The 40,000 acres of the Ol Lentille Conservancy belong to five Maasai and Samburu communities living around the Ol Lentille mountain, at 1977 metres the second highest point in Laikipia. The Conservancy is a livestock exclusion zone reserved for wildlife, and a light touch tourism activity. It is managed by the Ol Lentille Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation and community development.
The Conservancy began in 2002 when, with support from the African Wildlife Fund, two Ol Lentille communities, Kijabe and Nkiloriti, began to voluntarily exclude their livestock from this area, setting aside part of their ancestral lands for conservation. Over the following years, several other neighbouring communities (Narupa, Tiemamut and Naramat) decided to contribute land to the Conservancy. Our ambition is to grow this protected area to 50,000 acres.
The five communities involved in the Ol Lentille Conservancy benefit directly from tourism, with employment provided by the Trust and the Ol Lentille safari lodge. They each receive a share of the conservancy fees levied on visitors, to be used on community development. In a region known for cattle rustling, they also benefit from the enhanced security provided by the Trust rangers patrolling the area.
Protecting the Ol Lentille Conservancy is a continuous struggle. It is a vast, rugged area, with many parts inaccessible by car. The Trust employs 24 rangers, led by a head ranger, and supported by three squad commanders. The uniformed, armed rangers are all employed from the local communities, including two female rangers. They have been trained by the Kenya National Police Reserve (NPR) and 51 degrees, a training outfit run by ex-Special Air Service personnel. Some of them are members of the NPR, which gives them police enforcement powers.
The rangers are responsible for patrolling the whole Conservancy, keeping poachers out, removing snares and preventing illegal grazing. Theirs is a critical and dangerous job, which ensures the security of the Conservancy as well as the 10,000 people who live in the surrounding area.
Our rangers patrol the Conservancy on foot, often spending the night in huts in remote outposts. Extreme weather events, such as droughts, often result in surges of illegal grazing activity, putting more pressure on the flora and fauna and further stretching the rangers.
The combination of community will, AWF expertise and Regenesis Limited’s management skills has led to an astonishing recovery of wildlife and habitat. The Conservancy has gone from over-grazed semi-desert to an abundance of flora and fauna in a few short years. With grass recovery, erosion has been halted and the Ldarboi spring, dead for at least 100 years, came back to life in 2007. With improved vegetation cover, rainwater can permeate the soil, resulting in increased precipitation, creating a virtuous cycle of re-greening.
Elephant are resident for the first time in living memory. The endangered African painted dog are regular visitors, and frequently den near the lodge. Greater kudu and eland have returned to the area, as have rare northern species such as Grevy’s zebra and gerenuk. Leopard and klipspringer abound. In recent months, our first pride of lion made its home on the Conservancy.