In Africa, historic agreement for elephants in the creation of the Kitenden Corridor
On Wednesday, July 17th, we held a ceremony in one of the most spectacular places on earth, watched over by Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro is iconic. It is the highest, freestanding mountain in Africa, and pictures of elephants against a backdrop of Kili inspire thousands with a yen to see wild Africa to catch the first plane out.
Mount Kilimanjaro stands in Tanzania, just across the border from Kenya, where another equally gorgeous natural phenomenon occurs – Amboseli National Park, home to 1,400 elephants and myriad other wildlife including lion, cheetah, leopard, buffalo, wildebeest, antelope, giraffe and an array of birds.
Together, Amboseli and Kilimanjaro are the ultimate in spectacular Africa.
But Amboseli, and the elephants and wildlife that live in it, are under great threat. Amboseli is Kenya’s second smallest park, and cannot always cater to its huge herds of elephants. Elephants roam miles daily – and even further afield in the rainy season – across the Maasai community lands, sometimes conflicting with local people.
The elephant’s most favourite route to travel, the journey they have made for millennia, is across the Tanzanian border and onto the slopes of the Kilimanjaro.
Over the years the establishment of “Group Ranches” around the borders of Amboseli has meant roaming space for elephants has slowly been eaten up. On some of these farms the establishment of villages and small farms, and large herds of cattle have affected the habitat. Elsewhere, the threats of mining and commercial farming are very real.
Before it became too late, we needed to act to safeguard crucial habitat for elephants.
Watch IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes describe the process and the necessity of this historic agreement.
The only answer, and this was an answer reached after much discussion and on-going scientific research by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its partners, was to lease land to extend Amboseli’s habitat and open up a safe corridor for the elephants to make their way to the border. On the Tanzanian side, a similar corridor already exists so joining the two will ensure elephants can safely move between Amboseli and Kilimanjaro.
On Wednesday, IFAW signed a lease agreement with the community of the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) at Amboseli. This agreement frees up 16,000 acres of land called the “Kitenden Corridor”.
It is a profound and special moment for both IFAW internationally and our amazing team in the East Africa Regional Office, headed up by James Isiche.
In signing this agreement we honour Maasai community values, as they have been protecting elephants and wildlife in Amboseli for close on 300 years.
Nearly 1,600 Maasai landowners, each of whom has signed a share certificate agreeing to the lease of the land, gathered Wednesday at Engong Narok in Amboseli to witness the ceremony that has given elephants the vital space they need.
The importance of this achievement also drew senior officials of the Government of Kenya, including the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, as well as the director of KWS and the Governor of the Kajiado County.
None of this would have been possible without the support of our donors and I would like to thank you. I am immensely proud of what IFAW has achieved for elephants in East Africa.