Influence of community based wildlife management on Grevy’s zebra conservation in Westgate community conservancy in Samburu county, Kenya
Community based Wildlife Management (CWM) is a conservation approach whereby stewardship of wildlife rests at the local and not state level. It asserts that it is possible to improve rural livelihoods, conserve the environment as well as promote economic growth. The Grevy’s zebra is one of the world’s endangered mammal species. Over the past 18 years the population has declined by more than 50% leaving less than 2800 individuals in the wild particularly to the north of the equator in Kenya and south Ethiopia. This rapid decline has been caused by competition for resources with expanding human livestock populations, habitat degradation as well as loss of migration and dispersal areas for these animals. The purpose of the study was to examine the influence of community based wildlife management on Grevy’s zebra conservation in Westgate Community Conservancy in Samburu County. The study was guided by four research objectives; to examine how community rangeland practices, community by-laws, conservation benefits accrued to the community and conservation education of the community influence Grevy’s zebra conservation in Westgate Community Conservancy in Samburu County. The study employed a descriptive survey design. The population for the study was 4000 and the sample size comprised of 351 community members. Data was collected by use of questionnaires. Construct validity was ensured by carrying out a pilot study. Findings revealed that majority (90.4%) of the respondents indicated that planned grazing as a rangeland practice had the greatest influence on Grevy’s zebra. conservation. The study also established that community by laws had a positive influence to Grevy’s zebra conservation as indicated by 72.4% of respondents who said that that the established by laws should remain and the 74.5 % of respondents who indicated that they comply with the laws. Further findings indicated that conservation benefits accrued to community such as improved infrastructure, employment within the conservancy and tourism influence Grevy’s zebra conservation to a very great extent. Asked whether they would still conserve the wildlife if these benefits were withdrawn, 72.4 % of the respondents indicated that they would. As regards to conservation education, 90.4 % and 86.5 % of the respondents indicated that personnel from the conservancy and local barazas respectively played a very big role in providing conservation education to the community. This implies that community awareness has high conservation returns of Grevy’s zebra conservation. 78.7% of the respondents indicated that Grevy’s zebra population has increased in the last ten years and gave conservation education, good grazing lands and high birth rates as the top reasons for the increase. The study lastly concluded that community involvement in activities/meetings had increased regarding conservation issues. Based on the findings above, the study recommends that the community should be encouraged to form more environmental clubs in the school. The community conservancy personnel should increase awareness on the existence of environmental conservation and natural resource management courses to the community members. Furthermore, effective community participation should involve more than just attending meetings and volunteering for conservation activities. It is imperative that communities be actively involved in decision making processes at every level of wildlife management in order to create a sense of ownership in Grevy’s zebra conservation. Lastly, there should be promotion of equitable benefit sharing mechanisms among the different zones in the communities as members living in certain zones indicated that they felt marginalized in distribution of employment opportunities. Further research is recommended to examine the influence of other key stakeholders involved in wildlife conservation.