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Wildlife firm secures more land in Kenya to protect elephants

05 September 2014, 08:11

Nairobi - The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has leased more land within Kenya's Amboseli ecosystem to help protect elephants and local community.

The newly leased land, also known as Kitenden Corridor, provides elephants with the space they need to freely and safely move out of the park as they follow rains and search for food.

IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes said once operational, the Conservancy will offer a three-pronged benefit to protect wildlife, for the local community through eco-friendly compatible tourism, for enterprise projects, and for investors through tourism development.

"IFAW is proud to announce its contribution towards the operationalization process of Kitenden Conservancy having sponsored the development of the Conservancy Plan," Downes said in a statement on Thursday.

Also read: Kenya, China launch initiative to protect wildlife reserves

In July 2013, IFAW signed an agreement with the Olgulului/ Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) which saw 1,600 land owners of OOGR's Kitenden Corridor Conservation Area (KCCA) lease 16,000 acres of land to IFAW for five years.

The lease was the first step in securing land running from Amboseli to Mount Kilimanjaro.

Elephants have used this route for millennia to move across the Tanzanian border particularly during the rainy season.

Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, said winning and securing space for wildlife is the number one target for any conservation and management organization.

"Whilst the issue of poaching has received much attention, that of winning space has not been fully highlighted and aggressively pursued," Wakhungu said.

She lauded land owners of Kitenden and IFAW for working together to ensure that habitat space and dispersal areas for wildlife remain intact.

Downes announced that IFAW is starting a 200,000 U.S. dollars education bursary fund to sponsor 66 needy bright students at secondary and tertiary level from the Group Ranch over the next four years in efforts to promote alternative livelihoods to the community.

Amboseli National Park, which is located in southern Kenya, is a unique ecosystem that is home to about 1,400 elephants, but the park is too small to host this population and other wildlife in their constant search for food, water and habitat.

The elephants frequently come into contact with farms and communities as they cross park boundaries, resulting in conflict.

Also read: First Lady calls on world to help conserve wildlife

The conservation firm has been working with the Maasai community at the Olgulului Group Ranch to set aside this land for wildlife, in exchange for a biannual lease payment.

For many of the communities in places like the Maasai Mara and around the Laikipia, the main source of income is livestock, which compete with wildlife for grazing lands.

Experts predict current levels of poaching and human-wildlife conflict will lead to the near extinction of lions in 15 years and the extinction of elephants in 20 years.

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