love and affection she craved and missed. She was hooked on her milk bottle so continued to gravitate towards the Keepers for her three hourly feeds. 

As the days have passed little Roi has settled in completely and is now extremely attached to her Keepers, familiar with the routine and is playing once more and she appears to be genuinely happy.