Melako Conservancy in Kenya

The greatest potential challenge for wildlife conservation is gaining the support of local people, who will not only share their land but will be motivated to offer their support.

Melako Conservancy in Kenya

The northernmost conservancy in the NRT family, Melako is a vast expanse of arid bushland that stretches towards the Ethiopian and Somali border. Rainfall is rare, as are permanent settlements and solid infrastructure, yet the Rendille community have been grazing this rangeland for decades. Registering with NRT in 2004, the conservancy’s main focus has been on sustainably managing their rangeland to ensure both their livestock and wildlife can continue to benefit, as well as improving security and relations with neighboring tribes.

The People

The Rendille are semi nomadic pastoralists, whose livestock consists of both cattle and camels. Because of their location, they have arguably remained one of the communities most uninfluenced by Westernization, and still uphold many of their ancient beliefs and traditions.

The registration of Melako as a NRT conservancy has given pastoralists access to modern methods of sustainable grazing that they can combine with their traditional practices to tackle drought and help rehabilitate their rangeland. One of the most important criteria for the programme is security, and community rangers are on daily patrol in Melako. As with many tribes in Kenya, conflict over natural resources is a large part of Rendille history. Reducing the reliance on livestock is another objective of NRT. Six women’s groups in Melako are involved in the production and sale of handicrafts through NRT Trading, and have had training in product development, basic accounting, pricing structures and leadership skills, to enable them to take their businesses as far as they dream. Through the support of ICEP, a micro-credit programme, these women have access to micro-loans to develop their ventures, and set up viable alternative sources of income for their families.


Melako hosts an estimated population of 200 rare Grevy’s zebra, representing approximately 9% of the global population. The Beisa oryx can also be found here, and is the subject of a species recovery project in the area. With such precious inhabitants, the anti-poaching unit ‘9.1’ is a regular and welcome presence. Established with the help of NRT in 2009, 9.1 also works with the neighboring community conservancies of Biliqo-Bulesa, Namunyak and Sera. It consists of 12 rangers drawn from all four conservancies, and all ethnic groups within them. This diversity has proved one of the teams’ greatest strengths, as they are not only able to gain trust and intelligence from all communities, but they are more effectively able to raise awareness within those communities too. The rangers were trained by a former British army officer and have also received advanced medical training.


Melako Conservancy Map above

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya

The greatest potential challenge for wildlife conservation is gaining the support of local people, who will not only share their land but will be motivated to offer their support. 

In this area, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is known as a groundbreaking model. By directing the benefits of our success to helping our neighbours, Lewa has helped alleviate poverty, and created enthusiasm among communities for wildlife conservation.

Many people around Lewa live in extreme poverty – on less than $1 a day. It is the poor themselves who understand first-hand the causes, nature and extent of these conditions. Our values reflect this reality: empowerment & participation; transparency, openness, & accountability; and equality. 

With the precipitous decline of black rhinos across Africa in the 1970s, government wildlife agencies and conservation organizations increasingly turned to private landowners, non-profit organizations and indigenous communities to protect the few remaining animals. In Kenya, the number of black rhinos dropped from an estimated 20,000 to fewer than 300 animals, and the only way to prevent their complete extinction was to create high security sanctuaries.

In 1983, David and Delia Craig set aside 5,000 acres of their ranch as the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary; Anna Merz, a conservationist and philanthropist, threw in her savings; and together they recruited game-trackers, bush pilots, veterinarians and others to round-up and protect Kenya’s rhinos. For the next few years, they tracked, captured and relocated every remaining wild rhino in northern Kenya to the refuge for breeding and safekeeping. The programme was so successful that within a decade more space was needed, leading the Craigs to dedicate their entire ranch to conservation and form the non-profit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in 1995.

Today, Lewa employs more than 300 people and encompasses the 40,000 acres owned by the Craig’s, an additional 8,000 acres owned by others and 14,000 acres of national forest. The reserve supports over 440 species of birds and more than 70 different mammals. Its rhino population has grown steadily, not only restoring local numbers but enabling black rhino reintroduction in regions where they long had been absent. Lewa is also a founding member of and manages black rhino conservation and security in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a 90,000-acre reserve near Lewa that protects the largest single population of black rhinos in Kenya.


Lewa Wildlife Conservancy   Map above

Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria. 

Brooke’s enduring passion for the wildlife and people of Africa began as a child growing up in South Africa. Her love of the African bush drives her back regularly to work in places such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park in game capture and with gorillas and communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also spends much of her time working alongside local communities in finding ways to conserve the precious wildlife of Africa for future generations.

For the past five years, Brooke was privileged to work in northern Kenya with community-led conservation groups, such as the Melako Community Conservancy and the Il Ngwesi Conservancy. Each conservancy focuses its conservation and development efforts on a unique suite of wildlife species and plants. It was here that Brooke and members of the conservancies were inspired to form RAW Africa Ecotours in partnership with Raw Wildlife Encounters. 

Visit Lewa and Melako in Kenya with Raw Wildlife Encounters.