Friday, May 31, 2013

Ellies on Helipad

Elephants on the helipad at Lentillle

The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
David Attenborough

2011 -  Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching
2012  - 384
2013 -  first half of year 117
Total  estimated population of elephants in kenya - 35,000

Africa was home to millions of elephants until the mid 20th century. The 1980s saw the first major wave of poaching putting numbers down to 600,000. Today Africa’s elephant population is about  472,000

Increase in population and the new resurgence of poaching put elephants at enormous risk.

Kenya's current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings = 470 dollars  and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.
Last month, a Chinese smuggler caught in Kenya with a haul of ivory was fined less than a dollar  a piece.
The smuggler,  who was arrested carrying 439 pieces of worked ivory while in transit in Nairobi as he travelled from the DRC to Hong Kong, was fined $350  and was then set free.
Such fines pose little if any deterrence with experts suggesting one kg of ivory has an estimated black market value of some $2,500.

The Kenya Wildlife Service is a very serious force taking security of elephants as its number one challenge and the newly proposed Kenyan law to beef up sentences is an important step forward. 

Elephants need all the help they can get.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

The New Kimanjo Health Centre!

After a year of hard work, last month nurses and patients  moved into the out-patients department of the new Health Centre. Whilst work continues to finish the conversion of the old buildings into staff accommodation, landscaping, and finishing touches to the Community Health Workers Building and Youth Friendly Centre, we are proud to have finished work on a very high quality 24 bed hospital.  We are currently beginning the equipping of the In-Patient building. The facility comprises three wards, a  maternity unit,  a large operating theatre, X-ray room,  doctor’s accommodation, laboratory, out-patients wing  and reception building. This ‘cottage’ hospital would not look out of place in a small European town (well - perhaps rather more open ventilation!), and the building team have surpassed themselves in the quality of the finishes.  The roof has been designed for maximum water catchment with large holding tanks, whilst the pipeline from the newly sunk borehole should ensure the water supply during drought. 
Reception building with Out Patients to the left and services to the right

This has been a long and challenging process made possible through the belief and dedication of the donor and of an enthusiastic community. This is a government facility built on government land, made possible entirely through private funding. As such we spent almost a year working with the GOK health department, and the community, before we could begin construction.
In-Patient building

We are aware that this is only Phase One of the process: the year ahead will be  equally challenging as the government works with us to meet its  partnership commitments to post new staff  and we work on more private partnerships to train and support the new team so that we can grow into this  facility.
Cleaning Day in March!
A prime focus will be to drastically reduce maternal and infant mortality by having mothers access pre and post natal care, as well as increasing access to hospital deliveries.  The multiple factors of female circumcision, poor nutrition, diseases of poverty and teenage pregnancies mean that childbirth is the leading cause of death for pastoralist women – as many as 1 in 40 women will die in childbirth -  something that should not be seen by any of us as acceptable in the Twenty-First century.
The Pharmacy
Enormous thanks to all who have made this journey possible so far - (with the risk of sounding like an awards ceremony speech) our thanks go to: our wonderful donor, the Management and Liaison committees,  the DPHN and her team,  the DPWO, the Community Health Workers,  all the local Chiefs and community leaders, the Builders and their Sterling Crew of workers... and the Wider Community who have lent their voices of support. … and EVERYONE who has had added enthusiasm along the way.

We  now continue to work together to improve the health of the whole community. The NHP  team of CHWs  starts today their final training to make them a fully fledged  Community Health Unit. 

The future of  community healthcare begins today.
.....And a wonderful nurse!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ranger Academy

At the crack of dawn last Friday, Timothy ole Mosiany (red t-shirt), our Operations Manager, and I headed off on the 600 kilometre drive to the Kenya Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Training Academy at Manyani in Tsavo National Park.

We went to see 9 of our conservation Rangers under the command of Corporal LenisaLolojuu (kneeling, left) at passing out parade. Their very smart new uniforms had been kindly supplied by the African Wildlife Foundation, who also sponsored their course fees. William Kiprono, Director of KWS reviewed the Parade, and Dame Daphne Sheldrick was guest of honour.

They had been on an intensive 3-month Ranger training course learning about conservation and anti-poaching operations, and covering specialist subjects such as first aid, GPS navigation, conservation marketing, and wildlife law.

The parade, passing out a total of 68 conservancy Rangers from all over Kenya, was an impressive display of drill, accompanied by the KWS brass band, on the Academy parade ground in the magnificent heart of Tsavo West National Park.

