NAIROBI, Kenya, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Space for elephants to roam free and safe at Kenya's Amboseli National Park, grew by nearly 16,000 acres today, with the signing of a lease agreement between the local Maasai community and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).
"Paradise for elephants and other wildlife has just grown that much bigger," said Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, at a ceremony to mark the creation of the "Kitenden Corridor." The leased area will extend elephant range space from Amboseli National Park to the Tanzanian border, where a similar strip of land, also referred to as the Kitenden Corridor connects to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park.
"We have the community of the Olguluilui/Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) to thank for their foresight and concern for the safety of Amboseli's wildlife. By agreeing to lease land to IFAW, elephant range space has been massively extended and both humans and wildlife can look forward to living free of conflict," said Downes.
About 1,400 elephants live in the Amboseli ecosystem, and routinely move into the ranch area, particularly during the rainy season and sometimes come into conflict with farmers and villagers. The Kitenden Corridor which runs from Amboseli to Mount Kilimanjaro will ensure that a favored route that elephants have used for millennia to move across the Tanzanian border is secured from habitat fragmentation and potential conflicts with local communities.
IFAW has a long standing relationship with the leadership and people of OOGR. Earlier this year ten community scouts sponsored by IFAW graduated from the Kenya Wildlife Service Enforcement Academy. The scout's mission is to save elephants and protect human livelihoods and IFAW will continue to support the KWS training programme.
"The Government recognizes and appreciates the role played by IFAW in support of wildlife conservation in our country, in particular conserving elephants and other endangered species and their habitats," said Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
"The greatest threat to wildlife conservation today lies mainly on the human population pressure on scarce land resources and this leads to human-wildlife conflicts. This calls for the need to plan on how to manage the elephant populations and this Kitenden Corridor conservation area is one such approach," said Wakhungu.
The OOGR, and five other adjoining group ranches, are the first community in Kenya that has agreed to an ecosystem management plan between Kenya Wildlife Services and Amboseli Maasai ranches that surround the park.
The next steps for the Kitenden Corridor, will be transforming the land into an operational conservancy.
"IFAW's aim is to work with the OOGR and KWS, to ensure that habitat is improved, that viable tourism initiatives are established that will benefit every member of the OOGR, and that Kitenden will ultimately become a viable and safe habitat for elephants and other wildlife," said James Isiche, Regional Director of IFAW East Africa.
"It is a profound day for IFAW and the OOGR, and honours the Maasai community values of protecting wildlife in Amboseli for nearly 300 years," said Isiche.
The signing agreement was attended by Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Water, Environment and Natural Resources under whose docket wildlife management in Kenya falls, Daniel Leturesh, Chairman of the OOGR, Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, William Kiprono, Director of KWS, Dr David Nkedienye, Governor of Kajiado Country, Katoo Ole Metito, Mp for Kajiado South, Joseph Ole Lenku, Cabinet Secretary Interior and Coordination of National Government, and other dignitaries.
About 500 landowners from the OOGR were present to witness the historic event, having walked for hours from all corners of the ranch which borders Amboseli, and is roughly 3.5 times the size of the national park.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Editor: Professional quality photographs available from IFAW.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare