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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rare Antelope to boost tourism in Garissa.

The Ishaqbini sanctuary is home to many swans as well as the rare hilora antelope. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI
The Ishaqbini sanctuary is home to many swans as well as the rare hilora antelope. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI 
Posted  Thursday, September 1  2011 at  18:00
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The hilora, a rare antelope threatened with extinction, could become the attraction that sells tourism in Garissa.
The beautiful round-faced antelope with popping eyes that look like goggles are found in Ijara’s Ishaqbini community conservancy.
They herd together with topi, another antelope that is prey of the big cats.
To reach Ishaqbini, visitors have to drive along 154 kilometres of rough road south from Garissa, or approach it from Mombasa through Garsen-Hola en route to Masalani in Ijara.
The county is rich in wildlife, with Ishaqbini being in addition to Garissa animal sanctuary, and Arawale and Boni national reserves.
The conservancy is in a wild scrubland where animals are to be found everywhere – giraffes, elephants, warthogs, lions, cheetah, hyena, wild dogs, antelopes, buffaloes and hippos roam free.
Mr Omar Tawane, the Northern Rangeland regional coordinator, said the latest census showed 245 of the rare hilora remained.
“We want to build a sanctuary within the conservancy to isolate them for breeding,” he said. Construction of the 30 square kilometre sanctuary within the 9,000 square kilometre conservancy to cost Sh80 million had already started.
“It will protect hilora from the predators,” manager Yusuf Adan Mohamed explained.
The conservancy is named after Ishaqbini, the only lake in the otherwise dry region.
The 2.5 kilometre lake, shaped like letter S, opens into the River Tana and its beaches offer the conservancy sites for a hotels and camping.
“We have camps but we plan for a hotel where tourists can stay when they come to this part of the wild north,” said Mr Tawane.
The lake is fished by the Pokomo, and it is home to many swans which also delight tourists.
An airstrip is under construction to attract tourists from Nairobi and Mombasa and its opening could be the stepping stone to other tourists destinations in the north.
The conservancy covers Kotile, Korisa and Hara locations where local communities have agreed to live alongside the animals.

Only the predators, not man, are a threat to the hilora, because the Somali culture abhors hunting or even eating wild meat.
Boni is the only forest in the county. And it is also a national game reserve.
“It is the only green land all year round that we cherish in this part of a forestless region, with flora and fauna we want to preserve for posterity,” said Hussein Haji, an elder in the area.
The forest lies some 300 kilometers south of Garissa Town, towards the Somalia border and it is 110 kilometers from Masalani, a town at the southern tip of the county bordering Tana River.
It is 800 kilometres or more from Nairobi, depending on the route, and a minimum of 650 kilometres from Mombasa.
The huge forest is said to cover around 680,000 acres.
The forest spreads from Garissa County in Kenya to Somalia near Kismayu and covers northern Lamu to near Kyunga and the little known Kenyan town of Dar es Salaam.
Besides the indigenous vegetation, Boni has rare trees with wood used to build boats.
Through it run small rivers known as jere which flow into the Indian Ocean and provide clear water for the wildlife.
The rivers keep the forest green throughout the year.
When peace finally returns to Somalia, Boni might become a shared resource between Garissa and its troubled neighbouring nation.


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