Amboseli is fortunate to host many organisations working hard for a future for the ecosystem’s people and wildlife. Over the decades we have worked here, we have developed a network of close relationships. When required, our science and data positions us as technical advisors to the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, where we serve on their executive council, board and technical committees. Our team was an integral part of the first Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan, and we continue our involvement in planning for the future of our vibrant conservation community.
The long-term survival of elephants can only be assured by creating a niche for free-living elephants that is compatible with the needs and aspirations of the surrounding human communities. Elephants and humans have shared the Amboseli landscape for approximately 500 years. With the expansion of settlement, agriculture and livestock numbers, encounters between people and elephants are increasing. ATE’s approach is aimed at maintaining the conservation ethos which has been part of Maasai tradition which is threatened by the pressures of modern day human society.
Our engagement with the Maasai community includes outreach and capacity building elements:
ATE has an innovative and successful consolation scheme to assist members of the community who have lost livestock to elephants. This program started in 1997 and pays an owner of a cow, sheep, or goat a set amount when an elephant kills any livestock on community lands. Previously, Maasai custom dictated an elephant had to be speared and killed in retribution for livestock deaths. The number of elephants speared dropped by more than half after the initiation of the consolation scheme and has now all but eliminated spearing in retaliation to livestock losses. This scheme has since been adopted in other areas and for other species.
ATE operations outside the park include employing fifteen Maasai elephant scouts who patrol the ecosystem on foot, reporting elephant presence and signs, injured elephants and conflicts, as well as signs of poaching or bushmeat trade. Their work is coordinated with that of the Amboseli-Tsavo GameScouts Association (ATGSA) and member organisations such as the Big Life Foundation. ATE scouts support our monitoring work by augmenting our elephant sighting data, especially during the wet season when elephants range more widely. Scouts also assist in verification of consolation claims. Support to the scouts contributes to improved community participation and understanding of human-wildlife interaction as well as providing employment in a rural area.
ATE provides support to promising young girls from Amboseli communities who are often excluded from further education due to relatively high fees and a culture that historically favours boys. Undergraduate and graduate level support is provided on a three-year rolling basis to two or three promising young men and women from the surrounding Maasai group ranches.
Since 1990 AERP has offered courses to wildlife managers and other researchers from elephant range state countries thr oughout Africa and Asia. The aim is to share the Amboseli elephant research project’s long experience in approaching, observing and studying elephants, and in handling the resulting data and producing useful reports and outputs. Courses are adapted periodically to train members of the ATGSA.