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Kilitome Conservancy

Current initiative


Two rhinos eating.

"Breakfast" by Blarvar is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

The Kilitome Conservancy was established in 2008 by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and Tawi Lodge and is situated on the eastern boundary of Amboseli National Park in south eastern Kenya. This area is a prime tourism destination due to its high abundance of wildlife. AWF and Tawi Lodge lease the land from Kilitome landowners, with tourism revenue covering the lease fee as well as conservation activities. In addition, Tawi Lodge funds a community scout program in the conservancy as a deterrent to poaching. Ultimately, Kilitome conservancy hopes to provide secure and sustainable wildlife-based land use and a key wildlife corridor, alongside decreased pressure from illegal wildlife trade.


Combined logos of the African Wildlife Foundation and TAWI Lodge


Kilitome Conservancy is a 24km2 area forming a critical part of the wildlife corridor connecting Amboseli to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks. It’s one of the seven conservancies managed under the umbrella of the Amboseli Land Owners Conservancy Association (ALOCA). The boundary between Kilitome and Amboseli is unfenced, providing an area for wildlife to move freely.

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected African Elephant Loxodonta africana , Rhinos

Products in trade

Ivory and rhino horn for international markets. 

Overview of the problem

Elephants and rhinos have been poached in the area for decades, with rhinos practically gone from the area. Elephant poaching was a serious problem until 2011 but has since declined, in line with the national trend of Kenya.

It is believed that increased penalties and fines under the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act 2013 may have been a primary deterrent.

Poaching for other species for bushmeat is still a problem in the area. Furthermore, lions are often killed in retaliation for livestock losses and elephants have been known to have been killed due to human-wildlife conflict incidents.

The anti-IWT initiative

Kilitome was formed when the surrounding area was divided into individual plots, primarily because Maasai landowners wanted to diversify into agricultural activities. Subsequently, AWF and Tawi Lodge entered into an agreement with the community to form a company with equal shareholding, negotiating a 15-year lease with Kilitome landowners. Under the agreement a tourism lease fee would be paid to the conservancy for use of the land. Guests at the lodge pay a one-off conservancy fee, which is used for lease fees and to support conservancy management and wildlife protection. The lease agreement furthermore provides for user rights for landowners in designated areas, such as firewood collection and grazing, but prohibits activities such as logging and illegal hunting.

Community game scouts are paid a salary to carry out patrols and report trespassers and poachers. Scouts also gather intelligence on IWT activities, monitor the status of wildlife, response to human-wildlife conflict incidents, as well as other community services. Scouts also receive training and equipment, and receive rewards for successful apprehension of poachers.

Overall management of Kilitome Conservancy is guided by the ALOCA Management Plan (2016-2026). A Kilitome Committee meets four times a year to agree bylaws which regulate the use of the conservancy including zoning of grazing and tourism areas.

The main anticipated outcome of the Kilitome model is that as a result of the land lease fee payments, and other benefits generated by the conservancy, wildlife remains a viable land use option. This encourages communities to continue to maintain land under wildlife and support wildlife conservation. This in turn results in:

1. Reduced illegal killing of wildlife

2. Reduced conversion of land into uses that are incompatible with wildlife

3. Maintenance of wildlife habitat quality and connectivity

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Paid in money community scouts
Paid in-kind community scouts
Monetary incentives for community intelligence
Raising community awareness about wildlife crime penalties and sanctions
Strengthening and supporting traditional norms and sanctions against IWT
Further detail

There has been a significant investment at Kilitome to strengthen community law enforcement through an extensive community scout programme. Scouts receive extensive law enforcement training and are provided with equipment and conservation education.There seems to be a widespread consensus that this programme has been a key factor in discouraging IWT and other illegal activities.

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Lease payments
Policy/regulatory change to enable communities to benefit
Further detail

The primary direct economic benefit is from the bi-annual lease fee payments, the conservation fee and employment of the six community scouts who are all from local communities.

Decreasing the costs of living with wildlife

Preventive measures to deter wildlife
Financial mitigation measures
Further detail

As well as a Predator Compensation Fund paid for by external sources, human-elephant mitigation and management strategies employed around Kilitome have focussed on efforts to drive animals away.

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support
Further detail

Kilitome members have engaged in small-scale agriculture.

Conservancy members receive an income from cultural bomas and the sales of beaded products.

Has the initiative made a difference?

The Predator Compensation Fund appears to have been effective in reducing retaliatory killings for loss of livestock, however in the long term this might not be a sustainable option as it is dependent on external funding. Other efforts to deter elephants have had varying degrees of success.

A workshop in 2017 confirmed that Kilitome community members believe that additional income from agriculture may have dissuaded some community members from engaging in poaching. For example community members have discouraged outsiders from participating in illegal activities in the conservancy and the wider ecosystem and are quick to report their presence or any suspicious activity. Elephant poachers, who usually come from further afield, are apparently now more aware of the high risk of getting caught and the severity of punitive measures. Cross-border collaboration with Tanzanian authorities and conservation groups has also helped improve the situation. Community members have stated that they were completely in agreement with enforcing the laws against poaching and indicated they would report anyone, including community members, if they saw or heard of anyone engaged in poaching.

What works and why

The underlying logic of Kilitome is that strengthening community engagement in law enforcement creates a strong disincentive against poaching.

Informant networks and information sharing/law enforcement coordination occurs across the whole Amboseli, with scouts all hired from the local community, building trust as well as proving an effective intelligence system.

Factors for success

Coordinated and coherent sectoral policies/legislation (For example, land use planning, agricultural etc...)

Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

What doesn’t work and why

The relationship between the wider community and the state-led law enforcement agencies is not strong and there is often a lack of trust, which may partly stem from historical grievances around the establishment of Amboseli.

The communities strongly feel that the Kenyan Wildlife Service and the county government should be paying the community scouts directly as they benefit most from their services.

There are expectations from the communities for tourism to generate much greater benefits to the community than is currently seen. Some feel that should the costs of wildlife continue to increase, and the benefits remain low or reduce further, then community members might begin to withdraw from the conservancy agreement and possibly start to turn a ‘blind eye’ to outside poachers.

The main NGOs involved have also suggested that over-reliance on tourism is risky and that in the long-term other financing mechanisms may be needed. In addition, others also mentioned the importance of full ownership and user rights over wildlife.

Factors that limited or hindered success

Lack of supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources

Lack of long-term donor support that is flexible, adaptive and/or based on realistic time goals

Unclear and intangible benefits to local communities from wildlife (These may be financial and/or non-financial)

Organisers, donors and partners

AWF, Tawi Lodge, Amboseli Land Owners Conservancy Association, Big Life Foundation

For further information contact (