Kenya: Queen Elizabeth II Knights Kenyan for Conservation Efforts


James Kariuki, Daily Nation

Date Published

A Kenyan conservationist, Ian Craig, who turned his family’s 62,000 acres into a wildlife sanctuary and proceeded to urge local communities in northern Kenya to form 33 conservancies, has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Craig’s selection was revealed last weekend after the Queen named him as a recipient of the Britain’s highest honorary award, the Order of the British Empire, for his service to wildlife and improving livelihoods through provision of sustainable conservation in northern Kenya.

“I feel that I am purely the nominee for many people’s support and hard work within Lewa and Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT), including those who have lost their lives in this task. This is a big surprise which I am most honoured to receive,” Mr Craig told the Daily Nation.

Mr Craig converted his family’s 62,000-acre cattle ranch into a rhino sanctuary at the peak of the elephant and rhino poaching in the early 1980s and it flourished to become the largest privately run rhino sanctuary in East and Central Africa.

“Craig has built up invaluable trust and respect with the communities that he serves. The community conservancies are governed by local people and are transforming the lives and landscapes of northern Kenya.

“They are building peace in a historically tense region and have reduced elephant poaching by 52 per cent since 2012,” said NRT Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mike Harrison.


Through Lewa’s conservation model, communities in northern Kenya came together to address insecurity and diminishing pastures by forming community run conservancies which provided a safe haven for wildlife and livestock.

It also generated numerous employment opportunities at high end lodges and tented camps established within the conservancies providing locals work as rangers, drivers, lodge crews as well as conservancy management teams.

The model emphasises that conserving the environment can also be an income earner from tourism, beekeeping, bead making and livestock auctions.

Mr Craig is also celebrated as a founder member of the Northern Rangeland Trust, a non-government group that has brought together numerous pastoralist communities to tackle common woes afflicting them through the formation of community conservancies which oversee funding and execution of community development projects.

NRT Kenya management board celebrated Craig’s prestigious award saying it would open new sources of conservation funds that would help steer northern Kenya communities’ ultimate goal of turning the insecurity tide into an opportunity for tourism.

Mr Craig currently serves as NRT Kenya’s Director of Conservation and is also Lewa’s Strategic Advisor.

Since its formation, NRT Kenya has worked closely with the Kenyan government as well as conservationists to raise funds for community development ventures where NRT advises and trains locals on the best ways to enhance security for both wildlife and people in the region as well as provide adequate pastures for livestock and wild animals.

Established in 1983, Lewa started out as the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary to help save the last remaining 15 black rhinos and was renamed Lewa Wildlife Sanctuary in 1995. Its rhino population has grown to 66 black rhinos and 62 white rhinos.