Spotlight Kenya: From Tsavo to Amboseli – Bring it on!

As human population grows, pressure has been mounting on areas that are ‘unoccupied’; some of which are wildlife habitats and dispersal areas. Tsavo is no exception. Subsequently and gradually, human-wildlife conflict incidences have shot through the roof.Elephants chasing buffalo from a waterhole in Tsavo. c. IFAW/Nana Grosse-Woodley

Anyone who knows of the Tsavo ecosystem agrees that just its size can be intimidating. Denmark or the Netherlands can comfortably fit into it.

Same applies to the State of Massachusetts. At 43,000 km2, some would welcome the challenge of protecting the elephants and other wildlife in such an expansive area. Like the International Fund for Animal Welfare did six years ago. Although it is almost 1,000 km from the unstable Somalia to Tsavo, armed bandits from this country traditionally made insurgencies in search of ivory and rhino horn.

They were hardy risk-takers, well armed and trained. From over 40,000 elephants in the 70s, this population was trimmed mainly by these bandits to just above 5,000 in 1988. Rhinos fared a worse battle – 99% of their population was wiped off by then. One would think that armed poaching would be the only headache bedevilling Tsavo. Of late, non-traditional methods of poaching have notably been on the rise.

Such as use of poisoned arrows, silent yet potent and effective, by the communities living around the habitat. Tsavo is a hotchpotch of most, if not all the, challenges faced in protecting an elephant habitat, whether in Africa or Asia. With Kenya’s human population rated to be rising at one million every year and currently estimated at 40 million, it is not rocket science that the populace has to find somewhere to live, to eke a livelihood, to be buried. Africans, in general, have a deep cultural attachment to land.

Most want a portion of it to their name and to bequeath their progeny. Land issues are emotive and divisive, and many a life has been lost in tussles regardless of kith and kin. But I digress. As human population grows, pressure has been mounting on areas that are ‘unoccupied’; some of which are wildlife habitats and dispersal areas.

Tsavo is no exception. Subsequently and gradually, human-wildlife conflict incidences have shot through the roof. Into Tsavo’s pot of challenges, add communities’ reduced  economic power as well as the need to equip the wildlife guardians with the ways and means to protect Tsavo as a resource. From 2005 to 2011, IFAW, in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service and Tsavo’s management, gave a much-needed hand to help resolve the challenges above. Presently, rangers have the vehicles and radio equipment needed for anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement efforts. The team that resolves conflict incidences can now be rapidly deployed to the hotspots and a fence to keep away elephants has been erected in an area where a farming community lives.

Various community projects that are compatible with wildlife conservation such as aloe vera farming and bee-keeping have been initiated and are ongoing, addressing the issue of livelihoods. Scientists have the equipment and means to collect data and information such as elephant movement and distribution that will help the park managers protect Tsavo. Ad infinitum. Whilst we appreciate that wildlife conservation is a long-term undertaking, IFAW, like other organisations, has limited resources.

However, our commitment in spirit and goodwill from friends and supporters abounds. We are gratified that we have left Tsavo’s management better equipped and more resourced to protect the habitat, its elephants and other wildlife as we transition into Amboseli. The Amboseli ecosystem is a haven for ecology researchers; it is every wildlife tourist or enthusiast’s dream come true owing to the ease of wildlife and landscape viewing; cultural tourists enjoy learning the ways of the Maasai community in their ancestral lands.  It has also become a land planner or wildlife conservationist’s hotspot.

Compared to Tsavo, the Amboseli ecosystem is almost eight times smaller. During the elephant poaching eras of 70s and 80s, Amboseli was mercifully spared. But in the recent past, poaching incidences have been reported and have been on the rise. Today, the elephant population stands at around 1,400, and are the longest researched elephants in the world. The area is also a haven for ornithologists and predators are also easily sighted.

Our excitement about the project, though, comes with a little trepidation and some sense of foreboding. Small as it seems, with regard to the intensity of human-wildlife conflicts, community conservation and land-use changes, Amboseli is ten-fold as radioactive compared to Tsavo.

