The scenic Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) in Nanyuki, Laikipia County, was the venue for the launch of a National Recovery and Action Plan for the Mountain Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci) in Kenya (2019-2023), on July 8, 2019.
The Plan was launched by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife, Hon. Najib Balala. Its goal is to grow the current population of Mountain bongo from 96 in the wild and 77 in MKWC to 750 in the next 50 years, by prescribing specific actions aimed at addressing the threats facing the species.
Dignitaries who graced the occasion included the Governor of Laikipia County, Ndiritu Muriithi; Principal Secretary, State Department of Wildlife, Dr. Susan Koech; KWS Director General Brigadier (Rtd.) John M. Waweru and the Chief Conservator of Forests, Julius W. Kamau.
Other guests were the Director General, NEMA professor Godfrey Wakhungu; Chairman, MKWC Humphrey Kariuki; MKWC Trustee and MD for Janus Continental Group, Margaret Mbaka; Executive Director of Rhino Ark, Christian Lambrechts; Manager Bongo Surveillance Project, Mike PretteJohn; KWS Board of Trustees and Chair of the Conservation Board, Ian Craig; Wildlife Direct CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu; a representative of the County Commissioner of Nyeri, Water Tower Agency, Mt. Kenya Trust, Mobility Organization (USA), and Designer Safaris, among others.
In his remarks, the CS lamented the painful loss of the last male northern white rhino, Sudan. He however expressed his delight in being a part of the launch, saying it augured well for the future of the critically endangered mountain bongo, because the plan would rescue it from the forever that is extinction.
“This launch is yet another milestone in the conservation mandate bestowed upon; not only KWS and the government, but all Kenyans, as well.” Mr. Balala was effusive in his gratitude to the team of dedicated conservationists whose tireless efforts and collaboration resulted in what he termed an ambitious, but achievable Recovery and Action Plan.
CS explained that the bongo is listed under Appendix III of CITES, which allows for limited trade in the species. Global population is between 650-665 individuals.
The evening before the launch saw a bongo calf born at MKWC. Mr. Balala elicited laughter when he explained the meticulous process undertaken to name the new-born. ‘Saba Saba,’ was chosen to commemorate its fortuitous birth on the seventh day of the seventh month, and coincidentally, its birth upped the bongo population at the MKWC to a total of 77.
The CS said that plans are underway to roll out similar projects for the Hirola antelope as well as other critically endangered species listed in schedule six of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA), 2013.
The Governor of Laikipia stated that MKWC straddles both Nyeri and Laikipia counties, saying that he was enthusiastic at being able to collaborate widely for the betterment of the counties’ inhabitants, both human and wildlife.
Mr. Muriithi said that plans such as the one being launched made the extinction of more species improbable. He elaborated that the government faced a daunting task of creating jobs in this economy. “How do we conserve sustainably while creating jobs?” he asked. The Governor ended his statement with a call to action to all involved, to keep searching for innovative things - what he termed as low-hanging fruit - that can be done to change lives meaningfully for the communities which live in Laikipia, even as we persuade them to become wildlife ambassadors.
“The measure of any society is how we treat our voiceless populations; this includes wildlife,” affirmed KWS DG in his address to the gathering. He said that KWS has concentrated its efforts towards conservation of the mountain bongo over the years.
Brigadier (Rtd.) Waweru averred that one of the highest ranked strategic objectives of the Recovery Plan being launched is to secure remaining wild populations from further poaching and disturbance by providing an Intensive Protection Zone, staffed by a permanent security force engaged in daily patrols, anti-poaching and de-snaring activities and law enforcement.
“Conservation is about one thing and one thing only. It is about leaving an intact heritage – saving the last great species and places on earth for humanity,” he concluded.
The Chief Conservator of Forests stated that KWS, KFS and other partners were irrevocably entwined in the theme of conserving and protecting the mountain bongo, which spiraled out into the aspect of protecting our ecosystem.
He reassured those present that KFS stood ready to partner with all parties, but more importantly, the communities adjacent to the forests. He said that livelihood requirement is permanent, and the KFS’ establishment of Community Forest Associations in every forest block has wrought a transformative change to residents’ livelihoods, which will make them the first ambassadors for protection of the ecosystem.
Mr. Kamau demonstrated KFS’ commitment to her mandate by saying that the KFS Board had granted a request received by MKWC, seeking a specialist license for 776 acres for use in conserving the Mountain bongo.
A charming mascot by the name Benjie the Bongo, presented a symbolic Action Plan for signatures to be appended. Among the signatories were the CS, PS, Governor, KWS and KFS DGs, Messrs Mike PretteJohn, Christian Lambrechts and Colin Church, as well as the Bongo Task Force Chair, Dr. Patrick Omondi, among others.