27 December 2017

Simiyu Newton, Research Officer -

To accomplish our conservation goals, Born Free Kenya cannot operate as an island. Partnerships are key! By working with both the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the local communities around Meru National Park, our mission to protect wildlife becomes achievable. Be that as it may, there are diverse encounters and experiences. 

There are advantages in such a co-operation with KWS. Due to the good working relationship, we have some leeway in getting approvals from KWS to undertake wildlife protection projects and our support goes far in enhancing their conservation and management work. There are also numerous opportunities to connect and work with other stakeholders in the sector. In a few instances, we also have to comprehend their structures particularly where there are changes, and how they work and then we fit in with negligible obstruction. 

Local communities around the Park are dynamic and interesting to work with.  Connecting with them provides the best initial line of defense in securing the wildlife. By fostering mutual benefits through projects that address some of their needs, this increases tolerance to wildlife and wins their support in protecting them. 

Living in the Park is a different ball game altogether and has its ups and downs. It gives us a chance to closely interact and associate with KWS staff. We feast on sounds of different animals and at times directly encounter them while on desnaring missions. In the Park, traffic snarl-ups are unheard off. The only thing that can hold up traffic – one vehicle, that is - is the wildlife such as an elephant herd blocking a road.  To top up such sights and sounds, the fresh and crisp air is priceless! 

My favourite work is tracking lions. It allows me to spend time in the field observing these big cats and learning more about their behaviour, interactions and factors that affect them. When I joined Born Free, I was scared witless during my first desnaring mission despite KWS rangers accompanying us. Imagine walking on foot, combing bushes in search of snares in an area packed with buffaloes, elephants and lions?  But with time, I learnt how to manoeuvre and avoid the wild animals while in the bush. It’s an activity I now enjoy. 

In two instances, we have had uninvited guests in our house such as baboons after inadvertently leaving a window open only to return a messy and smelly abode. Chaotic to say the least! It has made us become more watchful and aware yet understanding given that we are the intruders in their habitat. 

Living away from the family represents a tough test of adjustment. After the initial distress, I learnt to cope, adjust and adapt to my new work station. I travel to Nairobi once a month to see my family. They too have adjusted to my schedule. 

With commitment and passion, we all get the job done - conserving wildlife for posterity.


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