Discover an elephant conservation success story that employs African game rangers from within the local community -- some of whom were poachers themselves -- to join in the battle to stop elephant poaching. This grassroots effort provides the community members with added income, increased prestige, and a sense of camaraderie and shared mission.
  • This short video from the National Geographic film Battle for the Elephants highlights an elephant conservation success story. The profiled program employs more than 200 members of the community around Kenya’s Amboseli National Park as game rangers—some of the rangers were once poachers themselves. The rangers have joined Richard Bonham and the Big Life Foundation in the battle to stop elephant poaching.

    Bonham and the Big Life Foundation pioneered this effective wildlife conservation program when it became clear that the only sustainable solution to elephant poaching was to partner with and involve the local community. The grassroots effort provides community members with added income, increased prestige, and a sense of camaraderie and shared mission. As Bonham says, this community involvement provides an incentive to “fight for the elephants instead of against them.”

    This conservation effort is just one part of the ongoing battle between those who deal in illegal ivory and those who work to stop the killing of Africa’s elephants for their tusks. The ivory trade—and elephant poaching—is a story of supply and demand. Wealth, along with a desire for ivory in China, drives the demand side; poachers increasingly drive the supply side.

    Even with the ban on sales of ivory still in place, elephant conservation is a hard sell. 

    1. Why is elephant conservation a "hard sell?"

      Even though many support the concept of elephant conservation, the economic incentives for poaching have outweighed the incentives for conservation. The illegal sale of ivory is a huge business, often run by crime networks. These are powerful factors that make it difficult to convince local residents to join in law enforcement efforts.

    2. Why is community support critical to the success of conservation and law enforcement efforts in Amboseli National Park?

      Gaining community support involves the buy-in of the local residents, and this results in a strong motivation to save a vitally important natural resource. When local community members feel they are part of an important activity—when they become aware of their power to bring about change—they have a stronger and more sustainable impact on local problems.

    3. In what ways is the conservation partnership between Richard Bonham and the community game rangers mutually beneficial? 

      The game rangers earn a living wage and have increased status in the community as well as a sense of working with others toward a meaningful goal. For Richard Bonham and the Big Life Foundation the benefits include an increase in poacher arrests and safety for the elephants. Also, when poaching—which is most often run by criminal networks—is controlled, the community becomes safer for humans and elephants alike.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    camaraderie Noun

    spirit of friendly good-fellowship.

    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    incentive Noun

    offer or encouragement to complete a task.

    poach Verb

    to hunt, trap, or fish illegally.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.