In the 1970s and 1980s ivory poaching killed off over half a million elephants and sent populations across Africa plunging towards extinction. In Kenya alone the elephant population fell from 145,000 in 1970 to 19,000 in twenty years. The Amboseli Conservation Program, through the efforts of David Western as Chairman of the African and Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group of IUCN, played a significant role in launching the Ivory Trade Review Group which helped bring about an ivory trade ban in 1990. Following the ban, poaching fell sharply and elephant numbers began to recover steadily. In Kenya numbers doubled in the following 20 years. The reprieve brought by the ban came to an end in 2010 when a surging demand in China and other Asian countries pushed ivory prices to an all-time high. Some 25,000 to 35,000 elephants have been poached Africa-wide each year since then, fueled by illegal trade. The sky-rocketing prices, involvement of criminal gangs, government complicity in many countries, and over-stretched ranger forces, make it hard to protect wide-ranging elephant herds. Amboseli’s elephants largely evaded the elephant slaughter of the 1970s and ’80. Though heavily poached in the early 1970s like other populations in Kenya and across Africa, the community-based conservation approach pioneered in Amboseli saw the herds begin to recover by the late 1970s. By the late 1980s the population was well on its way to recovery and was spreading across its former range. The Amboseli herd is now the best studied and renowned worldwide through the work of Cynthia Moss and the Amboseli elephant program. Drawing on lessons from the success of Amboseli, Amboseli Conservation Program (ACP) launched a trans-rift elephant program in 2006 to link up populations between Amboseli and Maasai Mara. The program involved tracking the outward movement of elephants from parks across community lands, training and deploying community scouts and developing community wildlife sanctuaries and ecotourism ventures for the dispersing herds. Within three years elephants had begun to move into the wildlife conservancies set up on Shompole and Olkiramatian Group Ranches in the rift valley (http://www.soralo.org/bordeland-conservation/) (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00400.x/abstract ). By 2010 elephant herds were connecting up between Amboseli and Mara. Despite the surge in poaching since 2010, few elephants have been killed in areas across the rift where strong community conservation programs have been established. The elephant herd continues to expand and has now repopulated areas of northern Tanzania abandoned in the 1980s. Based on these step by step efforts to engage communities and conserve elephants across the rift valley, ACP and the African Conservation Centre, partnering with WCS, brought together a coalition of organizations in 2010 to conserve elephants along the entire Tanzania-Kenya borderlands. Stretching from Serengeti-Mara to Tsavo-Mkomazi, the region includes 15 to the world’s premier parks and the largest free-ranging elephant population in eastern and central Africa. The coalition met again in Arusha in March 2014 to stake stock of progress and plan the next steps. At the urging of the cross-border communities, lions have been included in the conservation coverage. Given that the region encompasses one of the largest free-ranging lion populations in Africa and the severe threats facing the African lion, the joint lion and elephant initiative was strongly endorsed by the Tanzania and Kenya governments and NGOs. See full report here
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Amboseli Conservation Program