Hello Reddit!

Lewa serves as a catalyst for conservation throughout northern Kenya. Rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra and a wide variety of other wildlife call Lewa home. We also support the communities surrounding Lewa through educational scholarships and projects, mobile healthcare clinics, women's micro-loan programs, and irrigation projects.

Last week a post by /u/lionhearth21 made our baby rhino, Kitui, a star and really put Lewa on the map. Many of you shared, liked, followed, and donated --- we are so grateful!

We look forward to answering any questions you have about how we operate, our security teams, our tracker dogs, anti-poaching efforts or anything else you might want to know.

We might need to make a call or radio out into "the field" to answer some questions so we appreciate your patience

Proof: Our photo: http://i.imgur.com/XR9SLbV.jpg

Our tweet: https://twitter.com/lewa_wildlife/status/677142199461675008

To support Lewa: Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Donate to our cause: USA Donations and Everywhere else

...and of course, visit us on safari!

THANK YOU: We had a great time answering your questions and engaging with the community! Thank you for having us. We will check back in the morning to answer any questions that pop up overnight.

Comments: 82 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

StringOfLights8 karma

What are poachers doing to become more sophisticated?

What do you think is the best way to combat poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife? How hopeful are you that things can change?

lewawildlife12 karma

With the price of rhino horn exceeding that of gold in the black market, poaching of rhinos has attracted international criminal gangs willing to invest money and resources to kill rhinos, as well as elephants for ivory. This is happening across the entire continent. Some poachers are using night vision equipment to find rhinos in the dark, others are using 'silent' firearms. It is difficult, and we must always be a step ahead to ensure that our wildlife remain safe.

The best way to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade is by: Ensuring that communities that share their land with wildlife understand why elephants and rhinos are worth more alive than dead, and by doing so, they become partners in protecting the animals. This has helped us here at Lewa keep our animals safe - by using conservation to develop our neigbouring areas, the communities understand that wildlife is our national pride and heritage tha t can also lead to development, and will be first to inform of us any suspicious individuals daring to penetrate the conservancy!

Strict law enforcement (ensuring that poaching attracts hefty sentences is also crucial), and international cooperation among governments to eradicate poaching syndicates. Ultimately, reduce the demand for rhino horn and ivory in China and the Far East.

EDIT: Sorry we are still learning how to properly format :)

ren7212 karma

How far would $100,000 go towards helping to stop the poaching? Could this relatively small amount of money have an impact on how many animals could be saved?

lewawildlife3 karma

This amount is by no means small, and can help us fund the operations, salaries and medical insurance for an armed unit team for a year! Luckily, we have friends across the globe who are willing to offer this support to us, and by doing so, enable us to protect our wildlife populations.

s1001818 karma

Thank for your efforts! How do you keep yourself safe? One other question: what are the typical sentences for poachers who get caught?

lewawildlife15 karma

We do not walk around wildlife areas - unless we are with trained rangers. We are most often in vehicles; and when we need to provide veterinary care to a wild animal they are darted (sedated).

Persistent lobbying by conservationists resulted in the new wildlife act that Kenya’s president Kenyatta signed into law in December 2013. Poaching or dealing with trophies of endangered species should now result in life imprisonment or a fine of Kshs. 20m ($236,000) or both. The penalties for poaching other wildlife is a minimum fine of Kshs. 1m ($11,000) or five years in jail. The new law dictates that those behind the poaching business to be marked, named and arrested and any property acquired through the illegal trade shall be confiscated. These penalties are some of the most severe in the world, indicating Kenya’s commitment to protect its wildlife. However, implementation of the law by judiciary is key.

s1001814 karma

Wow, life imprisonment! That's very interesting, thanks.

lewawildlife4 karma

Implementation is really key, and hopefully, most of the judiciary in Kenya will be serving these tough sentences to all who commit wildlife crimes!

DanChed8 karma

What breed are your tracker dogs?

lewawildlife18 karma

They are bloodhounds!

