On the Thursday 22nd February 2018, Ruko Community Conservancy welcomed the United States Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec. The much-anticipated visit was highlighted with traditional Pokot and Njemps song and dance, as well as a tour of the community-run giraffe sanctuary.
“Super meeting with the people behind the Ruko Community Conservancy at Lake Baringo! Heard how they are building peace through conservation, tourism and economic development projects. We are proud to support you! Hongera!” Tweeted Ambassador Godec after spending the day with representatives of the Ruko board and other community leaders in NRT’s most westerly conservancy.
USAID is one of NRT’s principal donors, funding core operations, infrastructure and capacity building in conservancies. Their support has been critical to Ruko, which has historically suffered years of ethnic conflict and environmental degradation. Yet with improved management (Ruko scored in the top three conservancies in NRT’s 2017 governance index) and a focus on peace efforts, Ruko is realising its potential.
As well as talking to conservancy members, Ambassador Godec attended a joint meeting with government, community and private landowners of the area, where they discussed conservation, security and economic development issues. Ambassador Godec also took a tour of ‘giraffe island’ – perhaps the most famous landmark of Ruko Conservancy.
With only 670 Rothschild’s giraffes remaining in isolated parts of Kenya and Uganda, there has been an increased focus on their conservation efforts. Recognising this, in 2011 the Ruko communities agreed to set aside a portion of their land for the protection and rehabilitation of this vulnerable subspecies. Eight individuals were captured from nearby Soysambu Conservancy and translocated by truck and boat to an island in Ruko – a former rangeland. It is hoped that establishing a viable breeding population in this protected area could help boost numbers elsewhere in Kenya.
Ruko Community Conservancy wish to express their gratitude to USAID Kenya for its ongoing support, through NRT, and were honoured to host the Ambassador in their home.
In attendance on the day were 20 community members, six Ruko board members, two local chiefs, three members of the Baringo County Executive Committee (environment, agriculture and education), USAID Kenya Biodiversity & NRM Specialist Ben Wandago, NRT’s Chief Programmes Officer Titus Letaapo, Ruko Conservancy Manager Rebecca Kochulem and six conservancy rangers.