It has been over a year since Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, with your help, began implementing measures to safeguard our community from the ever-evolving COVID-19 global pandemic through Lifeline for Lewa.
We are tremendously grateful for the support people like you gave to Lifeline last year. You responded to Lewa’s need and as a result, we were able to adapt quickly. We have been vigilant—and I hope you will agree, successful—in taking every measure possible to ensure the health and safety of our employees, residents, and guests. Lewa is seen as a leader in the broader community and has managed to utilise that standing to spread preventative outreach measures beyond our boundaries.
Kenya has recently been in the news again as the third wave of the virus clamps down further on already limited resources. Sadly, we are now in a similar situation as many other parts of the world, with nearly everyone at Lewa knowing someone who has perished as a result of COVID-19. The Lewa family’s heart goes out to everyone who has suffered.
Through it all, Lewa’s team has been front and centre in supporting the Kenyan Government and Ministry of Health efforts to combat the virus. Onsite testing with 72-hour results is available at Lewa’s health clinic, whilst limited supplies of the vaccine are being offered to critical personnel at local government hospitals. Through these efforts, we have been weathering the virus, its transmission, and supporting where possible, the medical care required.
Meanwhile, we continue as dedicated caretakers across the Lewa-Borana landscape and beyond for 230 rhinos, 93,000 acres of land, over 7,500 children in the 23 schools we support annually, and more. We are so proud to have 15 new rhino calves born this year alone—a record number of rhino births at Lewa!
Last year, your support of Lifeline for Lewa enabled us to keep core community programmes running, ensuring health, education, and micro-enterprise programmes continued to serve communities amid heightened instability, while support for the security and anti-poaching teams ensured critically endangered species continued to be protected. Round-the-clock security never stopped. Thanks to your steadfast support and our collective diligence, we can share the Kenya Wildlife Service news of zero rhino poaching incidents in all of Kenya for the first time in 20 years!
So, while we mourn loss together, we must also celebrate life and our achievements together. One thing that has really struck home for me during this pandemic is how life and our miraculous ecosystem continue to thrive—urging us to move forward whether we want to or not—and we can’t thank you enough for being a part of our story.
Again this year we ask you to be a part of Lifeline and join two generous donors who have offered a timely challenge match of up to $30,000 to help Lewa amidst another year with serious tourism revenue deficits. We ask you to act today, as we have until May 31st to meet this match.
Thanks to your support through Lifeline, not once have we compromised our mandate, and I am moved by the Lewa team’s resilience and strength over the last year. Despite necessary salary sacrifice measures, Lewa’s employees have remained dedicated to the cause. I can think of no better example than Faith Riunga, her 16 years of dedicated service to Lewa, and the recent transition of her mentee Purity Kinoti into the head of Lewa’s Education Programme (LEP). Purity, an LEP beneficiary herself, and Faith are powerful testaments to the programme’s impact made possible by your commitment. Because of Lewa’s loyal employees, the strategic leadership of our board, and the stepping up of our supporters we can continue programmes like these and have been able to bring compensation back to 100% for most employees, with senior staff at 90% salary.
I would love to end this letter here, but unfortunately, I cannot. There are ongoing urgent issues we must not ignore, and we need your support to ensure our programmes and conservation efforts of endangered species continues, despite the severe loss in tourism we are experiencing.
I don’t need to tell you, we are not in the clear yet—far from it. The travel bans from core tourist countries such as the UK have made transportation to Lewa difficult. There’s no doubt the lockdown in Kenya has also impacted the domestic travel market. Industry analysts are predicting tourism in Kenya won’t return to 2019 figures until 2024, at the earliest. This is a harsh financial reminder of the impact to the bottom line tourism dollars have on livelihoods and our operations.
With tourism funds all but dried up, we are left with a major gap to fill. And again, we need your help to continue Lewa’s core security and community development programmes.
Please consider a contribution to Lifeline for Lewa and it will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000—allowing us to continue to fund at full capacity what has made Lewa a success for the last 25 years.
Whilst Kenya’s Covid infection rates are currently stabilising and showing signs of decreasing, rhinos continue to be born, women are still household leaders, children must be educated, wildlife must continue to be conserved, and life will go on at Lewa…thanks to you.
Every organization aspires to have a stable foundation. I’m humbled as I reflect on the depth of impact Lewa has had on the past and in creating the future of this landscape, and thankful for the committed bedrock which you have helped create. You allow us to continue providing a positive impact on communities throughout the area and together we will come through the crisis not just having survived, but thrived, people and wildlife alike.
CEO, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy