Isiolo conservancy ropes in locals in bid to save beisa oryx

Isiolo conservancy ropes in locals in bid to save beisa oryx

Beisa Oryx, an endangered antelope species, seen here at Bufallo Springs Game Reserve in Isiolo County on May 5, 2021. The Nakuprat Gotu Wildlife Conservancy has started engaging locals to help in saving the antelope from extinction.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

A conservancy in Isiolo has rolled out a community project to protect beisa oryx — also known as the East African oryx — an endangered species of antelope which is under serious threat due to poaching.

The Nakuprat Gotu Wildlife Conservancy has started engaging residents of Ngaremara Ward living near the Buffalo Springs and Sarova Shaba Game reserves where herds of the animal with a fawn-coloured body and dark markings on the face and legs are found.

The conservancy has in the last five years grown the beisa oryx antelopes’ population from 600 to over 900, which translates to about 10 per cent of their population in Kenya.

Speaking during the launch of two-year-project funded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Union, project manager Paul Edong’a stressed on the need to protect the species which is hunted for its long spear-like horns, meat and hide.

“Besides securing beisa oryx antelope, we must as a community shun destroying their natural habitat through felling of trees for firewood and charcoal burning for the project to be successful,” said Mr Edong’a.

Empower youths

Under the project, local youths will be equipped with various skills including masonry, carpentry, plumbing, welding and mobile phone repair under a programme dubbed Ujuzi Manyattani.

The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) Isiolo Director Abdilatif Boru said the skills will provide locals with alternative sources of income to discourage them from engaging in poaching and deforestation.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Isiolo Senior Warden Peter Mbote said the government has employed conservancy rangers and increased the number of community scouts to assist in conservation efforts in the region.

Isiolo County Wildlife Chief Officer Ibrahim Chala lamented that the presence of livestock within the game reserves poses a challenge to conservation efforts as some of the herders are armed with guns.

The official said that last weekend, the county enforcement officers and rangers drove thousands of livestock away from the Buffalo Springs Game Reserve and warned herders against grazing within wildlife protected areas.

“Our county is nearly becoming a desert due to wanton tree felling. We must protect the ecosystem to ensure wild animals do not die due to lack of pastures,” Mr Chala said.

The public has been asked to plant more trees and water them to maturity in a bid to provide better habitat for the survival of the beisa oryx.