Historically, local communities have had little say in how conservation areas in Kenya are managed, and seen little tangible benefit from wildlife protection. As a result, attitudes towards wildlife from the very people that lived alongside it were apathetic. The community conservation movement is changing this, by bridging the gap between conservation and improved livelihoods.
Community conservancies are proving increasingly effective as partners in the fight against ivory poachers in Kenya.
The reason they are effective in conservation is linked to the broader benefits the conservancies bring to local communities. In essence, these well governed, community-owned and autonomous institutions are set up with the aim of improving social wellbeing, land management and wildlife conservation.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected African Elephant Loxodonta africana
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
The conservancies’ approach to tackling elephant poaching is multi-faceted, including community rangers, mobile rapid-response teams, intelligence gathering and social pressure.
The network of around 400 community rangers monitor and survey wildlife across their conservancies during daily patrols. All are in direct radio contact with national law enforcement authorities, and just over a third are armed. Those who do carry arms operate as National Police Reservists, under the Kenya Police.
Conservancies maintain a local informer network which complements the KWS intelligence system. Increased NRT investment is making intelligence gathering more formal and strategic.
Not least of the conservancies’ roles is applying social pressure to expose and shame criminals. Customary punishments, such as cursing individuals, still carry weight in traditional communities.
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
In 2017, revenue from tourism was over US$600,000.
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Joint conservancy–NRT programmes raised livestock sales and revenue for women through micro-enterprise, such as BeadWORKS.
Organisers, donors and partners
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