In Kenya, conservation is a cornerstone of the economy.

Kenya is a country of diverse, rich habitat. The humid broadleaf forests along the coast of the Indian Ocean give way to lush grasslands and savannas. The Kenya Lake System of the geologically dramatic Great Rift Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, Mount Kenya — the nation’s namesake — is the second-tallest mountain on the continent.

A burgeoning service industry continues to grow in Kenya, and ecotourism plays a big part in East Africa’s strongest economy. Visitors flock to the country to see Africa’s “Big Five.” But, lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo are just a handful of the treasured species in this nation. Baboons, zebras, giraffes, flamingoes, and more are enjoyed by tourists, thanks to a strong national park system and a network of community conservancies.

Beyond the service sector, agriculture, forestry, and fishing account for over a quarter of Kenya’s gross domestic product. Raising livestock is popular in the savannas, and the country’s primary crop exports are coffee and tea. But, even with such fertile lands, overpopulation and a lack of infrastructure contribute to frequent food insecurity in Kenya.

The Challenge Today

A booming population and wildlife compete for resources to survive.

Kenya’s population has grown exponentially over the last century. Since 1928, a citizenry of 2.9 million has ballooned to more than 49 million today, with the population projected to hit about 65 million by 2030.

Widespread poverty has made many citizens reliant on natural resources. Farming often pushes into critical wildlife habitat, converting habitat and putting humans and wildlife at odds.

Elephants and other wildlife now roam onto farms that are in close proximity to their natural habitats and often fall victim to retaliatory killings when crops are destroyed.

Pastoralist communities engaged in livestock grazing are degrading habitat and wildlife food sources, but human well-being and conservation do not have to be at loggerheads.

Unabated poaching is decimating wildlife populations.

Kenya is home to a rich array of wildlife, making East Africa a hotspot for wildlife crime — acting both as a source and transit route for illegal wildlife products. The lucrative ivory trade encourages poachers to go to extraordinary measures to avoid detection in their slaughter of elephants. Not only are elephants poached but rhinos are also killed for their horns, and giraffes are illegally hunted for their meat, skin, and tails. 

Unsustainable development threatens community livelihoods and wildlife.

Habitat fragmentation continues to be a threat to many species in Kenya; including the endangered Grevy’s zebra, whose numbers are only a twelfth of what they were a few short decades ago, giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in Kenya over the last three decades, and other wildlife, like elephants and lions, are also steadily declining. As the country tries to build an infrastructure to support its population, it often comes at the expense of areas rich in biodiversity.

Meeting the Challenge

Our solutions to protecting Kenya's unique biodiversity:

Spread the Word
Giving a voice to giraffe conservation.

The Tsavo-Mkomazi transboundary landscape of Kenya and Tanzania is one of the last strongholds for Maasai giraffes. Giraffes tend to not receive the same attention as other large mammals such as elephants and rhinos; however, African Wildlife Foundation seeks to draw much-needed attention to a species that is also under dramatic threat of extinction. An estimated 32,000 Maasai giraffe are living in the wild when less than a decade ago the population was estimated to be at double its current size. AWF is implementing giraffe conservation efforts in the Tsavo-Mkomazi transboundary landscape of Kenya and Tanzania in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service — to ultimately duplicate these efforts continent-wide.

Transboundary patrol units protect wildlife across key habitats.

The Kenyan and Tanzanian international boundary faces several environmental challenges that are a hindrance to achieving a healthy ecosystem and thriving wildlife populations.

Livestock incursion, rampant poaching, and wildlife crime necessitated a need for collaborative efforts between the two countries. With support from the European Union, AWF is supporting communities to engage in wildlife conservation as well as joint patrols along the border to combat illegal wildlife activities in the Tsavo ecosystem.

AWF is working with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenyan police, and the Office of Director of Public Prosecution to train law enforcement and prosecutors on various strategies to ensure the conviction of wildlife criminals.

As a result, the conviction rate for wildlife crime in Kenya has risen to 91 percent from only 44 percent in 2013. In addition to training patrols and scouts, AWF also trained farmers in ten hotspots to curb human-wildlife conflict through sustainable livestock and agricultural practices.

Community Empowerment
Proving the success of community-based conservation.

The LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular tourist destination — it is connected to the coastal tourism circuit, and Tsavo East is one of the most visited parks in Kenya.

This sanctuary is one of the community areas richest in wildlife and is part of the transboundary ecosystem that connects Tsavo West and Mkomazi National Reserve in Tanzania supporting critical populations of wildlife. With support from The United States Agency for International Development, AWF is strengthening management of the LUMO Conservancy to protect wildlife while simultaneously returning benefits to the community. AWF introduced technology such as the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) and CyberTracker, which helps develop more comprehensive species distribution and threat maps, to effectively monitor and manage the sanctuary and to improve wildlife protection strategies.

Community-based conservation, such as community conservancies, has proven successful in reducing poaching levels in several areas in Kenya. By setting precedent for upcoming conservancies in the Tsavo landscape, a multitude of social, ecological, and economic benefits will prevail.