From Cynthia Moss
September 29, signed a decree which officially de-gazetted Amboseli
National Park and turned it over to the Olkejuado County Council to
be run as a National Reserve. In effect this means that all gate
receipts and other revenue will now go to the County Council instead
of Kenya Wildlife Service (KW which runs the National Parks. The
rules and regulations for Reserves are more flexible regarding human
activities within the boundaries, whereas conservation and tourism
are supposed to be the only activities within National Parks. This
declaration came as a complete surprise to nearly everyone including
all of us at the Elephant Trust and even to the Kenya Wildlife
Service. There are mixed reports on whether or not KWS will stay on
to administer the Reserve. We await developments with great interest
because there are many possible repercussions for the conservation
of the Amboseli elephants.
perspective. The Amboseli area has had a long history of
conservation. In 1906, under colonial rule, the 27,700 sq. km.
Southern Game Reserve, which includes present-day Amboseli, was
created in recognition of the value of the abundant wildlife and
unique habitats in this area. In 1948 the reserve was reduced to
3,260 sq. km. and was given the name of Amboseli National Reserve
and placed under the administration of the National Park Trustees. A
further change occurred in 1961 when the same area became a County
Council Game Reserve administered by the Olkejuado County Council,
which runs the district that Amboseli is in.
10 years and then in 1971, because of concerns for the survival of
Amboseli as a conservation area, a Presidential Decree was issued
declaring that an area of 390 sq. km. surrounding the main swamps in
the ecosystem be used exclusively for wildlife and tourism. Amboseli
National Park was officially established in October 1974 and came
under the control of the National Parks Trustees.
government authority or more recently the parastatal concerned with
wildlife. The current body is the Kenya Wildlife Service which was
established in 1989. Throughout my time in Amboseli, which is now 34
years, there have been many ups and downs in its administration, but
over the last ten years or so, under KWS, Amboseli has been run
is that of the Maasai who have lived in the Amboseli area for
hundreds of years. When Amboseli was declared a national park in
1974 it was done after long negotiations with the County Council, local politicians and the people. In return for keeping away from the central swamps of what had been the Game Reserve, the Maasai were promised a pipeline so that they could water their cattle outside. In addition they were to receive grazing compensation in the form of a lump sum of cash each year. Many other benefits accruing from tourism were also promised.
The Position of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants
discussing the radical changes that will occur. We have always felt that the Maasai around Amboseli were side-lined and in many ways
were treated unfairly when the National Park was created. We have long argued that they should be receiving far more benefits than
they do in compensation for living in such close proximity to large dangerous wild animals. Even with our limited funds we have been
able to help the Maasai in several ways: 1) we started the livestock consolation scheme in 1997 which pays for cattle, sheep and goats
killed by elephants; 2) we pay scholarships and living expenses for Maasai students from Amboseli to attend university; 3) we pay the
bursaries for girls to go to secondary school; 4) we employ seven research scouts, a Maasai liaison officer, camp workers, and
research assistants from the local community; 5) we have helped local people find jobs in tourism and wildlife; 6) our Project Manager is a vital member of several committees set up to deal with Maasai issues; and 7) we have a major project on trying to find ways to alleviate human-elephant conflict in the areas where Maasai have started to farm.
On the positive side there are other National Reserves that have
been in existence in Kenya for many years. It is not a new concept
for a local community to be in charge of a conservation area and the
concept is, theoretically, a very good one. There is no reason why
Amboseli could not become a model of a well-run National Reserve.
There are, however, many pitfalls to be aware of. We hope that the
lessons learned of mistakes and successes made in other community
conservation areas will help inform the people of Amboseli. This is
a tremendous opportunity for the Maasai to reap the benefits of
On the other hand, we do have some concerns. One of our main ones is
the lack of trained personnel to run the Reserve. Before KWS wardens
and rangers leave, we would like to see adequate preparation in
terms of training and education in how to run a National Reserve.
Another concern is the loss of income for Kenya Wildlife Service,
since revenue generated from the popular Amboseli National Park is
important for all its conservation efforts throughout Kenya. The
wildlife in Amboseli will still be under the jurisdiction of KWS and
thus many of its activities in the area such as anti-poaching,
problem animal control, veterinary care, etc. may have to be
curtailed when KWS loses the considerable revenue from Amboseli.
For now we stand by to see how things will develop, we offer any
help we can give, we wish the Maasai well, and we hope with all our
hearts that the elephants will be safe.
October 2, 2005
just signed......wow I can't believe this has happened.
Signed. Thanks, Eles. I hope our signatures help.
Amboseli at a Crossroads
NAIROBI, Oct 26 (IP - It's a move which some say has created a "disaster in waiting". However, Kenya's government is refusing to alter its decision to downgrade Amboseli, a globally-renowned national park, to game reserve status.
The decision was put into effect earlier this month by Tourism and Wildlife Minister Morris Dzoro following a presidential order -- and has resulted in Amboseli being placed under the control of a local authority, the Ol Kejuado County Council. Previously the park was managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KW, the East African country's national conservation authority, which took charge of Amboseli in 1974.
Alarmed environmentalists point out that local councils have proved less than competent at managing reserves elsewhere -- the famed Maasai Mara being a case in point.
Once a national park, it was put in the care of Narok County Council by the previous government. The reserve is estimated to bring in revenues of over four million dollars annually; but, there is little to show for it.
Roads in the Maasai Mara are in a state of disrepair, while tour vans are allowed to drive off-road in search of wildlife, unchecked -- a practice that has resulted in widespread damage to the environment.
Outside the reserve the situation is scarcely more promising, with high levels of poverty testifying to the fact that little of the park's revenue has found its way to surrounding communities
NAIROBI (AFP) - Kenya's president flatly rejected demands from outraged environmentalists to reverse the downgrading of a famed national park in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro that is home to one of Africa's biggest elephant populations
President Mwai Kibaki said his decision to change the status of Amboseli National Park from a "park" to a "reserve" and turn its administration over to the local county council and the Maasai tribal community was "final" and dismissed opponents of the move as "naive."
"We cannot deny the Maasai community this natural resource to please a few individuals," he said in remarks at a drought-stricken Maasai village south of Nairobi where he commissioned a new well, according to a statement from his office.
Kibaki's September 29 presidential decree gives control of Amboseli's substantial gate receipts -- some 3.5 million dollars (2.9 million euros) last year -- and the reserve's management to county officials and the Maasai.
Wildlife conservationists have filed suit to stop the move, saying it will endanger protected animals, including Amboseli's well-known elephants, the pristine nature of the sanctuary and could lead to a drop in tourism revenue.
In the lawsuit they claim Kibaki acted unconstitutionally by signing away the park without proper consultation while political foes of the president accused him of trying to win Maasai support for a failed November referendum on a new constitution.
Kibaki did not say what he would do if the court ruled against his decision, but accused opponents of trying to "make political capital out of falsehoods" by spreading lies about the downgrade, which he said would not affect Amboseli, its management or the wildlife that live there.
He said the change "should not lead to its destruction" and noted that the government would work with the cash-strapped Ol Kejuado county council on best management practices for Amboseli.
Kibaki's decree turned over the 3,260-square kilometer (1,260-square mile) park on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border at the foot of Africa's highest peak to the council which had long complained it was being denied the benefits from the natural resource.
Created as a game reserve in 1906, Amboseli -- home to wildlife that roam the plains against the stunning backdrop of the snow-capped Kilimanjaro -- was once before turned over to local administration in 1948.
But that decision was rescinded in 1974 after years of mismanagement and corruption nearly destroyed the ecosystem when it was declared a national park and put under the authority of the KWS.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK, Kenya (AP) Elephants, buffaloes and other wild animals drink water on one side of a swamp. On the other, Maasai warriors watch hundreds of cattle graze as the tropical sun sears the parched land of this wildlife sanctuary.
Balancing the needs of both sides is becoming more complex, and environmentalists fear the wildlife are gradually losing out.
Kenyan officials recently bent stringent conservation regulations to allow cattle into the Amboseli National Park the only permanent source of water in the region to help the Maasai save their precious livestock from a punishing drought.
Conservation workers warn that Amboseli's delicate swamps and streams are threatened by a government plan to hand over management of the park to the local county council. They say the move will likely result in Maasai being allowed to gather firewood and use water in the sanctuary and to regularly graze cattle.
Competition for pasture and water could drive wildlife out of the sanctuary and intensify conflict between wild animals and people in a region already scarred by clashes over scarce resources, said Connie Maina, spokeswoman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The prolonged drought has begun to k Africa's tallest mountain that dominates the skyline from neighboring Tanzania.
Amboseli's new status ``is going to be absolutely suicidal as far as the management of wildlife is concerned'' because the removal of stringent conservation controls could lead to the drying up of water sources,'' said Mailu, the deputy senior warden.
The Maasai say they are happy they will be able to set new priorities over access to water and pastures for cattle and wildlife once control of the park changes. They plan to press the county council to open up more parts of Amboseli to livestock.
``We could negotiate with them because they are our people. If it is cows, they have cows like these, so they are people that we could talk to and they could listen to us,'' nomadic herder Saiyanka Mollel said after washing a herd of 400 cows that later grazed in Amboseli.
``Cows are our life,'' Mollel said as two elephant calves pressed heads together and used their trunks to fight in the distance.
