Date of this Version
Great Plains Research 20 (Spring 2010): 17-27
Increasingly, private land around the world is being set aside for conservation. The Laikipia District in Kenya is one area where wildlife conservation has been relatively successful on privately owned lands. This region supports a higher diversity of large mammals than any other region in East Africa, yet only 2% of the district is formally protected. Land is mostly owned and managed by private ranchers or groups of Maasai families on “group ranches.” In most private ranches, wildlife conservation and tourism have become important sources of revenue over the last two decades. Wildlife, once merely tolerated, are now considered desirable by most people. On group ranches, wildlife conservation is also gaining ground, albeit more slowly. Land on group ranches is being set aside specifically for wildlife, and income from wildlife-based tourism now supplements livestock ranching. In both types of ranches, however, land management practices may need to be refined to conserve a broader assemblage of fauna and flora. Populations of some threatened herbivores have fallen, and many ranches are experiencing woody encroachment, decreases in grass cover, and increases in bare ground and erosion. Conservation enterprises also face the challenge of achieving independence from foreign capital. They will need to diversify their income-generating activities and build local capacity. Regional coordination, though relatively strong, could be improved to provide greater scope to promote conservation. These challenges and successes illustrate the potential for private-land conservation in a region of high biodiversity.