Par­adise lost

The flip side of the pic­ture post­card Kenyan land­scape is en­vi­ron­men­tal tur­moil.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS - By jerry stafford Photographs glen luch­ford

Savannah as far as the eye can see. A scat­ter­ing of thorn bushes.

Un­ex­pected en­coun­ters with ele­phants, lions, gi­raffes, and more. The numb­ingly beau­ti­ful light

and the in­cred­i­ble sense of be­ing on the set

of Out of Africa. Wel­come to Kenya,

and its Soysambu Con­ser­vancy. Dreams, ad­ven­ture,

pump­ing adren­a­line. The flip side of the post­card is po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic

and en­vi­ron­men­tal tur­moil, op­posed by a band of he­roes

whose iron will is only equalled by

their pas­sion for life in the wild.

Re­serves in Africa are the legacy of “white colo­nial”

hunt­ing grounds, es­tab­lished by mov­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties from their

an­ces­tral homes.

His­tor­i­cally, na­tional parks and re­serves in Africa have been the legacy of “white colo­nial” hunt­ing grounds, of­ten es­tab­lished by mov­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties from their an­ces­tral homes. Newly in­de­pen­dent African coun­tries pre­served many of th­ese “re­serves”, but pro­gres­sive think­ing now rightly seeks to put com­mu­ni­ties at the heart of con­ser­va­tion strat­egy. As Michael Gachanja of EAWS ( East African Wildlife So­ci­ety ) ex­plains, “Cur­rent pol­icy prac­tices in Kenya fo­cus on co–man­age­ment of nat­u­ral re­sources, en­cour­ag­ing com­mu­ni­ties to de­rive ben­e­fits that will mo­ti­vate them to par­tic­i­pate.” With na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Green Belt Move­ment, which earned its founder, Wan­gari Maathai ( 1940–2011 ), a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her con­tri­bu­tion to “sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, democ­racy and peace”, and thanks to the work of con­ser­va­tion­ists such as He­len Gi­chohi, pres­i­dent of the AWF ( African Wildlife Foun­da­tion ) since 2007, the fo­cus is now on gal­vanis­ing com­mu­ni­ties to de­velop ini­tia­tives and pro­grammes to support their own di­verse and frag­ile ecosys­tems.

“On the one hand, you have the smaller com­mu­nity–based marine and for­est ad­min­is­tra­tions,” says Rob Brett, Africa Pro­gramme Di­rec­tor of FFI ( Flora and Fauna In­ter­na­tional ). “And on the other, big ar­eas in the North called con­ser­van­cies, which en­able those com­mu­ni­ties to have a stake in their re­sources and start im­prov­ing the sta­tus of the wildlife. Peace and wildlife go hand in hand.”

Tom Chol­monde­ley, the great grand­son of the 3rd Baron De­lamere now runs the fam­ily farm as a con­ser­vancy, which is also now part of a Rift Lakes con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tive to link Soysambu on Lake Ele­menteita to Lake Naivasha fur­ther south, and cre­ate a larger area of about 120,000 acres, even­tu­ally com­pris­ing the 40,000 acres of Lake Nakuru Park.

As Chol­monde­ley com­ments, “Soysambu con­ser­vancy has made great progress and now op­er­ates four tourism fa­cil­i­ties and a ranger force. Some 25 % of the area is fenced and there are 15,000 wild an­i­mals, in­clud­ing over 10 % of the world’s re­main­ing Roth­schild’s gi­raffes. It is the largest is­land of wildlife on the f ron­tier, and is Unesco world her­itage listed.”

Sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres di­rectly to the north of The Rift Val­ley lies the Laikipia plain and its free–rang­ing pop­u­la­tions of more than 6,000 ele­phants and most of Kenya’s 5– 600 black rhino pop­u­la­tion. This great wildlife spec­ta­cle is all the more re­mark­able as it oc­curs in a land­scape with no gov­ern­ment–des­ig­nated pro­tected ar­eas. Wildlife here sur­vives among peo­ple, mak­ing it a liv­ing lab­o­ra­tory for hu­man–wildlife con­flict. —Throw­ing open the win­dows of her colo­nial home nes­tled in the fer­tile embrace of Kenya’s Great Rift Val­ley, Alice de Janzé, the Amer­i­can so­cialite and mem­ber of the in­fa­mous Happy Val­ley set, is re­ported to have with­er­ingly ut­tered th­ese words as she fo­cused her cor­ro­sive gaze on the vast plains and lakes be­low, “Oh God. Not another fuck­ing beau­ti­ful day!”

De Janzé, her character pop­u­larised in James Fox’s best­selling novel White Mis­chief and in Michael Rad­ford’s 1987 film adap­ta­tion, was a mem­ber of a he­do­nis­tic set of English and An­glo–Ir­ish aris­to­crats and ad­ven­tur­ers who scan­dalised Bri­tish and Kenyan so­ci­ety in the 1930s and 1940s with their ir­rev­er­ent be­hav­iour, cul­mi­nat­ing in 1941 in the much pub­li­cised trial of Sir Jock Delves Broughton for the mur­der of Joss­lyn Hay, the 22nd Earl of Er­rol.

