Is it possible to use a safari to protect and improve respect for animal populations? Faith Riunga, Director of Education at the celebrated Lewa safari camp, in Northern Kenya, has long believed so.
The environmentalist’s safari has been dubbed a “catalyst and model for conservation”. It’s a world leader on land management, anti-poaching, and sustainable development, and is considered one of the most successful rhino conservation projects on the planet. In 30 years of operations the safari has created a robust ecosystem for species including the black rhino and the lion, cheetah and giraffe. Over 20% of the world’s population of the endangered Grevy’s zebra are also based on Lewa land.
In a decade of work, Riunga has increased the number of schools supported by Lewa from four to 21 schools within Lewa and 10 in NRT-supported community conservancies, directly impacting the lives of almost to 10,000 children. According to a post on Facebook, Faith also started an adult literacy programme with around 400 students, a digital literacy programme across neighbouring schools (more than 1,000 students participate every year), and a conservation education programme (where more than 3,000 children visit Lewa each year to learn about conservation).
“We envision a future where people across Kenya value, protect and benefit from wildlife,” the Lewa website reads. “This future depends on communities being able to derive their day-to-day livelihoods in ways that are compatible with thriving wildlife habitat.”
To that end, the safari invests heavily in the livelihoods of neighbours through education, healthcare, water, youth empowerment and micro enterprise schemes. The website stresses that the lesson from Lewa “is simple: if you want to protect wildlife, you have to build clinics, support schools and empower local communities.
“Of course a safari is about wildlife, spending time amongst dazzling concentrations of big charismatic animals, but it is also about land, people, and cultures coexisting, now and for future generations”.
Riunge has worked in the role since 2004, and holds a Masters in Administration and Planning from the University of Central Oklahoma.Tags: conservation, Kenya, Rhino, Safari