Our latest publication is out!

Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock_Global Ecology and Conservation

Title: Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock in a heterogenous pastoral landscape: Implications for coexistence and community based conservation.

Authors: Peter Tyrrell, Samantha Russell and David Western.

Abstract: Rangelands across the world are home to millions of pastoral people and vast wildlife populations, which create a complex landscape for conservation. Community based conservation has been used to promote human-wildlife coexistence on pastoral lands, protecting wildlife outside of official protected areas. With the spread of community based conservation within the rangelands there is a need for more information on successful management practices. This study provides an example of this in the South Rift, Kenya, where seasonal movements of pastoralists aid coexistence. We used Density Surface Modelling (DSM), a novel tool for conservation managers in the rangelands, to predict wildlife and livestock abundance across the landscape and seasons. Wildlife grazers, zebra (Equus burchelli) and wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), follow expected metabolic patterns, feeding on short grass outside the conservation area in the wet season, before returning to the taller-lower quality grazing in the conservation areas during the drought. Browsing wildlife, impala (Aepyceros melampus) and Grant’s gazelle (Nanger granti), move from open grassland and bushland areas into thicker, denser browse as the seasons progress towards the drought. Livestock, both shoats (Ovis aries, and Capra aegagrus hircus) and cattle (Bos indicus), are managed by community grazing committees, who enforce a grazing plan that creates spatialetemporal separation between wildlife and livestock. They exploit the high-quality grazing in the livestock area during the wet season while conserving pasture in the conservation area, which is utilized only as forage is depleted. This ensures that wildlife has access to a diverse resource base across all seasons and potentially reduces competition, allowing for a diverse and abundant wildlife community to coexist with livestock. This highlights the importance of the presence and maintenance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity of forage resources, through livestock management, for community based conservation. We encourage more community based conservation initiatives in pastoral landscapes to incorporate livestock management into planning.

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Students from Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute come to Lale’enok!

On 20th November 2017 SORALO had the pleasure of hosting 31 students of KWSTI Department of wildlife management diploma students and their lecturer Deputy principal Roselyn Onyuro for an exposure tour to the south Rift landscape. For the week they were with us they were given a presentation by John Kamanga, chairman of the Olkiramatian group ranch and Director of SORALO, and they visited various places of the Shompole and Olkiramatian group ranches to understand the land uses, including the community conservancies/grass banks, livestock rearing areas and also farming areas.

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Students enjoyed talks from various departmental resource assessor teams at Lale’enok Resource Centre and went every day for field work for learning with the following teams:

  1. Ecological monitoring
  2. Habituation of Baboons
  3. Carnivore monitoring game drive

The students also learned about water issues by visiting the Oloibortoto water intake and were able to talk to WRUA committee representatives and learn how they manage water system in their farms and also the type of crops growing there.

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Joel Meja Sumare and Sisco join the hike walk to the waterfall with the students which was an adventure because on that Saturday night before we received rain which then delayed the start of the walk in the morning trip to hike, and also our bus got stuck near Entasopia dispensary which also delayed the walk. So we only managed half of the walk hike but the students enjoyed it a lot as it was hard work!

KWSTI walk

On Saturday evening the KWSTI students together with Lale’enok resource assessor teams sat together and shared their experiences and filled in the feedback questionnaires. We then sat together around the bonfire to share stories and talk about the wildlife we all liked the most.

Many thanks to all those involved and we very happy for everyone’s cooperation and we are grateful to have had the chance to interact with young, eager learners.

Ashe O’leng and welcome back again.

University of Nairobi Field Trip

A few weeks ago SORALO had the pleasure of hosting 18 University of Nairobi (Department of Geography and Environmental Studies) Masters students and their professor, Samuel Owuor, for an exposure tour of the South Rift landscape. The students came from a range of backgrounds – from biodiversity and natural resources management, water resources management, geomorphology, climatology, to environmental planning and management. While they were with us, they visited the various areas of the Olkiramatian and Shompole group ranches to understand the various land uses (the livestock rearing zone, the community conservancies/grass banks and the farming areas). They learned about the water issues through visiting the Oloibortoto water intake and talked to local WRUA representatives. They undertook a strenuous hike up the rift valley wall to see the different habitats, and enjoyed talks from the various resource assessor teams at the Lale’enok Resource Centre and went on a walk with the habituated baboon troop. On their trip down, they visited the Olorgesilie Prehistoric site and spent some time in the Magadi town learning about the Magadi Soda Factory on the way out.

