Feasibility study


The Kipini Wildlife and Botanical Conservancy (KWBC) aims, in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS, the government body with primary responsibility for wildlife affairs) and other strategic conservation partners, to create a new initiative in coastal land use, based on integrating community development, conservation and sustainable use of currently under-utilised natural resources in Lamu, Tana River and Ijara Districts.

The background and methods used to collate this report are described in Sections 1 & 2. The body of the report identifies, describes and underlines the special importance of animal and plant resources in the KWBC zone of interest (Section 3). The report also reviews major development trends and plans with respect to their impacts on the environment and conservation (Section 4) and also analyses the most recent data on wildlife conflict and problem animal control in the Kipini/Witu/Mpeketoni vicinity (Section 5).

A detailed review of feasibility, management and development options for KWBC is supplied in Section 6, which also provides cost assessments to budget the principle recommendations and processes identified to initiate conservancy development. The key activities required to achieve conservation and sustainable use of natural resources while taking account of cultural and human development needs, are introduction of management and monitoring, nature-based tourism and conservation capacity building. The priority management goals to promote and support these activities are to secure land management rights and tenure at the appropriate scale (see below), implement effective management of fauna and flora, reduce human-wildlife conflicts and enhance conservation value.


1. The importance of the KWBC habitats, animal and plant populations in relation to the wider ecosystem.

Situated at the northern end of the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests biodiversity hotspot, the KWBC area of interest is embedded in a zone of internationally recognised importance to a rich assembly of globally threatened plants and animals. KWBC Nairobi Ranch shares direct boundaries with two acknowledged sites of importance to the hotspot, and five other important hotspot sites are present within the larger zone of KWBC interest. 18% of large mammal species observed or expected in the Kipini area alone are considered threatened according to IUCN 2003 Red list criteria.

KWBC controls relatively large blocks of unspoilt coastal habitats in a natural mosaic at Nairobi Ranch (Section 3.2). In association with Witu forest, the relative size of the blocks gives enhanced value, providing refuges for populations against the reduced survival probabilities associated with habitat fragmentation; a predominant effect caused by rapid development through the great majority of Kenyan coastal habitats.

Strategically Nairobi Ranch lies at a fulcrum, uniting its own resources with four additional high importance habitats on its immediate boundaries; the Tana River estuary, Lake Kenyatta, and Witu Forest, and a continuum across semi-active cattle ranches northward through the heart of the coastal topi range to the drier interior habitats that mark the range of the hirola (Section 3).

2. The estimated minimum viable conservancy area centred on the conservancy: The KWBC has declared an interest in retaining habitat continuity from the Indian Ocean coastline through to the interior range of the hirola (and other large wide-ranging species such as the hunting dog).

The approach recommended by this report to manage conservation action on this large landscape scale is to divide the area of interest into a series of incrementing management zones based primarily on natural ecological units, taking account other administrative and legal realities. The Nairobi ranch and Witu forest are identified as a core zone of KWBC operation (the Kipini zone). At c. 270km2 this zone alone can support viable areas of threatened coastal habitats and associated plants, and an important array of smaller resident animal and bird species. But KWBC must introduce additional measures to maintain long term fully representative and viable populations of larger and more mobile mammal species that currently use Nairobi Ranch and Witu forest (hippo, coastal topi, elephant etc.). Conflict between large herbivores and settlement scheme agriculture must be resolved by fencing, and corridors of natural habitat access for large species allowing them to move into the humid woodlands north of Nairobi ranch (a ~2500km2 area) must be secured.

These two zones in Tana River and Lamu districts together represent a minimum area to support the long term goals of KWBC with respect to the humid coastal vegetation ecosystems. But because the natural range of hirola corresponds to the interior dry woodlands and does not approach closer than 40-50km from the boundary of the Kipini zone core area (Nairobi Ranch & Witu Forest), the conservancy will also seek to develop activity in a further 2500km2 area in Ijara District. Details of this zonation and associated management actions are set out in Section 6.

3. The potential and likely cost of creating a wider integrated community conservancy, including identification of key communities to be involved.

Potential costs of creating an integrated community conservancy based in the Kipini zone are based on a plan of action developed in Section 6. Key requirements are to establish community links and support, create infrastructure and recruit staff for wildlife management, (including c. 60kms of electric fencing and establishment of buildings and accommodation) and separately create infrastructure and recruit staff for tourism development. Capacity for staff training and development, and for an embedded community education and outreach programme area are also identified as key components.

The communities involved represent a range of government and private activities, but are dominated by the Ministry of Lands & Settlement housing projects at Mpeketoni, and Witu, which are supported by the German Assisted Settlement Project (GASP) either side of Nairobi Ranch. To the north of Nairobi Ranch land use on an array of private and government based livestock initiatives needs to be integrated with KWBC goals and objectives. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) will be a key partner in wildlife related aspects of conservancy work in all zones of the conservancy.

A core budget (totalling KSh23,711,000 ) to cover key components recommended to initiate the conservancy on this plan is provided in Section 6.6. Investments will be required from government, international donors, private individuals and foundations.

