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Inspiring passion for wildlife conservation in Samburu, Kenya

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Students, teachers, and VIEW’s Dr. Lauren Ellis at Noolotoro Primary School in Samburu, Kenya
Students, teachers, and VIEW’s Dr. Lauren Ellis at Noolotoro Primary School in Samburu, Kenya

In the diverse landscape of Samburu, Kenya, pastoralist communities live off the land alongside endangered wildlife populations. It’s in this remote rural area that VIEW, in collaboration with the Institute of Primate Research, has worked to inspire a passion for wildlife conservation among the youngest members of the Samburu community, with a special focus on young girls. The aim is to empower this region through community-collaborative conservation projects that will elevate community roles in conservation efforts and dismantle barriers.

Thanks to the generous support from Conservation Nation, we were able to organize a series of activities designed to inspire and educate Samburu youth. These activities include: community and school workshops, the development of Wildlife Conservation Warrior Clubs in Samburu primary schools, and an exciting field trip to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Further, we have awarded three community-chosen girls full scholarships to attend a four-year secondary school, an important foundation for a future career in conservation.

Educational workshops and community outreach

Over the course of the project, we conducted a total of four workshops in Namunyak Conservancy, northern Kenya. This included two community workshops and two individual workshops with Oromoidei and Noolotoro primary schools.

Workshop participants and facilitators at Oromoidei. Photo courtesy of Kimani Ndungu.
Workshop participants and facilitators at Oromoidei. Photo courtesy of Kimani Ndungu.

These workshops engaged the community and schoolchildren in thought-provoking discussions about the importance of conserving the unique Percival’s guereza and De Brazza’s monkey, among other endangered species. The first community workshop was attended by over 90 members from Oromoidei and Noolotoro communities, while the second hosted 107 members. Topics at these workshops ranged widely:

  • Benefits, costs, and opportunities for conserving primates and wildlife in general

  • Role of the community as the first line of defense for biodiversity

  • One Health: the close interconnection between people, animals and the environment and the ways in which we can all work towards attaining optimal health for people, animals, and our environment

  • Harmonious coexistence with wildlife

Similar topics were also discussed with school children at Oromoidei and Noolotoro primary schools. Notably, none of the students at Noolotoro Primary School knew or had seen the De Brazza’s monkey, one of the keystone species in the Matthews Range. Dorothy Lowakutuk, elephant keeper, conservation leader, and Guest Relations Officer at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, grew up in a similar rural Samburu community and spoke to the students in their native Samburu language. She inspired them to become future ambassadors, and is one of our primary mentors for the three girls now attending secondary school.

She emphasized the vast opportunities available to women, not only in conservation but also in various other fields, including politics. The students seemed to relish her engagement, and strongly requested a visit to the elephant sanctuary where Dorothy resides. Thanks to an extended grant from Conservation Nation, we were able to fulfill this request and take the students on an educational field trip to the sanctuary.

Wildlife Conservation Warrior Clubs

Wildlife Conservation Warrior Club members at their tree propagation site. Behind them are recycled plastic tins they are using to propagate seedlings.
Wildlife Conservation Warrior Club members at their tree propagation site. Behind them are recycled plastic tins they are using to propagate seedlings.

The Wildlife Conservation Warrior Clubs were started in local primary schools to educate and inspire young children. These clubs attracted students from classes 4 through 8 with a membership of 62 at Oromoidei Primary School and 24 at Noolotoro Primary School. The students mentioned that they joined these clubs because they wanted to learn more about wildlife and to cultivate the right attitude towards conservation.

Through the clubs, they've not only discovered the factors contributing to forest degradation but have also engaged in practical activities like seed propagation. Additionally, these students mentioned sharing information about sustainable grazing with their parents and are looking forward to participating in exchange programs with other wildlife conservation clubs. These students are excited to pursue careers in wildlife conservation.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary field trip

Additionally, we arranged a visit to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary for the schoolchildren. A convoy of four vehicles transported 70 schoolchildren: 48 from Olomoidei and 22 from Noolotoro communities alongside our team. This was a novel experience for a number of students as it was the first time they had been in a vehicle. Upon arrival we were greeted by conservation leader Dorothy Lowakutuk.

Orphaned elephant at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya
Orphaned elephant at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya

Founded in 2016, the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in Africa. This sanctuary, owned by the Samburu community of Northern Kenya, rescues orphaned and abandoned elephant calves, with the ultimate goal of reuniting or reintroducing them into the wild. All the staff employed here are from the local community. The majority of the elephant keepers are women who take a lead in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing elephants within their home range. This project is growing new economies, transforming lives and conserving wildlife and the natural environment more broadly.

This initiative not only showcases the Samburu culture of wildlife tolerance and coexistence but also exemplifies how traditional knowledge and experience can be harnessed as a valuable asset. The local community has embraced the benefits of coexisting with wildlife and has taken pride in caring for the elephants. Moreover, the success of women elephant keepers serves as a powerful example for young girls hoping to pursue a career in conservation as well as in other professions.

Scholarship awards

Conservation leader Dorothy Lowakutuk with the three scholarship winners.
Conservation leader Dorothy Lowakutuk with the three scholarship winners.

In recognition of their potential, we awarded three remarkable Samburu girls full four-year scholarships for secondary school. These young girls were selected by the community based on their performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams as well as need (no other means to attend further schooling). In February 2023, they embarked on their academics with two of them now attending Kibirichia Girls Secondary School, while the third is enrolled in Tipito Girls Secondary School.

During the award ceremony, a group of mentors, including community leaders and primary school instructors, offered words of encouragement to the girls. They applauded the girls for securing this opportunity and emphasized the importance of hard work in school to achieve their dreams. The mentors reminded the girls that they were now role models for other girls in their community.

Our team continues to support these girls in their educational endeavors, providing dedicated mentorship through Dorothy Lowakutuk. As the girls are boarding at school (there are no secondary schools near the girls’ homes), and this is their first time living away from home, Dorothy’s involvement has been instrumental in ensuring their smooth transition into secondary school. After periodically checking up on them, she reports that the girls have undergone a remarkable transformation and are embracing their newfound opportunities with joy.

Your support matters

This is just some of the amazing work we have been doing with your support. For example, a donation of $2,000 can provide one student a four-year secondary school education which can dramatically change their lives and their respective communities, and a donation of $4,500 can support a full workshop. Making a difference for even one individual or community also makes a difference for wildlife and conservation. We will continue our work towards inspiring the next generation and help foster wildlife stewardship in future generations to come.


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