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They once were killing. Now they are saving wild animals together

The northern Kenya area was a paradise for poachers who decimated mainly rhinos and elephants. After decades of bloody clashes over cattle and pastures, the tribes of Samburu, Borana, Redille, and Turkana are beginning to work together. They try not only to ensure a more peaceful life for their loved ones, but also to save wild animals.

"About an hour ago, the females were a short distance away. We'll try to look at it, but we have to be careful. "The midday sun is perky in the nape, not a perfect hour for tracking, yet Johnston, one of the guards in the Sera Reserve in northern Kenya, commands his three colleagues to try to find a female rhinoceros .

There is a varan on the trail in front of us, but there is nothing to move anywhere and there is a slight tension in the air. We trample between the stones and try not to make any noise. Rhinos are mostly fleeing, but here we are moving in the overgrown landscape between about three meters tall bushes, and if we disturb the animal from too short a distance, we might start off.

At one point, the guard stiffens, picks up his forefinger and listens carefully to something. In the moment, the other rangers, and we with them, are furious. We are waiting for the guard to explore the space ahead of us, but after a moment his quiet, relaxed voice sounds - we found the resting place that the female had left a while ago. "You see, here is the land clearly disturbed by her body, there are blessed plants here and there are fresh traces of the direction she left," Johnston describes.

Community rhinos
We move in the middle of a vast area where a few ronursions a year ago were not just rhinoceros, but it was hard to find any other wild animals. The dry plains with occasional rocky hills and spruce trees suffered from conflicts between the Samburu, Borana, and Redille tribes, which led to the poachers. The bloody struggle for cattle grazing, however, was not only for animals but mainly for the communities that live in the area.

For this reason, ethnic leaders have agreed to set up community reserves to manage the tribes together. The number of such managed reservations is still increasing in Kenya, and today it already includes territories that correspond to all national parks in the country. The community reserve is Sera, which was founded in 2001 and boasts an extraordinary success - in 2015 it became the first community reserve in East Africa to gain its rhinoceros.

Initially, twenty had to be transported to the Sera, but one rhinoceros had died when captured and two other movements failed. They could not find enough water and food in the new place, and after a few days they died as well. The remaining animals are doing well, and they can also protect themselves from poachers.

Luxury loneliness
"Here we have dogs that help us with rhinoceros protection,"
shows a young man named Galigalo, with a mighty reed roof almost reaching the ground, before wearing a rhinoceros. He himself belongs to the Borans and affirms that men from different tribes are actually involved in guarding a fenced reservation for rhinos. They live in a slightly worse condition than their dogs - they sleep in tents on portable deck chairs, cook themselves, and they are separated from their loved ones by tens of kilometers of difficult terrain.

The Rhombus Reservation has an area of ​​approximately 100 square kilometers, the whole Sera reservation is several times more. The goal of all concerned, of course, is to make community reservations at least a partial income. But how many visitors to this remote region can visit?

"In 2017, it was about a hundred people,"
says Johnston, who belongs to the Samburu. The number looks crazy, at first glance, but a closer look brings a glimpse of hope. In Seara, the only option for accommodation is very expensive and only for a few people. So the luxury of loneliness is dear, and even those hundreds of people here probably have a few hundred thousand dollars a year. This is a huge amount of money in northern Kenya, but there is a need for communities to find and receive additional sources of income in and around the community.

Retrieval from Jablonec
Sera's carriage ride to the rhinoceros is just for enthusiastic enthusiasts. When riding, it is necessary to overcome several riverbeds of seasonal rivers, for which, right now, at the start of the rainy season, it is not certain whether they will still be leaky. You will therefore be relieved when it reaches the paved road again.

In the Sereolipi settlement, we add supplies to the locked window of the local shop. From two steps we are watching a robust Samurai warrior. The hair has a meshwork made of ocher clay and is decorated with necklaces and necklaces of colorful beads. In that exotic and wild place it seems almost unbelievable, but the beads are from Jablonec nad Nisou.

One of the winners of local women is the production of necklaces, bracelets and other decorations, not only for local beauties and beauty, but also for export. "Because we have to guarantee the quality of adornment for our customers abroad, we do not buy cheap beads from China but good quality goods from the Czech Republic," explains Vishal Shah from Northern Rangeland Trust, which not only creates community reserves for nature conservation, even with the provision of other sources of livelihood.

When Vishal opens a metal container, he grinningly welcomes a visit from Bohemia. After a while it is clear why - the container is full of plastic bags with colored beads and inscriptions Preciosa and Ornela, ie companies from the Liberec region. From the Northern Rangeland Trust headquarters, beads travel to individual communities, where women create jewelery or other ornaments, and through the headquarters of the organization they are sold under the Beadworks Kenya brand all over the world.

