The northern part of the Laikipia-Samburu Heartland, just north of the equator, where Mt. Kenya's foothills give way to desert, is inhabited by some 107,000 members of the Samburu tribe, a nomadic, pastoral people also known as the Liokop.
The Samburu, who herd cattle, goats, sheep and camels, share the Maa language and many social customs with their Masai relatives to the south. But the Samburu tend to live in smaller clans, in settlements of perhaps four to six livestock owners.
Encountering zebras or giraffes or ostriches in the African bush is fairly routine. Encountering Grevy's zebras or reticulated giraffes or blue-necked ostriches is another matter, as these animals are rarely found outside northern Kenya.
These three varieties enrich the great array of wildlife living in the harsh lands of Laikipia-Samburu. Away from the Uaso Nyiro River the landscape turns rocky, austere and largely devoid of vegetation except for sere grasses and stunted acacia trees. Yet huge numbers of animals thrive in this forbidding environment.
Heartland Offers Chance to Test New Conservation Approaches
In the world of wildlife conservation, the Laikipia-Samburu Heartland is truly a land of opportunity.
A starkly beautiful area with an exceptionally wide diversity of wildlife, Laikipia-Samburu is one of four large regions in East Africa identified as African Heartlands by AWF for the purpose of conserving wildlife.
Swaziland pastoralists known as Shewula are breaking with tradition by giving over 3,000 hectares of land used for grazing cattle to a large new game reserve. In return, donors are providing funds to build tourism facilities on the land and to train the community in conservation, management and marketing skills.
Rinderpest, a highly contagious bovine plague that has killed millions of Africa's cattle, buffalo and other wildlife in the last century, is finally coming under control.
The disease has been eradicated in West and Central Africa, Pan Africa Rinderpest Control (PARC) experts said at a spring conference in Nairobi, and is contained in most of East Africa.