Elephant Appeal: Why conservation is about forging a friendship

Farmers have had crops repeatedly destroyed by marauding elephants

 



Share
Related Topics

Joseki George looks in dismay at his battered crop. Tomatoes, paw paw, watermelon, fruit trees – all destroyed by a family of 20 or so elephants a few days ago just before harvest.

When the elephants came, he ran out with sticks to chase them off. He threw stones, and banged on metal pots, but the elephants continued to feast, undeterred.

“I just don’t see the benefit in having these animals that come and destroy everything,” says Mr George, 24, gesturing towards his ruined crop. “A lot of people come here to preach [conservation], but nothing happens.”

Mr George’s shamba lies at the heart of the elephant corridor between Tsavo East and West, which jointly form Kenya’s largest national park. Such is the bitterness felt by many of the local communities here towards the elephants that many are engaged in the poaching that is devastating Tsavo’s elephant population. “If the communities aren’t deriving tangible benefits from wildlife, then the wildlife disappears,” says Max Graham, founder and CEO  of Space for Giants, beneficiary of this year’s Christmas Appeal in The Independent.

“The soft conservancy approach in the long term is going to be critical.”

In Tsavo and the surrounding areas – many elephants live outside of the national park – the precise number of elephants killed by poachers is hard to come by. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) suggests around 20 have been poached this year, but conservationists consider a more realistic figure to be four or five times that.

While the most serious – and numerous – poaching incidents are largely thought to be carried out by Somalis who come from the north of Kenya with machine guns, locals in the Tsavo area are heavily engaged in bushmeat hunting – both for subsistence and commercial purposes – and the killing of elephants with poison arrows.

These remain the hardest to detect, for there is no telltale gunshot to lead the overstretched KWS rangers to an elephant carcass. It can be days, even weeks, before a poisoned elephant is recovered, its tusks long gone and sold for a large profit.

When a poacher can sell a tusk of ivory locally for 20,000 shillings (£140) a kilo – an average tusk weighs around 14 kilos – the financial incentives for killing elephants is clear.

Nevertheless, even around Tsavo, there have been successes.

Kajire, a small village just a few kilometres from Tsavo, was once well known for its hostility towards the wildlife, such was the devastation caused to crops by rampaging elephants. Many villagers – some of them expert trackers – were involved in poaching with poisoned arrows.

But a project by Wildlife Works to introduce a carbon credit programme – where socially-conscious companies pay to ensure the preservation of forests – has brought a slew of benefits to the local communities, including putting many of the local children through school via a bursary system.

“Conservation is an expensive luxury to them,” says Rob Dodson, of Wildlife Works. “People don’t hate the wildlife, but if it damages [the wellbeing of] their family … boy, they hate it.”

Duncan Ngari, a 54-year-old farmer in Kajire, has seen his crop repeatedly destroyed by marauding elephants, yet he speaks of their preservation with the zeal of a recent convert, suggesting the construction of trenches to both provide run-off water to the animals, and natural protection to the farms.

“If you can create some incentives, people will become friends to the animals,” he says. “When you hear an elephant has been killed nearby, I can 100 per cent assure you that it’s nobody from here.”

Space for Giants, the beneficiaries of The Independent’s Christmas charity campaign, is empowering local communities to protect their smallholder crops from crop-raiding elephants by supporting the construction and management of electrified fences, in addition to providing direct benefits for local communities living with elephants through technical support for Kenya’s new wildlife bill and the creation of a new wildlife conservancy that will generate employment, education and security, for local people, forever.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Primary Teachers needed for supply in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: We are looking to rec...

Primary Supply teaching jobs in Stowmarket

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Year 1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: The Job An inner city Birmingham sc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Ed Miliband is so scared of becoming Tony Blair he has forgotten how to communicate

Lance Price
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments