Community outreach

The long-term survival of elephants can only be assured by creating a niche for free-living elephants compatible with the needs and aspirations of the surrounding human communities. With the expansion of settlement, agriculture and livestock numbers there are inevitably encounters between people and elephants. ATE's approach is aimed at maintaining the conservation ethos which has been part of Maasai tradition, but which is increasingly threatened by the pressures of 21st century human society.

Maasai eunoto ceremony

Maasai allies ► AERP field staff maintains daily contact with the surrounding Maasai community. This friendly interaction is absolutely essential to ensure that the landowners maintain a tolerant attitude to the presence and passage of elephants on their group ranch land that comprises the ecosystem. ATE outreach activities provide a link between our team's specialized research and management skills and the knowledge and concerns of the local residents, to allow a two-way exchange of understanding with communities on whose goodwill the future of the wildlife ultimately depends.

Consolation ► As human populations have grown and land use has become more intensive and sedentary, particularly around water sources, the potential for conflict—and need for active promotion of coexistence—has also grown. Elephants will kill livestock from time to time, usually during the dry season when wildlife and domestic animals are using the last of the resources. Previously the Maasai would retaliate by spearing elephants. Since 1997, ATE has operated a ‘consolation scheme’ to provide cash donations to Maasai herders as an expression of sympathy for the loss of a cow, sheep or goat killed by an elephant. Although there is still spearing for a variety of reasons, we estimate that the rate is much lower than it would have been without the consolation.

Ecosystem services ► In partnership with other conservation groups and tourism operators in the Amboseli area, ATE is exploring novel approaches, in line with international best practice, which include "Payment for Ecosystem Services" for communities to maintain migration corridors and "environmental hazard" insurance schemes to offset livestock and crop losses.

Maasai Elephant Scouts ► ATE operations outside the park include employing thirteen Maasai elephant scouts who patrol the ecosystem on foot, reporting elephant presence and signs, injured elephants and conflicts, as well as signs of poaching and the bushmeat trade. Their work is coordinated with that of the Amboseli-Tsavo Game Scouts Association (ATGSA). The ATE scouts support monitoring by augmenting the AERP long-term database of elephant occupancy, and also assist in determining the veracity of consolation claims. Support to the scouts contributes to improved community participation and understanding of human-wildlife interaction as well as provides employment in a depressed rural area.