Here's a picture of Achian and his dog, Tipper: http://i.imgur.com/tKR4ZXY.jpg

...and here's another: https://www.instagram.com/p/8yhvvxr0O7/

ichegoya6 karma

I read recently that the Chinese goverment has made good progress in cracking down on ivory trade and the black market. Also, you guys are awesome. I hope you have every success and a good new year. Please stay safe. Have you guys noticed any change in poaching behavior?

What if any direct contact do you guys have with poachers? Are they poor people trying to make a living, or rich, well funded folks who have found the right buyers?

lewawildlife9 karma

It is definitely a great step that the Chinese government is taking, and though we haven't noticed any change yet on the ground owing to this, we are sure, as a long term measure, it will go a long way in helping save our wildlife. Commitment by governments across the world is necessary to crack down this illegal trade, and especially from China, it is a great indication that the world is moving in the right direction.

Unlike previous years, most of the poachers of today are not poor villagers trying to make quick money. They are now criminals embedded in gangs that are also involved in human trafficking, the drug trade and other crimes. They are well connected individuals mostly deployed by middle-men who act as the link with buyers in the Far East.

ichegoya3 karma

Thanks for replying! You guys are heros!

lewawildlife3 karma

Thank you for your support!

rockus626 karma

Where do you stand on regulated hunting of protected species? Some say that the revenue it generates is the best way to fund conservation efforts. Others say the rules are impossible to enforce, and hunting perpetuates the idea that the animals are fair game.

lewawildlife8 karma

In Kenya, where we are based, hunting was outlawed in the 1970s and attracts hefty fines and penalties. Kenya relies on tourism (instead of hunting) to generate revenue from wildlife, and every year, tourism funds a third of our running costs on Lewa. To us, our wildlife is more beneficial alive than dead! However, hunting of endangered species remains a heated and emotional debate, but Kenya, proudly, does not practise it.

nmraptor5 karma

Hey I'm from Africa too...I grew up hunting and as a result I have a love for wildlife and nature that is hard to beat. I believe that hunting is an excellent conservation strategy. Kenya's wildlife has taken a massive hit since hunting was banned...South Africa which actually encourages hunting now has more game than it had in the past century. I think that a culture that does not shy away from hunting is more conducive to conservation. What's your views ?

lewawildlife5 karma

Different countries across the continent, and the world, adopt different wildlife management practises to protect their vulnerable species. While acceptable in other parts of the continent, in Kenya, hunting was outlawed in the late 1970s, after evaluating the pros and cons. Kenya's rhino population, which was bordering on extinction with only about 300 individuals left, actually increased, and today, we have close to 1,000 animals. There is no guarantee that if Kenya adopted sport hunting, it would help our wildlife numbers increase. As a nation, endangered species hunting is just not a strategy for us.

harleyworm03105 karma

Are any of the animals friendly i.e. will come up to rangers to get petted?

lewawildlife12 karma

Lewa is an expansive wildlife sanctuary - and most of the animals are completely wild. However, we do have some handraised individuals who, because of having interacted with humans, can be in close proximity to people. An example is Kitui, the little black rhino featured in a GIF here last week. He is being handraised by human keepers, and enjoys a good cuddle once in a while!

Most of the animals are wild and unpredictable - but loving family members. The baby rhinos love to be petted by the keepers who care for them. In the wild, we do not encourage direct interaction. However, we can see the friendly nature of many animals. Unless threatened they are peaceful for the most part. Of course predators hunt!!

harleyworm03104 karma

Thanks for the reply!! Have you ever had any animals that are wild, but become close to people?

lewawildlife9 karma

It is pretty uncommon, but happens mostly with young, handraised animals. For example, Nicky, our blind baby black rhino, was rescued when he was a few months old from the wild, but is now very close to his keepers who take care of him day and night. Sometimes, we also rescue injured wild animals and put them up in a boma 'shelter', where we take care of them until they are back to full health before releasing them back into the wild. Initially aggressive, they understand over time that we only want to help, and they become less agitated by human presence!