Yet it presents another challenge that IFAW hopes to boldly take on and work into positive outcomes. Both for the elephants and for people. -- EW 

Comments: 3

6 years ago

I, Koikai Oloitiptip am the author of the posted response herein titled "DON'T KILL THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGG", and not anonymous. It is my response to the "reply" by Daniel Leturesh to my comment of several months back on the entry of IFAW to the elephant range of the Amboseli-Chyulu-Tsavo and Kilimanjaro Ecosystem.
Both Daniel Leturesh and I, sit as Trustees of Amboseli Ecosystem Trust (AET) where he is the Chairman; and also as Members of the Board of ATGRCA-Amboseli Tsavo Group Ranches Conservation Association, as Directors. Therefore, the latest posted response is intended to reveal the concurrence by Mr. Leturesh and me on various pertinent aspects as agreed by the stakeholders of Amboseli, especially the five year negotiated Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan 2008-2018 (AEMP 2008-2018), and the central role for the AET; and the belief we both share that IFAW has the capacity to make a difference, contingent on inclusiveness. Recommended is the use of institutional mechanisms that will bind the organizations to ensure agreed practical implementation of the AEMP 2008-2018, individually or jointly with other partners.
Koikai Oloitiptip

6 years ago


I would like to respond to Mr. Daniel Leturesh's reply as follows:
Firstly, as far as the AEMP 2008-2018 implementation is concerned; the
piece is factual to a great extent. And that is the gist of the
matter. Therefore, just a contractual agreement between IFAW and AET,
similar to the one between IFAW and KWS would be a good entry point to
effect true implementation of the AEMP 2008-2018.

Secondly, I would like to express my respect to Daniel Leturesh, with
whom we sit on two boards: one as Trustees of the AET, where he is the
Chairman; and two as board members of the ATGRCA, thus both of us are

I want to make it clear that my spontaneous reaction to the article by Elizabeth
Wamba was due to the fact that, at no time ever was IFAW formally
presented or discussed at those complimenting positions I serve. And
that is the reason for my statement thus, " terms of interaction
the impression is that IFAW is for exclusivity in persons and

Anyway, by and large, I concur with my colleague Daniel Leturesh that
IFAW have the ability to make a difference. And that is the reason why
immediately after I posted my comments I tried to engage IFAW East
Africa. I felt, I needed to draw the attention of IFAW to AET in the
implementation of AEMP 2008-2018. Because the KWS which is the other
signatory to the AEMP 2008-2018 had forgotten, or overlooked to highlight the central role of AET.

Last but not least, I am happy about the reply as it confirms I'm the person at the ATGRCA desk.

Advisably, for now let us move on and IFAW should not take offence.
The concerned individuals as well should epitomize the greatness and
global leadership of IFAW, to ensure broad inclusiveness.

In conclusion, I support Leturesh who has put the role of AET strongly
than I would have done. Suffice to say, the role of AET is fundamental
among these vulnerable Maasai communities, in the midst of powerful
bodies who are leaders in their various fields internationally. We
had envisaged tapping the great potential, through AET into blessings
to these fragile environments of the Amboseli-Chyulu-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro

Koikai Oloitiptip

Koikai Oloitiptip
6 years ago

IFAW is really a big name. My interaction with IFAW is more memorable before their coming to Kenya, and immediately after establishing offices in Kenya. However, it is now sad to me, because in terms of action and interaction the impression is that IFAW is for exclusivity, in persons and organisation. Otherwise, how in the face of IFAW's admission that Amboseli is an island sorrounded by group ranches; meaning dependency in dispersal and corridor of the Amboseli wildlife, and the keystone species the elephant in their movements to the other National Parks, namely Chyulu, Tsavo and Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania are in these group ranches. In other words the survival of Amboseli and its flagship species depend on the sorrounding group ranches who came together to form the Amboseli Tsavo Group Ranches Conservation Association (ATGRCA) to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem-a designated Man and Biosphere by UNESCO. And furthermore, IFAW acknowledge Amboseli has an ecosystem plan, namely the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan 2008-2018 (AEMP 2008-2018). And the ATGRCA is a joint signatory with KWS to the plan AEMP 2008-2018. And yet no recognition by IFAW! How then can it be explained that the IFAW in coming into the Amboseli met one primary stakeholder-KWS- and other secondary stakeholders, but ignore the counterpart of KWS in the AEMP 2008-2018 -the ATGRCA. Surely, IFAW is misadvised to follow the old ways of conservation, of which the consequence is that now the KWS has categorised Amboseli as "threatened"; and IFAW has referred to as a "hotspot". In the past the leadership of the group ranches were ignored by the major conservation players in the Amboseli -Tsavo ecosystem, in practice except in reference, despite the fact that they are the bona fide elected representatives of the communities. And they hold and clearly stipulated by law, the power for what happens to the group ranches. IFAW take note, that the several reasons given for the sub division of the group ranches, the most potent is that the group ranches leadership got tired of being ignored. Hence, the decision of group ranch subdivision and the fragmentation to individual plots was made in the main in desperation and anger towards the conservation entities in the Amboseli. It can rightfully be said the action was "to cut the nose to spite the face". Now, the manner of IFAW's entry into the Amboseli- if no intervention is done urgently by IFAW- it would be seen as one that will escalate an already deteriorated situation. While we are at the moment mobilising all persons of goodwill to implement the AEMP 2008-2018 to mitigate situation. It is the only way, with an iota of hope for securing the habitat for wildlife and the survival of the Amboseli and its people in a sustainable way and means. Otherwise, any other way would clearly be sabotage, immaterial of who is doing what. That is the situation. What will IFAW choose to do? Suffice to say we are ready to engage with IFAW. Because, we have no doubt, if IFAW's entry to Amboseli, it comes with the ecosystem approach in mind. Then it will be a blessing, with optimism for sustainable development for the whole of the ecosystem, encompassing the Amboseli-Chyulu-Tsavo and Kilimanjaro National Parks. Koikai Oloitiptip, Director and Coordinator ATGRCA/ Trustee Amboseli Ecosystem Trust


