Community-Driven Conservation is Saving African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Northern Kenya
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Nadine Lamberski1*, DVM, DACZM, DECZM (ZHM); Katie Rowe2; Mathew N. Mutinda3, BVS, MS; Laura L. Keener1, MT (ASCP); Stephen M. Chege1, BVS, MS; Andrea Fidgett1, MS, PhD; Jeremy Bastard2; Antony B. Wandera4, MS; David O’Connor1, MS; Greg Vicino1; Jenny A. Glikman1, PhD; Megan Owen1, PhD; Carmi Penny1; Ian Craig4, MBS, OBE
1San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, CA, USA; 2Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Namunyak, Kenya; 3Kenya Wildlife Service, Isiolo, Kenya; 4Northern Rangelands Trust, Isiolo, Kenya
African elephant (Loxodonta africana) calves in northern Kenya are orphaned or abandoned as a result of poaching, human-wildlife conflict, man-made wells, and natural mortality. The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, located within the remote Mathew’s Range, opened in August 2016 with the intention of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing elephants within their home range. With the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Samburu County Government, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, and other partners including San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), the local Samburu community is leading the effort and making a difference for elephants and for people. Historically, only five to ten elephant calves are rescued in this region each year. In the first two years since the sanctuary opened, 32 calves were rescued. Eight of these were successfully returned to their herds, 11 have died, and 13 are being hand-reared. The first release of rehabilitated calves is planned for 2019. The sanctuary employed five local keepers when it first opened and now employs 40 community members. SDZG is enhancing veterinary clinical diagnostic capabilities through equipment donations and on-site training of personnel, partnering with KWS to identify causes of morbidity and mortality, providing consultation on nutritional issues and animal management as needed, and offering conservation tools to aid decision-making. Additionally, SDZG and partners are exploring the feasibility of tracking calves post-release to monitor their health and collect data to optimize future releases. Social science research and environmental education are other key components. These efforts connect communities to elephants and provide opportunities to care for and about elephants that may then change attitudes and behaviors and result in a reduction of human-wildlife conflict.