Amboseli is the second-highest earner of revenues among Kenya's 59 national parks and reserves. Only six of these make a profit and finance conservation in others. Taking Amboseli from the Kenya Wildlife Service would hurt the less popular sanctuaries, said Maina, the agency's spokeswoman.
But tourist guide Saitoti Saibolob said the new arrangement will be fairer to local people, because they will get a bigger portion of revenues from land they share with wildlife and often lose cattle to predators.
Kenya is not the only East African nation struggling to ensure wildlife and people share water and land. Ethiopian authorities have relocated members of local ethnic groups from the Nech-Sar National Park and handed over its management to a private firm.
The Netherlands-based African Parks Foundation is also expected to take over Ethiopia's Omo National Park, homene would suspect they were breast-feeding in public.
As a journalist with ‘Newstime’ weekly you were chasing stories. How did you end up conserving elephants?
Yes, I worked with Newstime weekly in New York. Then I moved to Africa in 1968. My involvement with elephants began in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. I volunteered to work with Iain Douglas-Hamilton who is pioneer on elephants. So I got hooked on to the conservation of elephants. When did you set up Amboseli Elephant Research Projects?
In 1972, I co-founded Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) in Kenya along with Dr Harvey Croze. But Dr Croze stayed only for three years.
What is unique about the AERP?
The AERP studies the ecology and social behavior of the 1,160 elephants currently living in and around the park. Because of the presence of the AERP researchers, tourists, and the native Maasai people discourage trespassing, most of the Amboseli elephants have been spared from poachers. They are one of Africa’s few remaining undisturbed elephant populations.
Could you tell us more about your research?
We followed individual elephants now for about 34 years or least half of their life span. We have developed a unique system of identifying and marking each animal by photographing their heads.
How do you track elephants?
We have a philosophy of noninvasive research in our study of wild animals. Earlier, elephants were tracked by fitting with radio collars. This has been discontinued because the process traumatises the elephant. Now we are using GIS technology to find out where the population is going without harming them.
Has the issue of man-animal conflict been addressed in Amboseli?
No. The issue is very much there. Masai people are pastrolists and have cattles and cannot live with elephants together. But when Masai people loose their cattles we pay them compensation.
What is the amount of compensation?
Last year we coughed up around US $ 10,000 on this account.
How rampant is the poaching in Kenya?
As of today, the poaching is not a major problem. But during 1974 to 1989, Kenya lost 85 per cent of its elephant population. In 1989, we had only 16,000 elephants. Today, the elephants population has doubled.
What are the other problems facing conservation of elephants?
The loss of habitat, deforestation and loss of grazing areas for elephants as in India. People in Kenya also kill antelope, giraffe and zebra for meat.
How is it addressed?
I don’t know. But Kenya urgently needs to have a policy of land use.
Is there a paradigm shift in the way we look at animals as compared to two decades ago when you established AERP?
Yes. Elephants were still considered just another species to exploit (for their ivory). Our research has helped to change people’s perception about what elephants are - intelligent, complex animals, which deserve our consideration in the way we deal with them.
South Africa has decided to cull elephants. Your comments?
South Africans believe in heavy management. They treat their parks like zoos. If there are more animals than that is required per square kilometer, then they shoot down the surplus. To me that is not conservation.
You have been shooting ‘Echo Series’ since last many years.
I and cameraman Martyn Colbeck have been documenting the lives of this family for 14 years. The first film, ‘Echo of the Elephants’ was broadcast in 1992; the second film, ‘Echo of the Elephants: The Next Generation’ was shown in 1995. This latest film, called ‘Echo of the Elephants: The Last Chapter?’ catches up with the family after a gap of seven years.
Which one was easier to chase stories or conserve elephants?
(Laughs). I think journalism is easier.
Tell us more about elephants.
They live like families. A matriarch heads each family. Elephants have huge network of relationships, which is very unusual. Our research shows that they know each other well. They have large brains to remember. It is very complex.
Is ivory trade still flourishing?
The price of ivory has gone down from US $ 300 to six dollars for a kilogram. It is again picking up. There is a lot of demand from China.
Have you visited national parks here and what do you have to say about the vanishing tigers here?
I went to Jaldapara, West Bengal, for an elephant conference. India has a huge problem. There are acute problems of man-animal conflict and there is not enough land.
How come outsiders like you, Jane Goodhall, Joyce Poole, Dian Fossey took to conservation efforts in Africa?
Soon after countries won independence in Africa, natives wanted to be lawyers, doctors, engineers and bureaucrats. That is how we took conservation efforts in Africa. Now Africans too are looking at conservation and wildlife as a profession.
Is there any lessons from those huge animals to be learnt?
They are lot more nicer than human beings in terms of their co-operation. They are gentler to each other.