4 December 2021
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION DAY
Born Free’s Conservation Projects Officer Penny Banham shares some of the amazing work our teams and our partners do to protect threatened animals across the globe.
Protecting Africa’s threatened elephants
Born Free was thrilled to launch our new conservation programme in October 2020, aimed at conserving African savannah elephants and reticulated giraffes in Meru, Kenya, the heartland of our charity and where Elsa the lioness was returned to the wild. This Born Free-run programme will address the grave threats to over 500 African savannah elephants face by monitoring and identifying individuals of the population, whilst implementing nature-based solutions to prevent crop loss and damage by elephants. This work goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to increase community awareness and capacity to mitigate conflict through workshops and the creation of a local team of five Elephant Guardians who will work within their communities to implement effective and simple solutions to conflict. We are excited to take you along on this new journey!
Unlike their savannah counterparts, very little is known about forest elephants. Forest elephants play a significant ecological role in the maintenance of forest habitats and biodiversity protection, but they are also Critically Endangered. Born Free supports ELRECO, a nature conservation organisation based in Liberia, which aims to complete a countrywide survey of forest elephants across the country in order to identify hotspots to human-elephant conflict, sensitise communities to their plight and afford the species greater protection. So far, the team have been able to estimate that there is a population of 350-450 in just the north-western area of Liberia. This represents a significant proportion of the forest elephant population in West Africa.
“We support many other conservation programmes across the world. You can find out more about our work in our recent conservation report.“
Conservation action for primates
In Uganda, the situation for chimpanzees outside of protected areas is difficult. People and chimps often clash and the future for the species seems precarious. Born Free supports Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community Project, which aims to create coexistence between chimps and people in Uganda’s Budongo-Bugoma Corridor. This year, the team have monitored over 100 chimpanzees in the corridor – keep a close eye on them for any signs of Covid-19 infections (chimpanzees are particularly susceptible to becoming infected).
With declining and severely fragmented populations, gorillas are teetering towards the brink of extinction. For many years, Born Free has funded the Grauer’s Gorilla Conservation Initiative in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With our support, the team have continued to monitor the population of over 150 gorillas, noting births, deaths and interesting behaviours. Without their efforts, the gorillas would be left unprotected and vulnerable to poaching.
Orangutans were once widespread across southeast Asia, but today they are only found in fragmented sub-populations on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Our funding supports the vital work of the Orangutan Foundation in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve in Borneo, where over 600 orangutans live. Orangutans are highly threatened by illegal logging. Born Free supports rangers who regularly patrol the forest, removing snares, destroying illegal logging and hunting camps, putting out forest fires and keeping a close watch on the wild orangutan population. Without their work, the area would be used as for illegal logging and hunting.
Coexistence and carnivores
In Kenya, our lion teams are hard at work preventing human-lion conflict in the vast Amboseli Ecosystem lying at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and surveying the elusive lion population that roams across the historic Meru landscape where the spirit of Elsa the lion lives on. This year, our team have worked around the challenges posed by the pandemic and have gone on to build additional 21 predator proof bomas which have protected over 500 people and 4,500 heads of livestock from deadly attacks by lions and other carnivores. In Meru, the team launched our first survey about human-lion conflict in local communities. The results of our survey will be critical in implementing solutions to stop human-lion conflict.
In India, our teams have been striving towards securing a future for tigers in the Satpuda Landscape. Tigers here are highly threatened by human-tiger conflict, infrastructural development and hunting for the illegal wildlife trade. The Satpuda Landscape is also densely populated by communities who depend on resources from the very same habitat where the tigers live. This year, our partners, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT), expanded their Tiger Ambassador programme, reaching even more communities to prevent deadly conflict and respond rapidly to imminent attacks from tigers.
Whilst the situation in India may be difficult for tigers, in Thailand the Indochinese tiger sub-species clings on. The Indochinese tiger is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Indochinese tigers in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Southern China, and Vietnam have been extirpated. This leaves just two sites with remaining viable tiger populations and both are in Thailand. However, there are fewer than 200 Indochinese tigers left in Thailand. Supported by Born Free, Freeland works in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, eastern Thailand. There are now 33 adult Indochinese tigers living here. Born Free supports conservation awareness and educational outreach with schools and local communities as well as an anti-poaching unit to protect and monitor tigers and other wildlife species.