Conservancies woo landowners to mitigate conflict with wildlife

 

Daniel Leturesh, Chairman of Olgulului Land Trust, engages over 1,000 landowners from the Maasai community during the Special General Meeting in Mashenani, Kajiado County. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

Amid growing concerns of human-wildlife conflict along the wildlife corridor in the Amboseli, conservancies are advocating for a shift from agriculture to livestock, to safeguard the long-term survival of the Amboseli elephants.

This follows a successful implementation of a project by Kitenden Conservancy and the Olgulului-Ololorashi Group Ranch, which are part of a network of ranches surrounding the Amboseli National Park.

The approach involved securing wildlife conservation space by leasing land from the community who own it and securing a new lease of life for elephants and other wildlife, allowing them to move freely from the park into Kilimanjaro National Park and the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania.

The programme started in 2021, after a territorial wrangle erupted between conservationists and the owner of an avocado farm situated in the middle of a wildlife migration corridor outside Amboseli National Park.

Conservation stakeholders raised concern that farming along the wildlife corridors could endanger the long-term survival of Amboseli elephants by obstructing a crucial wildlife pathway.

On the other hand, the agricultural entrepreneur aimed to preserve the avocado farm, showcasing the intricate interplay between conservation and economic goals.

Farmlands located within wildlife corridors may draw elephants, leading to increased incidents of human-wildlife conflict. Consequently, promoting livestock keeping and conservation emerges as a more sustainable choice for these vast plains to sustain both human livelihoods and wildlife populations.

According to a report by The Kenya wildlife service (KWS) between 2020 and 2022, more than 370 Kenyans reportedly lost their lives after attacks by wild animals, while over 2,040 were injured.

As ecosystem engineers, elephants play a vital role in combating the climate crisis by dispersing seeds through their dung, promoting new plant growth and supporting smaller animals. Their roaming behaviors clear space for plant growth, provide food sources for smaller animals, and unearth minerals, benefitting the ecosystem.

African forest elephants contribute significantly to carbon sequestration by enabling trees to grow tall and large, preventing around 9,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Additionally, their bodies store carbon, further aiding in climate mitigation.

The Amboseli ecosystem has over 1600 elephant individuals that freely roam within it.

A report by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) shows that In Kenya, around 200 people died in human-elephant conflicts between 2010 and 2017, while 120 elephants die every year due to human wildlife conflict.   

Out of 29,647 reported human-wildlife conflict cases, crop raiding was the most frequent type (73%) followed by livestock depredation (23%) and infrastructure damage (4%). Elephants and hyenas led in crop destruction and livestock depredation respectively.

The Illaingarunyoni Conservancy, owned by the Maasai community, has recently followed suit to adopt the Kitenden approach in transitioning from agriculture to livestock rearing.

This strategic shift aims to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and foster a broader movement corridor for wildlife by setting aside land for wildlife preservation. This move safeguards the future of both human livelihoods and wildlife in Amboseli by securing the last remaining wildlife corridor that enables the free movement of elephants between Amboseli and the Greater Maasai Mara-Loita ecosystems. 

According to IFAW East Africa Programme Manager Evan Mkala, Illaingarunyoni Conservancy will strengthen community resilience to climate change by acting as a dry season refuge for their cattle.

“Preserving vital elephant habitats in Eastern and Southern Africa promotes habitat connectivity and strengthens the resilience of human communities, resulting in a mutually beneficial outcome for both people and nature—a harmonious approach that achieves multiple goals at once,” he said.

He added that the Room to Roam concept aims to facilitate interaction between animals and humans to prevent human-wildlife conflicts as communities living in wildlife corridors are encouraged to engage in livestock keeping instead of facing a future where habitats are fenced off and developed into small towns, hindering wildlife movements, worsening human-wildlife conflicts, and disrupting their pastoral lifestyle.

“The creation of Illaingarunyoni Conservancy will further generate revenue for the over 3,598 Maasai landowners, safeguard human livelihoods, and secure a safe passage area for elephants, giraffes and other rarely seen species such as aardvarks and African wild dogs,” he said.

Amboseli Elephant Trust (AET) currently has a membership of 20 conservancies covering approximately 394,834 acres of land and supporting 65,881 households and close to 500 community rangers under the Amboseli Tsavo Community Rangers Association (ATCRA).

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