5 Conservation Initiatives Gaining Popularity

5 Conservation Initiatives Gaining Popularity

Vishnu Rajamanickam | Not many years ago, the people of the Maasai tribe never batted an eyelid before drawing a spear through the nearest game animal in sight. “We did it for fun,” they say, “and also because if we wouldn’t kill them first, they would.” This doesn’t come as a surprise because man and the wild have locked horns since the beginning of time. But as the number of humans penetrating their lands has increased, animals are finding it hard to keep up with the fight and are slowly being drawn to the brink of extinction. Tourism in Africa has boomed in the past decade yet development has come at the cost of its wildlife. Thankfully, the Maasai and a fraction of the more cognizant lot of mankind has come forth to realize why conserving wildlife is centric to upholding everything that Africa stands for today.

We take a brief glance at five of these initiatives and their strife to keeping the African wildlife scenery intact.

1. Unleashed: The Mara Elephant Project

Not all collars symbolise domestication. In a first of its kind project, the Kenyan Wildlife Service has joined hands with the Narok County Council and the WWF to put the giant Maasai elephants under a tracking leash. These gizmo collars are embedded with GPS tracking chips that follow their trails, enabling researchers miles away to sense the degree and the pattern of their activity.

More than a hundred pachyderms have been fitted with these devices since December 2011 when this endeavour first started. The precious data gathered is used to prevent human-elephant conflicts and zero-down on poaching grounds. Additionally, the data gained from monitoring wildlife corridors also facilitates the management landscape-level conservation and land development policies.

2. Saving Our Unicorns: The Black Rhino Conservation Programme

Africa’s Black Rhinos are an umbrella species. Risking their life implies calling forth the danger of wiping out an entire ecosystem. Imagine the sheer horror of the 1990s then, when 98% of these beauties were wiped off in lieu of the illegal poaching activities in Kenya. In the wake of an alarming environmental crisis, the Kenyan Wildlife Services, along with WWF Kenya, sought technology to repair the damage. They started off with the thermal imager and long-range cameras to arrest poachers right when they strike.

The Rhino DNA indexing system was next to join the arsenal. With technology capable of backtracking a discovered rhino horn to a poached body, evidence required to prosecute the guilty hit the bull’s eye. Today, their latest development involves monitoring rhino activities through drones. Although the Kenyan government is yet to sanction this move, the fact that their efforts brought back a valuable species from the dead is in itself a commendable feat.

3. An Entire National Park Springs Back to Life: The Gorongosa Restoration Project

A popular wildlife destination in the 1970s, Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park suffered at the hands of the 1977 Civil War, decimating the fauna to a shameful number at the hands of human greed. Everything had to be built from scratch. Hence, the Government of Mozambique joined hands with America’s Carr Foundation to take up one of the largest wildlife restoration projects in Africa.

Of course, transporting animals all the way from Zimbabwe and other countries was no child’s play. Larger buffaloes and wildebeests and smaller antelopes and zebras had to be brought in balanced numbers lest their grazing activities threaten each other’s survival. However, the project has borne fruition. Such carefully curated moves over the better part of a decade have restored the Gorongosa to its former glory. Today, the Gorongosa National Park is a sprawling 1,460 sq. miles safari destination, inviting hundreds of tourists from across the globe to revel amongst their diverse wildlife ecosystem.

4. For the Unsung Hero: BirdLife Foundation’s Save African Vulture Drive

Out of all the creatures, the vulture scavenging on a piece of a carcass is the last sight tourists want to see on their African safari. As taboo as the sight of the vulture is, their presence is vital to maintaining the ecological balance that keeps our forest beds clear of rotting carcasses. If left untouched for long, they could potentially become a breeding ground for history’s deadliest epidemics and diseases.

Thankfully, their declining number has caught the attention of BirdLife Foundation which is now striving hard to create awareness for saving their precious lives in Africa. An organization dedicated to preserving the aerial species, BirdLife Foundation, equipped with a ten-year plan, is arranging awareness drives, creating Vulture Safe Zones, and working to stop their poisoning in many African national parks such as the Masai Mara Reserve to save the lives of our scavenging friends.

5. Kenya-Tanzania Borderline Conservation Initiative

A vast stretch of pastoral land connects Kenya to Tanzania. Naturally, the borderline areas are flanked with scattered national parks and reserves under independent rules. Their standalone initiatives hardly pay attention to the bigger picture and every day, more and more elephants and lions are disappearing from their landscape.

The Kenya-Tanzania Borderline Conservation Initiative decided to take up the matter into their own hands. Their aim was simple: to collaborate various communities on both sides of the border and unify them towards the common cause of saving the fast disappearing lion and elephant population in both the countries. This synergistic approach is already bearing fruit. The number of elephant poaching cases are already down to 34 from 75 over the last year, thanks to the Game Scouts poaching police. With future funding for further research and collaboration, the BCI hopes to strengthen ties among conservation communities and repaint the forest scene on the Kenyan-Tanzanian Borders.

All these projects are inspiring, yet they constitute just a handful of the many initiatives striving hard to save the African wildlife scene. Most of them are silently researching and rescuing beasts even as we hop from one safari destination to another. For Safari wouldn’t quite be the same without wildlife, humankind now must repair the damage they’ve done to it.