The men have now arrived back on duty at Ol Lentille with huge enthusiasm and new skills, ready to transfer their learning to our other 18 Rangers.

The Rangers play a vital role at Ol Lentille, responsible as they are for preventing poaching, livestock theft, and illegal grazing. At Ol Lentille, we have had only one elephant killed by poachers in 7 years. This compares with 36 at a nearby Conservancy, and 298 in our wider area in 2012 alone. At this, our sole poaching incident, we were able to mobilise very quickly and prevented the poachers from removing the ivory from the elephant they had killed, even though night was closing in. The following morning we called in bloodhounds, and tracked the culprits to a distant village where, unfortunately, scent was lost. The ivory was safely handed over to the Kenya Wildlife Service for secure storage.

Pictured L-R: Back Row Rangers Lemasian, Leparkiom, Lesootia, Lokitama, Meshame, Sinore. Front Row Corporal Lolojuu, Rangers Mayiani, Morongo

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day....Masai Mamas on motorbikes

I love this picture of Paulina on a quad bike.

Being a Masai woman it is  tough to break out of the submissive  stereotype.. but Paulina did it with a vengeance when she became the first woman on the ranch with a driving licence 7 years ago - also proving that she is her father's daughter!
With her trainings in massage and beauty therapy she broke new ground.
But it was listening to her opinions onKenyan elections and politicians yesterday that I realised that she is more of an independent thinker than any of us.

What Kenya needs is more Paulina's in elected positions. Unfortunately these elections don't look as if women have made the gains needed- apart from the allocated women reps.

Let us all work for a fairer representation for Paulina's daughter.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Samburu Ceremony

Lentille accountant James and Lentille High School student Vincent

This week the Samburu clan ceremony for the new age set of junior elders took place. This clan chose their new President and Vice President and gave their ceremony the name of "Lmuget Le Nkarna"  The new age set is "Lkuponu" means "adding up".  Such a ceremony only happens once every 15 years  (for each Clan) which is the length of the age set. 

The ceremony was conducted in a temporary boma constructed by the mothers of the morani over the course of a week, on the sweltering Kipsing plateau… hard to see a blade of grass as temperatures soared to 38 Celsius in the shade… only there was no shade. Those mothers are just so tough and resilient- bringing the animals with them many have walked two or three days to get here. 

The young men had an arduous week of killing cattle (one for every moran- with almost 1,000 warriors present) …. And feasting… with a lot of ceremonial fire burning , dancing and a prohibition on sleep.

As usual  in Samburu culture nowadays it is 21st century rubbing up against life as it has always been. It was not possible to tell  which moran was from the villages who live every day out on the plains with their cattle and goats - never having been near a classroom- and which  are university graduates (I met three - including a lawyer and  Lentille accountant James).  It is always this juxtaposition and easy acceptance of tradition and change that makes Kenya so vibrant and alive. 

Mama Vincent
15 years ago there would have been no piki pikis to carry water from the river for the women- yet everything else in the boma was as it must have been 200 years ago. Tiny mud huts in which you needed to duck extra low to avoid the mass of meat hanging to dry from the roofs, skins pegged to dry in front of each hut.. and so much smoke inside as tea brewed that you wonder how anyone has any eyesight left. 

The morans, including the university and high school graduates, are also in virtually the same regalia as they would have been for centuries: red ochre, beads, shukas  rungus , spears and knives. Yet mobile phones are ubiquitous- just as important for the non educated youth as the educated- how else can you find out what price cows are fetching in Kipsing or Isiolo market without walking all the way?
Another 21st century touch- Vince with his Man U bracelet.....

The other major first for this Lkoponu would have been the helicopters flying in …. Pre election Campaigns for those Oh So Busy Kenyan Politicians…… at least they now know where the pastoralist lands are… who knows perhaps they will feel compelled to follow up on some of those election promises.  I doubt any Samburu will be holding their breath very long for that one.
Plenty of beef....

Never have I seen so much meat on display….. the women dry it or cure it with oil and it will keep for a year... however be warned , if you are carrying home thirty revellers after five days of eating meat in hundred degree temperatures make sure you have an open pick up … even Samburu stomachs are not cast iron…..

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snakes... answers...


the very beautiful snake in the house  is ... (of course)... a brown house snake (black faced),
 the less than beautiful fat snake is a highly venomous puff adder..... this is a large one.. and .... have to admit, very dead.....
the small shoelace snake is a baby red spitting cobra...
the  little black snake is blind snake...

Did not manage to get a picture of the most beautiful green tree snake......

Friday, January 18, 2013