Sister Park

Sister Park Agreement Signed Between Sibiloi National Park and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington, D.C.

June 27, 2014

Officials from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and National Museums of Kenya and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) signed a Sister Park Agreement between Sibiloi National Park in Northern Kenya and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in the United States on June 27. The alliance joins together the Kenya Wildlife Service, National Museums of Kenya, and U.S. National Park Service, and is the first of its kind between the United States and any African country. The five year agreement between the sister parks will increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts to address issues the parks share in common. Both parks are known for their important terrestrial paleontological localities and have produced fossils that represent a large diversity of species.

The signing ceremony took place during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., which is highlighting Kenya this year. NPS Deputy Regional Director Chip Jenkins and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Superintendent Judy Geniac joined Kenyan Ambassador Jean Kamau, KWS Deputy Director for Strategy and Change Edwin Wanyonyi and Dr. Ahmed Yassinof from the National Museums of Kenya for the signing ceremony.

"These two sites have significant fossils, history, and current-day resources," said Geniac. "Research in both locations is helping the world to understanding past climate fluctuations and species' responses, something that may help us address the world's future."

"We are happy to be associated with U.S.National Park Service for this historic signing of the sister parks relationship between Sibiloi National and Hagerman," Deputy Director Wanyonyi said. "The Sister Parks Agreement we are signing today will go a long way in strengthening relationships between Kenya Wildlife Service and U.S. National Parks Service and reaffirms our commitment to conserve the last great species and places for posterity."

The agreement resulted from a Kenyan delegation's visit to the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. KWS wanted to observe and learn what was expected from focus countries. While in Washington, DC, KWS met with staff from the NPS Office of International Affairs (OIA) to discuss possible collaborative ventures. Establishing a sister park was suggested as a simple way to get the two agencies working together. Following the delegation's visit, OIA was contacted by Hagerman Fossil Beds who expressed an interest in partnering with Sibiloi National Park. The parks will exchange technical and professional knowledge, collaborate, and share experiences. Shared information may include best practices and advancements in park management, customer service,conservation, data collection techniques, and tourism development. Initially, information exchanges will occur through the use of email, fax, and the Internet. With special arrangements, future staff exchanges may be possible.

The five year agreement between the sister parks will increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts to address issues the parks share in common. Both parks are known for their important terrestrial paleontological localities and have produced fossils that represent a large diversity of species.

Hagerman Fossil Beds, located in the Hagerman Valley of south central Idaho, is a site of one of the world's richest fossil deposits. Hagerman's fossils come from a largely continuous, undisturbed stratigraphic record that spans approximately one million years and provides data applicable for modeling present and future climatic and environmental change and ecosystem response at the local and global level. Assemblages date from the early to middle Pliocene epoch.

It is best known for its preservation of several hundred individuals of Equus simplicidens,which is the earliest example of the modern horse genus. Over 60,000 specimens are housed in collection facilities on-site with additional specimens at museums across the United States and around the world.

Sibiloi National Park is on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya approximately 800 kilometers from Nairobi. The fossiliferous Koobi Fora region contains sites of paleontological and paleoanthropological significance with over ten thousand fossils, including hominid fossils, recovered. The area is called the "cradle of mankind" for the early hominid skeletons unearthed there such as Turkana Boy (homo erectus).

Sibiloi's fossils provide an opportunity to trace the evolution of numerous mammalian lineages back in time and to study the effects of climate change and human activity on local fauna. Sibiloi is also known for its Petrified Forest which draws tourists from around the world.

Part of the reason for the Sister Parks initiative is sharing paleontological research between the two countries. Hagerman and Sibiloi dig sites are around the same period in the fossil record and include some of the same species of extinct animals and plants.

One of Kenya's goals for the partnership is to increase awareness of the treasures of northern Kenya, for research and sightseeing alike. Cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Sport, Culture and the Arts Hassan Wario has grand plans for tourism with Sibiloi: he wants a "Disney World of the human story" in its power to attract global visitors. "One thing that will always be defended, and will always remain, is that that is the cradle of mankind," and the value of the discoveries that have been made there is the same for all human beings, he said.

Last updated: September 12, 2015

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