10 Conservancies in Kenya That Will Win Your Heart - Africa Point Blog
Are African elephants endangered? This is the question everybody is asking, and for a good reason! The simple answer is they are. Poaching, wildlife-human conflict, deforestation as well as climate change have all contributed to a steady decrease in wildlife, with elephants and rhinos being
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Home  >  Blog  >  10 Conservancies in Kenya That Will Win Your Heart

10 Conservancies in Kenya That Will Win Your Heart

Published 3rd December 2014 by Jackline Wambugi
Modified 21st July 2015
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Wildlife, Destinations, Kenya, Antelope, African Elephants, Chimpanzees, Wild Dog, Rhino, Marine Parks

Are African elephants endangered? This is the question everybody is asking, and for a good reason! The simple answer is they are. Poaching, wildlife-human conflict, deforestation as well as climate change have all contributed to a steady decrease in wildlife, with elephants and rhinos being the most vulnerable. The decline of wildlife population in Kenya started as far back the 1970’s, and led to the emergence of conservancies to create natural habitats for wildlife in a reserved area. Some of these conservancies have grown to gain worldwide recognition. They typically use a social-enterprise business model to benefit wildlife as well as the communities around them. We have prepared a list of conservancies that have made a remarkable difference in this sector:


Lewa Conservancy

Black Rhinos at Lewa Conservancy

Photo by Lewa Conservancy


Lewa, located at the foot of Mount Kenya, is known for its conservation of black rhinos. It also has the largest population of Grevy’s zebras in the world. While you will find other wildlife like giraffes, lions, elephants, cheetahs, buffaloes, leopards and antelopes, its research and conservation efforts are geared towards the black rhino and Grevy’s zebra. It is involved in re-introducing and establishing new sanctuaries for these two endangered wildlife species.

Its proceeds are divided between their research and development projects, maintenance of the conservancy and community development projects – has 7 community programmes and also supports 20 government schools (bursaries, infrastructure development, adult literacy, and a feeding programme).

We chose this conservancy to top our list because it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, the only conservancy with this status in Kenya.


David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Elephants at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Photo by David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


This conservancy, located in Nairobi, was started by Daphne Sheldrick in honour of her husband, David. It has many projects, but the most dominant one is the Orphans’ Project. The program rehabilitates orphaned elephants and rhinos, with the aim to re-introduced back to the wild.
Besides being poached for their valuable ivory and horns, elephants and rhinos face much more challenges in Kenya than any other wildlife species. They have the highest reported cases of human-wildlife conflicts, which are largely caused by encroachment by humans who clear forests to create farming lands or to develop residential and commercial properties. Natural causes like draught are partly to blame for loss of habitat.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust uses part of its proceeds to help local communities through various Community Outreach Programs. They are usually involved in project touching on education and overall living conditions. They also motivate these communities to work towards environment and wildlife conservation.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a real institution in Kenya and shouldn’t be left out on any top ten in conservation. Of course, we are also sentimental and love that Daphne set the trust up in her late husband’s name.


Ol Pejeta Conservancy

White Rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Photo by Ol Pejeta Conservancy


Ol Pejeta, located in Laikipia, started out as a ranch situated in an arid/semi-arid area. Due to human encroachment and poaching within that region, elephants started occupying the ranch. This attracted other types of wildlife too and soon the total number of wildlife at Ol Pejeta was at an all time high. This was the beginning of the conservancy. In the 1980’s, it started Sweetwaters Game Reserve to protect this wildlife, and opened its gates to tourism. Initially visitors would be taken on wildlife tours, but demand to view their cattle (a manageable number) increased which prompted them to start offering “ranch tours” as well.

Its proceeds, usually from tourism activities and donations, are used to sustain its conservation activities as well as fund projects benefiting the local communities.

We love Ol Pejeta for its incredible effort in black rhino conservation, the incredible beauty of the conservancy and its fantastic work with the chimps. Check out our recent chat with Richard Vigne, the CEO, to learn about his passion for wildlife conservation.


Watamu Marine Association

Boats in Watamu

Photo by Watamu Marine Association


Watamu Marine Association (WMA) deals with a large area of operation, as opposed to a single conservation project. Located at the coastal region of Kenya, at a place called Watamu, it is involved in the conservation of marine parks and reserves found in this area. The endangered marine life found here includes dolphins, whales and turtles. They also advocate for preservation of various forest ecosystems within this region.

