The Rukinga wildlife corridor is a pivotal crossing point for several different types of wildlife, from elephants to baboons. Unfortunately, it is located next to the A109, also known as the Mombasa Highway. Thousands of cars and commercial truck drivers pass through this area on their way from the coast to Nairobi. It isn’t uncommon to see someone chucking a plastic drink bottle out the window.
This practice has led to an area cluttered with colorful drink bottles and discarded tire rubber. The wildlife and domestic animals living in the animal are susceptible to ingesting these pieces of plastic and risk dying. Not to mention, how much of an eyesore it is for passers-by, an indication that littering is the norm.
Well, the young leaders at Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) were tired of seeing this area filled with trash.
How do you clean up and make an area litter free?
“Litter is a huge problem and it’s a problem along the whole highway, but the wildlife corridor has been deliberately kept clear of development to aid the movement of wildlife,” explained Alys Penfold, a VSO volunteers who organized the cleanup in collaboration with Wildlife Works. “We thought that if we cleaned up this one area, it would show the difference of what the area looks like without litter.”
On Saturday, April 1, 2017, a group of over 120 people showed up to help. Volunteers, community members, secondary students, rangers, and WW employees banded together to clean up the 2.3 km stretch of highway dubbed the wildlife corridor next to Rukinga Sanctuary.
“We thought that many people would not show up, but we had 120. We never expected that,” said Mercy Marigo, Hadithi Project Assistant. Hadithi works with women artisans to help empower them and sell their hand-made products to global markets. Alys was assigned to Hadithi as her project for her 3 month volunteer period. “It was our first project with the volunteers and we hope to organize with the community to clean up litter once a month from now on.”
Wildlife Works employees came to volunteer their time to help pick up trash and Wildlife Works Rangers handed out water and insured the safety of all participants working in close proximity to vehicle traffic. Each of the 3 participating secondary schools received organic-cotton shirts sewn and printed in the Wildlife Work’s eco-factory.
In 4 hours, the team collected over 250 garbage bags of trash from the area, removing plastic bottles, plastic bags, scraps, and other litter from this important conservation area. This amount of trash will be responsibly disposed of and recycled, beautifying the area and improving the lives of wildlife in the area.
How to prevent littering in the future?
VSO held a community meeting to educate people of the dangers of plastic, how long it takes to break down in the environment, and it’s negative impact on wildlife and our planet. They also posted a large banner, urging drivers to keep the wildlife corridor free of litter.
“The idea was that you can’t put up a sign asking people not to litter, when there is litter, so the first thing we wanted to do was clean it up, so people can see the difference,” said Alys. “Then put up the sign to encourage people to keep the area that way.”
This event was the launch of the Taka Sitaka Taka campaign to help improve parts near the Wildlife Works project areas. In the future, the team plans on reaching out to truck companies to educate their drivers on the dangers of littering, bringing a recycling center to the town of Maungu, and spurring further clean ups along the highway.
While only a small portion of the trash found along the Mombasa Highway was collected on Saturday, we hope the message will become clear to passing drivers that litter along these roads will not be tolerated.