StringOfLights4 karma

What sort of birds are found in the areas you are working to conserve? What conservation challenges do they face?

lewawildlife6 karma

Vultures, falcons, hawks, eagle owls and about 400+ migratory species.

Most vulnerable are the Gray Crane and of course all vultures. We are currently undertaking a plan to count the birds on Lewa and surrounding areas to gain a better sense of populations and their changes since a census several years ago. This will be our first step towards understanding threats to their population and creating a more comprehensive program to protect them.

pteridoid4 karma

I read an article recently about how research showed "that a variety of microlending programs had little to no effect on participants’ income or financial well-being."

What evidence have you seen that the microlending in your community really works?

lewawildlife8 karma

Our micro-credit programme is beyond simply giving the women credit - we offer trainings on enterpreneurship, governance, financial management, personal growth and more. Furthermore, members of the Lewa micro-credit scheme work in teams, which helps to keep each other in check, and also, forms a great platform for the women to share ideas and thoughts on their various enterprises. In the past 10 years, our programme has grown from supporting 30 women, to close to 800 women in the programme. Default rate has been low, and in 2013, the Community Development Team capped a decade of the micro-credit programme by distributing Kshs. 4.8m ($56, 470) worth of loans, the most in a year since the programme’s inception. We have seen women develop successful businesses, feed their families, and make income for their homes through the programme. Additionally, they are all now great conservation and wildlife ambassadors!

pteridoid3 karma

Just made a small donation. Keep up the good work!

lewawildlife2 karma

Thank you so much! We will! Thanks for supporting us :)

DanChed3 karma

What challenges, if any are quite unexpected for the work you guys do?

lewawildlife7 karma

Fluctuating revenue from tourism, ever increasing sophistication by poaching gangs and unpredictable weather are all things we cannot prepare for in advance!

PurpleRhymer2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! You guys are doing great work. Anti poaching and micro lending seem pretty different. How did you determine those stratigies would be the most effective in those areas and is there anything else that your organization does?

lewawildlife1 karma

Thank you! Micro lending scheme is just a facet of our community development programmes. At Lewa, we understand that we are in a special position that enables us to use conservation as a development strategy, and community development as a conservation strategy. As a result, we run numerous conservation and community development programmes. Under conservation - we offer a safe haven to endangered species, reintroduce endangered species to previously inhabited safe and secure areas, offer a learning ground for new conservation organisations, provide veterinary care to wildlife in need across northern Kenya, mitigate human-wildlife conflict, promote habitat linkage for migratory animals such as elephants and more! Under Community Development - we support 21 schools with over 6,000 children, 418 children with educational scholarships, 6 adult learning centres, conservation education to school children, micro-credit programme with over 800 women, 4 health clinics that are the nearest health centres to close to 50,000 people, youth empowerment, afforestation programmes, security support to our neighbours and more.

Rafiki2122 karma

Hi Lewa!

I am originally from South Africa and grew up in California. In college I took my FGASA lvl1 and wanted to join an anti poaching/conservation program. After I graduated, I had to take a job to pay off school loans and am now in Finance.

What Can I do now with my skillset to help?

Also, what are your thoughts on programs like Protrack? (http://www.protrackapu.co.za/)

Thanks again!

lewawildlife2 karma

Hi! Great that you're thinking of helping in wildlife conservation. The best thing is, everyone can contribute in one way or another. For example at Lewa, we have people who work in the Finance office, the conservation department, in community development, at the workshop and more. It is also great that you live in California! You can support us by attending Lewa events in your area, by raising awareness within your circles, signing online petitions against wildlife crimes and more! Please email us at [email protected] and we will add you to our database.