The main aim of this fieldtrip was to expose the students to a variety of practical situations, people and landscapes in order to facilitate their learning. In addition, the institutional and personal ties between SORALO and the University of Nairobi were strengthened.

This field trip was the epitome of practical learning. It was also interesting to see the locals were the pioneers and at front line of all the conservation work being done in this part of the South Rift and made me see what sustainable livelihoods and environmental conservation should be” – Environmental Planning and Management student

The resource assessors and staff at Lale’enok thoroughly enjoyed the visit, as did the students, all of whom rated their experience at Lale’enok ‘very informative’ (5, on a scale of 1 to 5 presented in a Feedback Questionnaire). Other valuable feedback came out of the questionnaires we administered, and validated many of our efforts in the South Rift. We are grateful for the chance to have interacted with so many great young minds.

I would highly recommend this place for our department to engage more students in research work. This would give them an opportunity to meet their academic requirement while at the same time enrich the documentation of the work being done by the Research Centre…[if] we had a week here we would probably do more and learn more” – Environmental Planning and Management student

Stakeholder engagement in conservation is very important. SORALO has done this excellently” – Environmental Planning and Management student

I was so much impressed by the way SORALO has ensured maximum collaboration with the stakeholders and most importantly the landowners to make it work to conserve the area as well as enhancing the livelihoods. I didn’t know people can actually live with wildlife, but yes, it is possible” – Environmental Planning and Management student

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What I found most relevant in this trip was the practical experience to relate course work in class with actual stuff in the field. The chance to also relate with the community was a big plus” – Environmental Planning and Management student

Landforms describe all the geographical aspects of a place, be it biogeography, human geography, environmental geography, climatology, hydrology etc. This trip provided almost all landscape terrains; plains, mountains, escarpments, arid and semi-arid [lands] among others. All types of rock were available…the most interesting part was the sedimentary erosional cycles of Olorgasaille. That was breathtaking, and the fault line, in real life” – Geomorphology student

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Different layers of deposition can be identified and related well with what is taught in class” – Geomorphology student

When I came to this place I sincerely didn’t know what to expect. I came open-minded ready for anything. I’ve come to understand more about my country and gained knowledge and understanding about different ecosystems and the way they work and late with each other. Coming here was a great experience for me” – Environmental Planning and Management student

Many thanks to all those involved, and for your important feedback. Ashe oleng.

Birds of Lale’enok

One of the often overlooked attractions of the OlKiramatian region, is its abundant variety of birds. Flocking by the thousand, they fill our skies, dot our trees, and enchant us with their songs of plenty. From Lilac-Breasted Rollers to Kori Bustards, you can spot a truly remarkable diversity, and our McGill interns this year set out to do just that. Whether under the pretences of research or the draw of curiosity, they spent their free time this summer searching out and photographing our local avian residents, and have provided their best photos for us to showcase to all of you one of Ol’Kiramatian’s many manifestations of biodiversity. Enjoy.

 

Fieldwork Completion, Feedback Meetings, and Reflections of an Anthropologist-In-Training

Soon, after almost three months working in the Olkiramatian and Shompole communities and calling Lale’enok Resource Centre home for the second summer in a row, it will be time to travel back to Canada. I’m Kathleen Godfrey, a Masters student from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) studying anthropology, in particular how Maasai people relate to land, livestock, wildlife, and what the experience of ‘conservation’ in these two South Rift communities looks like. Along with my outstanding research assistant and translator, Dan Sepis, I have spent my time learning from over 40 community members about the land management system(s) in place here, how people feel about them, what challenges and strengths individuals identify in their communities, and how wildlife, livestock, and humans manage to coexist in this ecosystem.

