Tag Archives: Wildlife

Keeping the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor Litter Free


The Rukinga wildlife corridor is a pivotal crossing point for several different types of wildlife, from elephants to baboons. Unfortunately, it is located next to the A109, also known as the Mombasa Highway. Thousands of cars and commercial truck drivers pass through this area on their way from the coast to Nairobi. It isn’t uncommon to see someone chucking a plastic drink bottle out the window.

This practice has led to an area cluttered with colorful drink bottles and discarded tire rubber. The wildlife and domestic animals living in the animal are susceptible to ingesting these pieces of plastic and risk dying. Not to mention, how much of an eyesore it is for passers-by, an indication that littering is the norm.

Well, the young leaders at Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) were tired of seeing this area filled with trash.


How do you clean up and make an area litter free?

“Litter is a huge problem and it’s a problem along the whole highway, but the wildlife corridor has been deliberately kept clear of development to aid the movement of wildlife,” explained Alys Penfold, a VSO volunteers who organized the cleanup in collaboration with Wildlife Works. “We thought that if we cleaned up this one area, it would show the difference of what the area looks like without litter.”

On Saturday, April 1, 2017, a group of over 120 people showed up to help. Volunteers, community members, secondary students, rangers, and WW employees banded together to clean up the 2.3 km stretch of highway dubbed the wildlife corridor next to Rukinga Sanctuary.

“We thought that many people would not show up, but we had 120. We never expected that,” said Mercy Marigo, Hadithi Project Assistant. Hadithi works with women artisans to help empower them and sell their hand-made products to global markets. Alys was assigned to Hadithi as her project for her 3 month volunteer period. “It was our first project with the volunteers and we hope to organize with the community to clean up litter once a month from now on.”

Wildlife Works employees came to volunteer their time to help pick up trash and Wildlife Works Rangers handed out water and insured the safety of all participants working in close proximity to vehicle traffic. Each of the 3 participating secondary schools received organic-cotton shirts sewn and printed in the Wildlife Work’s eco-factory.

In 4 hours, the team collected over 250 garbage bags of trash from the area, removing plastic bottles, plastic bags, scraps, and other litter from this important conservation area. This amount of trash will be responsibly disposed of and recycled, beautifying the area and improving the lives of wildlife in the area.


How to prevent littering in the future?

VSO held a community meeting to educate people of the dangers of plastic, how long it takes to break down in the environment, and it’s negative impact on wildlife and our planet. They also posted a large banner, urging drivers to keep the wildlife corridor free of litter.

“The idea was that you can’t put up a sign asking people not to litter, when there is litter, so the first thing we wanted to do was clean it up, so people can see the difference,” said Alys. “Then put up the sign to encourage people to keep the area that way.”

This event was the launch of the Taka Sitaka Taka campaign to help improve parts near the Wildlife Works project areas. In the future, the team plans on reaching out to truck companies to educate their drivers on the dangers of littering, bringing a recycling center to the town of Maungu, and spurring further clean ups along the highway.

While only a small portion of the trash found along the Mombasa Highway was collected on Saturday, we hope the message will become clear to passing drivers that litter along these roads will not be tolerated.

Injured Elephant Gets Treated

On Jan 28, 2017, Keith, our anti-poaching pilot went on a morning aerial patrol flight, after a tip off there was potentially a charcoal camp on northern Taita ranch, Kenya.  At about 7:30am we spotted a lone bull in the thickets below us, it had a very large cyst on its right side, just above its back leg.  

Keith then messaged the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, who brought KWS vet Dr. Poghon by road from Voi.

With the gyrocopter keeping visual on the injured elephants location, the ground team attempted to get close enough to the elephant to tranquilize it.

The thick bush made it impossible for the ground team to even get a clear sighting of the bull, so the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust sent a chopper to collect the vet on the ground and get a clear shot with the tranquilizer gun.

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The vet operated on the cyst, concluding it was an arrow that had caused this poor animal all this pain and stress.  The elephant was treated, and put back on his feet with a clean bill of health.  

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This goes to show how important aerial patrols are for elephant protection. A big thank you to all the hard working men and women of Wildlife Works, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service.  

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Greater Good and Soles 4 Souls Donate Boots to Rangers

Greater Good, a charity organization that is based in the United States working to protect people, pets and the planet, partners with Wildlife Works on a variety of projects, including producing apparel at our eco-factory in Kenya and raising money for our projects through activities in the U.S.

