Over the past 10 years in Africa, we have developed fantastic partnerships. In 2017 alone this teamwork has lead to huge swaths of the Indian Ocean being protected, great rivers in Gabon being surveyed, the advancement of water funds, more communal land being secured, and even public policy being changed. You can read about all of this in our 2017 Year in Review.
So why, with such a diverse portfolio of conservation strategies and partnerships, does one species continue to be such a dominant part of TNC’s Africa story?
Using elephants as a key focal species helps us identify where to channel our conservation efforts because they need such large habitats to exist and thrive. They migrate through forests, savannas, and mountains all year round. If a system works for elephants, it generally works for antelopes, giraffes, lions, and other species that utilize similar habitat. So by starting with elephants, we’re able to maintain focus on the landscape-scale conservation critical to all of our work.
Let’s take a look back at some highlights of 2017.
Cutting-edge tech to help local communities protect elephants
A recent BBC article shines a light on the work of our core community conservation partner in Kenya, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). NRT is combining innovative tech (think software solutions that live stream the location of elephants and rangers) with the influence of local communities to combat poaching.
New elite anti-poaching team in Kenya
NRT has added a fifth mobile ranger team to its anti-poaching arsenal. The ‘9-5’ team is based at Loisaba Conservancy and provides rapid response to incidents such as elephant poaching and cattle theft in the surrounding community conservancies. The team is linked to a central security command center at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which coordinates security operations across the conservation landscape of northern Kenya for more effective collaboration and patrols.
Responding to a setback in Kenya
The latest NRT State of Conservancies Report revealed that 52 percent of all deceased elephants recorded in community conservancies in 2016 had been killed illegally. This figure, known as PIKE, was up 18 percent on 2015 and marked the first PIKE increase since 2012. The number of elephants poached for ivory between 2015 and 2016 doubled; so too did killings attributed to human-wildlife conflict. NRT has responded to this troubling increase in several ways, including supporting conservancies to enhance ranger patrols and conducting additional community outreach, awareness, and conflict-prevention meetings.
Project launched at Tanzania-Kenya border
We are partnering with Honeyguide and Big Life Foundation on a new community-based conservation project that aims to keep the wildlife corridor linking Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park and Kenya’s Amboseli National Park open. We’re working with Enduimet Community Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) to strengthen wildlife security and cross-border coordination, professionalize management of the CWMA, and increase tourism revenues. Read more here.
Reducing human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania
The community farmland that surrounds northern Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park is a tempting food source for elephants and other animals. This frequently leads to conflict between humans and wildlife, which is why our partner Honeyguide has trained more than 235 villagers on crop protection and the use of the elephant alarm system. From flashlights to fences drenched in chili oil, these measures reduced the number of crop-raids by elephants in one village by 55 percent over a three-month period.
Wildlife law enforcement in Zambia
In 2017, the anti-poaching team from our partner Game Rangers International apprehended 159 poachers, confiscated 321 snares and seized more than 6,500 pounds of bushmeat. A new airplane boosted the team’s wildlife monitoring patrols over the vast and remote Kafue National Park, especially areas inaccessible by roads, and enabled them to respond more quickly to reports of illegal activities.
The threats facing Africa’s wildlife, wild spaces, and the communities that live amongst them have arguably never been greater. But these highlights show that targeted support to partners — from local communities to governments — is having an impact. They also outline the need to continue supporting the large-scale protection of lands that can play a vital role in providing elephants with a safe space to feed and breed away from human pressures. As these three elephant rescues show, areas of well-stewarded lands also provide the necessary framework for vets and scientists to help wildlife in need.