January 23, 2007

Unique Sanctuary

Unique sanctuary
pls keep patience....n read the whole article.....this sanctuary...is really unik!


THE KITALE CONSERVANCY- a 136-hectare botanical garden with over 850 plant species , has finally been opened to the public.

The garden is owned by career educationist Boniface Ndura, who says that a country's identity should not be determined by culture only but also the uniqueness of its vegetation.

The plant species in the garden are planted systematically according to families to facilitate learning and understanding by laymen.

All the species are indigenous, depicting distinct ecosystems in Kenya, from the tropical rain forest in Kakamega, the alpine meadows on Mt Kenya to the semi-desert areas like Garissa in the northeastern.

The park is 6km from Kitale town on the Kitale-Kapenguria highway.
Mr Ndura advocates the promotion and conservation of indigenous plant species in their diversity not only for ecological usefulness but also for "our ecological identity."

The botanical garden has a special focus on endemic and endangered species and the management argues that they need to be replicated elsewhere from their original habitats to save them from extinction through the genetic drifts that affect confined gene pools.
All the traditional uses of the plants are being studied and documented to preserve the rich ethno-ecology and wisdom, that Mr Ndura says has been accumulated over prolonged periods and should not be allowed to die with the few elders scattered in various communities.

Mr Ndura says his botanical garden is a sign of what commitment can do.
"Many institutions spend huge sums of money from donors but hardly produce anything worth the name," he laments.

He says the main reason conservation fails in Africa is because of the mentality that we must be "funded" to conserve our resources, arguing that conservation is a culture and attitude.
Western Kenya has only a few natural habitats set aside for conservation of either indigenous forests or natural populations of wildlife.

The main conservation areas are the trans-boundary Mt Elgon National Park and Saiwa Swamp, the smallest national park in Kenya. Both are managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
While private conservation is common in the savanna areas of Machakos, Laikipia and Naivasha, it is less so in western Kenya.

At Endebbess, there is the Delta Crescent Sanctuary, which was hitherto the only successful sanctuary of rare species like the Rothschild giraffe and white rhino. It is also a popular tourist destination, offering camping and horse riding.

Kitale Conservancy is the second significant private conservation initiative in the area.
Besides education — its main purpose is offering recreational activities like boat riding, camping and nature walks.

Beyond the restaurant at the gate, the trail is lined with indigenous tree species from different ecosystems in Kenya and the management has documented their ecological and cultural significance to the communities where they originate.

The nature trail then winds through different habitats, among them a thick riverine forest along the Sabwani River, a tributary of the Nzoia. Then there aredry grassland and marshy land, all hosting the appropriate species.

From a conservation perspective, the most unique species are the De-Brazza's monkeys, the sitatunga and crested cranes.

The De-Brazza's monkeys is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, or the World Conservation Union) as an endangered species in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda because its habitats are being eroded by cultivation and deforestation.

In Kenya, the species is found only in the west of the country, with pocket populations in Kakamega forest, Mt Elgon National Park and Saiwa Swamp National Park, 15 km from Kitale Conservancy.

IT IS SIGNIFICANT THAT KItale conservancy is the only private conservation area where the species occurs.

Although the monkey is shy, a patient visitor has a chance to spot it either on the nature trail along the river or near the restaurant at the main gate. The farm hosts a population of about 30 of this elegant species which are attracting researchers from different learning institutions worldwide.

The sitatunga is listed in literature as rare or locally endangered in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Lake Chad. It is the only amphibious antelope in Kenya, distinguished by its shaggy long legs with splayed hooves and spreadeagled stance. These are an evolutionary adaptation for living on boggy ground.

In Kenya, the sitatunga is found mainly on the shores of Lake Victoria and in minor pockets of western Kenya. Saiwa Swamp national park is the only protected area where sitatunga live and breed, though there is some conflict with neighbouring farmers.

The Kitale Conservancy has a 20-hectare wetland dedicated to sitatunga conservation and, with the assistance of KWS, the farm is now a sitatunga sanctuary making it the second private farm, after Lewa Downs in Nanyuki, to become a sitatunga sanctuary.

The Saiwa swamp is the only known protected area in Kenya where the Uganda crane and the black crowned crane breed.

The two cranes are unique in that they are virtually endangered due to loss of wetland habitats in the country, most of which have been reclaimed for agriculture.

While the conservancy's conservation credentials are unassailable, the farm has a controversial component.

Among the principal attractions is a set of livestock with bizarre genetic deformities.
Mr Ndura says he decided to offer sanctuary to these animals to save them from persecution.
Such animals are taboo in some communities, where they are killed immediately after birth, but Mr Ndura says they have a right to exist like other animals, adding that their presence on the farm offers great educational insight.

He says he has on several occasions hosted university students of veterinary genetics and some external scholars in the field who confess to having read about but never seen such evolutionary aberrations.

For Mr Ndura, the opening of the park to the public is the culmination of a dream nurtured since he bought the first 45 hectares of land in 1974.

He painstakingly bought more land to ensure a viable area for conservation and hopes to finally use the park to teach the public that "conservation" is not waste of agricultural land but a profitable land use as well."


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