Four male eland were successfully moved from Ol Donyo Farm in Laikipia to Sera Community Conservancy during the first week of February - the third species to be translocated to the area in the past two years.
One of the aims of the community conservancies is to capitalize on sustainable natural resource management - either directly (grass banks in times of drought, consistent water supplies) or indirectly (ecotourism). Maintaining biodiversity is critical to a healthy, fully-functioning ecosystem able to support livelihoods - and this is where, for Sera Conservancy, the eland come in.
As Sera has gone from strength to strength in aspects of governance, security, and rangeland management - so too has its potential to reintroduce species that were once abundant in the area. Such was the confidence in the Sera community that in 2015, 10 black rhino where moved into a sanctuary demarcated by the constituents solely for species conservation. The Sera Rhino Sanctuary now offers the perfect platform for the community to incubate a rich diversity of species that can eventually repopulate the wider conservancy.
Later that year, a herd of impala were translocated into the Sanctuary from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Recognizing the community’s vision, tourism operator Saruni approached Sera with an investment opportunity, and in February 2017 opened Saruni Rhino. Revenue from their camp on the outskirts of the Sanctuary will be split 60/40 - with 60% going toward Sera’s annual operating costs, and 40% going toward community projects.
The latest species to be reintroduced is eland - the second largest antelope in the world. These majestic herbivores were once abundant in Samburu, but numbers have fallen in recent years. Three female eland with two calves have been resident in the Sanctuary since its inception. The translocation of four bulls from Ol Donyo Farm is intended to kick start a breeding population.
The move went smoothly, with the males being darted by resident Lewa/NRT vet Matthew Mutinda. Although the bulls weighted in at roughly 2,000 pounds each, getting them into the transport crate was significantly easier than a black rhino - they were simply picked up by a JCB digger and gently scooped into the container.
Their direct release into Sera went well, and two of the bulls were seen just a few days later, at one of the water points. The Sera rangers will continue to monitor them closely.
“I’m happy to serve at the NRT frontline” said Mutinda, “where conspicuous thought has set up a truly functional wildlife conservancy.”
There are six females and one male at Ol Donyo still to be translocated, although this translocation will be done using a ‘passive boma’. This involves feeding the eland in a loosely fenced area for several weeks, sensitizing them so they can eventually be shut inside and darted from there.