By Burnham Arlidge
A new ecotourism concept known as the ‘conservancy’ project is offering an alternative approach to animal conservation and providing a much needed sustainable future for African wildlife, tourists and local communities.
First conceived in 2004 by the former chairman of the Kenyan Tourist Board – Jake Grieves-Cook, the conservancy project has taken a real foothold in East Africa due to its simplicity and success. Jake Grieves-Cook currently runs the hugely successful and award winning Porini eco-camps in Nairobi National Park, Amboseli, Mara and Laikipia.
His sites are now just a few among a 140 conservancies in 22 countries throughout Africa which has led to the concept being hailed as a new era in ecotourism. The initiative works by allowing communities, who own land alongside government owned parks or reserves, to rent out their parcels of land to form wildlife ‘conservancies’. These conservancies benefit, not only the wildlife, but the communities as it provides them with a sustainable source of income and, if they choose, the opportunity to work for the conservancy as a keeper or carer.
Explaining the concept, Jake Grieves-Cook said “The conservancy concept enables landowners to benefit from allowing their land to be set aside for wildlife and to earn a regular monthly income stream from rents paid per acre for their plots of land,” he said, “as well as to have employment opportunities for their family members as rangers in the conservancies and through staffing the camps”.
“It provides an expanded area of protected habitat for the wildlife where tourist numbers are strictly controlled through our formula of no more than 12 guest tents per camp and a maximum of 1 tent per 700 acres and 1 tourist vehicle per 1400 acres. And it provides an enhanced safari experience for visitors with high-quality guiding and excellent wildlife viewing away from the tourist crowds.”
As the land is owned privately be local communities, tourist access will be strictly regulated and numbers will be kept low, providing a natural environment for the wildlife and a more personal experience for the limited tourists.
Cynthia Moss, the renowned elephant conservationist, has described the scheme as “the single most successful conservation initiative since the creation of national parks in the 1940s”. Jake Grieves-cook not only believes that is a great way to protect wildlife, but also the native flora that is often overlooked by tourist boards.
The concept has the added benefit of security as the conservancy owners do not tolerate poachers and actively patrol their land. With increasingly alarming numbers of wildlife poaching, particularly around Kilimanjaro where the numbers of elephants have declined by 60% in the last five years, the conservancy initiative is a vital project and will need to be embraced by many more African regions before the war on poaching can fully be fought.
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