Partnerships and forethought forge an Amboseli Habitat Protection Project
Amboseli is world famous for many reasons; its elephants, popularised through movies and research by Dr. Cynthia Moss, who has been studying them for 40 years; as an excellent tourism destination with a magnificent view of Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro; and its global status by UNESCO as a Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserve.
It is the latter that was uppermost in the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s acting CEO, Azzedine Downes’ mind when he met with Amboseli’s Maasai community land-owners and the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in August 2012 to formally launch IFAW’s five-year Amboseli Habitat Protection Project.
The significance of local community support at Amboseli arises from the fact that Amboseli Park’s small size, 392 km2, cannot support the ecological needs of its 1,400 elephants let alone the thousands of other large mammals that live in the Amboseli landscape. Indeed, elephants and other wildlife depend on the surrounding Maasai community land for dispersal, spending up to 70% of their time on these community group ranches. In addition, animals use them as crucial corridors for migration to other protected areas such as Tsavo to the north in Kenya and Kilimanjaro Park to the south in Tanzania.
In tandem with global human development and population increase, the traditional livestock pastoralism of the Amboseli Maasai has been affected by the general global trend toward a ‘cash culture’ and economy.
These changes have led to rapid conversion of community dispersal lands around Amboseli to agriculture and other human-related uses that are not compatible with wildlife conservation.
Recognizing this threat to the ecosystem, Amboseli stakeholders, the two primary land-owners -- KWS as custodian of the park and the Maasai Ol’gulului Ol’lalarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) that surrounds 90% of the park, together with five adjacent group ranches; Selengei, Mbirikani, Kimana, Kuku and Rombo – met in 2008.
To their credit, they agreed to a land-use strategy, titled Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan, to guide future developments. Members of OOGR went even further in 2012 to produce a draft OOGR Conservation and Development Plan that seeks to guide human development that does not compromise wildlife conservation.
It is on the basis of these land-owners’ initiative that IFAW has partnered with KWS and OOGR to work together over the next five years to ensure habitat connectivity for Amboseli elephants by securing critical corridors and dispersal areas of OOGR.
This project truly provides IFAW the opportunity to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people.
In the words of Azzedine, “survival in the 21st century of large ranging animals like elephants will depend on how much human beings will tolerate wildlife on their land.”
James Isiche and his team at the IFAW East Africa office are the coordinators of this exciting project. But the project is actually IFAW’s globally.
In this spirit IFAW France has organized a visit to Amboseli at the end of this month for Delphine Wespiser, Miss France 2012…
Watch this space for more on that story.