GEF: Ensuring a world where elephants aren’t the next dinosaurs
On August 12, we celebrate World Elephant Day to raise awareness on the plight of the world’s elephant population. This is an important day for me, as the Program Manager of the Global Wildlife Program (GWP) that started two years ago to combat illegal wildlife trade across 19 countries in Asia and Africa. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a grant of $131 million, the GWP is a global partnership on wildlife conservation & crime prevention for sustainable development.
Several of the GWP’s national projects identify elephants as their priority species, and have activities that range from reducing the poaching and trafficking of elephants to reducing the demand for ivory. By tackling the threats that are specific to each country, the GWP ensures that elephants have safe and secure land to move in, that they are away from communities with whom they share resources to avoid conflict, and that those engaged in illegal wildlife trade are prosecuted by improving evidence collection and intelligence gathering.
GWP country projects working to save elephants: some highlights
In Mozambique, the GWP project with a grant of $15.8 million from GEF, will be implemented by UNDP and executed by the National Agency for Conservation Areas (ANAC) under the Ministry of Land, the Environment and Rural Development (MITADER), the Gorongosa Restoration Project (GRP), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
An important site of the Mozambique GWP project is the Niassa National Reserve (NNR)—the largest protected area in the country covering over 42,000 square kilometers. NNR is the most important elephant range in Mozambique, with 42% of the national elephant population (4,441 elephants). It also harbors populations of lion, leopard, wild dog, sable, kudu, wildebeest and zebra.
The elephant population is contiguous with the southern Tanzanian elephant population—together they were the world’s second largest elephant population, although poaching has probably reduced this status to third or fourth. Since 2012, the NNR has been co-managed by ANAC and WCS to ensure that habitat loss, poaching and illegal activities are curbed and that the 40 villages in the reserve have alternative livelihoods for local development. These agencies also employ park rangers to patrol the reserve. However, there is a lack of financial resources to support the rangers in a war against the poachers.
Park rangers risk their lives every day when they patrol, sometimes unarmed, to face members of criminal networks that make the work that they do seem futile, as you can see in this video trailer produced by GWP video specialist, Raul Gallego Abellan. He is a video journalist, previously, a war reporter who decided two years ago to use his knowledge and inter-personal skills to tell the story of our planet’s endangered species in an effort to save them through photo journalism and videography.