The challenges WMA faces are dealing with hurdles faced by the authorities that manage the Watamu Marine Park and Reserves, rivalry between various marine collaborators as well as environmental hazards posed by human activities (property development, plastic disposal into the ocean, fishing in restricted areas, fishing using unauthorised equipment and so on).

WMA’s projects revolve around alleviation of the impact of environmental degradation and fishing activities on marine life. It is also involved in community development projects.

WMA is fighting to keep marine ecosystems in Watamu area intact, an area that is popular for swimming with dolphins. They have several projects touching on environmental degradation that adversely impacts marine life. They educate locals on importance of marine resources and they also harmonise different marine authorities. And so it fought its way to clinch a post on our list.


Colobus Conservation

A Colobus Infant Bootleffeding

Photo by Colobus Conservation


As the name suggests, this conservancy preserves colobus monkeys’ population. In particular, it deals with protection of the Angolan colobus monkeys. It also advocates for the preservation of the coastal forest, which is the main habitat of colobus monkeys. Vervets, sykes and baboons usually pass through this institution in search of food. This institution hosts a small number of colobus monkeys which are used to study their behaviour in their natural habitat. Located in the vicinity of the famous Diani beach, it conducts guided walk to watch wild primates. The revenue earned is used to care for the injured primates and for research.

There were very many reported cases colobus monkeys deaths around Diani beach area. Without this conversancy, colobus monkeys would be probably extinct within this area. So definitely a worthy member of our top ten.


The Local Ocean Trust (LOT)

Sea turtle in Watamu

Photo by Watamu Turtle Watch


The Local Ocean Trust (LOT) is non-profit organisation that officially started its operations in Watamu back in 2002, after realising there is a greater need to protect marine life around Watamu area. LOT is involved in the conservation and protection of endangered marine areas like Watamu and Malindi marine parks and species like sea turtles through education, research and campaigns against environment degradation. It gives back to the community through community development projects.

But before that was Watamu Turtle Watch, a project that was involved in conservation of sea turtles. This project started in 1997, after a group of locals who had followed Barbara Simpson’s turtle nest beach patrol initiative, discovered that sea turtles are in danger of extinction. It was started mainly to conserve the population of turtles that was dwindling due to disruption of nesting areas through land development, tourism and poaching. Today, this project protects turtles’ nests, eggs and hatchlings within this area through night and day patrols. This is one of the many conservation projects of LOT.


Other projects they are involved in include working closely with the local communities to form Fishing and Conservation Groups. More so, they encourage these groups to participate in sustainable Alternative Income Generating (AIG) activities to reduce over reliance on tourism and fishing that may ultimately lead to extinction of endangered marine species. They also create awareness of the challenges facing the marine environment in Kenya and passionately campaign for the conservation of Kenyan marine parks and reserves like Malindi-Watamu National Marine reserve and the Arabuko Sokoke forest reserve.


LOT does an incredible job in educating the local community and ensuring that it takes part in organised beach clean ups, mangrove planting and other conservation activities like the Watamu Turtle Watch project that ensures the lovely turtles are here to stay. So a big shout-out to our friends and a well-deserved spot on the list.


East African Whale Shark Trust (EAWST)

A whale shark in Diani

Photo by Whale Shark Adventures


Fishermen on the Kenyan shoreline target shark whales for their liver oil. They apply this oil on their wooden boats to protect them from infestation by ship worms. Shark whales are targeted because their livers are longer and bigger compared to other types of sharks found on the Kenyan coastline. Due to this unregulated fishing, whale shark sightings have been on a rapid decline; in 2006 there were 58 whale sharks spotted over a period of 2 weeks but in 2014 there were just 9 spotted over a period of one month. This is why the East African Whale Shark Trust (EAWST) stepped in to educate the local community on a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to protect their boats – cashew nuts oil! Another reason that greatly affects the mortality rate of whale sharks is the cleanliness of their natural habitats. A whale shark in Japan died after swallowing a piece of polythene paper the size of a Gopro camera, but it was hazardous enough to block the digestive system of the whale shark. During beach cleanups in Kenya, a lot of trash is collected; from flip flops to polythene bags to pet bottles, all of which can kill a whale shark instantly.