Last year, Greater Good paid a visit to the Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya and saw a need for our rangers to have new boots. The effectiveness of our patrolling ranger staff is critical to protecting the 500,000 acres of the project area from poaching of wildlife and deforestation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 1.15.01 PMHead Ranger Erick Sagwe distributing shoes.

Greater Good worked with their partner Soles 4 Souls, an organization which facilitates the donations of both new and used shoes globally, to connect to the American outdoorsy shoe company Keen. Keen, like all shoe companies, produce hundreds of sample shoes a year, and were able to ship 200 pairs of new sample boots to Kenya. This shoes were enough for our 85 rangers and 15 security staff to be gifted with two new pairs each. Each pair was even labeled with a ranger name so everyone would receive their correct size and style!

According to Eric Sagwe, Wildlife Works Head Ranger, the shoe donation came at the right time, as the old boots were worn out. “The shoes are comfortable and light compared to the previous heavy boots. The durable hard rubber soles are ideal for walking long distances in the bush without getting tired but being well protected during animal and poaching tracking,” he adds.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 1.15.07 PMOne of the rangers putting on the shoe

The ranger team at Wildlife Works is particularly happy because the multi-purpose, cool new shoes can be used both in the bush and also in everyday life. A big thank you to Greater Good for your donation!

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 1.15.13 PMAll of our rangers and security rangers received the shoes


Changing Kenya’s Landscape for Wildlife and Jobseekers

Changing Kenya’s Landscape for Wildlife and Jobseekers

Published in the The Opinion Pages on NY Times

By Amy Yee

JUNE 8, 2016 RUKINGA SANCTUARY, Kenya — Twenty years ago, this wildlife corridor in southern Kenya was in jeopardy. A scarcity of jobs in this impoverished, arid landscape meant people were hunting wild giraffe and antelope for meat, and chopping down trees to make charcoal. With fewer trees, desertification loomed. Water was so precious that local cattle herders lit fires at water holes to keep giraffes and zebras from drinking.

The animals had less vegetation to eat and less forest cover. Cutting down trees combined with poaching decimated wildlife in this 500,000-acre swath of the Kasigau migration corridor, which bisects Tsavo, Kenya’s largest national park. Tsavo, roughly the size of Wales, is home to half the country’s estimated 25,000 elephants.

Mercy Ngaruiya, known as Mama Mercy, is a community leader in the village of Itinyi. “People used to come with buckets of meat,” she said. “Everyone was killing animals. People were cutting trees for charcoal. They said, ‘What else are we going to do for money?’”

Against the odds, things have changed. Illegal tree cutting and poaching have fallen significantly. Previously, rangers from Wildlife Works, the local conservation group that initiated the shift, would find 8,000 wire snares in a year. Last year they found fewer than 300.

In 1998 there were no elephants on the 75,000 acres of Rukinga Sanctuary where Wildlife Works is based, said Rob Dodson, vice president of African operations. Now wildlife has returned. One recent evening, a herd of elephants, including babies, gathered at a water hole during a tranquil sunset. As many as 2,000 elephants live in the corridor, depending on the season; so do zebra, giraffe, buffalo, warthogs and several kinds of antelope, from slender dik-diks to impala. Lions had vanished from the area; now there are about 40, including two males seen lounging by a water hole on a hot Friday afternoon.

Illegal activities haven’t been wiped out. In January, seven elephants were poached for ivory. Every week rangers catch people burning trees to produce charcoal. But forest and wildlife in the Kasigau Corridor have been visibly revitalized by conservation efforts. And poaching has dropped. In the last few years, Wildlife Works hired more unarmed local rangers to supplement the Kenyan Wildlife Service, and in 2014 Kenya toughened its poaching laws. Seventy-six elephants were killed for ivory in the area in 2012, in contrast to 21 last year.

The key to preserving wildlife here is human relationships. Impoverished locals need alternatives to poaching and burning. So Wildlife Works has created hundreds of new jobs, including increasing the number of its rangers sevenfold to 85 in the past few years. (Many are former charcoal burners and poachers themselves.) Critically, this expansion won support for conservation from local elders and villagers, and the organization is now their county’s third-largest employer.

This community development work got a much-needed financial lifeline when Wildlife Works started the world’s first REDD+ project in 2011. REDD+, which stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” is an international system to combat climate change by preserving forests. It essentially pays communities in poor countries not to cut down trees.

