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A high level team of both national and local government officials, led by the Governor of Laikipia County and the Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment have pledged to relaunch an operation to clear Opuntia, an invasive cactus that is having a devastating effect on the Naibunga rangelands used by livestock and wildlife such as elephants.

The community has petitioned the government to support environmental conservation, and plans to allocate funding for this process are underway. The ICCF Group’s International Conservation Corps has been supporting the Naibunga Conservancy to restore its rangelands, starting with the removal of the invasive Opuntia cactus.

A key linkage in the migration routes of elephants, a well-managed, healthy Naibunga is essential to enhancing the health of these and other East African wildlife populations. Through its partnership with the Naibunga Conservancy, The ICCF Group and its International Conservation Corps have been involved in supporting programs aimed at enhancing wildlife and environmental conservation and assisting the Maasai communities. To identify key challenges affecting sustainable land use, ICCF supported the engagement of local community members to create a land use strategy. Community meetings gave first priority to eradicating the invasive Opuntia species lest the community be forced to leave their native lands.

Additional challenges identified by conservancy communities include security enhancement, digital VHF radio installation, and water source improvement. ICCF has secured funds for installation of VHF radios, helped secure security equipment, and is continuing to engage Government Security and Administration officials to support Naibunga’s twenty-seven rangers. Communities have identified water resource scarcity as one of the clearest causes of human-wildlife conflict and through consultative meetings with various stakeholders are looking forward to help improve six existing water sources.

Opuntia encroachment has had perhaps the most detrimental impact on communities, however, significantly reducing the availability of grazing land, physically harming animal populations, and diminishing meat supply for human consumption. To eradicate this harmful plant species, a manual control program involving members of many of the communities has been rolled out on a pilot basis in five group ranches in the conservancy, thus far reclaiming over 600 acres. New commitments by county and national government agencies would help to organize group ranches to effectively remove the cactus and expand operations to eliminate this harmful species from conservancy lands.

If the range condition and access to water for humans and wildlife can successfully be improved, it will lead not only to enhanced co-existence between humans and wildlife but also greatly improved capacity for Naibunga and its rangers to reduce elephant poaching.

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