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The Amboseli-Longido Heartland

  • Saturday, January 1, 2000


(African Wildlife News - Winter 2000)

Because migrating wildlife in this region often cross national boundaries, the Amboseli-Longido Heartland straddles the border of two countries. It encompasses Amboseli National Park and ranch lands in Kenya and, to the south, the lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the semi-arid savannas of Longido in Tanzania. Much of the region is home to Masai pastoralists who tend their cattle on dusty plains shared with zebra, buffalo, giraffe and the world's most stable and storied elephant population.

A linchpin of AWF's conservation efforts is the 28-year-old Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP). Over the last year the project continued to study elephant families that migrate in and out of the park. Research by doctoral candidate Hamisi Mutinda into the grouping patterns of elephant matriarchs in Amboseli suggests that the patterns change in response to seasonal conditions.

AERP is pleased to report that research assistants Norah Njiraini, Soila Sayialel and Katito Sayialel, who monitor the park's estimated 1,000 elephants, were runners-up for an international environmental achievement award given by Cond, Nast Traveler magazine. The prestigious award recognizes individuals "who have done something extraordinary to preserve the environment."

Earlier this year AERP founding director Cynthia Moss criss-crossed the United States on a lecture tour that took her to a dozen cities. Sell-out crowds heard Moss discuss her experiences in nearly 30 years of studying elephants in Amboseli.

Conservation managers working in Kenya and Zambia completed AERP's training course in elephant identification and observation techniques. Trainees from Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United States have also participated since the program began in 1997.

AWF has taken a novel--and effective-- approach to easing tensions between livestock owners and wildlife arising from competition for food and water. The Amboseli Outreach Program is the first by a conservation group to work specifically with young Masai warriors, or morani, between the ages of 13 and 17--a key group, since they are expected to defend the community and its livestock. After AWF consulted Masai elders and morani leaders, initial resistance turned to interest in conservation activities. The warriors were pleased about the prospect of setting up a moran manyatta, or kiosk, for ecotourism.

Another successful AWF-AERP effort is the "consolation plan" that compensates local Masai for livestock destroyed by elephants. The two-year-old plan has reduced retaliatory moves against elephants.

Other species besides elephants are getting attention in the Amboseli-Longido Heartland. Researchers are studying wild dogs, whose numbers have declined over the last several decades. They are collecting data on the status, range and behavior of the area's wild dogs prior to designing a conservation plan.

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