Grevy’s Zebra Trust works with communities in some of Kenya’s most remote areas to save the endangered Grevy’s. In Marsabit County, where there is an extremely important population of the zebras, the local people who are engaged with GZT wanted to see what communities in other areas were doing to encourage conservation. Thanks to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, GZT was able to take 24 people from Marsabit County – eight women, seven elders and nine warriors – on an exposure tour to visit the Melako, Kalama and Westgate Communities in which GZT also works.
The tour participants quickly saw that the main difference between their home region and the conservancies they visited was the health of the habitat. Westgate has been experimenting with holistically managed grazing in some pilot areas, and results are clear in the new grasses that have spring up there. The visitors were able to see habitat as the foundation for conservation and felt that it must become a focus for them in their own land. By focusing on habitat, they now believe that they can support their pastoralist livelihoods while also building up their wildlife populations. Since the tour, the Marsabit Country participants have requested help from GZT in grazing management, which GZT plans to provide.
Another major learning moment of the tour came during a drive through Samburu National Reserve en route to Westgate Community Conservancy. The drive took place among hundreds of elephants, causing one warrior in the backseat to comment, “I never knew that we could get so close to elephants and that they would just treat our vehicle like it was another elephant!” GZT then took the tour members to visit Save the Elephants, where they learned how elephants gather in areas where they feel safe.
It thus became clear that if security (peace), grazing and water are in place, then wildlife will thrive. And these are exactly the same things that will enable pastoralism to thrive. This reminded everyone on the tour, including the GZT staff, of the holistic context that they work within, where the lives of the people and the survival of the wildlife are inextricably linked. Thus, for conservation to be successful, decision-making must be holistic and consider social, economic and ecological factors before actions are taken.