The Assistant Director Southern, Julius Cheptei, called a meeting of conservation organizations and government agencies at Serena Lodge on 24th February to address the conflict. He expressed his concern that community support for elephants would wane if the conflict is not addressed promptly. He wants Amboseli to have the first human-elephant conflict plan in Kenya and to move quickly.
David Western gave a backdrop to the history of elephants and people in Amboseli at the opening of the meeting. He noted that after the world-wide ivory ban of 1990, human-elephant conflict had risen steeply around Kenya as elephant numbers rose, herds spread and lost their fear of people. KWS took firm measures to contain the conflict. Quelling the conflict in Amboseli calls for a collaboration between KWS, NGOs and communities under the umbrella of the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust. Success hinges on mapping and tracking elephant movements, anticipating high conflict areas, and taking early action to prevent threats to people and property.
Craig Miller of Big Life gae an update on human-elephant conflict. There were over 553 crop-raiding incidents in 2014 at an estimated cost of Ksh 43 million, nearly half a million dollars. He estimated that only a third of all cases were reported. Most farmers don’t bother reporting incidents, given the time involved and lack of response. Conflict was now a far bigger threat to elephants and people than poaching. Noah Sitati of African Wildlife Foundation gave a comprehensive presentation on the many ways to address elephant conflict.
The meeting concluded that a two phase plan is needed, the first a rapid response to the current conflict, the second a longer term strategic plan to avoid conflict though spatial planning and aversive measures. The first steps will set up a common database to map and anticipate elephant movements, identifying conflict hotspots and train up extra rangers and scouts to contain conflict and forewarn and prepare communities.