4. The main points of conflict on the boundary of the KWBC in terms of the current trends in settlements and land use and illegal extraction of both animals and plant elements.

The extensive settlement schemes on both boundaries of Nairobi Ranch mean that direct conflict between the human population and large wildlife currently runs at a high level. Crop damage complaints are recorded at more than 10 incidents a week, while more than one head of livestock is reported killed each week in the Kipini zone.

Daily reports of crop raiding are reinforced with weekly reports of risky encounters between people and wildlife and serious incidents have occurred. Hippos, buffalo, elephant and lion create the majority of reported problems.

Particular focal points of conflict are the buffer zone between Witu forest and Witu II settlement scheme, and further south the Bora Imani area of Witu II settlement scheme, which can be related to habitat features and probable traditional corridors of elephant movement. On the eastern boundary of Nairobi Ranch hippos resident in Lake Kenyatta create severe conflict pressure on the farms adjoining the lake area.

Unmanaged use of plant products, particularly extraction of timber poles for roofing and hardwood logs, is widespread throughout both Nairobi Ranch and Witu forest, with illegal activity prominent as much in the central regions as at the margins of both. Nairobi Ranch currently makes an unofficial contribution to settlement construction through these activities. Opportunity exists to manage this process on a sustainable and agreed basis.

A low level of game cropping took place on Witu Nyangoro and Amu Ranches during 2003. No direct evidence of illegal wildlife off take was detected on this survey, although a general association between locations of large mammal skeletons and human intrusion was noted and references to illegal hunting are noted in local KWS occurrence books. A detailed study of bush meat demand in the region is recommended.

General conclusion

Circumstances found by the survey team together indicate an intense need for natural resource management in a hitherto relatively neglected region. KWBC, working with partnering organisations, is uniquely well placed to provide a catalytic role in achieving this.

The KWBC Trust retains private control of a significant block of land at Nairobi Ranch (c. 220km2 ) retaining an unbroken linkage of natural vegetation mosaics between the Indian Ocean and the more arid interior. This land is abutted on both sides by large settlement schemes, but supports very important plant and wildlife communities, lying next to Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests hotspot CEPF sites, and close to the world famous Lamu Island. This combination puts it in an ideal position to conduct practical work in integrating natural resource management, conservation and community development.

To be effective in achieving this role KWBC needs to secure funds to develop initial capacity in five principal activities.

1. Use its asset at the former Nairobi Ranch to attract funds and develop a basic infrastructure of simple buildings and accommodation to act as a focal point and base from which to promote and operate the activities outlined below. Ultimately the KWBC can develop a Kipini Conservation Centre and a nature based tourism.

2. To work formally with the local community at Mpeketoni, Witu and Kipini, and with KWS in achieving reduction of wildlife conflict issues in the region. The KWBC needs to establish a system of regular formal communication with these communities at the outset. Recommendations on initiating a consultative process to assess validity of separating wildlife from settlement scheme lands using electric fencing (and the associated reasoning behind such are proposed) are detailed in Section 5.7. The process should explicitly address plans for financing and responsibility for long term maintenance of fencing. It should also be combined with planning and agreement on systems for off-take of natural products on KWBC land and Witu forest and Mpeketoni and lead to a sustained consultative process discussing all aspects of the conservancy’s work.

3. Develop a scientific monitoring programme to be based at the proposed KWBC headquarters (ultimately the Kipini Conservation Centre). KWBC should work with conservation and development agencies to attract funding for a defined programme that will bring students from around Kenya to work alongside local members of the community and national and international experts. The programmes will focus around a co-ordinated list of conservation research that will monitor environmental health, and progress in conservation of both common and endangered wildlife and wildlife conflict management. The programmes will make KWBC an important partner in conservation in the local area, country and in the region. Potential study areas are numerous and discussed in section 6.5

4. Use the monitoring programmes as core activities for on-the-job training work with members of the three adjacent communities and in collaboration with KWS to develop a network of community guards (trained for specific wildlife monitoring projects at KWBC) from among Kotile, Masalani, Gababa, Ijara, Galmagalla and Bodhei communities.

5. Use the infrastructure at Nairobi Ranch to promote tourism drawn from existing coastal resorts (Lamu, Malindi, Kiunga). Specialist themes; unspoilt coastal environment; integration with local community; wildlife conflict management with planned use of natural products; local endemics and varieties, special and varied cultures (pastoral Somalis, hunter gatherer Boni’s, the sea fishing Bajunis).

The circumstances of natural resource status and human development in the KWBC zone of interest described in this report are critically balanced. The initiative proposed by the KWBC provides constructive options to achieve conservation and benefit from natural resources that are closely integrated with human development. This is a challenging but realistic goal. Undertaking this activity would help improve living standards, help normalise security issues and conserve unique resources, while working within the envelope of formally published Strategic Plans for the region.


Dr. Tim Wacher, Wildlife Biologist,
Zoological Society of London Regents Park, London, NW1 4RY

Dr. Samuel Andanje, Head of Species Conservation Programmes,
Research and Development Department, Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi