The wild populations of many iconic African species are declining rapidly because of habitat loss and poaching. The local communities that share space with these species are also struggling to survive. The OKC Zoo is helping these animals and people through a multi-year partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) in Kenya.
NRT is an umbrella organization that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. NRT is one of the Zoo’s legacy conservation partners. Legacy partners are multiyear partners to which the Zoo provides significant financial support annually. The Zoo has been supporting NRT since 2009 with annual donations provided by the Oklahoma Zoological Society (OZS). Most of this money is generated from Zoo membership sales. Thank you to our members! You are helping protect African elephants, African painted dogs, giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, cheetahs, lions, and many more species. You are also helping a Kenyan community thrive.
NRT oversees four regional hubs in Kenya. Community conservancies are established in these areas to sustainably manage land to reduce grazing pressure and competition between livestock and wildlife. The Lekurruki Conservancy is located in the NRT Center region in northern Kenya. The Zoo’s money is used to support this conservancy. The majority of the money is used to pay and equip security rangers who patrol Lekurruki Conservancy. They deal with livestock encroachment from neighboring areas, record wildlife sightings, reduce human-wildlife conflict, and document and prevent poaching. This is especially important to safeguard African elephants living in this area. Elephants are being killed for their ivory tusks at a rate of 96 individuals per day.
NRT also supports beadwork businesses in many of the conservancies, including Lekurruki. Through this program community women are trained in bead craft, leadership, accounting, and marketing and are given small loans to start their beadwork businesses. They produce beadwork jewelry that NRT supplies to its partners for sale. The proceeds are returned to the women. This diversifies family income, reducing reliance on livestock. It also empowers women in the communities to become business owners and breadwinners. The Zoo’s main gift shop sells beadwork items produced by these women.
For more information about the Zoo’s global conservation partnerships, click here.
--Dr. Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science
Photo: Dr. Jennifer D'Agostino