Since we are based in Kenya, we are not exactly familiar with Protrack and cannot make any comment on it. However, if it is a programme that trains passionate people to become rangers, then such programmes are critical to have. It is necessary to ensure that rangers are well trained and equipped, as poachers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and wildlife rangers need to be always a step ahead.

Zebedayo2 karma

I am extremely excited that Lewa Conservancy is on this platform. As an animal lover, it pains to see animals slaughtered in the news every single month. Keep up the good work and let the animals live free.

lewawildlife2 karma

Hi, Brian!

Thank you for the kind words and thank you for bringing your own work to our attention!

Rafiki2121 karma

Thank you! I will email you and get in your database!

Protrack trains people to essentially be militarized anti-poaching units.

lewawildlife1 karma

Great! Thank you! Yes, Protrack sounds like it would be pivotal to anti-poaching strategies.

aspirer421 karma

What's something you wish people knew about Kenya that isn't well-known in the US?

lewawildlife7 karma

First, we would like people to know that Kenya is safe. Visitors frequently comment on the fact that they are surprised by how truly safe and secure they feel, despite what they read in the press and on websites. Secondly, we would like to tell people how beautiful and diverse Kenya is. Visitors can watch the sun set on the beautiful Matthews mountain range one day, hike on the savannah another and take wind surfing lessons on yet another. Watching the sun set behind an acacia tree while having drinks in the Mara is an experience they will never forget.

aspirer421 karma

Thanks for your answer! :)

lewawildlife1 karma

You're welcome :)

Accolades40001 karma

What are the special skills that make a Bloodhound perfect for the job?

lewawildlife2 karma

Bloodhounds on Lewa act as trackers for the Anti-Poaching Unit. Why is a bloodhound the dog for the job? Because of its outstanding ability to read terrain with its nose, primarily due to a large, ultrasensitive set of scent membranes that allows the dog to distinguish smells at least a thousand times better than humans.

Researchers have estimated that a bloodhound’s nose consists of approximately 230 million olfactory cells, or “scent receptors” — 40 times the number in humans!

mattluttrell1 karma

Do you have any cute pictures or stories about bush babies that Reddit might enjoy? (Or is your altitude too high for them?)

How are the flies at your refuge? Tsetse flies are a bitch

I'm happy to see your post on Reddit. I've never been on safari in Kenya specifically but really love the area. Here is a picture of me in Tanzania last year

I really appreciate what you do and hope everyone on Reddit has a chance to see this wildlife in person.

lewawildlife2 karma

Fortunately flies are less a problem where we are as we are well above sea level (5,500 ft). Temperatures cool at night and free us of the really annoying species. Yes we do have bush babies on Lewa, they are always quick to hide unfortunately, but of course, are a delight to spot!

Awesome picture, and I hope you make it to Kenya someday!

ren7211 karma

So how are the large mammals doing in Kenya now that hunting has been banned for almost 40 years? Has the ban done its job?

lewawildlife1 karma

When hunting (and generally poaching) was banned in Kenya, we barely had any black rhinos left. In fact, many estimate that at the end of the 70s, the decimation of Kenya's rhinos was so bad we only had about 300 individuals left in the whole country. Over time, this population started to recover with the establishment of Lewa and other rhino sanctuaries to protect the last of Kenya's rhinos. However, the past few years has seen an upsurge in demand for ivory and rhino horn, and this has threatened to reverse the gains made over the years, but we are all working hard to ensure this does not happen.

Annepackrat1 karma

Do the baby rhinos particularly like being scratched around the horn buds? When will they become / look like true horns?

lewawildlife1 karma

They love being scratched on their backs, around their necks and in between their legs and stomachs! Yes the horns do grow, just like our finger nails do, and look like true horns. Nicky's horn is quickly growing big!

