Poachers, drawn in by the sky-high price of ivory are killing an estimated 96 elephants everyday in Africa – bringing elephants ever closer to the brink of extinction. Although the prospects are dire, African Conservation Centre (ACC) and our progressive community partners are having success in slowing and in some cases stopping the slaughter in parts of Kenya and Tanzania. ACC, in collaboration with NGOs and government anti-poaching forces, are protecting elephants where they live through the Game Scouts Program and through the Kenya-Tanzania Borderlands Conservation Initiative which bring together key conservation players to build conservation capacity for communities, identify emerging crises, provide emergency rapid response support, and coordinate and communicate information.
Kenya-Tanzania Borderlands Conservation Initiative (BCI)
The Kenya-Tanzania borderlands region supports some of the richest wildlife populations on earth through a network of national parks and reserves, as well as through the pastoral land that connects them. BCI aims to conserve large, free-ranging elephant and lion populations along the borderlands through coordination of conservation efforts between key interest groups. Coordinated by ACC, BCI program partners work together to increase community conservation capacity, train new scouts, build new scout stations, and develop rapid response units to quickly activate game scouts and Kenya Wildlife Service staff. These cooperative efforts have resulted in a significant reduction of poaching.
The Role of Keystone Species
Elephants (Loxodonta africana) and lions (Panthera leo) are the largest herbivore and carnivore in Africa, are highly threatened and share a flagship role in conservation. Both species play key roles in the ecosystem, are major tourist attractions, and are most often in conflict with farmers and herders. Conserving elephants and lions combats poaching, bolsters tourism, generates income for local communities, and maintains the diversity and integrity of ecosystems.
Addressing Threats to Keystone Species
Despite their importance to conservation, most national parks are too small and scattered to sustain large, wide-ranging herbivores and carnivores. Conservation of the borderlands region is critical to the long-term viability of both elephant and lion metapopulations. Over the last 30 years, Kenya’s parks and reserves have lost half of their wildlife populations. The same trend is also seen in parks across eastern and southern Africa.
In addition, pastoralists, eager to secure formal titles to ward off land grabbers, are carving up the areas around and between parks. This wave of subdivision is hastening the loss of wildlife and the isolation of parks. Meanwhile, the illegal slaughter of wildlife has recently escalated in northern Tanzania and Kenya. Although wildlife protection agencies in both countries have reacted to this threat in protected areas, most of the community lands in this region have little or no protection. BCI changes that by working with communities to strengthen their conservation capacity and by generating jobs and income.
ACC employs 10 Game Scouts in Amboseli and works in collaboration with Big Life to train and equip these community members to protect and monitor wildlife, engage in human-wildlife conflict resolution, collect ecological data, and provide environmental education including tours, biodiversity interpretations and conservation awareness campaigns. Game Scout programs are proving to be effective deterrents to poaching – particularly in Shompole, Magadi, Nguruman, Loita and Naibunga Conservancies. ACC has helped to establish Game Scout programs in collaboration with SORALO and the Borderlands Conservation Initiative.
South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO)
SORALO currently supports 35 community scouts to help communities protect their natural resources. Scouts patrol daily within community lands to prevent environmental crimes, ranging from poaching to illegal logging. They also act as mediators in any human-wildlife incidents, communicating with the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service), rescuing wounded animals, removing wildlife snares and keeping people and their livestock safe.
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