As I observed a baby elephant playing mischievously and a mother protecting her children, it became starkly clear how innocent these creatures are, and how necessary it is for us to protect them.Chelsea Clinton
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©Barbara Kinney/The Clinton Foundation
Often, what stands between life and death for an elephant are rangers. These brave men and women know the land, the people and their hardships, and are the eyes and ears for other conservationists. With their frequent patrol efforts, they put their lives on the line to protect wildlife, and to ensure that conservation efforts work.
©Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images
WCS has long been protecting elephants in eight of the most important conservation landscapes in Africa. We have now launched elephant protection programs in four new sites: Ivindo National Park in Gabon, Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ruaha and Katavi National Parks in Tanzania, and Niassa National Reserve in Mozambique. These four sites alone shelter 44,000 elephants.
WCS conservationists are working alongside rangers, ecoguards, rural communities, government officials, and even Labrador retrievers to turn the tide for elephants. From radio-collaring elephants on the ground to monitoring their populations overhead, from training and equipping local rangers to deploying ivory-sensitive sniffer dogs at key transit points, we’re fighting to save elephants every day.
Since 1990, WCS field biologist Andrea Turkalo has dedicated herself to the study and protection of forest elephants, completing groundbreaking research on their language and social relationships and watching over the forest clearing and elephant sanctuary of Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic. She has catalogued over 4,000 elephants dwelling in Dzanga-Sangha National Park and can identify more than 800 individuals by sight alone.
Thomson Tembo was a notorious elephant poacher before turning in his gun and joining WCS’s Community Markets for Conservation co-op in Zambia. Since 2003, the program has taught participants sustainable agriculture methods to improve crop yields and reduce deforestation, while connecting them with commodity and retail markets. Today, Thomson operates his own mills, keeps bees, and inspires other former poachers to follow his lead.
©Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
Manager of the Mpala Elephant Monitoring Project in Laikipia, Kenya, which receives WCS support, Enock Ochieng typically spends six days a week searching for elephants. Since 2010, he has helped compile a photo identification catalogue of hundreds of elephants, data used by anti-poaching agencies. A native Kenyan, Enock is proud to be helping his country save these giants.
Darren Potgieter was born just south of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where he developed his passion for wildlife. He has the rare title of “pilot conservationist” and is section manager for Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve, which WCS co-manages with Mozambique’s government. Since 2011, he has supported the reserve with aerial surveillance and law enforcement assistance, helping to dramatically reduce poaching there.
A WCS senior conservationist, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, and special adviser to the President of Gabon, Mike Fay has dedicated much of his life to studying and protecting African wildlife. In May 2013, following a brutal elephant slaughter in the Central African Republic (CAR), he helped facilitate discussions between the leaders of Gabon and CAR to stop the poaching.
Deo Kujirakwinja manages WCS’s Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Program. A DRC native, he has worked to protect elephants and other wildlife of Virunga National Park since 2003 and Kahuzi-Biega NP since 2008, even as the region has endured decades of armed conflict. His work includes biological and socioeconomic surveys, ranger training, and support to transboundary cooperation, conflict resolution, and community conservation.
Boo Maisels is WCS’s ecological monitoring coordinator in the Congo Basin and a member of the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group. She has worked in Central Africa to survey elephants, great apes, and more for over 20 years. Together with many partners, she helped sound the alarm on the devastating loss of 62 percent of African forest elephants from 2002–2011.
More than 2,000 elephants call Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park home, and Charles Foley can identify some 800 of them. (Among his favorites? A matriarch he calls Big Mama.) As director of WCS’s Tarangire Elephant Project, Charles works to protect the herds and the migration pathways they rely on to reach surrounding calving areas. He also works with members of the local Maasai tribe who help monitor for poaching.
WCS provides technical support to the ANPN’s sniffer dog unit. The dogs are trained to detect shipments of illegal ivory (amongst other threatened wildlife species) at airports, shipping ports, and roadway checkpoints. Here (left to right), dog handlers Medelick Biteghe bi Nze and Price Meye pose with Cooper, a highly methodical Lab, and Lumi, an energetic spaniel.
The leaders of several African nations took the stage at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative and asked the world to stand behind them with an ivory moratorium. Through this commitment, WCS, as well as other conservation organizations, governments, and concerned citizens, are determined to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand.