Space to roam. It is a must for the world’s largest land animal, but across the transboundary Kilimanjaro landscape straddling Kenya’s southern border — known for its sizeable elephant population — that roaming space is becoming harder to find.
Where previously poachers were subsistence or small-scale operators, now, organized groups engage in ruthless killing sprees. Poaching in Africa today involves militias, crime networks, and even terrorist groups motivated by the demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asian countries predominantly. The illegal killing of wildlife is more efficient than ever before — the syndicates equip poachers with gear such as military-grade weapons, helicopters, and night-vision goggles. In one of the worst events on record, armed poachers on horseback in Cameroon’s Bouba N’djida National Park slaughtered as many as 650 elephants over three months in early 2012.
The energy, food and financial needs of our species pit us against various flora and fauna in our complex ecosystems. But human encroachment on habitats and migration routes is not the only way we are facing off with wildlife. Humans are also actively wiping out iconic species like the elephant, lion, and rhino by turning them into commodities.
Group ranches host significant proportions of Kenya’s terrestrial wildlife populations—including elephants that live outside or use lands beyond protected areas—and are predominantly inhabited by pastoralists. Since its implementation in the 1960s, the group ranch model has struggled to meet the demands of rising human and livestock populations and climate change impacts. Constrained by a lack of open space critical to their livelihood and facing dwindling prospects, group ranch pastoralists are increasingly sedentarized and diversifying into cultivation and tourism, often at the expense of wildlife populations and ecological processes.
The population of the Kilombero District in Tanzania is heavily reliant on agriculture. Approximately 100,000 small-scale farmers cultivate predominantly rice and cocoa. On average, their fields are only around 0.5 hectares in size. Roughly 35% of the farmers are female. Economic dependence and lack of management knowledge lead to high losses during both harvest and processing, resulting in insufficient income.