If the world had more people like Raphael we wouldn’t have to worry about wildlife conservation.
“Let’s pack up,” I tell Russ that morning. Russ wanted to leave our table and chairs under the tree to save our campsite while we took off for church. However, I had this inkling that we may not come back, that we may stay at the other camp a bit further up the mountain. Little did we know we were soon to discover wildlife conservation as it should be.
“What was I thinking?” It’s grassy with a few rustic huts close to a huge rock on the escarpment. Not really as nice as the last place! But it’s cheap and only for one night. However, as we speak with Raphael, the proud owner of not only the camp, but the adjacent conservancy, it’s a different story. We’re supposed to be here!
“Because I love nature,” Genuine love for his small place oozes from him. It was back in 2010 when he and a group from the community decided to preserve these few acres of the escarpment in Iten overlooking the Kerio valley. The Kenyan government protects the escarpment for nature. However, individuals and community groups interested in ecotourism and conservation can secure permission to use it.
Since the original push to create nature trails, picnic and rest spots the interest of the other group members has dwindled. Today it’s Raphael and his wife who continue to invite guest to their tiny restaurant and small campground to relax and enjoy nature. They call it the Tirinya Camp and Conservancy.
“Do you have time?” In his quiet way Raphael invites us to join him on a morning walk. We make our way down the escarpment. The hyrax and the snakes that make their home in the cliffs and rocks here. He doesn’t know all the species or details. But as he guides us down the nature trail he knows where the snakes love to bask in the morning sun. He knows where the hyrax bring their young and when the cliff birds fly to feed at dusk.
He points out where the Colobus monkey came and ate last night in the palm tree. Where the small cat (probably a genet) walked along the dusty path. While we don’t see any hyrax or snakes (Russ is happy about the latter) we watch two beautiful bee eaters dart about after their breakfast.
“Don’t throw stones!” Many locals escape the city of nearby Eldoret for his place to get some R&R. Some city youth quickly learn to respect nature, at least when in this little conservancy. Raphael walks us past his hut that has a few items he shows his visitors. He so wants everyone to love nature. He wants everyone to protect and preserve it.
“Tell me about these birds?” Two beautiful raptors are in a small cage. This troubles me and I ask Raphael about them. Without hesitation he talks about how both were saved from farmers who wanted to kill them. He proudly calls them Augur Eagles (they’re really buzzards.) Buzzards go after chicken. Before I can say anything more he runs off and gets his notes for a larger enclosure for then. After showing us the planned site of the birds new home he draws us a sketch of his new enclosure. As always money is the hold up.
I’m very conflicted! Are these birds releasable? Should they be? I hate seeing birds in cages. However, if one, twenty or even 100 hearts are changed to protect instead of kill… will their sacrifice be worth it? Raphael’s motives seem pure. His actions show his love for nature and preserving it.
After our hike with Raphael Russ and I look at each other. I’ve come to a conclusion. We’re both in agreement. Russ talks with Raphael further about the needs for the enclosure for the two birds. I go and count our shillings. We’re able to provide him with the KSH 10,000 needed for the fencing wire. He already has the wooden poles.
“Please wait…” Once again Raphael runs off. This time he returns with documents. Documents that permit him to operate his small conservancy. His dream is to attract more wildlife by building two water holes. One up on top (this one is heart shaped) and one down the trail.
“Thank you!” He calls his wife over. He wants her to be part of this marvelous moment. He is thrilled by the donation. And maybe even more so by the keen interest we show. The interest we show in his work and vision for this little part of the world he is striving to conserve.
“Is this how wildlife conservation should be?” Each one of us doing our small part. Each one of us protecting our little spot on the planet. Each one of us encouraging others to do the same.
Our hat off to Raphael. We will be back to see the two birds and to see how else we might be able to assist him.