Building momentum to save the elephants of Amboseli

The elephants of Amboseli, one of which is pictured here under Mt. Kilimanjaro, are in dire need of protection from a host of threats.Each time I look around the landscapes of Amboseli National Park, with its gorgeous scenery teeming with diverse wildlife, including the most famous elephants in the world, I am reminded that I work in paradise.

But then as if a large thunderclap boomed across the continental plains, I am jerked back to reality.

Life in paradise isn’t always easy.

In fact, maintenance of a blissful existence is extremely difficult. Challenges to nature’s perfection abound.

The efforts to protect this natural heritage need to be all-inclusive and I am honored to be part of an effort in the US to help fund the initiatives needed to ensure protection of Amboseli and its resident elephant families.

The very existence of these elephants is threatened by habitat loss—human development is encroaching key dispersal areas and migratory routes—poaching for ivory, human / wildlife conflict, and more.

IFAW’s project to Save the Elephants of Amboseli addresses these threats by:

  • preserving critical elephant habitat.
  • securing migration corridors to protected areas in Tanzania.
  • promoting sustainable development for Maasai communities.
  • innovative poaching prevention.

For more than two decades, I have been part of evolving approaches to wildlife protection in Kenya. Using the knowledge gained from my tenure in the Kenya Wildlife Service and as warden of Tsavo West National Park, in the 2000s I oversaw the IFAW effort to help bring Tsavo back from the brink, curtailing rampant poaching and rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.

The turnarounds were epic thanks to massive cooperative efforts between government, NGOs, generous funders, and local communities.

It is essential to work with the various stakeholders in and around the park. We cannot singlehandedly protect those elephants from conflict. We must invest in the local communities who are the stewards and custodians to these important wildlife dispersal areas.

The investments needed are significant and every contribution helps.

We can start by investing in those who protect the park:

  • $25,000 can train 10 scouts.
  • $15,000 can fund 50 percent of the renovation of the outposts rangers need to stay safe and on the front lines.
  • $5,000 can maintain a patrol vehicle for one year.

We can invest in education and community service:

  • $35,000 would pay for plans for a model community service center. Once architectural plans are developed, IFAW and the Maasai community will approach development agencies to support construction of a new health clinic, wildlife school, and girls’ school, far away from areas where potential human/elephant conflicts may take place.
  • $3,000 would educate one local child from the local group ranch over the next four years. We hope to provide a total of 66 scholarships to secondary, middle-level and college institutions.

We can mitigate human / elephant conflict through a variety of initiatives:

Due to the relative small size of the park, in order to find sufficient food and water, the elephants that roam through it require safe passage in the expansive ecosystem that surrounds it. In 2013 and again in 2014, IFAW paid for a lease of the Kitenden Corridor to secure this vital migratory route from development.

In partnership with the Executive Committee of the Kitenden Corridor Conservation Area, IFAW proposed a framework for a Kitenden Conservancy, which could operate much like other successful conservancies here in Africa. This conservancy would prohibit the blight of unfettered commercial development along the borders of the park that would corral the traveling elephants, but still allow Maasai group ranch stakeholders to benefit from other economic development opportunities that spring from the unique landscape.

  • $35,000 would pay for the Kitenden Tourism Investment Plan, which will foster these economic benefits from the tourist interest in the conservancy’s protected fauna.
  • $25,000 would help fund the construction of a water distribution system to provide water for elephants and people, thus keeping the elephants away from people’s homes, decreasing unnecessary deaths from conflicts.

An upcoming IFAW event in Los Angeles will help projects in Amboseli protect elephants like this mother and her calf.

On Feb. 17, I will be in Los Angeles, California’s Hotel Palomar with concerned donors who are interested in helping fund these initiatives.

IFAW Honorary Board member Dr. Jane Goodall will be speaking to the group through a video message, and a number of our celebrity ambassadors and honorary board members—Joely Fisher, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Goran Visnjic and more —will be on hand as well.

We are hopeful that we will raise a significant cache of money to help the elephants and their Amboseli ecosystem thrive years into the future.

While of course we value the generous people who are able to make major investments in IFAW’s plan to Save the Elephants of Amboseli, I also want to recognize IFAW’s incredibly generous and compassionate regular donors whose contributions—whether they be $15, $500 or $5000—all add up to significant game changing investments that move this program forward.

It is through your help that IFAW is making a difference for elephants and local communities.

I cannot thank you all enough.


To learn more about our Amboseli project, view our online photo book.

For more information about the LA event please contact Meg Canty at

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jeffrey Flocken, Regional Director, North America
Regional Director, North America
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy