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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific