Taking care of wildlife is a calling and Patrick Papatiti heard it all the way from Nairobi. So, he returned home to Olgulului. I met Patrick while I was in Amboseli finding out about the new base station that Safaricom has built to serve the communities around Olgulului. The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR), is part of the 150,000-acre community land encircling the park. The ranch straddles the Kenya-Tanzania border. This is the area that the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers patrol. As you can imagine this is no easy task as the Rangers have to protect the animals but also look out for the communities living there when there is human-wildlife conflict.
Safaricom, which will be celebrating 20 years in the Kenyan market on October 23 has been transforming the lives of Kenyans by creating innovative products and services and also investing in communities around the country. The theme for the celebration is “Going beyond”. You can see this in the impact this has on the communities where Safaricom has not just given network access but also sent the foundations to improve the lives of the people around there.
Patrick Papatiti is the Director of Operations for the Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers. The rangers have been taking care of the 1700 square kilometres wildlife habitat for ten years now. Patrick joined the Rangers two years ago after being a government employee in Nairobi county for a long time. Feeling the urge to give back to his homeland, he left the city life and moved to Olgulului which is around the Amboseli National Park.
“The team consists of a total of 76 rangers. 68 of whom are men and 8 of them being women. The female rangers were introduced a year ago as part of an inclusive exercise. They are known as ‘Team lioness’. The team operates in seven stations and one mobile unit.”
Read more about the all-female wildlife protection team here.
Purity Lakara is one of the female Rangers – Olgulului Community Wildlife Rangers.
Patrick’s work with the rangers involves wildlife protection and securing the area where the animals call their habitat. Poaching is one of the most prevalent issues faced in the wildlife world.
“The rangers are charged with the responsibility of carrying out counter-poaching operations to discourage the killing of animals and the smuggling of ivory. One of the latest successes of the rangers is that the poaching of elephant ivory has gone down to zero,” he explains.
The counter effect to this, however, has been the steady rise in the poaching of Impala and Giraffe meat. With the rangers being extra vigilant on the suppressing of ivory poaching, the poachers have had to look for other means of making money and thus, they have resulted to targeting less scrutinized targets such as the giraffes and impalas.
“The success of the rangers in eradicating poaching has been made possible by their connections to the local communities. They have forged a close relationship that is beneficial for both parties.” Patrick reveals.
The rangers work closely with the communities to avoid conflict with the wildlife. They also serve as first responders to any medical emergency that might require urgent medical assistance. The local area is remote and without a reliable road network. This, therefore, makes it difficult for the locals to travel to hospitals, the rangers, however, have all-terrain vehicles that they can use to navigate through the mountainous terrain. In turn, the locals provide the rangers with information that help them avoid possible attacks on wildlife.
A Communication Nightmare
Before Olgulului was covered by Safaricom, the rangers experienced a lot of difficulties when it came to communicating with different units in the team. They had to travel long distances to get to the areas that had network coverage. This greatly affected their efficiency because most of the times information would get delayed and once it got to the intended team, it would be too late to do anything.
“The poachers were well conversant about the areas that did not have network coverage so they would pick these areas to carry out their illegal activities. This created a big problem for the rangers who were mostly in the dark and with no way to alert the relevant units and authorities,” he adds.
The ability to react effectively and in advance was made difficult by the fact that the process of sharing information would be long and time-consuming.
Renewed Hope after Safaricom Network Coverage.
The process of setting up a base station started last year in Olgulului. Recently, the base station was finished, and the site was activated on the Safaricom network. Since its activation, the local community has had a positive experience in their communication.
“The good network has also impacted the operations of the rangers. Just a month ago, the timely sharing of information facilitated a successful ambush on poachers who were intercepted transporting wildlife meat. The locals have also had ease in sharing information when the wildlife jump over the fence and attack the livestock,” Patrick says.
The rangers in Kenya are able to liaise with teams in Tanzania through improved communication. This has helped enhance the responsiveness of both countries to poachers while also improving the protection and conservation of the wildlife habitat.
The community has embraced Safaricom and they are using Storo bonus as a means not just to communicate within themselves with the extra airtime, but they also call the Rangers to give them information. Something Patrick says is very helpful although the timings are usually late.
In Nairobi we may not see how important something like Storo Bonus is but in the villages, they really appreciate those minutes. In Olgulului they use these minutes to call the Rangers & give them information on what is happening on the community conservancy. @SafaricomPLCpic.twitter.com/6qxbGDuyu1
The rangers acknowledge the impact that the local communities have in the process of protecting wildlife. Most of the poachers do not actually come from the local area, the visitors who come not only try to cause harm to the wildlife, but also the locals themselves. In instances where the poachers have not been able to access the wildlife, the have resulted in attacking the livestock of the locals.
“To create a good relationship with the locals, the rangers have created a compensation plan whereby, when a wild animal attacks livestock, the owner is paid a certain amount to compensate for their loss.”
With limited resources, the funds are not always sufficient and hence the rangers would ask that organizations step in and help out with the compensation process. Patrick says that Safaricom could also help by giving the rangers a toll-free line through which they can carry out communication instead of having to rely on funding from outside parties.