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Taking School Children to See Wildlife Up Close

  • 02/27/09
  • Muoria

Public awareness (particularly among the local communities of the Grevy’s zebra habitat) on the plight of the Grevy’s zebra and other wildlife conservation issues is a key activity of AWF’s Grevy’s zebra conservation/research project. In addition, Kenya’s National Grevy’s Zebra Conservation Strategy, which launched in June 2008, recognizes the importance of local community participation in Grevy’s zebra conservation. This is in recognition that nearly all the wild Grevy’s zebras are found on community-owned land.  This implies that Grevy’s zebra conservation efforts can only bear fruits if members of the local community become the species’ guardians.

It was against this background that we have initiated a vigorous public awareness campaign on Grevy’s zebra conservation in Isiolo community areas within Samburu Heartland.

Towards the end of last year, we were approached by the Head Teacher of Kula Mawe Primary School to help finance a trip of the School’s Environmental/Wildlife club to Buffalo Springs and Samburu national reserves. We saw a good opportunity to initiate our Grevy’s zebra awareness campaign.

Unfortunately, the roads in the area are in a terrible state and hiring a bus to transport the students and their teachers would have been too expensive for our project. However, we promised to help the school, so we continued toying with the idea. Luckily, AWF recently acquired a new bus which could be used for such purposes.

[caption id="attachment_466" align="aligncenter" width="233" caption="We took primary school kids into the reserves to get a first-hand encounter with wildlife."]We took primary school kids into the reserves to get a first-hand encounter with wildlife.[/caption]

The school is some 80 kilometers east of Buffalo Springs National Reserve. “Kula Mawe” literally means “eat the stones” – a name which it must have acquired from its abundant stones. On 18th February 2009, Felix (AWF’s field assistant/bus driver), Geoffrey (AWF’s Grevy’s zebra Research Assistant, and myself left the Nanyuki office for Kula Mawe Primary School so that we could start off our trip to the reserves very early on 19th Feb.

We arrived at Isiolo town at 4:00 in the afternoon. I remained at Isiolo planning the next day’s logistics (packed lunch, water etc.) while my colleagues left for Kula Mawe. They called me to say they got to Kula Mawe around 6:00pm. They were treated to a heavy dinner organized by the local leaders.

I understand that most of the students did not sleep that night due to excitement. At 5:30am on 19th February, the drivers were ready to start the historic trip but the students had apparently been ready long before them.

At around 7:30 am, they found me at Isiolo finalizing procurement of supplies for the trip. There were a total of 28 students (14 girls and 14 boys), two teachers, two parents and a photographer to capture the day’s activities. They were also accompanied by Kula Mawe’s ward Representative (popularly referred to as “Councilor”) to County Council of Isiolo which manages Buffalo Springs National Reserve. This councilor happens to be the chairman of the Game Committee of the council.

After a hurried breakfast at Isiolo we started for Buffalo Springs National Reserve. We had a brief discussion on conservation, the wild animals we expected to see, and the expected behavior in the reserves. We started our game drive at Buffalo Springs Ngaremara Gate had a brief discussion at Buffalo Springs (after which the reserve is named) before proceeding to Samburu National Reserve via a small rural town called Archers Post.

The students saw elephants, reticulated giraffes, buffalos, warthogs antelopes (including impala, gerenuk, Grants gazelles, dik diks, and beisa oryx).They also saw baboons, vervet monkeys, and many bird species (including secretary birds, Somali Ostriches, Helmeted and Vulturine Guinea Fowls among others).

I'll post more photos next.

About the Author

Dr. Paul Muoria leads AWF’s Grevy’s Zebra research and conservation project in the Samburu Heartland of Kenya. A few decades ago, more than 15,000 Grevy’s zebras inhabited Africa. Today, less than 2,500 remain. Paul is fighting to turn this trend around. In a sea of stripes, Paul is working to identify and record each individual Grevy’s and to track their movements. Also, he is training scouts to help engage communities and safeguard these endangered zebras from marching towards extinction.

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