The Roan Antelope Half Marathon Returns

Homa Bay County and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are taking strides, quite literally, to safeguard the endangered Roan antelope from the brink of extinction. In a bid to raise awareness and bolster conservation efforts, they’re gearing up for the second edition of the Roan Antelope Half Marathon.

Roan antelopes are only found within Ruma National Park in Homa Bay County, where  they sadly face a perilous decline in numbers. KWS records from 2020  state that only 12 individual animals are left within the park’s boundaries. A cocktail of threats—poaching, wildfires, predation, drought, and disease— are to blame for this decline.

Speaking to media outlets the Homa Bay County Executive Committee Member for Trade, Polycap Okombo, stated the economic importance of the park, “We have several tourism attraction sites in the county, but the most unique one is the national park because of its features.”

The inaugural marathon in 2023 proved transformative, thrusting Ruma National Park into the spotlight. Visitor numbers increased following the publicity, doubling to 3000 within a month post-event. And now, with the upcoming marathon, expectations soar even higher. The county anticipates a turnout of 5,000 participants, eager to lace up their shoes for the cause.

Proceeds from the marathon promise to inject vitality into the park, fortifying efforts to protect and preserve the Roan antelope.”We’ve got positive responses from business operators in the hospitality industry owing to the high number of guests who sought for services from them including accommodation and food. With additional guests this year we would have opened up the county for investment opportunities in tourism.”

The Roan Antelope Sanctuary, a haven of safety for these vulnerable creatures, created by KWS in 2021 with corporate backing predominantly coming from the Safaricom Foundation, is nestled within the park. The half marathon is set to take place within this sanctuary. The idea according to  Mr. Okombo, is for participants in the race to see the animals as they run.

Cultural Festival 

But the race is not a stand-alone event, it will be part of a vibrant two-day Luo cultural festival still organized by the county. Mr. Okombo outlined an exciting itinerary for participants, detailing a picturesque journey across the lake from Homa Bay town to Mbita before embarking on the adventure to Ruma National Park.  Additionally, cultural immersion awaits, with insights into the region’s rich history, cuisine, traditions, and vibrant songs and dances, part of the extravaganza. “Everyone will have an opportunity to watch animals on the first day. We will also share information about our culture including history, cuisine, traditions, songs, and dances.”

The CeC urged investors to capitalize on the occasion by developing an eco-lodge within Ruma National Park. Such an establishment, he asserted, would not only attract tourists but also generate employment opportunities for residents, fostering sustainable growth and community development.