Three United Nations agencies laid the groundwork for REDD+ in 2008. Gas-guzzling cars are commonly associated with global warming. But deforestation — cutting down trees and releasing the carbon stored in them — contributes 17 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than the global transportation industry.

Preserving this swath of forest in the Kasigau Corridor avoids emitting more than 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year for the next 30 years.

Since 2011, Wildlife Works has sold carbon credits and earned millions of dollars shared by landowners, investors, Wildlife Works and the local community. Money for the community finances schools, scholarships, water pipes, reservoirs and other public works that serve 150,000 people. The support was critical for getting the local community to support conservation.

“Now if someone cuts down trees or kills animals, people will report them,” said Mama Mercy.

REDD+ was controversial when it introduced nearly a decade ago. Critics feared fraud, and that the developed world would use carbon credits as an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels instead of curbing them. Supporters said poor countries needed financial incentives to preserve forests rather than cutting them down for fuel, farming and grazing.

At first, locals were also skeptical. Mama Mercy recalled that when people first heard about REDD+ they said, “‘How do we get money from trees? The air? These people are cheating us.’ It was really complicated.”

Educating locals about REDD+ and getting them on board was essential, because REDD+ uses international social auditors to enforce a requirement for informed consent from communities.

From 2009 to 2011, Wildlife Works’ team of local Kenyans met with about 60 elders, chiefs and heads of community councils to explain how the complex project works.

“They thought people were coming to get their land,” said Pascal Kizaka, a retired local chief. “We had to go and talk to them and preach. It took a year and a half to make the people understand.”

Although several tribes live in the area, Swahili is commonly spoken, so language was not a hurdle. Local leaders eventually gave consent to sell carbon credits on behalf of the community.

“People were so desperate,” said Dodson, of Wildife Works. “They had nothing to lose. They said, ‘It sounds mad, but let’s give it a go.’”

The forest was assessed by teams that measured trees in 480 sample plots across Kasigau Corridor. Independent environmental consultants from the United States used analytical software involving 60 algorithms to determine the amount of carbon in the forest.

Results were verified by the environmental audit firms Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, both based in Washington. The latter’s social audit includes weeks of meeting with local councils and questioning them independently.

nytimes, amy yee, redd, redd+, climate change, wildlife conservation, forestry conservation

In the early days, critics feared that “carbon credit cowboys” would displace or exploit locals and pocket profits. But setting up and verifying REDD+ is too complicated, expensive and stringent for speculators to make easy money. Rolling out REDD+ cost Wildlife Works about $4 million, each audit costs about $70,000, and verification requires evidence that REDD+ has benefited the community and environment.

The biggest pitfall is managing a multiparty project and building consensus among many community councils. “It’s easy to fail an audit. Getting back on your feet if a project fails is tough,” said Dodson. “Organizationally, it is fraught with danger.”

When Wildlife Works’ REDD+ project was verified, credits were sold on Markit, a London-based financial trading platform. The companies and other organizations that have purchased credits to offset their carbon emissions or fulfill corporate social responsibility policies have included Barclays, BNP Paribas, Allianz, the French postal service La Poste, and Kering, the holding company for Gucci, Saint Laurent and other luxury brands.

Wildlife Works sold $3 million worth of carbon credits in 2012, $2.5 million worth in 2013, and more than $5 million in 2014.

Carbon credit revenues are divided up with one-third going to landowners, roughly another third to Wildlife Works’ projects in Kenya, and the rest divided among the community and Wildlife Works in the United States, including its investors.

Community councils most commonly decide to use their shares for clean water projects or schools.

“People used to go long distances to get water, six kilometers or more,” said 24-year-old Zahira Kastoka, who grew up in Itinyi. Now there are water storage tanks near her home.

“REDD has changed things in so many ways,” she said. Kastoka got a high school scholarship through Wildlife Works, where she now works as an office administrator. Without the grant, her single mother could not have afforded school fees; Kastoka’s older sister had to drop out after fourth grade.

In 1998, few local youths were enrolled in college or in other tertiary institutions; now hundreds are. Over the years, more than 3,200 students have been awarded some $260,000 in high school and higher education scholarships.

For example, Mwolo Muasa, who grew up near Wildlife Works, had to drop out of school after his mother died when he was 10. But a few years later, he got a Wildlife Works scholarship, without which, he says, “I would have ended up a street kid.” Now 29, he helps lead Wildlife Works’ forest plot sampling, having studied environmental science at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.

