Holiday Issue 2021

30 Mar21063 Conserving NaturalWonder Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, while also being home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhino, and the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee sanctuary was established to rehabilitate animals rescued from the black market, the sanctuary’s story is as enchanting as it is inspirational, and it’s one highly deserving of the Best Wildlife Conservation Initiative Award. From a working cattle ranch in colonial Kenya, to a trailblazer of conservation innovation, the 90,000-acre sanctuary is the conservation of the natural habitat, ensuring the protection of existing rhinos, elephants and other wildlife in addition to captive chimpanzees. And with some of the highest predator densities in Kenya, it still manages a very successful livestock programme. Ol Pejeta also seeks to support the people living around its borders, to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians. In 2004, the ranch was purchased by UK-based conservation organisation, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), with the financial backing of $15m from the Arcus Foundation, a private international philanthropic organisation founded by Jon Stryker. The Arcus Foundation worked in tandem with FFI and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to secure the 90,000 acres of open Savannah grassland and convert it to a national land trust. The Arcus Foundation also gave $12m to fund capital and institutional development costs at the conservancy. That initial funding support allowed Ol Pejeta to fulfil its business model as a Kenyan-owned operation benefiting local community development and economic growth in addition to its impact on conservation. Today, the Arcus Foundation continues to support the conservancy through its membership on the Board of Trustees and the funding of various initiatives. Ol Pejeta now covers the majority of its operating costs from its own commercial revenues, with 100% of profits used for conservation and community development; 80% of this comes from tourism with over 100,000 visitors per year, and 20% comes from agriculture, mainly from 7,500 head of cattle integrated into the conservancy. Fundraising and donations are also a vital part of keeping the conservancy running as it enables investments needed for innovation and expansion, and often Ol Pejeta acts as facilitator for investments directly into conservation and community development. Over the last year, Ol Pejeta has helped more than $1m pass from well-wishers and grant making organisations into Laikipia fences, schools and healthcare programmes. It is also a conservancy that likes to try new things, being the first to properly integrate cattle and wildlife. It also experiments with new technologies by using camera traps to monitor its wildlife movement corridors, tests of drones and the implementation of a comprehensive digital radio system. While Ol Pejeta believes that experimentation and innovation is a good thing, it also recognises that it cannot be successful all of the time. It learns from its failures, while also sharing those learnings with other conservancies, so it can role model conservation and community development. Meanwhile, visitors to the sanctuary are promised endless opportunities for adventure in the form of extraordinary one-on-one wildlife encounters and amazing places to stay, whether they are luxury seekers or economy travellers. With luxury houses featuring serene views for those seeking opulence, and a number of beautiful campsites for anyone who prefers their accommodation a little more al fresco, each space offers a unique safari experience. For campers, basic camping is available with firewood, camp toilets and water provided to offer a more rustic experience, while there is also luxury camping featuring exquisitely designed tents and en- suite bathrooms with flush lavatories and hot showers. However, accommodation is only part of the experience; visitors are spoilt for choice in terms of activities, from guided bush and bird walks, lion tracking, and getting up close and personal with endangered species, to canoeing, cycling, visiting neighbouring communities, and night-time game drives to discover Ol Pejeta after hours and spot some unusual sightings of nocturnal animals. Ultimately, Ol Pejeta defines conservation excellence. In 2014, it achieved IUCN Green List status, which identifies successful nature conservation, and it is one of only two conservancies in Africa to be awarded this. It has also been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence three years running, a testament to the incredible experiences treasured by all who visit. Company: Ol Pejeta Conservancy Contact: Richard Vigne Website: