Aug. 7 - Maasai communities in Kenya's Amboseli region have joined the fight to save endangered elephants by leasing their ancestral lands to conservationists. The agreement is designed to protect migratory routes used by the the elephants for thousands of years, giving them breathing room in an era of unprecedented human encroachment. Matthew Stock reports.
The African elephant relies on wide open spaces for its survival. It will travel vast distances every year in search of food and water.. but, in an era of unprecendented human encroachment, conservationists fear the animal's ancient migratory paths are in danger of disappearing In Kenya however, they are doing something about it. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is collaborating with local Maasai communities to preserve large areas of ancestral land through a lease agreement. The deal will protect both the animals and the billion dollar a year tourism industry they attract, accordng to IFAW's James Isiche. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IFAW'S EAST AFRICA DIRECTOR, JAMES ISICHE, SAYING: "The reason why IFAW is leasing this land is because of the realities of today in the world. Populations are rising, land is shrinking. And it's true here in Amboseli particularly because Amboseli National Park is only 390 square kilometres, yet the bigger ecosystem is over 5000 square kilometres." The agreement gives the elephants' unrestricted access to a migratory route known as the 'Kitenden Corridor', connecting Kenya with neighbouring Tanzania. The government is also stepping up punishment for poachers, after losing 137 elephants in the first six months of 2013. Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu says that fines and prison time will increase dramatically. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CABINET SECRETARY FOR WATER, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, PROFESSOR JUDI WAKHUNGU, SAYING: "We are treating poaching as an economic crime, and not as it's currently dealt with in our legal system, as a misdemeanour, in many cases. So the penalties that we have proposed are at least 10 million shillings and also a minimum of 15 years imprisonment." The fight to save the African elephant is intensifying year by year as than animal's numbers diminish. But conservationists say that if local communities and governments work together, they can make a difference to the elephant's chances of survival