Carbon credits have also financed precious new jobs. Before REDD, Wildlife Works had 65 employees in 2010. Now it has more than 300 who work in a small garment workshop, greenhouse and tourist lodge and as rangers, mechanics and office staff members. Before carbon credits there were 12 rangers hired from local villages; now the 85-strong force patrols a much larger area.

Wildlife Works was founded in 1997 by Mike Korchinsky, a California-based entrepreneur. While on vacation to Kenya that year, he noticed armed guards aggressively separating wildlife and local people. To create jobs and support the community, he established Rukinga Sanctuary and set up a tourist lodge and clothing workshop with a few employees. Keeping the businesses afloat was difficult.

In 2009, Korchinsky read a magazine article about REDD+ and wondered if Wildlife Works could sell carbon credits. At the time, there was no method with which to measure the carbon in Kasigau’s shrubby drylands forest. So Wildlife Works hired independent environmental consultants to design one.

One challenge today is planning for the future and managing expectations if carbon credit sales slump. In 2015, sales of Wildlife Works’ carbon credits fell to about half that of the previous year. Hesitant buyers were awaiting the outcome of the United Nations’ climate change summit meeting in December.

As a result, there were fewer scholarships. “Some people had to drop out of school,” said Mama Mercy. “Some girls married early. Parents want to educate children but there’s no work.”

“Last year was difficult,” she continued. “We hope this year won’t be the same.”

REDD+ agreements span only 30 years, so it’s uncertain what will happen when the contract expires. Dodson hopes that by then there will be enough economic development and jobs to sustain the community and preserve the forest and wildlife.

Ivo Mulder, the REDD+ green economy adviser for the United Nations Environment Program, said large-scale national initiatives that span entire counties or provinces and better control deforestation are a model for the future.

Worldwide, there are many REDD+ projects. However, the carbon credit market is limited and there are not enough buyers driven by corporate social responsibility. An oversupply of voluntary credits “reduces prices and makes it difficult to make REDD+ projects financially viable,” said Mulder.

Selling carbon credits from large government-backed REDD+ projects to other governments can make a bigger dent in combating global deforestation, though they are complicated to set up.

Nevertheless, the market for carbon credits could grow after 2020, when countries that signed the climate agreement in Paris last December must start reducing emissions. That pact recognizes REDD+ as one way to do that.

Back on the ground in the Kasigau Corridor, this environmental framework has already changed the landscape for flora, fauna and humans alike.

Kizaka, the retired local chief, recalled that big trees sheltering wildlife and cattle were being destroyed every day for charcoal. But now, he said: “If we show you photos before the carbon project and the present situation, the vegetation has changed. It has blossomed.”

From beneath the acacias in the Kenyan bush, one can still see the forest for the trees.

Amy Yee (@amyyeewrites), is a former correspondent for The Financial Times who has written for The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and NPR.

© 2016 The New York Times Company

Miasenyi Secondary School Gets Conservation Education Tour and Safari

Part of Wildlife Works community empowerment strategy includes ensuring that underprivileged students get the chance to view their beautiful ecosystem and see wildlife in its natural habitat. Since March 2015, the Wildlife Works Community Relations Department at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya has been running an education program for local students to tour the Wildlife Works diverse operations, learn about conservation at our Tsavo Discovery Center and experience wildlife firsthand.

Since the program started just over a year ago, over 25 schools have participated, bringing over 750 students through our curriculum. The aim is to eventually reach 80 schools in the area.

On 20th May 2016, Wildlife Works ran a trip for top performing students enrolled at Miasenyi Secondary School to attend one of our learning tours and safaris at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary. There were 28 students and two teachers making a total of 30 that visited the site from the school.

