A Message from Our CEO
Welcome to the first edition of our newsletter. Space for Giants has hit the ground running since the official launch of our UK chapter at the House of Lords on December 12th, with some significant wins in our bid to create new models for conservation, enabling giants to live alongside people in our rapidly changing world. However the current elephant poaching surge threatens to overshadow much of our hard earned success. As a consequence we will have to adjust our priorities to tackle this problem both here in Laikipia, in Kenya, where we our based and internationally, where the ultimate solution lies. As we progress with our plans and activities, we will endeavor to keep you informed in a manner that I hope inspires you to join us, in whatever capacity you can. Please let us know what you think of our newsletter & work. The Maasai have a saying “Meisha elukunya Nabo Engeno” which translates to “one head cannot contain all knowledge”. For conservation to succeed, we must work together.
Mitigating human-elephant conflict
The 163 km West Laikipia Fence project offers the greatest potential to mitigate human-elephant conflict in north Kenya. This project completes the Laikipia fencing strategy which aims to prevent elephants from leaving areas where they are tolerated (such as wildlife conservancies and ranches) and going into areas where they incur costs on local people (such as smallholder farmers). The West Laikipia Fence has been constructed in eight phases, with each phase belonging to a different landowner or community group. With the support of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Space for Giants has been leading the process of supporting & training landowners and community groups to build, monitor and manage their respective sections of the West Laikipia Fence. We are delighted to have recently completed the second phase of this project, marking a major turning point in our battle to reduce human-elephant conflict. Seven sections of this fence are working well. However the owners of one section of the fence are unable to maintain it. Here we are lobbying for a third party to come in to take over the management of this fence section until such a time as the owner is in a position to do so.
The other major challenge is fence breaking elephants-the naughty giants of the Laikipia plateau. Here we are identifying the most persistent fence breakers through our dedicated elephant researchers, Joseph Wahome and fitting them with “smart” GPS collars that send us an early warning text message when the elephant is approaching a fence that he might break. With the support of the KWS and Ol Pejeta Conservancy we fitted Ananais, a fence breaking elephant, with one of these collars in February. He is now the 6th fence breaking elephant we have collared. Their movements demonstrate where we are succeeding & where we need to do more. Later this year you will be able to watch Ananais in real time over the internet, on our newly vamped website.
Lauren Evans, a PhD student at Cambridge University, is collaborating with Space for Giants to undertake a landmark study on elephant fences to understand the ecological and social reasons for why some fences work while other fences fail. We anticipate that Lauren's work will provide lessons for practitioners and policy makers across elephant range states in Africa and Asia.
Perhaps one of our single biggest achievements in 2012 has been the production of a first draft of the conservation strategy for the 10,000 km2 Laikipia County. Once again with the LWF’s support and partnership Space for Giants is taking the lead on this. On the 22nd of March, the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service officially opened a stakeholders’ conference to finalise the conservation strategy. This conference was an enormous success, with almost 100 delegates from among community groups, landowners, conservation organisations and local and national government. The strategy is now being finalized and it is anticipated this will be officially launched in June, providing a blue print for the future of this extraordinary landscape and the wildlife it contains.
Our most ambitious project in 2012 is to secure an operational platform in Laikipia to develop new models for conservation in Africa. The Space for Giants “Conservancy Project” aims to convert a privately owned ranch into a new hub for conservation and community support, bringing badly needed conservation investment into West Laikipia. To this end, Space for Giants is in negotiations with landowners on the ground and has formed new and exciting partnerships with The Nature Conservancy and the Aspen Valley Land Trust. Look for more updates on this growing area of focus and work in the near future
Preventing the Illegal Killing of Elephants
On February 22 Space for Giants CEO was invited by the Kenya Wildlife Service to attend an enormously significant event for the Kenyan Elephants- the launch of the National Elephant Conservation and Management Strategy. Members of the Space for Giants team played key roles in resourcing and contributing to the development this strategy. It is a landmark strategy for the protection of Kenya’s elephants in the coming years and will hopefully have a real impact on tackling issues like poaching and conflict.
Kenya’s elephant strategy couldn’t come at a more important time. There is an elephant poaching surge across Africa and Kenya is no exception. High demand in China and the Far East, soaring ivory prices and inadequate policy, law and enforcement are contributing to this worrying trend. To tackle this problem in Laikipia Space for Giants organised and chaired an emergency summit for local stakeholders. This has produced an integrated proposal to raise the stakes for poachers operating in Laikipia through a rapid response team and by building awareness locally, nationally and internationally to deal with the issue of rising demand in Asia. Local stakeholders have committed significant funds towards this project but we still need to raise the balance to cover the cost of Laikipia’s rapid response team.
Training the Next Generation of Wildlife Conservationists
Tobias Ochieng is a rising star within Space for Giants. He is currently managing the West Laikipia Fence project and has demonstrated enormous capacity to get things done on the ground. His bid to study for his PhD at Cambridge University was given a boost recently with the news that he has received partial funding from the Tellus Educational Foundation and is in the second round for a WCN scholarship. If this is successful, then Tobias will have the bulk of his funding in place but will need to raise a further $50,000 for an October start date. We are working closely with the Wildlife Conservation Society in the US & Cambridge University in the UK with the aim of raising the balance of funds. There is no doubt that Tobias will continue to be a rising star in the field of African conservation.
Space for Giants have two teams entered into the Lewa Marathon who are “running for giants”. We hope to raise significant funds in partnership with Tusk Trust for our anti-poaching efforts. Space for Giants will also be hosting a Post Marathon Animal Party at Kongoni’s in Nanyuki on the eve of the marathon for our athletes and friends. All you animals out there are welcome!
In between all the meetings and planning, the team has been busy spreading the word about our work. Check us out on Facebook for regular updates (and tell your friends), and we’ll shortly be announcing the launch of our new website, which will have all sorts of great new features including interactive tracking & conservation.