Construction of the Laikipia Elephant Fence around the area used by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) began today at the official launch, in which His Excellency Joshua Irungu, Governor of Laikipia, and BATUK personnel knocked in the first fence post.
The fence, which will stretch for 100 miles, will run around community land and ranches, and will cost around 88m Kenyan Shilling (nearly £600,000). BATUK will provide around £150,000 of this funding, which will cover labour costs and transport.
Funding for the project, which is being led by the Governor, will come from BATUK, the Governor, wildlife charity Space for Giants and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum.
Minister for Reserves Julian Brazier said:
This represents the UK’s commitment to supporting communities in the countries our Armed Forces train in around the world.
The UK shares a longstanding and mutually beneficial Defence relationship with Kenya, and we are delighted to help in this important matter. Protecting elephants from poachers is an important environmental goal.
The aim of the fence – which will link up with and improve existing elephant fences – is to sustain Army training areas, provide a separation zone between community farms and a provide a migratory route for elephants.
It will also improve safety for local people, protect the endangered elephants from poachers, protect crops, and reduce pressure on grassland from illegal pastoralists.
Laikipia County is home to over 6,300 elephants, and Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) is a constant challenge for this area, as well as the wider region.
In response to the daily challenges of HEC, in 2014 Governor Irungu established the Human-Elephant Conflict Task Force, which includes BATUK, elephant charity Space for Giants, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, the Agricultural Development Cooperation, Ngorare Ranch and the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.
The Laikipia fence project is expected to take approximately one year to complete, after which the long-term maintenance of the fence will be handed over to the respective private landowners, in January 2018. Until this point Space for Giants will lead on maintaining the fence.
Personnel from BATUK will continue to provide support during building.
Colonel Tom Vallings, Commander BATUK, said:
The Laikipia fence will protect farmers, elephants and help sustain training areas and we are very pleased to contribute to this project.
The British Army has benefited from a long-term training presence in Kenya, which provides development opportunities for both UK and Kenyan Armed Forces.
The Army trains around 10,000 troops a year on the Laikipia Plateau and has a longstanding relationship with Kenya, which has been strengthened by the recent signing of the Defence Cooperation Agreement.