On their arrival at Wildlife Works, the students had the chance to interact with and learn from many of the departments such as: greenhouse, screen printing, eco factory, workshop and soap factory in a fun, interactive way.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsMiasenyi Secondary School students getting a tour of the greenhouse

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephants, eco factory, fair trade fashionStudents getting a tour of the eco factory

The students were later taken out on a game drive across the Sanctuary in the enormous 1962 French ‘Berliet’ Truck, now baptized ‘Beba Kuu’. From the height of this ultimate discovery vehicle, we spotted a whole herd of buffalo at the edge of a watering hole, a family of elephants including several young, many antelope species from one of the smallest (dik-dik) to the largest (eland), a few zebra, giraffe and warthogs which scuttled across the road in front of ‘Beba Kuu’.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsStudents aboard ‘Beba Kuu’ start their safari

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsStudents looking out for game at the watering hole

The students were very excited at having seen so many different animals in their natural habitat, and all stood up in their seats pointing every time we came across a new species. You could feel their anxiety when seeing wildlife like buffalo and elephants during the trip.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsFamily of elephants spotted on the safari drive

The group also stopped at the Tsavo Discovery Center, an education center and eco lodge located between Tsavo East and West National Parks. Here, the students had a chance to visit the science lab and museum to learn about different animal skulls, amphibians, insects, and also the terrible consequences of poaching.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsChecking out the museum at the Tsavo Discovery Center

Most rural schools in Kenya cannot afford to take their students on educational fieldtrips and most families cannot afford to pay extra funds to support extracurricular activities, therefore these trips that Wildlife Works has been running are critical for local youth to learn about and appreciate their environment.

You could feel the excitement from the Miasenyi students on the trip especially when they caught their first glimpses of wildlife, and they left promising to be part of wildlife and environmental conservation.

wildlife works, kenya, wildlife education, eco tourism, safari, elephantsHappy Miasenyi Secondary School students at the end of the day

Great Grevy’s Rally – Grevy Zebra Cencus Count

On January the 30th and 31st 2016, the “Great Grevy’s Rally” was held in Kenya. This was designed to give an overall estimate of population of the Grevy’s zebra in Kenya, as well as to help researchers calculate potential growth.

The Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), also known as the imperial zebra, is the largest extant wild equid and the largest and most threatened of the three species of zebra, the other two being the plains zebra and the mountain zebra. Named after Jules Grévy, it is the sole extant member of the subgenus Dolichohippus. The Grévy’s zebra is found in Kenya and Ethiopia. Compared with other zebras, it is tall, has large ears, and its stripes are narrower. Source: Wikipedia

Grevy Zebra

Current estimates put the total population of Grevy’s Zebra remaining in the wild in Kenya and Ethiopia at approximately 1,966 to 2,447 (2008). From 1988 to 2007, the global population of Grevy’s Zebra declined approximately 55%. The worse case scenario is a decline from 1980 to 2007 of 68%. The number of mature individuals is approximately 750, and the largest subpopulation is approximately 255 mature individuals.

In Kenya, the Grevy’s Zebra population declined from an estimated 4,276 in 1988 to 2435-2707 in 2000 to 1567-1976 in 2004 to an estimated population size of 1468-2135 in 2006. In 2007, the population estimate of 1838-2319 indicates that either more individuals were being accurately observed or that the population is stabilizing and increasing (2007). The trend from 1988 to 2006 (18 years) is a decline of 50 to 66%.

In Ethiopia, Grevy’s Zebra declined from an estimated 1,900 in 1980 to 577 in 1995. In 2006, the population in Ethiopia was estimated to be 128. The trend from 1980 to 2003 (23 years) is a decline of roughly 94%. 

The density and area of occupancy of Grevy’s Zebras fluctuates seasonally as animals move in their search for resources. During the dry season, when they are dependent on permanent water, animals tend to be more concentrated. However, given that they can move up to 35 km from water even during the dry season, their densities are never high. They are most abundant and most easily observed in the southern portion of their range in southern Samburu and the Laikipia Plateau. Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Grevy Zebra Kenya Wildlife Works

The count was mostly carried out in Northern Kenya, however the smaller satellite population in the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) was also included. 

The areas in the TCA that Grevy’s zebra are found are located in the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project area. Four teams from Wildlife Works, made up of 6 rangers, divided up the zones where there have been known sightings of the Grevy’s. The count took place over two days, beginning at 06.30hrs and finishing at 16.30hrs each day.

Each team had to photograph the right hand side only, of any Zebra individual they found. The photos were GPS tagged to clearly show the location of each animal and will then be processed by the Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS), which will identify the individual and its age and sex, and will record the observational time and location. The IBEIS results will estimate the size of the Grevy’s zebra population throughout Kenya.  

In total the teams found 13 individuals over the course of three days. This may sound like very few, but given the species rarity (estimated only 50 individuals in this area) and the thick bush and green conditions, we think that was quite an achievement in itself! 

