Formed in 2001, in the Wamba District of northern Kenya, The Sera Conservancy Trust is 12 years in the making. I know it of old. It’s what’s known as an anchor conservancy, links Melako and Biliqo-Bulesa conservancies and functions not only as a wildlife conservation area, but also as the place that the Samburu, the Borana and the Rendille, three historically rival ethnic groups, have found strong and consistent common cause. It’s enlightened. Experimental. A very special place.
Small wonder then that it is, funds willing, about to become the world’s first community managed black rhino conservancy. An idea developed since 2008, in conjunction with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), the representative umbrella conservation group to which Sera and many a northern Kenyan conservancy belongs, it’s an important step in managing a more than critical situation. Kenya is home to 85% of the world’s black rhino. Heavily poached as of the 1970s, a population of some 20,000 was reduced to 400 in 1990. ‘Critically endangered’ hardly describes it.
Taken across the whole period since 1990, things have improved – owing to a concerted anti-poaching programme, both national and local, from grassroots education programmes to combat training for rangers to the passing of laws with real teeth. However, the ongoing strengthening of the economies of countries in which the rhino horn holds high value means the last few years have seen an explosion in highly organised poaching operations. The situation is dire.
Which is why Sera’s step is so significant. The community is taking a stand. It has the knowhow, the expertise. The planning’s been exemplary. Now, as I understand it, it’s a matter of making sure the money’s in place. All fingers crossed.