Frajer1 karma

are poachers typically after ivory?

lewawildlife1 karma

Yes, they are typically after ivory from elephants, and rhino horn from rhinos. Though some also engage in trafficking other wildlife parts such as lion claws.

falconchurr1 karma

What do your tracker dogs do?

lewawildlife3 karma

Our bloodhounds act as trackers for the Anti-Poaching Unit. Hardworking Tipper and Tony (they are 4 years and 11 months old!) are an integral part of the team responsible for protecting and caring for rhinos on Lewa, elephants in northern Kenya and other wildlife in the entire landscape. The dogs have recorded tremendous success in catching the bad guys! They not only help catch poachers, but also people who steal livestock in the neighbouring communities, road bandits and other criminals. Tipper and Tony also offer support to the Kenya Police when needed, and have been flown across the country to help in follow ups to various wildlife crimes.

See the team here: http://i.imgur.com/Jqjxsnu.jpg

EDIT: And more of Tipper: https://www.instagram.com/p/8yhvvxr0O7/

Lord_Kyle1 karma

I'm a canadian environmental student that would love to work in conservation. What steps can I take to get into the industry?

lewawildlife1 karma

You can begin by volunteering in a conservation organisation in your country or around the world to gain some experience, read lots of material on the subject to learn as much as you can, and once you graduate, apply to join organisations of your preference. Conservation fields are far and wide, and you also perhaps need to narrow down which area you want to specialise in - environmental management, endangered species conservation, awareness and outreach, forestry management etc. Good luck and we are so encouraged to see young people interested in conservation!

Mzilikazi811 karma

Habari bwana?

What would you consider is the most critically endangered animal in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and are the numbers currently climbing or shrinking for this animal? What would you consider to be the biggest step in ensuring the survival of this species?

Asante sana!

lewawildlife2 karma

Nzuri Sana!

The black rhino is a critically endangered species. The eastern black rhino population plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting. We are slowling increasing their numbers through conservation efforts, but it's a hard battle that relies on coordinated efforts between many conservancies: for example, expanding their range through relocation programmes. These are some of the world's oldest mammals! In order to ensure their survival, we need to eliminate poaching. In order to do that, we need to educate people (particularly in the Far East) that rhino horn does not hold any medicinal value. The idea that it holds medicinal value isn't always malicious --- many people do not know that poachers have to kill the rhino in order to harvest the horn. So that requires education and awareness as well.

turkey_toots1 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA, you definitely do some great work. My questions pertains to research and researchers that study wildlife in N. Kenya. Do researchers have to let you know that they're there? Have there been any incidents or stories of your security mistaking researchers for poachers?

lewawildlife1 karma

Generally speaking, we are working in conjunction with researchers so we know where they are when they are in the field. There have never been any incidents of researchers being mistaken for anyone else.

sukobiru1 karma

How has climate change impacted the animals in Lewa? Are you having to make any changes in your conservation efforts to match any changes?

lewawildlife2 karma

The biggest impact has been less rainfall. For time to time, when the grass and/or browse has all been eaten, we do feed the rhino.

uint1 karma

I'll be visiting Lewa next week! Anything I should do/see while I'm there? Best time to visit?

lewawildlife1 karma

So lovely to hear! Where will you be staying? You will definitely see plenty of endangered black rhino, white rhinos as well, elephants, lions, endangered Grevy's zebra and more! You can also meet tracker dogs Tipper and Tony. Let us know the dates and we'll be sure to meet you when you arrive :)

DeathHaze4201 karma

Since we only really get to ask the hunter this question.... What do "trophyhunters" do for conservation where you are?

lewawildlife2 karma

We don't have any trophy hunters in Kenya, as trophy hunting was banned by the Kenya government in the late 1970s.

cornballattack1 karma

How aggressively does the government in the area which you work pursue poaching?

lewawildlife2 karma

We work hand in hand with the Kenya Wildlife Service and our armed rangers are all registered by the Kenyan Police Reserve. So we work with them on a daily basis in a wonderful public/private partnership.

EDIT: In 2013, the Kenya government enacted a new law that offers very harsh penalties to poachers and anyone caught with wildlife trophies, showing their commitment to curbing illegal wildlife crime.