Taking Care of Kenya’s Wildlife:
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is lucky to have a very hard working and talented veterinarian team. Based out of Lewa, Dr. Matthew Mutinda is a veterinarian with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a parastatal mandated to protect and conserve wildlife in Kenya. The team serves the whole Mountain, Northern and Eastern Conservation Areas. He travels day and night to make sure animals are physically well and living in a healthy environment, as well as contributing to wildlife veterinary research.
Dr. Mutinda is in charge of the three conservation areas, covering almost 10,000 km2 (circled in centre of map). Only one vet and one vehicle, he carries out treatments, translocations, and research in five national parks, nine reserves, private sanctuaries, and community conservancies. This area hosts some of the most endangered species in the world:
- The vet is responsible for over 250 black rhinos – almost half of Kenya’s total black rhino population!
- 2,400 Grevy’s zebras, and more than 9,000 African elephants
Treatment of Sick, Endangered Species:
- Animals get illnesses just like people: wounds, fractured bones, colic, the flu, Pneumonia, eye infections, just to name a few
- From the African elephant to the Superb starling, large or small, Lewa’s vet tries to fix them all
- While many animals living on Lewa receive medical treatment if necessary, endangered species must get the priority
An important part of wildlife conservation is making sure that animals are living in a safe, healthy environment. This involves transporting species to different locations depending on the conditions. Dr. Mutinda has performed many of these complex procedures:
- The biggest translocation in East Africa, successfully moving 30 black rhino from Solio Ranch to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy
- Translocations help solve human-wildlife conflict, and improve genetic diversity by avoiding inbreeding
- With local communities becoming more enthusiastic about wildlife there are new conservancies with enough forage and space to welcome endangered species
Collaborative Work with Research:
Obtaining up-to-date information is crucial to safeguarding endangered species. Lewa’s vet works with several conservation groups studying wildlife: physical conditions, whereabouts, and population size.
- Radio collaring allows us to track migratory pathways. By understanding animal movements, communities are advised to avoid migration routes in order to decrease human-wildlife conflict
- Dr. Mutinda has collared elephants, Grevy’s zebras, lions, cheetahs, and many more!
- We also track rhino by fitting them with a radio-transmitter, which helps to monitor them and ensure their safety
- Collecting blood samples allows the vet to understand disease trends in the region
With responsibility over such a vast expanse of Kenya’s wildlife, we rarely see Dr. Mutinda behind his desk in the Lewa office! While this work is seemingly unending, the knowledge that there is top veterinary care for critically endangered species – and all of our wildlife – is a rewarding and life-affirming experience.