All the results have now been submitted to the Grevy’s Trust for final analysis, and inclusion into the overall census. The results of the population of Kenya’s Grevy’s zebra should soon be published.

Thank you to all the Wildlife Works rangers who took part!  

Project Impacts of 2014

Congo Basin Forest Canopy

Wildlife Works thanks the corporate leaders that contributed to 2014’s success of more than double that of our REDD+ projects in 2013. Here we look back at the impacts on the ground in 2014.

Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, Kenya

Project Impact Report_2014_for web_Kasigau


Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Project Impact Report_2014_for web Mai Ndombe

A Letter from Founder & President Mike Korchinsky on Our No-Gun Policy

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our supporters and the viewers of ‘Ivory Wars’ for their outpouring of support and encouragement following the initial airings of the series set at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. Elephant poaching remains a serious issue, and we’re glad this opportunity has allowed us to more broadly bring to light its devastating affects.

The Wildlife Works rangers

The Wildlife Works rangers

Since the initial airing, we’ve received some questions about the no-gun policy for our rangers. In an effort to ensure transparency and clear communication about our diligent efforts to keep our rangers safe, we’d like to share some detail about this policy, which has developed as a carefully thought out rationale over 18 years in the field. We consider this to be the best way to be effective at protecting the wildlife in the sanctuary while keeping our rangers and the local community safe.

Our Partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service

The ‘Ivory Wars’ series underplayed the fact that Wildlife Works rangers work side by side with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who are armed, trained in combat, and who are permanently stationed on our sanctuary. Whenever there is an armed poaching incident, our rangers are trained to avoid any confrontation until they have KWS armed support, and even then they are not supposed to be in harms way if shots are fired.

Over the course of 18 years, we have had one incident – described in the show – where our rangers were fired upon. In that incident, our rangers were assisting armed KWS rangers in tracking poachers when the poachers set an ambush. As KWS has a shoot to kill policy, the poachers opened fire out of fear for their own lives and sadly this interaction resulted in the fatality of our ranger, Abdi, and the injury of Ijema.

This incident was very early on in the recent escalation of elephant poaching to armed conflict, and as described in the show, it really shocked us. Prior to that incident and for nearly 15 years, poachers were very rare, came from in and around the local community, and typically set snares or used poison arrows. These poachers never threatened our rangers, even when being arrested.

Protecting the Elephant Habitat

Our primary role at Wildlife Works is to work with the community to protect the habitat for the elephants to pass through in their migrations. There are over 12,000 elephants in our ecosystem in Kenya that roam freely without being confined by fences. This huge setting that these elephants call home makes it impossible to know when and where poachers will strike without informants. There are many other anti-poaching units in other sanctuaries or national parks and in some rangers are armed. Even then, gun battles with poachers are very rare because the areas are vast, the location of an attack completely unpredictable and by the time armed rangers respond, poachers are typically long gone.

Rangers across Kenya – armed or not – are all losing elephants at an alarming rate. We believe we fare as well as any, even with larger elephant populations, because we have such a strong relationship with the local communities who inform us of the comings and goings of possible poachers so we can confront them before they recover their stashed weapons, or alert KWS if they are known to be armed.

Addressing the Growing Demand for Ivory

At the current price of ivory, there is a near unlimited supply of young Somalis willing to come to Kenya to risk their own lives and to take the lives of others to make a fast buck. Killing one or two poachers acts as little deterrent; it simply buys a little time before the next team arrives from Somalia, this time bent on revenge as well as ivory.

This is the real story of ‘Ivory Wars’ – that demand in China supported all the way up to the President himself is causing the death of countless young Africans on both sides of the issue, in addition to the tens of thousands of elephants. We believe that without tackling the demand side, this is an un-winnable war.

The main purpose of the ‘Ivory Wars’ show was to elevate awareness, to build a new generation of indignation about the plight of elephants, and to put overwhelming social and political pressure on the ivory markets to crack down. In the meantime, we choose to keep our rangers as safe as possible by:

  1. making our Rukinga Sanctuary the last place poachers think they can get away with poaching because we have the best intel based on the work we do with local communities, so they don’t come in the first place, and
  2. keeping our rangers out of the firing line if and when they do come.

