On Thursday 21st April 2016, 139 rangers from 26 NRT conservancies officially graduated the Kenya Wildlife Service Manyani Academy. In the pass out parade ceremony, NRT CEO Mike Harrison congratulated the graduates, saying was fantastic to see how proud they all are of their new roles. He paid special recognition to the ten female NRT rangers graduating, saying they were "a role model for other women to get involved in wildlife conservation". He also emphasised the importance of NRT's longterm partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). "I'm very proud of the relationship we have with KWS, in policy work, field operations and training like this"
Mike expressed his gratitude to the US State Department - Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, whose generous support enabled the 139 rangers to take part in the four-month training. And lastly, he mentioned Samburu County Government, who he said were "leading the way in county government support to community conservancies".
There were 26 rangers from NRT North Rift, 10 from NRT Coast, 89 from NRT Centre, and 14 from anti-poaching units 9-1 and 9-2 graduating. They were among a total of 270 rangers - the others from KWS national parks and reserves. Of the five special recognition awards given, NRT rangers scooped three. Deborah Chepkew from Masol Conservancy won Ladies Best Drill and Turnout. Best in Academics went to Daniel Legei from Ngare Ndare Forest. Male Best at Drill and Turnout went to 9-1 ranger Losas Lenyakopiro (find out more about Losas below).
The graduates have emerged with skills in bushcraft, wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching, intelligence-gathering, discipline and professionalism. They return to their conservancies able to share these skills with other rangers, and better equipped to do their jobs.
The impact the rangers have on wildlife and the communities they serve cannot be understated. They contributed to a 53% decline in elephant poaching since 2012, and assisted in finding and returning hundreds of stolen livestock. They are raising wildlife awareness in their communities, and collecting valuable data on key species that is helping to shape conservation strategies.
The story of Losas Lenyakopiro
Losas was a former livestock herder from Sera Conservancy. Like so many young warriors, he was at risk of getting involved with a violent crowd. Raiding cattle from neighbours, getting caught up in historic ethnic feuds. Early in 2015, Losas decided to try out for NRT's elite anti-poaching unit 9-1. Much to his own surprise, he did well in the gruelling selection process, and made the final cut. He was recruited to 9-1 on the 3rd March 2015. Losas has spent the last year completing his in-house training, before joining other NRT rangers for the 2016 Manyani course. From a scruffy, cheeky young cattle herder, in a year Losas has transformed into a distinguished anti-poaching ranger. He was awarded Best at Drill and Turnout by the Kenya Wildlife Service at the pass out parade.
Each NRT member conservancies employs a team of rangers from the local community. There are now over 700 across all 33 conservancies. They are charged with monitoring key wildlife species, carrying out anti-poaching patrols, assisting the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the NRT anti-poaching units, and helping secure the communities they serve.
The NRT wildlife monitoring system, known as Wildlife CoMMS, is a simple monitoring system that allows the rangers on the ground to accurately collect data on key species in their conservancies. This data is entered into a central database, accessible by all NRT conservancies and authorities such as KWS.