Conservation Optimism Part 4 - Vet Aid, Kenya

Every day this week I will be sharing a story of #conservationoptimism from around the world – exciting projects led by passionate people dedicated to saving Earth’s precious wildlife. Today’s story is of the legendary Masai Mara, but not as you know it. 

A few years ago I spent 3 weeks driving around Narok county, Kenya, with the aim of finding out how pastoralists there face the challenges of raising livestock in such an unforgiving environment, facing inhospitable weather conditions, cruel endemic diseases and persistent wildlife conflict. I spoke to many families around Narok to collect data for my undergraduate research project about the veterinary challenges of farming in the Mara. The voices of communities in such remote areas are not often heard in academic research, and there was little published data to tell what problems they faced, and therefore what solutions were needed.

I was hosted by the NGO VetAid Kenya, who provide vet services to farming communities in remote regions surrounding the Masai Mara. Alongside the research project we carried out vet duties to those in need along our way, such as administering deworming treatments to flocks of sheep and goats or immunising cattle against the tick-bourne East Coast Fever, all extremely important facets of preventative healthcare in this region. Minimising preventable losses is key to improving productivity and therefore food security – absolutely vital to any farming system, but especially where the line between enough and not enough is so thin. Later on in my trip I was learned first-hand what food shortages in Kenya could look like, when a zebra needed rescuing from an illegal snare set up for bush meat.

With human-wildlife conflict so often being a major threat to endangered species, it is vital that research is conducted to highlight what the origins of conflict are, and what can be done to allow humans and wildlife to live in harmony. Hearing people’s accounts first-hand was truly enlightening - never underestimate the importance of going out on the ground and listening, and seeing, for yourself.