Lewa | Lewa Conservancy | Kenya
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy PDF Print E-mail

 

As you are bound to have heard Prince William and Kate Middleton recently became engaged whilst on holiday in Kenya in October.We thought we would take this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about the area which William chose to ask his bride and why it is so special.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (also known as Lewa Downs) is located in northern Kenya. It was formed in 1995. It is a wildlife sanctuary incorporating the Ngare Ndare Forest and covering over 62,000 acres (250 km2). The Conservancy is home to a wide variety of wildlife including the rare and endangered black rhino, Grevy’s zebra and sitatunga. It also includes the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and African buffalo). Lewa holds over 12% of Kenya’s black rhino population and the largest single population of Grevy’s zebras in the world (approximately 350 individuals).

The Conservancy is also home to the Northern Rangelands Trust, an innovative partnership with a number of communities to the north who have given land for the preservation of wildlife. Lewa has its own education program that helps develop schools and students. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is located south of Isiolo town but north of Mount Kenya.

Lewa was once a cattle ranch; it then became a guarded black rhino sanctuary, and it is now the headquarters for a non-profit wildlife Conservancy, which has gained a world-wide reputation for extending the benefits of conservation beyond its borders.

The Craig/Douglas family first came to Lewa Downs in 1922 and managed it as a cattle ranch for over 50 years. Unlike many other ranchers in the area, they had always valued the wildlife that shared the land with the cattle and developed wildlife tourism as an additional activity.

By the early 1980s it was uncertain whether any black rhinos would survive in Kenya. Poaching for horn had reduced Kenya’s rhinos from some 20,000 in the mid-1970s to a few hundred by 1986. It was clear that the only way to prevent their complete extinction was to create high security sanctuaries.

In 1983 the Craigs and Mrs. Anna Merz — who funded the program — decided to establish the fenced and guarded Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary at the western end of Lewa Downs. The rhino sanctuary was stocked partly with animals from other reserves and partly by isolated individuals from northern Kenya, whose likely survival was a matter of months at most. The black rhino that were caught settled down and bred, and white rhino were added.

After ten years, it was clear that the rhinos needed more space, and the sanctuary was expanded to cover the rest of the ranch, and the adjoining Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve.

The perimeter was almost entirely fenced, for security and to ensure that elephants did not raid crops in neighboring farms, but the ecological connections between Lewa and neighboring wildlife areas were maintained by leaving gaps in the fence for animal movements. At the same time the entire property was converted to a wildlife sanctuary, as the Craig family handed over the management of the ranch to a non-profit organization — the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The conservancy is home to Lewa Airport. Annually, the Lewa Marathon is held in the Lewa Conservancy for fundraising purposes. Unlike normal marathons, Lewa Marathon is contested on dirt track.

 

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University of Nairobi