One of the first Bri­tish set­tlers in East Africa and a cen­tral fig­ure in the Happy Val­ley set, was the Rt Hon Hugh Chol­monde­ley, 3rd Baron De­lamere, who first trav­elled there in 1891 to hunt lions and is cred­ited with coin­ing the term “white hunter”. In 1896, he set­tled in Kenya, where in 1906 he ac­quired a large farm, the Soysambu Ranch, and even­tu­ally mar­ried Diana Cald­well, the for­mer wife of Jock Delves Broughton and her­self a sus­pect in Lord Er­roll’s mur­der.

Soysambu ranch is still owned by the Chol­monde­ley fam­ily and this part of Kenya has seen rad­i­cal change, both po­lit­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal since the days of Diana De­lamere and the som­bre legacy of her in­fa­mous friends. The fore­cast for the plains and lakes of Kenya’s Rift Val­ley, which once teemed with wildlife is now un­cer­tain, and the present sit­u­a­tion a far cry from Alice de Janzé’s my­opic, mor­phine–laced pre­dic­tions, as the last ar­eas of land in East Africa where an­i­mals can roam safely with­out fear of poach­ing and habi­tat de­struc­tion have be­come the stage for a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic strug­gle, whose prospect is far from bright or beau­ti­ful.

Max Gra­ham, founder and CEO of Space for Gi­ants, an ele­phant re­search and con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, has worked in the re­gion for the last decade. As he ex­plains, “Space for Gi­ants’ fo­cus is land­scape–scale con­ser­va­tion and anti–poach­ing, as the race to se­cure a fu­ture for Africa’s re­main­ing wildlife has be­come ever more ur­gent. To­day, I find my­self be­com­ing aligned with lo­cal com­mu­nity–based con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions like the North­ern Range­lands Trust in north­ern Kenya, who need to per­ceive wildlife as an as­set if wildlife is to have a fu­ture.”

The threats to ele­phant and rhino pop­u­la­tions are nu­mer­ous both in this re­gion and across the African con­ti­nent. Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Africa has been sud­den and trans­for­ma­tive and has cre­ated the trade net­work for il­le­gal ivory and other wildlife parts. In their re­port last year, the Wash­ing­ton Con­ven­tion ( CITES ) listed eight coun­tries heav­ily im­pli­cated in large–scale il­le­gal ivory and rhino horn trade: Kenya, Uganda, Tan­za­nia, Malaysia, Philip­pines, Viet­nam, China and Thai­land.

Rob Brett of FFI, who be­came Kenya’s rhino co­or­di­na­tor with the KWS ( Kenya Wildlife Ser­vices ) in the early 1990s, re­marks, “There has in the last two or three years been a mas­sive up­swing in poach­ing, in re­sponse to the de­mand for rhino horn. The big de­mand has come out of Viet­namese af­flu­ence. Sto­ries abound of shaved horn be­ing used at par­ties as an aphro­disiac or for its sup­posed ben­e­fits for can­cer and AIDS. The horn is re­garded as a sta­tus sym­bol, a trophy.”

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween con­ser­va­tion and hunt­ing in East Africa has al­ways been a close and con­tentious one, with many of the im­por­tant early fig­ures in wildlife pro­tec­tion orig­i­nally start­ing out as game track­ers. One of the most fa­mous was George Adam­son ( 1906–1989 ), whose work with lions in the 1950s in­spired the film, and who was one of the first to draw at­ten­tion to the plight of Kenya’s great cats, its lions, leop­ards and chee­tahs, all of which had been brought to the brink of ex­tinc­tion by the trophy hunters of the first half of the last cen­tury.

Adam­son was him­self shot by So­mali poach­ers in 1989 at Kora, the re­serve he cre­ated in North­ern Kenya in 1970, to re­ha­bil­i­tate cap­tive or or­phaned big cats for even­tual rein­tro­duc­tion into the wild. His work at Kora has been con­tin­ued, fol­low­ing his death, by Tony Fitzjohn, who came out to work with Adam­son in 1971, and went on to cre­ate the Mko­mazi Na­tional Park in Tan­za­nia in 1997. Fitzjohn is prag­matic, “I’ve had a great life, some­one

DAmE DAPhnE ShELDRIck Born in 1934, she has de­voted her life to pro­tect­ing wildlife, fol­low­ing her mar­riage to David Sheldrick, the founder of Tsavo Na­tional Park in Kenya. In her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “An African Love Story: Love, Life and Ele­phants” (...

Tony Fitzjohn, worked for many years with pi­o­neer George Adam­son be­fore set­ting up Mko­mazi Na­tional Park in Tan­za­nia.

Max Gra­ham, founder of Space for Giants, works with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to pro­tect wildlife.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from France

© PressReader. All rights reserved.