Sustaining Local Support for Elephant Conservation Near Ruaha, Tanzania
Mountain and Plains Insitute for Lifelong Learning and Service, Tanzania
Focusing on nurturing co-existence, this project addresses the need to create a community consensus for conservation. The Rungwa-Ruaha ecosystem contains the largest elephant population in East Africa, despite ongoing threats that have reduced its numbers by 77% since 2009. Poaching represents the most immediate threat to the population and is driven by 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 elephant crop-raiding behavior. Any effort aimed at protecting this critically important population in the midst of the current poaching crisis must have the support of local people, who share the landscape with elephants and are uniquely empowered to protect them. Residents of 22 villages bordering Ruaha National Park will receive a comprehensive conservation education program designed to reach, and meaningfully engage, nearly every person living in these communities. Classroom style instruction will be coupled with community film nights and parks visitation trips so that locals can learn about elephants and wildlife but also experience them in a non-adversarial environment.