In the 1980′s and 90′s, poachers slaughtered many of the elephants in Meru National Park and rhinos were completely eradicated from the area. The park’s infrastructure was deadened with a horrendous blow to conservation. Tourism plummeted and rumours circulated that the government was at the point of de-proclaiming the park. Despite the park’s state of despair, with a passion for this beautiful wilderness, Stefano & Liz Cheli believed that they could build a successful lodge to secure Meru’s future existence. They entered into discussion with KWS in 1993 and after four years of negotiating, they received the approval. Since the lodge was built in 1999, Meru National Park has experienced a steady increase in tourist numbers, from 3,500 in 1999 to 15,200 in 2009 and now has a reputation as one of the best wilderness areas on the safari circuit. Elsa’s Kopje contributes to the KWS through lease payments and park fees, which amounted to US$ 76,080 and US$ 150,479 respectively in 2011 alone.
The generation of these funds has triggered restorative action by the KWS and infrastructure and security networks have been implemented, including a 24 hour rhino surveillance which was introduced in 2003 and a specialised poaching intelligence unit, with vastly effective poaching reduction results. At least 1,350 animals have been successfully translocated to Meru, including reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, impala, Bohors reedbuck, leopard and elephant. The rich diversity also includes more than 400 bird species. KWS has also installed a 20,750 acre rhino sanctuary which now protects a population of over 70 white and black rhino. All this considered, Elsa’s Kopje has undoubtedly made a huge contribution to ensuring that Meru National Park is once again a viable conservation area.
Elsa’s Kopje has been awarded “Gold Level” by the internationally recognised Ecotourism society in recognition of its high level of environmental responsibility; and it was the first lodge in Kenya to receive an eco-rating. The lodge consumes a minimum amount of energy through investments in LED and energy saving bulbs, solar water heaters and power to supplement the generator, limiting diesel generator use to only 6 hours per day. To limit our carbon footprint, wherever possible, our fresh produce is sourced from the farmers on the borders of the park and local traders and timber used by the camp is taken from renewable sources. Rubbish is responsibly disposed of or recycled and separated glass is sold to the recycling plant ‘Central Glass’ in Nairobi.