Anchoring AWF's transboundary Kilimanjaro Heartland landscape are two of East Africa's most prominent landmarks: Amboseli National Park in Kenya, home to the longest running study of African elephants; and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa's highest snow-capped peak. Between these two landmarks lies Elerai, a key dispersal area for elephants migrating from Amboseli south to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Over the past year, AWF has been striving to establish the 10,900 acres (4,394 hectares) Elerai Conservation Area together with the local Maasai residents to safeguard this critical habitat for wildlife. The surrounding community lands are threatened with sub division and the Elerai Conservation Area provides an important alternative land-use strategy for the local people. This newly established conservation area will allow them to diversify their incomes through ecotourism while also protecting migration corridors and dispersal areas for wildlife, maintaining areas of the savanna mosaic, restoring dry season flow regimes and increasing the population size of predators and ungulates.
In June of 2004, the AWF Kilimanjaro Heartland team performed a number of exercises which evaluated the socio-economic and ecological impacts of establishing the Conservation Area. The project was carried out by an inter-disciplinary team and relied on the expertise of community specialists, government officers, ecologists, and natural resource economists. Results from this planning exercise provide keys to managing the Conservation Area in a way that will both enhance the livelihoods of the Maasai people living there as well as keep the land available to migrating elephants.
With support from USAID's Conservation of Resources through Enterprise (CORE) program, AWF's Conservation Enterprise staff facilitated the signing of a deal between local Maasai and a private investor to build a luxury 12-bed eco-lodge, nestled on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, with spectacular views of Amboseli National Park. This lodge will maintain the integrity of the ecosystem and allow the natural movements of elephants and other wildlife. At the same time, the community will earn an income through shared profits from the lodge, the entry fees from tourist visitors, and employment. The lodge should be operational in June of this year.
AWF realizes the value of working with local people to manage their own land for both their benefit and that of the wildlife with whom they share it. Elerai Conservation Area and ecolodge is a win-win situation and serves as a model in land management planning that can be implemented throughout Africa.
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