We have just concluded our 4th Lion Kids Camp which brought together 27 Kenyan children for five days of conservation education and fun.
For many children in rural parts of Kenya, an encounter with wildlife is mainly negative: they see elephants chasing people, the remains of a camel after a lion attack, or a leopard running off with their goats. The Lion Kids Camp lets children experience a positive connection with wildlife. The Camp’s educational sessions, game drives, and exercises are designed to inspire children to be the next generation of park wardens, safari guides, and wildlife biologists.
For this month’s Lion Kids Camp, children from four Community Conservancies traveled to Westgate Conservancy. We were particularly excited to be hosting children from schools not previously involved in one of our Camps: Kiltamany, Learata, Kipsing and Ngare Mara. The participating children were selected through a creative arts competition with the theme, “Our Wildlife, Our Future.”
With the help of some entertaining icebreaker games, the children – who ranged in age from 11 to 17 and included both Samburu and Turkana communities – were soon all laughing and joking in one large group, making it nearly impossible for us to identify which child came from which school.
The excitement and enthusiasm continued throughout the week as the children participated in numerous activities from bird walks and game drives to conservation themed presentations, drama, games, and more.
As always, taking all the children on a game drive inside Samburu National Reserve proved to be one of the highlights of the Camp. Amazingly, this year all 27 children were lucky enough to see a leopard and to witness lions stalking a herd of Grevy’s zebra – a spectacle that had both adults and kids on the edge of their seats.
Despite living in close proximity to world famous game reserves, for 13 children this was the first time in their lives to see a leopard. For 10 kids, it was their first-ever time to see a lion!
“Through the chance to meet and interact with some of the most respected conservationists in Kenya – the children are given a glimpse into the importance of conservation and the role that they have to play in safe guarding the future of such a precious resource.” — The Safari Collection
For this Camp we featured our new conservation game, which is designed to teach the kids not just about conservation but also test their leadership and communication skills. The game was a resounding success and the fun continued long after dark as blindfolded children navigated their way through the special obstacle course.
All too soon, however, the day of the closing ceremony was upon us. Despite ominous grey clouds and crazy wind, the children treated the audience to some fantastic wildlife dramas and poems under the theme, “Living As Wildlife.” Each performance stood out in a different way; Team Elephant had the best costume, Team Lion were the best actors, Team Wild Dog were the funniest – but it was Team Grevy’s Zebra who scooped the top prize as their interpretation most closely aligned with the theme.
All the kids received certificates, and trophies were presented to the top student from this year’s Lion Kids Camp (Rose Lokale from Ngare Mara Primary School) and to the 1st placed student (Benard Letupukwa Lenakwawi from Learata Primary School) and school (Kipsing Primary School) for the creative arts competition.
Ewaso Lions aims to instill a clear message to these bright young children: the future of Kenya’s wildlife is in their hands. All the children were asked to take the conservation messages home to their schools and their families, and to lead the way in conservation.
Although sad to wave goodbye to the children after another fantastic Camp, plans are already well underway for a reunion Camp in August, where we look forward to welcoming back all 120 Lion Kids Camp students from across the years!
As always, the success of this camp has been down to the vast number of people and organizations which have devoted their time and energy to ensuring the children have the best possible experience.
We would also like to thank:
• Westgate Conservancy staff and management for hosting the camp
• Samburu National Reserve
• Tony Allport for support and amazing photographs
• Kelvin Lemantaan and Onesmas Lesiata
• Carter Safaris for donating water bottles
• A very special thanks to Heather Gurd, our Conservation and Research Manager, for organizing the Camp together with the rest of the Ewaso Lions team.
(This article originally appeared on Ewaso Lions. It has been reprinted here with permission.)