The Rungwa-Ruaha ecosystem contains the largest elephant population in East Africa, despite poaching that has reduced elephant numbers by 77% since 2009. Poaching is driven by the international demand for ivory, but it is supported and sustained by local people, most of whom are poor farmers whose livelihoods are put at continuous risk by elephants’ crop-raiding.
Consequently, people dislike elephants intensely and many people openly express a desire for their complete extermination. Poaching syndicates capitalize on this situation by paying local villagers $60/ kg for ivory, which represents an enormous sum in a country where the per capita income is $584/year. While those hired to poach elephants represent a small minority in any single village, their activities and identities are typically known and kept secret by others in the community.
Any effort to protect elephants must have the support of local people who share the land with elephants. With IEF support, this project will deliver a comprehensive conservation education program designed to reach, and meaningfully engage, nearly every person living in each of the 21 villages bordering Ruaha National Park.