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Elders walk through an olopololi

In an effort to make my research more accessible to the wider Olkiramatian and Shompole community members, I held feedback meetings with all of my interviewees. Too often researchers come and ‘extract’ knowledge and information from their study sites without creating the space for further learning and conversation. I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible were clear on (1) the topics my research covered, (2) what my (very) general findings were, and (3) what I aimed to do with the information once I went back to Canada. I also wanted to provide an opportunity for anyone to raise questions or concerns they might have about my project, or about the issues discussed in general. It was wonderful to hear from elders, leaders, women, youth, and others at the feedback meetings while we lunched on goat and rice. In getting feedback from participants on the process of my research and even holding the feedback meetings themselves, I found everyone feeling exceedingly positive.

As my fieldwork wraps up, I want to express gratitude to everyone who took the time to speak with me, shared their opinions and lives with me, as well as those who made these conversations possible – all the SORALO staff at Lale’enok, Dan, and other kind strangers who let us know when the person we were looking for was “out watering his shoats and that [we] should return in an hour”.

I plan to come back in January 2018 to conduct a second round of feedback meetings in Olkiramatian and Shompole, and present interviewees with a brief report of findings after I have transcribed all of my interviews and have more in-depth information. I hope to make this research as collaborative as budgets allow, and look forward to my return.

Ashe oleng.

Kathleen

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Photo by Christina Puzzolo, former SORALO intern

Earth Expeditions 2017

This past week we’ve had the pleasure of hosting our annual Earth Expeditions team, and seeing their program in action has been a blast. Earth Expeditions is the result of a collaboration between the Miami University and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, which partners with organizations around the world to bring together sharp, inquisitive minds to provide global learning opportunities. Here in Kenya, they study community based conservation and the Maasai traditional ecological knowledge that allows for human-wildlife coexistence.
The Lale’enok Resource Centre, with the help of the Community Resource Assessors and staff, created a week long program to keep them entertained and learning.
Each morning, the eighteen members, made up of graduate students, conservationists, and education professionals, broke up into teams to take turns experiencing some of what the centre has to offer. The group got to walk with the baboons with Sisco, go on a morning drive to learn about the issues of large carnivore research with Guy and his team, and get out into the field with the ecological rangeland monitoring experts to conduct wildlife counts and monitor vegetation cover. On top of the morning activities, everyone in Earth Expeditions got the chance to design their own inquiry projects, where they conducted short, focused experiments to try and answer questions about the South Rift landscape that they found interesting. The group was also treated to two game drives, a presentation about ecological and lion-human coexistence research, and a lecture from the Director of SORALO, John Kamanga.
The visit also offered the chance for a number of cross-cultural experiences. The group spent an evening visiting one of the nearby Maasai homesteads, where they saw demonstrations of day-to-day activities, milked goats, and talked to Maasai pastoralists about their livelihood strategies. Later, the Reto Women’s Group set up a market at the Centre where they sold their beadwork to the group. Lastly, several local schools came to Lale’enok to sing, dance, read poetry, and act, which the Earth Expeditions team then followed with their own cup-song performance.
Here is what some members of the Earth Expeditions team had to say about their experience at Lale’enok:
“The Earth Expeditions visit to Lale’enok was a once in a lifetime experience. We learned invaluable lessons about Maasai culture and community based conservation from those who know it best. What I will remember most is the warm and welcoming atmosphere and how passionate each community member is about their work and way of life.”
– Katie Pugh, Conservation Officer, Rainforest Trust
“Visiting Lale’enok Resource Centre​ ​was an inspiring​ ​and ​​invaluable​ ​experience​ ​both personally and professionally. One of the maxims of my organization is, “conservation is a human endeavour,” and​ ​the​ ​innovative community based conservation practiced​ at Lale’enok is an​ ​excellent example of this.​ The community driven ​system, utilizing Maasai researchers and game scouts is helping to improve both the ecosystem and livelihoods of individuals​ in the South Rift. ​Getting the opportunity to briefly participate in this​ ​unique endeavour and meet the people powering it is something I will always prize.”

– Dana Howard, AmeriCorps Program Manager,

Lale'enok facilitates the advancement of community livelihoods, sustainable resource management and human-wildlife coexistence through the integration of research, livestock development, tourism, and other income generating community projects. As a physical place for information storage and sharing, the centre provides the community with a forum to engage partners in knowledge creation, dissemination and application.