The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be both a blessing and a curse as far as conservation is concerned. A benefit because the absence of large numbers of tourists in some areas is beneficial to land and its natural inhabitants, animals. A curse because it suspends some conservation programmes that are partially funded by the people who pay to take part. I took part in a project in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, East Africa.
The Enonkishu Conservancy in Kenya, Africa
The Mara Training Centre is the hub of the Enonkishu Conservancy on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. The conservation project was started here in 2009 when the area was barren and devoid of wildlife due to over-grazing. Bomas (portable fencing) were employed to contain the cattle at night. The action of the hooves of many animals and natural fertilisation helps the rapid re-growth of healthy grass. They are corralled in a small enclosure to prevent stampeding should a predator get inside. Good grazing produces healthier cows and attracts wildlife to the area.
Staying in the Enonkishu Conservancy
Accommodation at the conservancy is a mixture of bandas (brick-built bungalows with en-suite facilities) and tents. I chose a tent even though I have never camped before. The small bed in my tent proved to be surprisingly comfortable. The walk at night to the ablutions block was an opportunity to enjoy brilliant stars in a clear sky. I loved the sounds of the night. A grunting hippo in the river a few yards from my tent; the howling of a hyena; and resident Vervet monkeys crashing through the trees. We had our vegetarian meals in the Cow Shed and briefings in the Training Centre
Working on a Project at the Enonkishu Conservancy
All participants had to follow a strict regime. Breakfast together at six in the morning before driving or walking in the conservancy to collect information. A second visit to the conservancy followed lunch. On each trip, we recorded the animals we saw and their exact position. We registered the data we collected on two uncooperative laptops. Our training included learning to drive the four-by-four vehicles we travelled in – a highlight for me. Driving through the conservancy every day, getting close to wildlife was an incredible experience. The elephants are not keen on our presence here and they block the tracks with large branches, so we had to find another route. I had to work hard but it was an exceptional experience.
Article by Valery Collins the Experienced Traveller