Once Established, Laikipia National Park Will Protect Critical Migratory Corridor for Wildlife and Tourism
NAIROBI, Kenya, November 11, 2011 -- Yesterday the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) presented the Kenyan government with a gift of land that will help establish the country's newest national park.
The 17,100-acre intact property, to be named Laikipia National Park once it is proclaimed, provides a critical link between neighboring protected areas, allowing elephants, rhinos, big cats, and other species to safely navigate a wildlife corridor that spans Central Laikipia in Kenya.
AWF officially handed over the land to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in a ceremony at Harambee House in Nairobi. "This is a wonderful gift to future generations of Kenyans," said President Kibaki. "We are committed to wildlife and will preserve this land."
President Kibaki then handed the title for the land to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman, Mr. David Mwiraria. Mwiraria said, "This is one of the greatest days in my career with Kenya Wildlife Service. The future Laikipia National Park will be a nucleus for conservation and Kenya Wildlife Service in Laikipia. We thank the Honourable President for his commitment to conservation and assure African Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy that this land will be well looked after."
Other government officials, members of the AWF Board and staff, and a representative of TNC attended the ceremony. Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania and vice chairman of AWF, commended the work of AWF in securing this property and congratulated Kenya for being on the frontline of conservation.
This Laikipia property had long been targeted as a conservation priority because of its strategic location in a regional wildlife linkage. Following six years of difficult negotiations, AWF facilitated the acquisition of the Laikipia property from a private landowner for approximately US$4 million (393 million Ksh). TNC provided half of the funding for the purchase, while AWF provided the other half.
The land for the future Laikipia National Park is situated in Central Laikipia and provides an open savanna ecosystem that supports a wide diversity of species, from the endangered Grevy's zebra and elephant, to the patas monkey, Somali ostrich, and Beisa oryx.
"Once established, the impact of Laikipia National Park will extend well beyond its borders," said Patrick Bergin, CEO of AWF. "Together, African Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and Kenya Wildlife Service are conserving an ecosystem that is vital to this region, while also enhancing the economic livelihood of Kenyans living around the park. Laikipia's protection will stimulate local commerce, particularly tourism."
AWF President Helen Gichohi said, "Securing the land for a future Laikipia National Park demonstrates the African Wildlife Foundation's approach to conservation. We targeted an area with significant ecological potential that was under severe threat and worked diligently with our partners, both governmental and otherwise, to secure it. We now entrust this property to the Kenyan people. We are excited about what this means for the region."
Private ranches supporting tourism and wildlife dominate the area around the future Laikipia National Park. This plot of land sits among several of them, including the 70,000-acre, government-owned ADC Mutara Ranch, supported in part by AWF; the privately owned, 110,000-acre Ol Pejeta Ranch; and the 49,000-acre Segera Ranch. These ranches function as safe havens for wildlife. The land for the park will connect these vital properties, allowing for the unimpeded movement of wildlife. This is of particular significance for wide-ranging species, such as the elephant. Central Kenya hosts the country's second-largest elephant population.
"People are at the core of our conservation work in Kenya, and it's the people of Kenya who are gaining ownership of a significant piece of land," said David Banks, Africa director for TNC. "As the peoples' guardian of this land, we know that the Kenya Wildlife Service will be a good steward."
"We are grateful to African Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy for helping to secure this strategic property. The future Laikipia National Park links the wildlife-friendly private and group ranches to the north with protected areas to the south, occupying one of the last remaining gaps in this historic corridor that once extended from Mt. Kenya through Laikipia into Samburu and on to the Mathews Range," observed Julius Kipng'etich, director of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). "This passageway is especially important during periods of drought, because wildlife is dependent upon the areas to the south that provide water sources."
The creation of a new Laikipia National Park will be a significant addition to the Laikipia District for tourism and wildlife. The establishment of a new national park will ensure that Laikipia continues to flourish as a premier tourism destination long into the future.
About Laikipia National Park
Established on November 8, 2011, Laikipia National Park is the newest national park to be created in Kenya. The 17,100-acre property is part of a larger conservation landscape. The park provides core habitat for a range of wildlife species, and its central location and adjacency to other conservation properties protects a critical wildlife migration corridor. Laikipia National Park is located in the Laikipia District in Central Kenya.
About African Wildlife Foundation
Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF's programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa's people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted conservation enterprises that benefit local African communities, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation--all to ensure the survival of Africa's unparalleled wildlife heritage. AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. For more information, visit www.awf.org.
About Kenya Wildlife Service
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) conserves and manages Kenya's wildlife for the Kenyan people and the world. It is a state corporation established by an Act of Parliament Cap 376 with the mandate to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya, and to enforce related laws and regulations. To tackle the many issues confronting wildlife and biodiversity conservation in Kenya, KWS employs a multi-pronged approach, engaging different interest groups, stakeholders, and partners. For more information, visit www.kws.org.
African Wildlife Foundation (AWF)
Kenya: 706 101083 / US: 202 939 3333
The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
Kenya: 0774 157984