Supporting night-time patrol teams at Ol Pejeta during the pandemic
A former cattle ranch, Ol Pejeta Conservancy was formed in 2004 and is now a haven for more than 14,000 animals, from lions to Eastern black rhinos. A bastion of wildlife conservation, the Conservancy protects many highly threatened species, provides a sanctuary for >30 neglected chimpanzees and supports local communities with programmes that demonstrate the real benefits of wildlife for local people.
With the Ewaso Nyiro River running through it, Ol Pejeta stretches across approximately 110,000 acres. The ecosystem is full of wildlife, with 95 species of mammals, 540 species of birds, more than 700 species of plants and nearly 1,000 invertebrate species with many more yet to be identified. The threatened species in the landscape include black and white rhinos, lions, cheetah, wild dogs, grevy’s zebra and the grey crowned crane.
However, despite the successes in conservation and community engagement, and its abundance of wildlife, Ol Pejeta remains threatened. The outbreak of Covid-19 had an enormous impact. With few visits by tourists, the lifeblood funding that many conservation organisations’ day-to-day operations rely on, dwindled. To mitigate the financial blows, the Conservancy took strong measures to ensure it remained operational, implementing salary cuts, cancelling orders for new uniforms and training programmes, and reducing fuel budgets.
The effect this had on the rangers and National Police Reservists (NPR), who work tirelessly every day to protect the Conservancy and its wildlife, was particularly severe. Having appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) readily available is essential to maintain not only effectiveness, but also morale. In this harsh semi-arid landscape, clothes and other equipment can easily become damaged and uncomfortable, meaning that much of a ranger’s time and energy can be wasted attempting to repair gear that, realistically, is irreparable.
Poaching activities often occur during the darker hours of the day at last light or night. Every evening at 6pm, the entire NPR team is deployed for the 12-hour-long night-time patrol. During these late hours, the conditions in Laikipia are cold and windy with temperatures sometimes plummeting to 10 degrees Celsius. To support the night-time patrol team, ForRangers funds were used to provide:
10 GPS units that greatly increased the team’s ability to accurately plot locations where incidents took place. This has helped to identify areas with particularly high levels of incidents and target surveillance efforts accordingly
60 waterproof jackets and trousers that have enabled the general security rangers and NPRs (armed rangers) to patrol during the rainy season when, without such clothing, bad weather conditions can seriously dampen spirits. Furthermore, with the addition of these water-proof clothing, rangers can carry out stake-out operations in water-logged or swampy areas
60 thermal long johns and 60 warm jackets that ensured the teams remain comfortable and warm during their night-time patrols
45 rechargeable LED torches that have provided better illumination during night-time patrols
Having warm clothing has boosted the team’s morale enormously, contributing to more effective anti-poaching patrols and security efforts. Japan Moronga, an Assistant Warden with the NPR, commented on the PPE and other equipment that his team has received:
“Having the right gear makes work easier and enjoyable”
Japan also added that the PPE was both functional and comfortable, important factors to take into consideration when working in this difficult and dangerous environment.
The generosity of donors when emergencies such as this occur cannot be overstated, helping rangers to carry out their duties comfortably whatever the conditions. Despite the reduction in funds due to Covid-19, zero poaching has occurred during the last three years and the team hopes that the addition of this equipment will contribute towards a fourth successful year.
Thank you so much to all those who donated to support the ForRangers initiative. Your generosity has helped to ensure that grants such as this can be distributed to areas where they are needed most.