The Sera Community Rhino Sanctuary in northern Kenya’s Samburu County -- the first community conservancy in East Africa to establish a black rhino breeding sanctuary -- is boasting increased rhino numbers.
Working with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) -- a membership organization led by 43 community conservancies -- the rhino conservancy took in 10 critically endangered black rhinos in 2015 and grew the population to 19, not counting the present rhino calves.
The local pastoralist Samburu community has proven that local communities can do much in changing the narrative of endangered species conservation in Kenya.
Among them is 30-year-old Salome Lemalasia.
Lemalasia, who comes from the local community, known in the past for hunting wildlife, became the only female ranger in the sanctuary protecting the rhinos with her life.
“I sleep, eat and spend all my time with my favorite rhino, who is called Lojipu. I started taking care of him since he was nine months old till now. He is six years old,” Lemalasia told Anadolu Agency.
Among the rhinos, Lojipu is docile only to Lemalasia and will act as a wild animal to other rangers or other people.
“He would come to where I sleep and wake me up so that I can give him milk or food. He is very gentle with me. When I take walks in the wild area where there are other rhinos, Lojipu will come to me. He will smell my scent and come walk with me,” Lemalasia said, noting that the rhino, which weighs close to 1,400 kilograms, is more like a son to her.
The local community here is leading the endangered species’ recovery while reaping benefits from it through tourism revenue from the Saruni Rhino Lodge, which has been erected in the sanctuary, and through conservation. They also are able to get education bursaries and security for the greater community and employment.
Since its establishment, there has been no case of poaching reported in the 107 square kilometer sanctuary.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Reuben Lendira, Sera community conservancy manager, lauded the initiative, saying it proves that local communities can do a lot to conserve and protect wildlife if given a chance.
“We are pastoralists, and we only do livestock rearing, and they do suffer because of droughts. That is why the community went into conservation because now we are benefitting from tourism and keeping the wildlife safe,” he said./aa