Whale shark fishing is still a problem in most parts of the world, the most affected being Japan. Some fishermen came up with the idea of conserving whale sharks in an enclosed pen. They are currently making more money through eco-tourism from 3 whale sharks than they did selling fins.

EAWST’s future projects include breeding whale sharks in captivity. It should be noted that whale sharks can give birth to 300 live pups that are completely independent of their mother. Therefore they can easily survive on their own, however, if they are released to an unclean environment they will die. Currently, EAWST does not hold any whale sharks captive. It allocates its revenue to marine conservation projects, research as well as local community development projects. They achieve this through public-private conservation partnerships with local communities who in turn benefit financially. The planned Waa Whale Shark Research & Discovery Center will be the most beneficial to the community with an estimated Khs. 300 million going directly to the community coffers over the next 5 years.


Do we need to tell you why this conservancy is on this list? We think they are doing a fantastic job conserving the few whale sharks left along the Kenyan coast. Is that enough? We think so….for now.


Saiwa Swamp National Park

Sitatunga Antelope

Photo by Wikipedia


Saiwa Swamp National Park was established with the aim of safeguarding the natural habitat of Sitatunga antelope. This ecosystem (located near Kitale, Rift Valley) is also home to an array of birds, mongoose, otter, bushbuck, Genet cat, Serval cat and monkeys. Sitatunga antelopes are on the verge of being endangered wildlife species due to overhunting by humans, hunting by pythons, crocodiles, leopards, lions, and destruction of their habitats. Saiwa Swamp National Park is solely managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, a national corporation.

The other known habitat in Kenya is Kingwal Swamp Conservancy.

The Sitatunga antelopes are found in two main places in Kenya; Saiwa swamp and Kingwal swamp. Considering this is a very rare type of antelope worldwide, Kenya Wildlife Service is doing a good job conserving its population and habitat at Saiwa Swamp National Park.


African Wild Dog Conservancy

Wild Dog Puppies

Photo by Ol Pejeta Conservancy


The distribution (and overall population) of the African Wild dog has been decreasing rapidly. Initially their distribution in Africa was in 39 countries. Today, they are only found in 15 countries. Their total population has declined to about 5,500. Loss of habitat to human as well as mistreatment by humans attributed to this rapid drop in population. This is what led to the formation of The African Wild Dog Conservancy, an organisation that is involved in the conservation of the African wild dogs. This organisation’s revenue is not only used for their conservation endeavours but also for community development projects around northeastern and coastal Kenya.

This is the only conservancy dealing with wild dogs in Kenya, exclusively. This is why it is listed here.


Tana River Primate National Reserve

Tana River White Crested Mangabey

Photo by Arkive


The Tana River Primate National Reserve is another sanctuary managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. It was established to preserve the population of Tana River Red Colobus and the Tana River Crested Mangabey. Their natural habitats are found in Eastern Kenya along the flood plain of the lower Tana River.

Did you know that the Tana River Crested Mangabeys were separated from the rest of their population as they crossed to central Africa? On that merit, this reserve was definitely worth mentioning.


Ngare Ndare Forest

Ngare Ndare Forest

Photo by Ngare Ndare Forest Fund


Ngare Ndare forest is endowed with indigenous trees and various waterfalls that support an ecosystem of a variety of birdlife and animal life. It is also the migration path for elephants, connecting Lewa Conservancy and Mount Kenya. Ngare Ndare forest was reserved after neighbouring communities moved closer and closer to the forest heightening human-wildlife conflicts. Ngare Ndare Forest Fund is a conservancy that manages the forest and generates income through tourism. It works with local communities to reduce dependency on firewood collected from the forest. It provides these communities with alternative agro-forestry species that grow fast, to be used as sources of firewood and building materials. It also helps the communities to diversify their income generation by setting up bee hives in the forest. It has also recently set up a biogas project as another fuel source alternative.

This forest supports a large ecosystem. Without it, the wildlife population in Lewa conservancy – especially elephants – would probably be much less than it is today. For this pivotal role, we had to include it in this list.


We choose these conservancies because of their contribution towards conserving endangered wildlife and marine life as well as forests. Moreover, the benefaction local communities have received due to their community outreach programmes is significant. We would love to hear about the conservancies in your community in the comments below.




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About the Author:
Jackline Wambugi

Jackline Wambugi

Jackline is our content and social media wizard with heaps of creativity and ideas. 

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