Protecting elephants, protecting humans

Protecting elephants, protecting humans


We might sometimes forget we’re just a
part of the natural world but in the Gourmer region of West Africa few people
make the same mistake they understand that elephants are
another special and important piece of that overall picture. These mighty
animals shake down fruit and seeds from the high branches of trees, as well as
spreading nutrients. This helps the people and goats from the area to thrive.
They have a surprising amount in common with our human neighbours too – mourning the dead and occasionally even rescuing stranded comrades by building bridges
from branches. Such intelligence has led them to develop the longest most unusual
migration pattern any elephant herd undertake, they spend the dry season
travelling between lakes in the north before moving towards the only one that
normally retains water all year round Lake Banzena all the while trying to
avoid people But sadly such resource wellness alone
isn’t enough to preserve their numbers against varied threats. From soaring
numbers of cattle to increased destruction of their habitat. Settlements
that block their migration. Conflict in the region and poaching That’s why a unique conservation
initiative led by a team at Oxford University has built on the crucial
symbiosis between human and elephant to help protect the endangered animals and
improve local livelihoods. Since 2007, the Mali Elephant project has supported the
local community in establishing management committees and patrol teams
to enforce rules protecting nature and keeping the elephants safe declaring
pasture reserves and protected forests preventing abusive tree cutting, building
fire breaks. Instead of taking up arms young men work as eco Guardians and
women can sell hay and forest products benefits for local people go alongside
those for the elephants just as they naturally should. The people of Gourma
know that balance is key if the land is no longer good for the elephants it
won’t support them either. They fit together like a beautiful masterpiece.
One we can all see if only we remember to look.

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