The Mali Elephant Project
|Project Location||Gourma region, Mali|
|Project Type||Wildlife and habitat conservation, Community conservation initiatives, Endangered species protection, Environmental education|
|Land Area Protected||40000 km2|
|Local People Employed||5|
The Mali Elephant Project
Established in 2003, the Mali Elephant Project (MEP) is a joint initiative of The WILD Foundation and the International Conservation Fund of Canada that aims to protect a unique population of 550 sub-desert elephants. The elephants of Mali have managed to cope with the dispersed and variable nature of the area’s resources by making the largest annual elephant migration in Africa. Human activity in the elephant range is increasingly impeding this migration and incidences of conflict are escalating. At the same time, local populations are lawlessly degrading water, forests, and pasture and the resultant “free-for-all” has led to resource degradation, habitat destruction, and an increase in human-elephant conflict. Government resources are wholly inadequate to cope, and a new approach is required.
The MEP works at all levels. Locally the project brings together the diverse clans and ethnicities to collectively establish natural resource management systems—agreed to by all. These systems protect the elephant migration route, increase the quantity of resources by reversing destructive practices, and empower the community to sustainably manage the resources on which its livelihood depends.
The Mali Elephants are unique in several ways and endlessly fascinating. Their migration is a story in itself, as is the mobilisation of the community to accommodate them. With so many elephant massacres occurring, MEP has introduced a preventative initiative in the region that protects this unique population from potential disaster. This approach embodies a new model in which the community are mobilising to work together with government agents, bringing the landscape alive with their eyes and ears. These community information networks, established throughout the elephant range, are used to detect and report any incidents of elephant poaching.
Tusk funding is being used to train and mobilize a rapid response armed anti-poaching force – as requested by the community - that can act on information provided by the project’s community information networks. The 12-man team will be capable of dealing with poaching situations as well as supporting the community patrols in their work of natural resource management and protecting the habitats and migration route of the elephants.
Although the conflict is over, security still has not returned to the area and elephant protection continues to be our main priority. We are currently working with local communities to create more vigilance networks of local young men, particularly in the most vulnerable areas of the elephant range.These scoutsare trained to work with the armed, rapid response, anti-poaching unit that is comprised of government personnel. This combined effort proved to work well during the conflict when, despite total lawlessness and a proliferation of arms, only 7 elephant were killed. The programme is strongly supported by community elders who spread the word that killing elephant steals from the local people. In addition, the local community very much appreciates the employment provided by the project.