Here is the reply from:


Daniel Leturesh.

Chairman – Olgulului – Ololorashi Group Ranch

Chairman of the Board – Amboseli Ecosystems Trust.

Board Member – ATGRCA.



I the undersigned hereby wish to respond to the Blog posted on IFAW Website by Koikaki Oloitiptip, sometime in May 2012, after meeting with Chairman of ATGRCA Mr. Emanuel Kanai and agreeing to respond to Koikai.

We wish to hereby confirm that Koikai is the Ag. Coordinator of ATGRCA and not The Director/Coordinator of ATGRCA. Secondly, that he posted the letter without any consultation or consent from the Amboseli Ecosytems Trust (AET) or Amboseli – Tsavo Group Ranches Conservation Association (ATGRCA) Chairman and Board of Directors of ATGRCA. That means what he wrote were his personal views and not those of ATGRCA nor AET.

I am the bonafide Chairman of Olgulului – Ololorashi Group Ranch (OOGR) in Amboseli Ecosystem (Kenya). I therefore represent over 11,485 community members of OOGR who own 147,000 ha of land, surrounding almost 100% Amboseli National Park (ANP). This means I represent the interest of Land owners around ANP without which the park cannot survive.

I am also the Chairman of Amboseli Ecosystems Trust (AET), the body entrusted to oversee the implementation of the negotiated Amboseli Ecosystems Management Plan (AEMP). I therefore represent the interest of the stake holders of Amboseli Ecosystem which include ATGRCA.

I read the blog written by Koiaki Oloitipitip and noticed that it was misguided, misinformed and therefore misleading to the public. I therefore wish to correct the damage done by Koikai’s letter by stating the following:-

  1. I have been involved with IFAW coming to Amboseli from the beginning and am fully aware and welcome their entry into Amboseli Ecosystem. I together with those I represent do hereby confirm our willingness to support IFAW and its endeavours in Amboseli.
  2. I wish to also confirm that IFAW has been constantly consulting with various Key stakeholders of Amboseli Ecosystem among them, AWF, KWS, OOGR, Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) among others, and that the group ranches and their leadership was not ignored. Therefore anybody stating otherwise should be ignored.
  3. The reasons for group ranches subdivision has nothing to do with group ranch leadership being ignored but rather the New Constitution, New Land Policy and the proposed New Wildlife Policy and their impacts on the group ranch lands.
  4. Finally I confirm that I have known IFAW and its work for the last 13 years and I am a witness of their ability to make a difference, Amboseli Ecosystem being no exception. So far they have used the right channel to enter Amboseli Ecosystem and they are doing so with the total support from the communities and other stakeholders.

Having stated the above, I wish to conclude that only AET is the body mandated by Amboseli Ecosystems Management Plan and all stakeholders of Amboseli Ecosystem to oversee the implementation of AEMP. Anybody purporting to do so will be doing it at his or her individual capacity and will not necessarily be representing the interest of the majority.

Thank you.


Daniel Leturesh.

Chairman – Olgulului – Ololorashi Group Ranch

Chairman of the Board – Amboseli Ecosystems Trust.

Board Member – ATGRCA.

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