The threat from poaching has put rhino populations across the continent under immense pressure. For conservancies, national and private reserves that hold any rhino, the key to ensuring the survival of their populations is the provision of adequate security. Lewa's success in rhino conservation can greatly be attributed to the efficiency, discipline and timely intervention of its security team.
Rhino Monitoring Unit
The Conservancy is divided into blocks that are patrolled daily by field monitors. As Lewa's eyes and ears on the ground, these rangers start work at the crack of dawn and report back throughout the day to the radio room on their rhino and other animal sightings. Armed with a pair of binoculars, a radio and extensive knowledge on wildlife behaviour, they ensure the well-being of rhinos and Lewa's other wildlife and are quick to alert in case of any emergencies or unusual sightings.
Anti-poaching: The Armed Team and Tracker Dogs
Lewa's armed rangers are Kenya Police Reservists with mandate from the Kenyan government to respond to and investigate cases of insecurity on the Conservancy as well as in the neighbouring communities.
The unit's work is therefore not limited to Lewa's boundaries and is often called upon to assist the Kenya police and the Kenya Wildlife Service during insecurity incidents. Additionally, to the north of the Conservancy lies a volatile region plagued with sporadic violence and numerous cases of elephant poaching and cattle rustling. The team works closely with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) to investigate these cases and enhance security north of our borders. They also train the NRT community conservancies’ security scouts, providing technical and managerial expertise.
The armed team's greatest assets are two bloodhounds and two Belgian Malinois. These highly trained dogs supplement the unit by acting as trackers, often for lengthy distances and with successful results.
The unit's efforts have not only ensured the safety of Lewa's rhinos but also significantly improved the security of wildlife and people in the neighbouring areas. Poachers have been arrested and thousands of stolen cattle, camels, sheep and goats have been recovered and taken back to their owners.
Radio Communications and Joint Operations Centre
Lewa's radio room and the newly opened Joint Operations Centre serve as the communications hub to the entire Conservancy, Borana to the west and all the NRT conservancies - covering a radius of about 300km!
The launch of our new Joint Operations Centre has revolutionised our ability to know exactly what’s happening across the vast Lewa/NRT and adjacent Borana landscape. Vulcan, the high-tech and philanthropy-focused company founded by Paul G. Allen, created the new system specifically to help halt poaching and enhance wildlife management across a large scale. Called the Domain Awareness System (DAS), the system integrates data and technology to provide a singular picture that alerts teams to threats instantaneously and supports real-time tactical decision-making.
The project was the combined brainchild of the Vulcan team, Save The Elephants and Lewa Board member Katherine Chou, a product lead at Google, who specialises in the development of stealth products that apply machine learning. Katherine knew that in the past, it took precious time for Lewa and our partners, including the Northern Rangeland Trust and 51 Degrees, to make sense of intelligence coming from dozens of teams and 33 community conservation groups.
This new technology and command centre allows for unprecedented collaboration and is creating a model for conservation that can be scaled and replicated across Africa.