"Sure, economically, it would be worthwhile to make a small factory here and make everything there,"
Vishal said. "But that would make sense of our efforts. Our goal is to provide people with income in the place where they live, " Vishal explains. Only when communities remain in wildlife areas will they also have an interest in protecting them. If the locals left for work in the center, the area would be re-issued to the pope's poachers.

With the sale of beads, therefore, zoological gardens are particularly helpful, from America to Australia. In Europe, it is primarily the Safari Park in Dvůr Králové and the zoo in Chester, England. As a result, bead revenue also helps protect the most endangered animals in northern Kenya - such as rhinoceros, giraffe grids, or Grévy's zebra. Only about 200 women are involved in the production of beads in the Sera reservation area.

Orphan for elephants
About an hour's drive from Sereolipi in the opposite direction to the Sera reservation, there is another facility that documents the current transformations of northern Kenya. In order not to be lost, Jimmy, a member of the Samburu army, is accompanied by a machine gun. After embracing several pastoral settlements, and after overcoming several channels, we are safely riding orphans Reteti to the elephant.

At the foot of the tall rocky hills there are ten whales walking through the trees, along which some guards walk. After the first rains, the plant is beautifully green and the breeders gladly salve the acacia leaves. One of the youngsters is particularly lively, and with his ears stretched, he looks to see who has just arrived. "This is Bawa, our biggest growl," says Liz O'Brien, who helps save Africa's wildlife in various parts of Africa. Retet is just a few weeks' inspection.

"When Bawu was brought, he was not more than two weeks old. The veterinarian looked at him and grimly remarked, 'The sun is basically dead,' "
says Liz O'Brien. "He fell into the mud at the power pit. He was dehydrated, gaunt and frightened, his eyes burned from the sun, his skin peeling, and a lot of mud in his stomach. It really did not seem to survive. "

But Bawa finally managed it. He was slowly collecting, and when he could be connected with the other elephants, the older female Shaba took him, from which he did not take a few steps for a few months. Now he runs around and chokes the chopsticks both in the guards and in the others.

Why up to Nairobi?
Stories with a similarly happy ending have already been completed in Reteti, which was founded in August 2016. But a lot of orphans can not save themselves. Here, not only the victims of poachers, but also the youngsters stuck in the mud at some of the napajedel. Mothers, for some time, try to get rid of the cub, but if it is not, they continue for their group.

"Many local elephants are afraid. It's no wonder, because the young man has the strength to kill you, "says Liz O'Brien. Thus, the Samburu often drive the elephants away from their settlements, and it can easily happen when they run out of the sun. "Even so, it seemed strange to the locals that their 'lionesses in jeopardy were weighed over half a country into the abandoned animal facility in Nairobi," O'Brien continues.

The Orphan Orphanage was opened in August 2016 and all nursing staffs are local Samburu. Unlike similar places elsewhere, for example, in the main Kenyan city of Nairobi, women in Reteth can also look after the ladies.

However, the real rehearsal is all waiting in Rete. Due to the youth of elephants, not yet one has been released back into the wild. The first to try is Shabba. Conditions will be good, there is water in the area, and there is not much pressure on predators like lions. However, the return will be quite demanding and the orphan's staff counts that the young female will return to Rete.

We can do it
The rain begins, the elephants turn and slowly return to the yards where they will spend the night. The rain grows, and a few hours ago, the dry trough turns into a strong river stream on the way back. Beginning to dim and drown now a car in the desert of northern Kenya is not a totally appealing idea.

"We'll do it,"
Jimmy guards us, and we're entering the trough. The car slows down, the water rises on the body and Jimmy stops smiling. It seems that the current will imprison us when the wheels eventually hit the hard ground, the car lazily climbs to the steep bank, and Jimmy grinned from ear to ear. He now knows that he will get us today with a hard road - and hence home.

The air collapses, the day ends, and the night falls between acacia. We are going through a country that has had a painful and still lively history of armed clashes. Enjoyment in these lands has never been easy, drought and misery here have the same strong roots as bloody rituals and hardness in character.

But remembering the guardians of rhinos and elephant caregivers, people want to believe that times are changing - that the Samburu and their neighbors can overcome all the submerged troughs on their way to transforming their country into a quieter place where people will not fight and where they are free nature with wild animals gets its space.

Author: Jan Stejskal, Head of Communications and International Projects of Safari Park Dvur Kralove.

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