TUI Care Foundation has joined forces with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to stop poaching of wild elephants before it happens and prevent human-elephant conflict in the Tsavo Conservation Area of Kenya.
Through IFAW’s innovative wildlife security initiative ‘tenBoma’, both government and community rangers are trained to better predict and respond to threats and protect the animals and local communities.
Technology, systematic data processing systems and intelligence are the key tools for the implementation of this initiative. Information collected among locals includes, for example, the detection of unknown car tire prints near a village, smoke from an open fire outside a village area or the type of materials used to kill elephants. All this information is compiled in a database and analyzed to find patterns and identify, for instance, hotspots where poaching incidents seem to occur more often. This intelligence is then shared directly with the field teams who can take appropriate action. Rangers in the field are also provided with communications and mobility equipment (including GPS, smartphones, radios and more) which enable them to respond more effectively and more rapidly to intercept poachers and reach areas where elephants come into conflict with humans by raiding their crops.
In partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service and Tsavo Trust, the initiative provides training and mentoring to 130 Kenya Wildlife Service and community rangers to transform data into actionable information so as to reduce poaching and human- elephant conflict incidents.
Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of TUI Care Foundation, says: “An exciting aspect of this project lays in its virtuous combination of local knowledge, on the one hand, and technological developments on the other. Together with various local stakeholders, we are helping to build a strong basis for a sustainable social- ecological environment. After all, empowering the local community and building sense of ownership is crucial for long-lasting change.
“The success of IFAW’s tenBoma approach relies on our ability to incorporatetraditional knowledge from communities into a system of modern methods andtechnology,” says Faye Cuevas – Senior Vice President at IFAW. “TUI Care Foundationhas made it possible for us to provide urgently needed equipment to community rangers such as mobile devices, cameras and boots so they can collect information on potential threats to wildlife and people.”
The Tsavo Conservation Area, one of Kenya’s most visited tourism destinations, is home to approximately 12,850 African elephants. Among this population are at least11 of the world’s 30 or so remaining ‘big tuskers’ (so-called because their tusks are long enough to reach the ground). They all face a mortal threat from poaching fueled by demand for ivory and human-elephant conflict. Cuevas continues: “State-of-the-art crime scene investigation training supported by TUI Care Foundation for 40 wildlife service rangers in Tsavo East National Park means that rangers can now better protectTsavo’s ‘big tuskers’ from unique threats like poison arrow poaching through moreefficient collection and preservation of forensic evidence at a poaching crime scene.”
Unlike other National Parks, the Tsavo Conservation Area does not have fences. As it is part of their natural behavior, elephants roam from one park to another and can enter into conflict with indigenous pastoralist communities living in the area, including the Maasai people. Working together and actively involving these communities is crucial to developing a sustainable strategy to protect elephants and livelihoods. The initiative is providing members of five local communities with the necessary strategies and tools to effectively and proactively combat poaching and human-elephant conflicts while creating a safe and vibrant ecosystem.
As part of its TUI Elephant Aid programme, TUI Care Foundation has been actively supporting projects for the protection of elephant populations worldwide since its foundation. In Tanzania, local farmers were taught how to protect their crops with elephant friendly solutions and foster a virtuous coexistence with these ancient creatures. In Thailand, TUI Care Foundation currently supports local entrepreneurs to develop elephant friendly venues where visitors can experience elephants in their natural habitat.