Location: Masalani Location, Ijara District, Garissa
Postal address: P.O. Box 46, 70105 Masalani
Manager: Mahat Abubakar
Contact: E: ishaqbini@nrt-kenya.org T: +254 (0) 7261 15392
Ethnicity: Abdullah Clan of Somali origin
Population: 14,500
Land Ownership: Community Land
Core Conservation Area: 19,000 hectares
Main Livelihood: Pastoralism
Key Wildlife Species: Hirola, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant
Year of Registration: 2007
Staff Employed from the Community: 40
Annual Operating Budget: US$ 167,880

Background

While the majority of NRT conservancies host at least one endangered species, Ishaqbini holds a collection of the rarest. The hirola is only found within this region in Kenya, and only a few hundred remain in the wild. The cooperation of the Somali pastoralist communities that make up Ishaqbini has been crucial to the conservation of this species, and to its habitat. Ishaqbini is now part of NRT – Coast, a satellite NRT support centre with a headquarters in Lamu. NRT-Coast is both better equipped and situated, to focus on the challenges of the coastal conservancies.

The People

There are several Somali clans that call Ishaqbini home, and in the past this has been a source of tension. A lot of emphasis has been placed on unity using the same strategies that proved effective in easing ethnic tensions in other conservancies. When the board at Ishaqbini was accused of manipulating the latest elections, the Council of Elders asked three members of its Conflict Resolution Team to visit the conservancy with NRT’s assistant community development manager, Gabriel Nyausi. The Council is the NRT’s governing body, made up of respected elders from each conservancy, and key partners in government, the private sector, NGOs and donors. As a result of the meetings they convened, the conservancy board agreed to organise another, more transparent, round of elections. Easing the unrest between clans has enabled the conservancy to concentrate its efforts in conservation and a sustainable rangeland management that benefits everyone.

The 22 rangers of Ishaqbini have been another vital tool in keeping the peace, and protecting the wildlife. They were trained with funding from NRT and generous support from the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the Manyani Training School in the famous Tsavo National Park. Passing with flying colours, the team emerged with knowledge in discipline, field craft, wildlife law and wildlife monitoring.

Ecosystem

The exact population number of remaining hirola varies considerably, but it is undisputedly Africa’s most endangered antelope. With assistance from NRT, KWS, The Nature Conservancy and IUCN, elders from the communities of Hara, Korissa, and Kotile that make up Ishaqbini Conservancy have been able to resource the funding and knowledge they need to protect this precious species. In August 2012, 48 Hirola were moved into a fenced off, predator-free enclosure of 3,000 hectares. This was the first ever fenced sanctuary on community land in Kenya dedicated for the conservation of a critically endangered species. Taking further measures to protect the hirola left outside the sanctuary, the community set up a grazing committee to reduce the competition with livestock for food and water, which in turn has also helped to rehabilitate the rangeland. 4 rangers were assigned to monitor the hirola within the sanctuary, and to increase awareness of the antelope’s plight in the local communities.

These measures are paying off. The hirola rangers have built up an incredible knowledge of each individual animal, how the herds are composed, and where they are found. In 2014, a combined aerial and ground count confirmed between 73 and 80 individuals within the sanctuary. This is an increase of nearly 22% per year since the original introduction of 48 individuals in 2012. Compared with populations outside, herds inside the sanctuary are larger, have higher numbers of calves and sub-adults, and overall better body condition. This is a clear success for the conservation of this iconic and highly endangered antelope species.

The white giraffe of Ishaqbini - In February 2016, Ishaqbini camel herders reported seeing a white giraffe while out grazing. Despite the best efforts of the rangers, research and monitoring team, and community members, it was never spotted again. Was it rumours? The rangers launched a second mission in April to find out... 

Visiting Ishaqbini

The Conservancy currently hosts self-catered camping along the banks of Lake Ishaqbini or in the bush. Ishaqbini community rangers are made available for bush walks and the Conservancy Manager is available if guests want to learn more about Ishaqbini, its activities or the surrounding communities. Community members are interested in establishing a more formal tourism operation in the conservancy in the near future. Given the area’s unique species and biodiversity coupled with its abundant wildlife, Ishaqbini has great potential for tourism development.

The Future

With assistance from NRT and partner organisations, Ishaqbini aims to achieve the following in the coming years:

  • To convene, along with all other NRT community conservancies, in annual general meetings to share plans and progress
  • To take part in a livelihood baseline survey, commissioned by NRT, with a view of determining the status and priority of education, health, water, jobs, food security, infrastructure and current availability of government services
  • To continue the strengthening of wildlife security and monitoring within the conservancy
  • Implement a conservancy constitution, with the aim of building accountability, transparency, equity and effective representation in Ishaqbini
  • To sign a partnership memorandum of understanding, along with all other community conservancies, between themselves and NRT
  • To register as not-for-profit
  • To develop a conservancy management plan endorsed by the constituent community in Awer
  • To receive continuing support for the hirola sanctuary