With the recent success of receiving the management rights from the Kenya Forest Service to protect the Witu Forest Reserve which lies within the greater Lamu conservation area adjoining Amu Ranch, the DSWT is proud to be part of a greater community movement to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Lamu County.
Established with the formation of the community-led Lamu Conservation Trust with full support of the DSWT, ‘Project Amu’ was the foundation of this greater vision to ensure Kenya’s remarkable northern coastline including diverse coastal forests and habitats are conserved, whilst the indigenous communities are supported in protecting their wildlife and land for future generations.
Since its inception over 3 years ago Project Amu has been operating on full steam, forging ahead to establish the solid infrastructure and security platforms needed in order to provide the highest levels of protection over the ranch, whilst expanding their presence over adjoining community ranches, such as the Witu Livestock Cooperative Group, which likewise has chosen to adopt this united conservation effort so as to protect their land and wildlife and in effect their livelihoods. The Witu Cooperative have now begun surveillance operations within their area, the DSWT funding 10 community scouts and a management team who are fighting to protect their ranch, which has suffered terribly from illegal squatting. All initiatives taking place within the Lamu conservation area have been receiving solid support from invested parties and government organisations, whilst the Rapid Deployment Unit of the Administration Police have been cooperating greatly in uniting against the activities threatening the area’s environment and community rights.
With two fully functioning security outposts Amu Ranch now operates a 30 man ranger unit including 7 armed Kenya Police Reserve officials, 18 of which are now based at Milihoi Camp, the ranch’s newest outpost, established to be positioned closer to the areas of the ranch which are most under threat from illegal encroachment and environmental degradation. In an effort to curb further intrusion the Project Amu team has also recently completed the construction of an additional 18kms of security access tracks providing an increased presence over water catchment areas which attract huge herds of cattle illegally entering the ranch, which in turn creates increased levels of logging, bush-meat snaring and unsustainable resource extraction.
Since the last rains in November 2013, Lamu county has once again fallen incredibly dry with sporadic bush fires consuming areas of the forest, predominantly started by herdsmen misguided by the beliefs that fires will bring them better grazing land for their livestock. The Amu team have been working hard to deter such beliefs and educate the communities about the proper methods of sustainable grazing, whilst fighting any fires as best they can. The next rains are due in April and the demand on the area’s water resources are increasing, yet the ranch’s two large natural lakes, which were once under threat of disappearing forever, are sustaining the greater area’s wildlife, whilst water troughs have been erected at Milihoi camp to quench the thirst of passing animals and encourage wildlife to feel at ease with the human presence in the area.
Due to new and enhanced security measures the Project Amu team have been witnessing significant increases in wildlife numbers, especially plains species such as topi and zebra which in turn has created a rise in the numbers of predators such as lions and leopards. Since being established ‘Project Amu’ can now proudly claim that over 90% of the poaching and logging has been curbed within the ranch, although the threat to the bordering ranches and community lands is still a very real concern, which must be addressed immediately, and which the DSWT and LCT are striving to achieve by gathering as much support from the global public as possible.
The DSWT would be incredibly grateful for any support of this vital initiative. Donations can be made through our website at https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp and by choosing ‘Project Amu’ in the dropdown menu.