How wildlife conservation in northern Kenya survived the pandemic
Outside the health clinic in Biliqo, a hot wind whips the earth. He pulls the shreds of material caught in the thorn bushes, swirls discarded plastic bottles on the ground and chases the tail of Madina Kalo’s indigo hijab as she stands outside the rough wooden door of the clinic. . It’s the middle of the year – the main dry season in northern Kenya – and the land is parched by the sun, the color palette vivid and blowing, like an overexposed photograph.
Kalo, dressed in her white nurse’s tunic and surgical mask, narrows her eyes, then steps back into the coolness of the clinic. She sees around 30 people a day, mostly pastoralists who report common illnesses such as respiratory infections, malaria and diarrhea. When cases are severe, Kalo directs patients to the town of Isiolo, a five-hour drive on a gravel road.
Biliqo’s garbage and torpor does not inspire thought about tourism or nature, but the town is part of one of 39 community reserves established by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), a Kenyan conservation organization. In return for a promise to strengthen protection of their environment and wildlife, people living on reserves receive basic services and benefits, often paid for with money from safari tourists.