The greatest and most imminent threats to the Amboseli ecosystem are:
- Land subdivision leading to permanent settlement, fencing and loss of migratory space.
- Reduced pasture production and shortening drought intervals due to heavy continuous grazing.
- Compression of elephants into Amboseli National Parks and loss of habitat diversity and late season drought reserves in the swamps.
- Rising human-wildlife conflict due to a combination of these factors and loss of skills and knowledge for living alongside wildlife.
Countering these threats is the main aim of ACP’s research and conservation work.
Since it initiated the process in 2006, ACP has promoted the Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan (AEMP) as the basis for tackling the threats. The plan draws on and has been co-signed by the group ranch association and KWS and supported by all major NGOs working in the Amboseli region—ACC, AWF, Big Life, IFAW and MWCT. The plan was formally gazette in 2015, giving it legal standing and teeth. A GEF grant was secured in early 2015 to fund the biodiversity component of the plan. The roles played by the various organizations collaborating on the grant is outlined in the AEMP plan and GEF grant submission sent to LCAOF in previous reports. The GEF start-up was delayed for a year by KWS upheavals. ACP and ACC have, nevertheless, moved ahead on the components of GEF touching on the main threats to the ecosystem.
In the case of the land subdivision threat, ACP is assisting ACC in land use planning on Mbirkani Group Ranch, with a view to expanding the planning to other ranches. The land planning process has gone through several iterations since last year and is currently under review by the group ranch membership. Once completed and adopted, the plan will zone the ranch into different uses. The main use, livestock and wildlife enterprises, will occupy the major portion of the Mbirikani. Under GEF funding, ACC and Big Life will assist the group ranch in preparing grazing practices based on traditional seasonal movement patterns that have broken down for lack of management. Specially trained scouts under Big Life and RAs under ACP/ACC will monitor and enforce grazing practices.
In the case of pasture degradation, ACP wrote up the grant proposal on behalf of AET to secure a Dutch NAGA grant for habitat and pasture restoration. ACP has since assisted KWS and AET in designing and setting up three woodland restoration plots inside the park. It has also helped Ololorashi and Mbirikani Group Ranches establish eight traditional grass banks known as olopololi. The fenced olopololi restore cover on degraded lands adjacent to permanent settlements and are maintained by the community for late season calf grazing. The restoration plots are now complete and will be monitored by the RAs under David Maitumo’s guidance.
In the case of biodiversity loss due to elephant compression, the earlier woodlands plots set up by ACP have been replicated by KWS, Serena, Tortilis Lodge, and in the last year, by the NAGA funded project, making ten in all. GEF funds will add another five or more. In collaboration with AET, ACP has set up a restoration group that will draw up a long-term habitat restoration program for the park and pastoral lands. The recovery of woodlands at the site ACP set up in 2001 has been remarkable. Camera traps recently recorded lesser kudu in the plot, the first siting in the park since the species disappeared with the loss of woodlands in the 1980s.
In the case of human-wildlife conflict, the main tension arises from the growing elephant and lion populations and the expansion of their ranges. The last few years have seen a sharp rise in conflict with farmers and pastoralists. Big Life and other NGOs supporting the Amboseli community scouts have begun turning their attention to the conflict.
In January AET established a HWC group to address the problem following several incidents in which farmers and herders were killed and severely wounded by elephants. The group brings together representatives of the pastoral and farming community, KWS, Big Life, Lion Guardians, IFAW and ACC/ACP to map and anticipate conflicts, draw up preventative and mitigation measures and coordinate action. ACP will take on the role of setting up the data base and helping plot and anticipate conflict areas. The group held its inaugural meeting in March and will focus first on constructing a 35km high-wire electric fence to protect the shambas in Namalog and Kimana east of Amboseli and the expansive farms on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
The HWC group covers all species and will prepare a generic template for winning space for large herbivores and carnivores and reducing conflict in the borderlands area through the auspices of Borderland Conservation Initiative