The Maasai people live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The society has a strong patriarchal structure and deep-rooted traditions. Up until ten years ago, Maasai warriors had to kill a lion as a rite of passage to get married. Now, many Maasai groups have moved away from that practice for conservation means. The Maasai place high value on their livestock and cattle, with their housing structures literally centered around their cows and goats. Cattle are the primary source of food, and nearly all of the animal, including its blood, are used.
Masai Mara is exactly what you imagine when you think of a Kenyan safari: open savannah, a silhouetted acacia tree and the animals you immediately think of when you think of Africa (the big five perhaps). However, less is thought about the land directly surrounding the Mara. Much of it is made up of a network of conservancies and protected areas, intended to help wildlife and the regional Maasai population prosper.
One of those areas is the Nashulai Conservancy. The conservancy was founded in 2016. (The first conservancy started up in 1995.) The land, with a name meaning coexistence between human and wildlife, is about 5,000 acres and is owned by 71 different individuals. Nashulai was founded by and is run by the Maasai community.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to a few remarkable species. First, Ol Pejeta is home to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which opened in 1993. The 250-acre sanctuary was formed among the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Jane Goodall Institute and Ol Pejeta. Although chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, civil war outbreak in Burundi forced a sanctuary to close there, and that’s when Ol Pejeta opened its doors. Each chimpanzee has its own story; a chimp I saw named Julia was confiscated with five other chimps from a wooden box at Jomo International Airport in 2005.
Aside from chimps, the conservancy is notable because of its rhinos. It is home to many black rhinos, notably “Baraka,” a male rhino that is blind, and to the last two northern white rhinos in the world. The third, Sudan, died in March of 2018.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust currently has about 18 orphaned elephants and three that were just reintroduced into the wild at Tsavo National Park. Keepers sleep in the nursery with baby orphans to ensure there is care available 24 hours per day. Each elephant has a different story. Enkesha, for example, had a snare wrapped around her trunk when she was rescued by DSWT. An elephant’s trunk has about 40,000 muscles. Repairing her wound was difficult because she kept popping out her stitches, and amputation was even considered. For Malkia, Ndiwa and Sana Sana, the three individuals now at Tsavo, in the weeks leading up to their move, truck stalls that they would later be transported to Tsavo in served as their evening feeding stations.