Ol Pejeta Conservancy works hard to make sure that the community surrounding the conservancy is not in conflict with the wildlife in the neighbouring conservancy. Sirima, an area located on the conservancy’s south-west, isn’t densely populated but is located in a vast area where wild animals relocate due to the comparatively better pasture and availability of water.
The area, though part of the conservation area, falls outside of the electric fence that keeps most of the animals safely inside the conservancy. Thomson gazelles, impalas, common zebras and elephants have the greatest impact on the area. Away from predators, these species have multiplied rapidly to escalate crop raiding, destroying villagers’ farms.
At Ol Pejeta the aim is to grow a sustainable development model that conserves biodiversity, particularly endangered species, and contributes to the economic growth of rural communities. Partners, including PA-MOJA, have joined the efforts needed to succeed in wildlife conservation. To this end PA-MOJA has offered to donate ten percent of its funds directly to conservation work at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
To push wildlife back into the conservancy, a careful plan must be made to organize the required number of people, vehicles and a helicopter. Community members are mobilized to collaborate in the exercise and a 400 metre gap in the electric fence is created to let the animals through. All efforts concentrate at guiding and encouraging animals to move through the gap.
Several groups of about ten people position themselves in strategic positions. Several Landcruiser trucks venture into the small bushes and soon mixed wildlife species scuttle out of the brush. People now line up and walk forward to keep the antelopes and the zebras running into the designated area.
Raised human voices can be heard: Songa! Songa! Twende! Twende! (Push! Push! Move! Move!) The scared zebras whinny and the antelopes snort loudly. A scared waterbuck runs right through the human ‘walking’ fence and back into the bushes. There is a tone of excitement on this wildlife herding experience but that wears out when plans have to be revised when too much wildlife seeps back into hideouts.
Teams have move back again and again. This goes on for six hours. A helicopter, hired at a cost of $1,000 an hour, gets ready to move.
It is easy for an eland, the largest of all antelopes, to swiftly leap over a person’s head. However, the helicopter, with its huge percussive whir, intensifies the pressure and in fright the animals scamper right in.
The entire event was well coordinated using radio communication and a scouting team perched on top of the Sirma hill. Game rangers used powerful binoculars to provid directions to ground teams from that vantage point. A small team from Kenya Wildlife Service also offered assistance.
In his remarks at the end of the drive, Samuel Mutisya, the Wildlife administrator at Ol Pejeta Conservancy said: “Today is a day of great impact on both the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the community; we drove more than 300 animals back into the conservancy out of the roughly 500 animals of different species who were on the loose.
The key aim was to enhance continuous conservation of not only the wild animals, but also maintenance of cordial relations with the community.