Ed. note: this article continues the story of the Gallmann Africa Conservancy arson fire.
Over the last two days and after further assessment, a clearer picture has emerged from the devastating arson fires that scorched over 35,000 acres of biodiversity at Kuki Gallmann's 100,000 acre Ol ari Nyiro Conservancy in Kenya.
Initially, the fires were reported to have destroyed the last remaining forest in the Laikipia region. Today, however, a representative from the Gallmann Mukutan Conservancy contacted me with news that, considering the initial fears, offers some ray of optimism amidst this tragedy.
"We actually managed to save the Eng'elecha Forest. It was a close call. Sadly, though, we have had to close the Black Rhino Sanctuary due to increasing levels of poaching and our inability to give them sufficient protection in the remaining heavily forested landscape. A glimmer of hope: We found a new plant that seems to be a completely new species and miraculously, it survived the fire. It is a symbol of hope that even through ignorance and destruction we can and will continue protecting the biodiversity of this sacred land. The land and trees will come back with time; we must keep positive!"
Gallmann's Black Rhino Sanctuary supported the largest known undisturbed indigenous population of the critically endangered black rhino outside of Kenya's national parks.
Additionally, the Gallmann Mukutan Conservancy reported that scout recruitment has reached a feverish pitch at Ol ari Nyiro to beef up the existing security team. "The scouts will act as the eyes of the conservancy, monitoring any moves by malicious people. They are being chosen from the neighboring communities and only the very strong, fit, and disciplined will be chosen for the team. Our security manager, Andre, is conducting the recruitment and will train the scouts."
For years the conservancy has been the target of poachers who have slaughtered wildlife for the illegal trade in ivory. And, since 2009, the conservancy has been the target of arson fires as well. In March of 2014, destruction hit again when Ol ari Nyiro was set ablaze, fires that destroyed all of the 19 staff houses, six rangers outposts, the 10 eco-village bandas and its kitchen and mess area, two stores, the staff duka, the canteen, eight new bandas with baths, and the bandas verandah and mess area with new terrace.
From this destruction, Gallmann and team embarked on Project Phoenix , a complete reconstruction of all lost facilities, which since has been rebuilt. As Gallmann wrote in her Gallmann Africa Conservancy newsletter end of 2014 " Evil struck, 9 th March 2014, all seemed lost -- 10 nights of inferno. All smelled of smoke, all smoldered. Ashes, stumps, red eyes, black nails, hair singed, exhaustion."
A year later, much of Gallmann's four decades of dedication to the preservation of the Ol ari Nyiro Conservancy has been lost. Countless species of flora and fauna, some rare and endangered, and who found refuge in this habitat, perished. However, not all is gone. She remains forever hopeful. While much of this jewel of Kenya and the world has been reduced to scorched earth, nearly 60K acres of refuge remains intact. Gallmann's optimism and that of her team, through years of arson destruction, a brutal attack by poachers that left her critically injured, continues to rise from the ashes. Ol ari Nyiro will endure and offer a refuge for science, research, education, and the myriad community projects that benefit the people, flora and fauna of this unique region on earth.
The rains will come.
"A glimmer of hope" ~ from those small words emerges the enormity of new life, and future.