As you may already know, I have decided to focus a considerable amount of my energy this year on helping secure a future for lions at Soysambu Conservancy.
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Soysambu has functioned primarily as one of Kenya's best known and most successful cattle ranches, also known as Delamere Estates, for over 100 years, while simultaneously ensuring that large areas of spectacular wild habitat have been protected within its borders. During a period of time when the future of certain species, like lions, were less of a concern to cattle ranchers, they were removed from such estates because of the threat to livestock. The last lions were hunted at Soysambu by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and the Prince of Wales several decades ago, and the famous Delamere Boran cattle were then able to thrive on the 50,000 acre estate with little to worry about. Until now.
Two years ago a pair of lionesses crossed into Soysambu from neighbouring Lake Nakuru National Park. This wasn't the first time, but usually the lions either continued to another location or were relocated back into the Park. On this occasion it was clear that the lionesses intended to stay, and it wasn't long before a male visited them and they produced cubs, bringing the current total population up to 8 lions at Soysambu.
Unsurprisingly, the lionesses quickly figured out that it was an easy option to prey on cattle to feed their hungry cubs, although they continued to hunt and kill large ungulates such as zebra, for which Soysambu is far exceeding its carrying capacity. With so much food, the pride has thrived unaware of the growing animosity towards them from the Estate, which faces considerable financial loss every time they decide on beef for dinner.
This is not an unprecedented situation. Many similar conservancy/ranch models have faced similar issues for a long time, and we are fortunate at Soysambu that we can learn from their experience in order to move quickly with solutions.
The first of these has already been successfully implemented. Both lionesses are now radio-collared and can be tracked on a 24 hour basis, enabling Conservancy and Estate to work together to mitigate any potential livestock losses. Collars are also useful for collecting data, but are expensive and have a limited operating time, so a more holistic long-term solution is required.
Having fully investigated all options, the tried and tested method that Soysambu Conservancy is aiming to achieve is to procure mobile predator proof 'bomas' (enclosures) for the cattle. Mobile bomas enable to cattle to packed in close together (which prevents injury and death from panic), and moving them ensures the soil is not degraded in specific areas. They have to be high and strong enough to ensure the safety of the cattle, so if you can imagine the fencing required at zoos, we are talking about pretty substantial structures. They also have to be loaded into a large trailer and transported, all of which adds to the cost. Soysambu Conservancy is aiming to raise at least $50,000 for this project.
When I returned from Kenya a few weeks ago, I spoke to my good friend and internationally renowned sculptor, Simon Gudgeon about the lions, and to my absolute astonishment he promptly pledged the entire sale price of one of two beautiful sculptures of African wildlife (pictured below) to the fund for the bomas. They are for for sale at £7500 (GBP) for the Kudu and £6500 (GBP) for the Leopard. The sale of one of these is the equivalent of around a fifth of our fundraising target!
Simon and his wife Monique visited in 2014 on an unforgettable safari, and they passionately believe that such a spectacular place as Soysambu deserves all the help it can get to function successfully. I hope this email will engage you to help too, either by donating what you can, or considering ownership of a spectacular artwork by one of the world's most celebrated sculptors.
Soysambu Conservancy is set up as a charitable trust in the US (501c3), the UK and Kenya, so if you wish to get tax credit on the purchase of one of these sculptures, please contact me, Simon Gudgeon or firstname.lastname@example.org about how to proceed.