Homegrown African Solutions to Elephant Poaching

By Fred Nelson

By most counts, 2015 has been a devastating year for Africa’s elephants.

Census results have documented large-scale declines from poaching in a number of key countries and protected areas.

In just five years, Tanzania’s elephant population, which was formerly the second-largest national herd in Africa, has declined from more than 110,000 elephants to fewer than 45,000.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Mozambique, the national population was nearly halved, from around 20,000 to 10,000.

Combined, these losses represent some 15 percent of Africa’s total elephant population, which has been estimated at perhaps half a million.

Beyond these two countries, poaching concentrated in parts of the Congo Basin threatens the remaining forest elephant populations, which had already declined by 65 percent between 2002 and 2013.

But even as the gravity of the poaching crisis becomes more apparent through improved aerial survey data and genetic analysis of confiscated ivory, signs of hope are emerging.

Thus far, responding to and combating the elephant crisis have largely been the work of global organizations, including conservation NGOs and multilateral aid agencies.

But many of the critical innovations, leadership measures, and solutions to the crisis lie with talented and committed local groups whose approaches can be taken to scale, often with support from resource-rich international networks.

Local Solutions: Namibia

To put things in perspective, it’s important to note that elephants are not declining everywhere in Africa, as recent survey reports have noted.

Namibia’s elephant population grew by more than 70 percent between 2002 and 2013, from some 9,600 to more than 16,000.

Central to this success are Namibia’s communal conservancies—areas of community land established for wildlife conservation and tourism.

Communities establish a local conservancy committee, put in place a locally administered cadre of wildlife scouts or “game guards,” and develop their own management plan for their conservancy.

In exchange, Namibian conservation laws enable the government to —> Read More