Lion Kids Camp Changed the Lives of 24 Kenyan Kids

Apr 26, 2013 | Categories: Community, Education, Westgate Conservancy | 1 Comment

We have just concluded the Lion Kids Camp and it was a great success. This blog recounts some of the stories and adventures the kids enjoyed along the way.

After weeks of planning, we picked up kids who were selected to join the camp through a creative art competition. For many children, this was their first time in a car and they kept asking why the trees and rocks were moving! The children arrived at Westgate Conservancy Headquarters – which was to serve as their home for the next few days – quiet, and wondering where they were, and even a bit scared.

Jeneria and Ngila show the kids how to use binoculars on their bird walk. (Photo by Tony Allport)

We split the kids into teams which were each joined with one of the Camp’s sponsors. We had Team Gerenuk led by Sasaab Lodge, Team Grevy’s zebra led by Westgate Conservancy, Team Cheetah led by Samburu, and of course Team Lion led by Ewaso Lions.

The kids then set up tents under the guidance of Jeneria and his team. Following this, the kids were given cameras and binoculars and Tony gave a presentation on how to use the cameras and take good photos. Each team went out to identify as many birds as possible – Team Grevy’s zebra won this competition after having identifying 20 species of birds in only 45 minutes! One of the kids remarked that he did not know birds had different names and was amazed at the Birds book.

After the bird walk, Shivani gave a slide show on the different mammals in the area and especially ones that we hoped to see the following day in Samburu. When she asked the kids what they wanted to see, all of them said “Lions!”. Twenty-one kids had never seen a lion before and this was their wish. We were determined to grant them their wish and tried our hardest to show them lions. We ended the day with a showing of the film Disney’s African Cats. The kids were enthralled by the fantastic footage in this film.

The first lion that the kids have ever seen in their lives! Lguret on an ostrich kill. (Photo by Ewaso Lions)

The next day we set off for Samburu National Reserve. The Operations Warden, Gabriel Lepariyo, welcomed the kids and emphasized how they are the future of conservation in Samburu. During the talk, we got phone calls from local guides saying that lions had been seen! And, ironically, the lions had been spotted at Lion Rock.

We drove off straight to Lion Rock and wow, what a sighting. We found Lguret and Loirish – our two male lions – on an ostrich kill. As we drove up, Loirish was being chased by elephants, and Lguret was avoiding them trying to keep feeding on the ostrich.  The kids were so excited – there was so much excited chatter in the car. I kept hearing “There’s Lguret – he’s coming close!” At that point, Loirish walked right next to the Sasaab car – it was almost impossible to take a photo because he was so close.  It was a spectacular viewing for these kids’ first-ever lion sighting.

And it kept getting better: we saw Nanai, Sipen and Nabulu as well, resting in a sand river not far from the two males. We also met up with the giraffe researchers from the Reticulated Giraffe Project who took a few kids into their car and gave the kids an up close and personal experience with giraffes.

Taking the kids on a game drive in Samburu National Reserve. (Photo by Kelvin Lemantaan)

We saw all the game in Samburu, including a baby gerenuk that was only a few hours old, and much more. There were also over 300 elephants in Samburu that day and we got very close to some! The two boys in my car did not stop giggling with excitement for hours after a female walked literally a few inches away from the car.

We stopped for a brief visit at the Save the Elephants research camp and Samburu Lodge on our way back to Westgate. The kids had never seen a tourist lodge before or a swimming pool – they were fascinated!

We returned to camp for a late lunch and a brief rest before the kids embarked on an obstacle course during their games session. We also managed to squeeze in a few more minutes of African Cats before the exhausted kids went to bed.

The next day, we headed out to the Grevy’s Zebra plains in Westgate Conservancy where we were joined by Peter Lalampaa and his team from the Grevy’s Zebra Trust. We had the most incredible sighting – 200 Grevy’s zebras on the green grassy plains. It was beautiful and we were so lucky to have seen so many in one area.

Wildlife drama from Team Gerenuk. Young Rantini acts as a goat. (Photo by Tony Allport)

We headed back to camp for Wildlife Competition time. The four groups each prepared a wildlife drama story with the theme “Creating positive attitudes towards conservation”. They all hid in the bushes preparing for this – all the team leaders were very competitive and determined to win the competition. The invited guests arrived and afternoon entertainment began with stories and poems on wildlife read out by the children, followed by four very animated and entertaining dramas by each team.

In the end, Team Lion won the drama competition! Prizes were awarded to the kids and they ended the afternoon with some sporting events. At night, just as we thought the kids were really tired, they all starting asking pertinent questions about Ewaso Lions and the work we do. Jeneria and Mike from Samburu gave them a talk on lions and the kids were busy writing down pride names and learning the individuals. It was so great to see their interest and enthusiasm about lions – especially so late in the day.

Todd Cromwell, the camp sponsor, had stayed awake late into the night, printing a batch of photos for each child. They were thrilled to receive photo albums of their photos.

Kids from Ngutuk Ongiron Primary School being dropped outside the school gates at the end of camp. (Photo by Ewaso Lions)

The children were taken home on the final day.  All the kids were singing in the cars and chatting excitedly amongst each other. They were all given trees to plant in their respective schools.

This inaugural Lion Kids Camp was a real joy for us to organize and be part of. We watched the children thrive over the three days with us and soak in everything that was taught to them. We strongly believe that this three-day adventure changed the lives of 24 children. They are the future of wildlife in the region. Following this event, we have no doubt that we would like this to be an annual event in Westgate and bring more kids from areas far and wide to come and be part of this exciting wildlife experience. We already cannot wait for 2014!

This camp would not have been possible without our sponsor Todd Cromwell and his assistant Michael Hamlin via the Kenyan Kids on Safari project. Tony and Ali Allport gave 100% in supporting this camp and providing the children with this amazing experience. We are also extremely grateful for the dedicated efforts of Kelvin Lemantaan and Mike Lesiil, and also to Sasaab Lodge staff, Westgate Conservancy management and  Samburu National Reserve. Thanks also to Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Save the Elephants, and the Reticulated Giraffe Project for their time in providing the kids with such a varied wildlife experience.

> Read more about our work with Kenyan kids

The kids visit the Ewaso Lions Camp. (Photo by Ewaso Lions)

A close encounter with elephants. (Photo by Michael Hamlin)

The obstacle course during the games session. (Photo by Tony Allport)

Happy Kenyan kids on safari! (Photo by Ewaso Lions)

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