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Lewa

Our Commitment

Zurich Zoo supports Lewa Wildlife Conservancy LWC, a private reserve in Kenya, by making substantial contributions toward gamekeepers' salaries and equipment. For example, we funded the refit of a helicopter so it can be flown at night. We also support projects that reduce the conflict between humans and wild animals. These involve erecting protective fences that protect the cattle belonging to local communities without affecting the migratory wild animals. In Lewa, numbers of black rhinos are increasing so quickly that some have already been relocated to other conservation areas. Zurich Zoo funded the resettlements. Our other partners in Kenya are Mount Kenya National Park, Bill Woodley Mount Kenya Trust and the Northern Rangeland Trust.

Conservation in Practice

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy owes its success to close cooperation with locals. It has become one of the biggest employers in the region. As well as protecting endangered animal species, it runs several schools and clinics and supports potable water projects.

Challenges

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a large reserve in Kenya covering 250 square kilometres. Home to the rare Grévy's zebra as well as endangered rhinoceros and elephants, it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status as part of Mount Kenya National Park. Poaching and destruction of habitat are serious threats to the rhinoceros and elephants, as Asian buyers pay high prices for illegal products made from horn and ivory. Both white and black rhino are at risk. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, the black rhino is critically endangered, i.e. threatened with extinction. In the 1990s, only 2,500 black rhinos were counted in the whole of Africa – 400 of them in Kenya. Thanks to intensive conservation efforts and an efficient population management scheme, the population is slowly recovering and there are now more than 600 black rhinos in Kenya.

The elephant migration corridor, a 14-kilometre fenced-off route, is reinstating the historic elephant migrations between Mount Kenya National Park and reserves situated to the north, including Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. As well as facilitating genetic exchange between the increasingly isolated herds, the corridor helps to defuse the conflict between small farmers and the elephants, which used to plunder the farmers' fields. The elephants were quick to adopt the corridor, which leads them along a river bed and, in some places, through an underpass crossing the national highway.

Wildtierkorridor in der Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Elephants cross the national highway via an underpass.

Despite high security measures and tireless efforts, animals in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy often fall victim to poachers – usually at night. A helicopter was therefore refitted so it can also be flown at night and the endangered animals can be kept under surveillance around the clock. In the event of an attack by poachers, an armed security team can rapidly be deployed as reinforcements anywhere in the park. The helicopter is also used to find injured rhinos and to deploy the veterinary team.

Helikopter überfliegt die Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenia
Rhinos need protective surveillance arount the clock.

There are two benefits to resettling black rhinos. When new conservation areas are created for them, the rhinos find suitable and secure habitats with dense bushes. A high rate of population growth can be guaranteed because they no longer have to compete with other animals for the best territories. Today, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is home to more than 120 rhinos. Several animals have already been resettled in the nearby Borana Conservancy and in reserves of the Northern Rangeland Trust.

Nashorn-Translokation in Kenia
Experienced staff is crucial to succesfully resettle rhinos.
Geoffrey Chege, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy LWC
Nature Conservation Biologist Geoffrey Chege has worked at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy for 14 years. He originally began working there as a volunteer. Nowadays he is responsible for the Research & Monitoring, Wildlife and Veterinary Medicine areas, and coordinates Zoo Zürich’s projects on-site.
Dr. Martin Bauer, Head Curator at Zoo Zürich
Dr. Martin Bauert, Head Curator at Zoo Zürich, is the director of the Zoo Biology department and is in charge of nature conservation projects at Zoo Zürich. He maintains close communication links with those working on the project in Lewa. He is Vice President of the specialist Swiss commission for the interests of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).