The Amboseli ecosystem is in danger. Traditional Maasai communal land is being rapidly subdivided into individual holdings. Land parcels too small and too dry for agriculture or livestock are being sold, often to hotel developers who want a quick return. With no enforced land-use planning, already concrete monstrosities are blighting the ecosystem and blocking elephant trails beyond the park.
The Maasai are caught in the dilemma of needing a secure financial future that a title deed promises and having to sell and alienate their patrimony in the process.
Do they have an alternative?
Yes, with the help of enlightened NGOs, such as the African Wildlife Foundation, or eco-friendly enterprises such as the Maasailand Preservation Trust and Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, the Maasai landowners can pool their holdings into one unfenced trust area. With wildlife passing at will and livestock grazing controlled, just one low-impact, eco-friendly lodge can generate revenue for the whole community.
ATE is now earnestly turning its attention in support of such ecosystem efforts in three important ways:
1. Compiling key movement and occupancy data on elephants beyond the park boarders in order to build an objective and clear picture of the requirements for corridors and easements throughout the ele's annual range in the ecosystem.
|Vicky & VA family, 2008-09|
How? By rejuvenating our program of putting satellite and GSM tracking collars onindividuals in key families to let them demark their own corridors over one or two seasons. And also by engaging, training and equipping a team of young warriors to be Maasai Elephant Scouts with three tasks: to provide data on elephant occupancy and use; to signal early warning of trouble in the ecosystem (poachers, human-elephant conflict); and to serve as goodwill ambassadors for elephants among the community.
2. Providing expert knowledge to the Kenya Wildlife Service and eco-friendly entrepreneurs about the behaviour of elephants with regard to the use of trails in and out of the park, reactions to humans, protection of infrastructure such as dams and boreholes, and best practices for non-invasively steering the eles gently around low-impact enterprises.
How? The deep understanding of elephant behaviour and individual family requirements from our 40 years of continuing research provides an unparalleled knowledgebase from which to deduce and predict elephant needs and reactions.
3. Engaging the Maasai community and negotiating space for elephants.
How? Our excellent field team is comprised of Maasai -- many newsletter readers have met Soila, Katito, Norah and Ntawuasa -- who are able to talk to the people, hear their concerns and understand their reactions. The team not only talks to the people, but also manages a donor-funded consolation scheme. They also guide the Maasai Elephant Scouts, providing employment and engendering further goodwill among the people.
Combining all the information into a comprehensive 'ecosystem overview' of elephants and land use will give us -- and our partners -- the ammunition to mount a campaign with donors for the big money that is necessary to secure the land and perhaps kick-start local, eco-friendly enterprises.
Can you help? Of course you can. Please consider becoming an Elephant Sustainer to keep ATE going. Or if you are privileged enough to be able to be a significant donor, let us help you direct your donation to an undertaking that will make a true difference to the future of the ecosystem.