Community & Conservation Kenya Rwanda

Changing lives through inspiring community support: July 2020

The 11th of July was a memorable day across three of our areas of operation as we undertook plenty of community support work.

In Rwanda, we officially handed over the newly built cottage to Mama Speciose and her children. We were able to buy beds, mattresses, sheets and blankets (something that her family had never before owned). It was a touching occasion indeed.

Community support Rwanda

The house in its completion – photo credit William Karoki

Word of the event spread far and wide and we were delighted to welcome Prosper (Senior warden of the Volcanoes National Park) along with other government officials to help us celebrate. Our team of staff and many of the community neighbours who had all helped lend a hand carrying materials to construct the house were also there as ribbons were cut and crates of sodas were popped open!

Community support Rwanda

Together we were able to make a truly impactful difference to this family’s lives. Murakoze cyane! Thank you very much, to our wonderful friends around the world who sent in donations to make this dream come true.

Community support Rwanda

Thank you from the Speciose family – photo credit William Karoki

Our Loldia House team were also able to help make a big difference to many of their community neighbours in the lakeshore village of Kasarani. We identified forty of the most vulnerable families living in the area and were able to gift each of them 4.5kg of beans, 24kg of maize flour, 3kg of sugar, 2 liters of cooking oil, 100g of tea leaves, a big bar of soap, 2 cabbages, 1.5kg of tomatoes, 2kg of onions and a reusable fabric face mask.  We hope to continue this work for a further two months.

Community support Kenya

Community support Kenya

Loldia Community support – photo credits Keith Mwenesi

In the Masai Mara we carried out our second community food drive for the same eighty families who we gave assistance to last month. The morning was a wonderful success with each family receiving 4kg of beans, 24kg of flour, 5kg sugar, 3 liters of cooking oil, 100g of tea leaves, a bar of soap, and a cabbage.

Community support Kenya

The families remain incredibly grateful for this support which we will continue for at least further two months for these particular families.

Community support Kenya

The last few months have been a real challenge to so many people and we are honoured to be able to facilitate this important work. We wish to thank our friends at The Mara Rianda Charitable Trust for their generous support of this particular food drive, and all of the other kind people who sent donations through, your help is going a very long way in making tangible differences to the lives of our neighbours. Ashe oleng!

Another food drive for our Masai community neighbours – photo credit Julius Karia

If you feel moved to support our community food drives we would be most grateful for any donation, big or small. You can easily make a donation via our secure online payment link.

Conservation highlight: The Mara-Meru Cheetah Project 

Over the past two decades, global cheetah numbers have declined by 30% primarily due to increased human activities which directly and indirectly negatively influence their survival. The global wild cheetah population is estimated to be as low as 7,500 animals with the Kenyan population (around 1500 individuals) considered to be one of the strongholds for the species in Africa.

Cheetah conservation Kenya

Photo credit Darryl Balfour

Established by Dr. Elena Chelysheva, PhD (a Russian zool­o­gist with broad knowl­edge of cap­tive and wild chee­tah ecol­ogy and behav­iour and over 30 years of expe­ri­ence), the mission of the Mara-Meru Cheetah Project is to promote the conservation of cheetahs through scientific research, community involvement and education.

Between 2001–2002, Elena developed an original method of chee­tah identification which included identifying and cataloging unique spot patterns on the limbs and tails of individual animals. In cheetah cubs, clear spots appear first on the limbs, then when the cub grows up, on the tail and then lastly on the body. Unlike hyena spots, they do not fade with time but become brighter and provide an opportunity to identify a cheetah from the age of just one month old; hence why limb spot patterns are preferentially used over body spots.

This important work has allowed her team to build a Mara cheetah pedigree, enabling the kinship between generations to be traced. This work had never been done before and so far, relationships between 90 adult cheetahs out of 120 have been revealed.

Cheetah conservation Kenya

Cheetah conservation Kenya

Nashipai and cubs – photo credit MMCP

The project aims to establish the major threats currently faced by Mara cheetahs. These have included predator conflict (mainly with lions and spotted hyenas), human conflict (with livestock owners), and disease. The level of tourism impact on cheetah behaviour and welfare is also continuously assessed. By analysing and evaluating these various interactions the team suggests ways in which to best protect this endangered species.

Some of the other interesting findings that have come to light over years of documentation, show that typically cheetah females live solitary lives except for the time when they are raising cubs, and males live either solitary or in coalitions. However, in Kenya untypical cheetah social behaviour has been described; such as cubs accompanied by either two or more adult females or by both an adult male and female. The reasons behind this unusual behaviour are still being researched.

The project researchers often conduct workshops on cheetah biology and conservation at our Mara camps for the benefit of our guides and guests. These talks and presentations train the teams in cheetah identification techniques in order to encourage them to participate in cheetah conservation.

Mara-Meru Cheetah Project workshop for Governors’ guides 

The guides will often report sick or injured cheetahs, new cubs or other unusual sightings whilst out in the field to the project who can then respond appropriately.

Monitoring a sick cheetah – photo credit MMCP

The project interviews local communities as these discussions provide an understanding of the knowledge, challenges faced and perceptions of Mara wildlife between different generations of the Masai. The team conducts conservation educational lessons for kids in the Mara schools and in the Reserve during special safaris for pupils and their teachers. The team created and donates the colouring educational book “Let’s go wild” designed to promote peaceful coexistence with wild animals.

You too, can get involved in cheetah research by sending in some of your photos of walking, standing or sitting cheetahs (profiles of both sides are preferable) to mara-cheetah@mail.ru together with your name as well as the date and location of the sighting (if you have it), so that they can tell you what is known about the cheetah you observed. Photographs of mother cheetahs with their cubs particularly aid in building the Mara cheetah pedigree as they help to reveal parental relationships between individuals, estimate cheetah lifespans, record personal reproductive history and assess survival rate of cubs.

Photo credit Alisa Karstad

By Alisa Karstad, Community & Conservation Manager, Governors’ Camp Collection.

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