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Tsavo's guardians get lessons on quelling human-wildlife conflict

 Senior wildlife crime analyst at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Jacquiline Bubi, addressing various managers of different conservancies and ranch heads within the Tsavo landscape during a training session to develop a coordinated management approach. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

For years, cases of human-wildlife conflict have plagued the communities living around Tsavo National Park, primarily due to high human populations and incompatible land use practices in the adjacent areas.

Limited natural resources in the Tsavo ecosystem have led to the destruction of the once-thriving habitat, sparking conflicts between members of different conservancies and ranches as they compete for these essential resources.

The struggle for access to water, grazing land, and other vital resources has escalated tensions, creating a challenging environment where cooperation gives way to discord making it hard for everyone to work together in the area.

In a bid to eradicate the conflicts surrounding natural resources, conservancy managers and head rangers under the Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA) have undergone upskilling training on resolving these conflicts.

The training is essential for the sustainable  coexistence of stakeholders and plays a vital role in conserving the biodiversity of Tsavo.

Tsavo East and West National Parks, in Kenya, are not just big and popular with tourists, they are a vital spot for lots of different animals and plants.

The park is home to over 15,000 out of Kenya’s 36,000 elephants, which need a lot of space to roam, the Tsavo area is a vital landscape that serves as a migratory corridor connecting Tsavo National Park in Kenya with Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.

According to the Manager of Washumbu Conservancy, Valentine Mkanyika, in Tsavo human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs) occur when expanding human populations and activities overlap or compete for space and resources with wildlife.

“These conflicts may also arise from increasing wildlife populations encroaching on human settlements or other areas of human development, which in turn leads to conflicts between members of different conservancies and ranches as they compete for these essential resources,” she said.

She added that habitat destruction, particularly through the cutting down of trees for charcoal burning, has become a source of widespread community conflict in the conservancies.

“As communities encroach further into forests to harvest wood for charcoal production, the delicate balance between environmental preservation and human livelihoods is strained, as more trees are felled to meet the demand for charcoal, habitats crucial for various species are destroyed, leading to a decline in wildlife populations and plant diversity,” she said.

She added that through the extensive training, managers and heads of ranches can utilise these skills to prevent inter-conservancy conflicts, introduce alternative livelihood sources, and simultaneously safeguard the rich biodiversity of Tsavo, a strategic approach aimed to promote sustainable practices while ensuring the preservation of this iconic wildlife habitat.

“This empowerment not only equips us with essential skills to safeguard biodiversity, livelihoods, and conservation efforts but also enhances our community engagement, governance, and decision-making processes,” she said.

Rangeland security coordinator at TTWCA, Omaria Anyang Kenneth, said that TTWCA currently brings together 35 community ranches, nine of which are registered as wildlife conservancies spreads over 4,046 km2 of wildlife dispersal areas surrounding the Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks an area represents 24 per cent of the total Taita Taveta County land area.

“TTWCA, established in 2013, is a regional membership organisation dedicated to unifying and coordinating community-led conservation efforts across Taita Taveta ranches and conservancies. Our goal is to benefit both the people and the biodiversity of the Taita Taveta-Tsavo landscape by sharing resources and uniting community conservation efforts,” he said.

According to Jacquiline Bubi, the senior wildlife crime analyst at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in East Africa, IFAW is implementing a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project, Sustainable Management of Amboseli and Tsavo landscapes, in collaboration with TTWCA.

The project aims to strengthen local institutions’ ability to develop a coordinated management approach with their members to enhance local stewardship, improve benefit sharing, and ensure sustainable wildlife and biodiversity management within the Tsavo Conservation Area.

 “The project aims to strengthen local community capacity and governance frameworks for an integrated, inclusive, and coordinated approach to biodiversity and wildlife management.

TTWCA and IFAW plan to enhance Conservancy Managers’ and Head rangers’ capacity in managing and mitigating natural resource conflicts. This awareness campaign addresses challenges such as conflicts over access to land and water, community exclusion, and human-wildlife interactions. Equipping managers with conflict resolution skills is vital to prevent threats to biodiversity and conservation efforts,” she said.

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