The Safaricom Lewa Marathon is considered to be one of the 10 “must do” marathons in the world. It attracts participation from all over the world. The funds raised are used for wildlife conservation as well as poverty alleviation in Northern Kenya. The funds are invested in education, healthcare and wildlife. This Saturday, the 28th of June will be the 15th Safaricom Lewa Marathon. There will be over 1000 runners (going by the figure of 1000 runners in 2013). This not only puts Kenya on the spotlight for the Marathon but also impacts on the tourism industry as international and local marathoners experience the Lewa conservancy.
Beyond the marathon there is a Lewa story which starts with a passion to protect the Rhino which was being poached in huge numbers. Here is the story of Lewa.
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the pioneer endangered species sanctuary in East Africa and is home to the critically endangered black rhino and Grevy’s zebra. it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 2013 as an extension of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site.
The Conservancy is nestled at the foothills of Mount Kenya and is home to some of the continent’s most endangered species – the black rhino and the Grevy’s zebra- and a plethora of other wildlife including the elephant, giraffe, buffalo, antelope, lion, cheetah and leopard.
The story of Lewa goes back to the early 1980s when one of the founders Anna Merz approached the Craig family with a request: horrified by the population decline of rhino throughout Africa, she wanted to build a rhino sanctuary to protect the last remaining members of this endangered species. At this point in time, demand for rhino horn had reduced Kenya’s 20,000 unique odd-toed ungulates to a few hundred in less than 15 years. The partnership between Anna Merz and the Craig family led to the creation of the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary, a fenced and guarded refuge at the western end of Lewa Downs.
In less than a year, they had created a safe haven surrounded by electric fence and guarded by trained security staff and a piloted airplane, along with a number of vehicles, radios and state of the art equipment. Anna and the Craigs received permission from the Kenyan government and translocated all of the rhinos they could find still living in the wild in northern Kenya and formed security and wildlife supervision teams to manage their protection, establishing an extremely successful conservation and breeding programme. In 1995, Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary was re-established as the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
The link between conservation and community development
From its inception, what made Lewa special was the awareness that unless the local communities could be enlisted to support the protection of these endangered species, the wildlife would never be safe and there would be no chance of success. In light of this fact, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was founded on the principle that the benefits of wildlife protection and the resulting tourism, should be funnelled back into the communities, helping them to develop and improve their own quality of life.
Conservation of endangered species
Lewa is home to some of Africa’s critically endangered species, notably the black rhino and Grevy’s zebra. Conservation has successful protected the native black rhino and the resident population has grown at an impressive 6% per annum. The Conservancy plays a crucial role in rhino conservation in Kenya, facilitating the translocation of its rhino to new or previously inhabited areas and providing technical expertise to established and new rhino sanctuaries. Today, Lewa is home to 62 black rhino, having recently moved 11 of its population to the neighbouring Borana Conservancy to establish a pioneer population. The Conservancy also hosts 60 white rhino, 11% of Kenya’s white rhino population.
Lewa’s Grevy’s zebra population, at approximately 380 individuals, is the single largest at any one place in the world. With less than 3,000 left in the wild, the Grevy’s zebra is the world’s rarest zebra and the second largest equid. Lewa’s Research Team carries out important monitoring and research to inform management decisions on Grevy’s zebra conservation.
Lewa supports community development programmes, healthcare programmes, provides employment and is engaged in conservation tourism.
Lewa boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes in northern Kenya and Mount Kenya serves as the perfect backdrop. With gentle rolling hills and natural, unspoilt beauty, guests enjoy the trip of a lifetime that consists of an unforgettable combination of great scenery, superb game viewing and excellent hospitality.
Visitors also have the opportunity to experience Lewa’s extensive conservation and development projects. Proceeds from tourism are ploughed back into our various programmes, crucial funds that contribute to Lewa’s annual revenue.
Information provided courtesy of Safaricom.