That was always the mission of the Navy Seals: to help us deploy technologies that could further deter poachers and to train our rangers to avoid any more fatal contacts. The producers of the show introduced the drama of the gun vs. no-gun conflict to make the show more interesting to a US audience, though the Kenyan Government was never going to allow the Seals to bring firearms into the country. In doing so, they had to make our own rangers and our management appear incapable to exaggerate the importance of the role of the Seals. While everyone needs help in this ivory war, Wildlife Works is far from incapable, and as the Seals themselves discovered during the month they were there, we and our rangers are in fact very good at what we do.

Once again, thank you to our supporters and viewers for your passion to protect this magnificent species.

Mike Korchinsky
President and Founder of Wildlife Works

The Rescue of Baby Elephant, Mackinnon

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust recently indicated that an orphaned elephant rescued from the Mackinnon region of our project area is thriving under their care.  Mackinnon, as the young elephant has been nicknamed, had somehow become separated from his family and ventured out of the forest before coming upon the town of Mackinnon, which is known for hostility towards wildlife.  Fortunately, that night the area chief came upon the stray elephant and immediately called our security department.

 Our team rangers Ijema and Eregae looking after Mackinnon at Rukinga

Our team rangers Ijema and Eregae looking after Mackinnon at Rukinga

Usually during such a scenario, plans are swiftly made in collaboration with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to airlift the elephant to an orphanage in Nairobi, but since night had fallen, the only possible solution was for our wildlife rangers to safeguard the young elephant until daybreak.

Then with the help of wildlife veterinarians from the David Sheldrick team stationed in Voi, Mackinnon was moved to a Wildlife Works rangers’ camp in Taita Ranch to await his journey to Nairobi the following morning.

The baby elephant getting ready to be airlifted to Nairobi at David Shedrick's Wildlife Trust

The baby elephant getting ready to be airlifted to Nairobi at David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust

Rangers at the Taita Ranch kept the young elephant on a healthy diet of formula milk throughout the night.  Early the following morning, the elephant was transitioned to our base station at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, which has easier access to an airstrip.  Here he would spend a few more hours until foggy weather cleared, and a flight to Nairobi was deemed safe enough to attempt.

A ranger from David Sheldrick's Wildlife Trust, feeding baby Mackinnon with milk at Rukinga

A ranger from David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust, feeding baby Mackinnon with milk at Rukinga

The trust, known for taking in orphaned elephants and black rhinos, has seen an upsurge in the number of young elephants they are called upon to rescue.  This unfortunate development can be attributed to an increase in poaching cases within the country’s wildlife sanctuaries.  If a baby elephant is left without a parent to care for it, the rest of the herd is forced to leave it behind.

 Kamui our Ranger having a good time with a friendly baby elephant Mackinnon

Kamui our Ranger having a good time with a friendly baby elephant Mackinnon

Baby elephant, Mackinnon just after it had been transported from Mackinnon area to Rukinga

Baby elephant, Mackinnon just after it had been transported from Mackinnon area to Rukinga

Mutual collaboration among wildlife conservationists operating in the area ensures that such elephants are rescued in time; before they become ensnared in a poachers trap or wander into a wildlife unfriendly area. It is this level of cooperation among Wildlife Works, Kenya Wildlife Service and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that has consistently ensured that orphaned and vulnerable elephants around the Kasigau Corridor are rescued and nurtured till they are old enough to fend for themselves in the bush. Indeed, many elephants rescued by the Trust reach maturity and are released into the Tsavo East National Park to form new families or get adopted by existing herds. However, the survival rate of elephants rescued prior to teething is unpredictable, as this is a time when they rely heavily on their mother’s milk and antibodies. The level of trauma young elephants suffer before they are rescued also becomes a major determinant of their survival rate.

Mackinnon displays few signs of trauma and we’re optimistic that he will surpass this critical stage and flourish into a miraculous creature to enter the Kenyan wild once again.

African Wild Dogs in Rukinga

To effectively protect the wildlife in our project area, the Wildlife Works biodiversity monitoring team and rangers employ several strategies to ensure all species present are safely maintained and to record data for referencing purposes. Some ways used to monitor the wildlife include ranger patrols, road transects and camera traps, which are set by the biodiversity team.


Den of African Wild dogs at the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project

A lion approaches the den of the pups

A lion approaches the den of the pups

Wildlife Works rangers, on the other hand, document data of the wildlife they encounter on the ranches whilst on security patrols. Combined, these methods of supervising the wellbeing of our wildlife, has proven effective at uncovering important information on some of the most rare wildlife in the world.

Recently, one of the cameras set by the biodiversity monitoring team captured remarkable images of a pack of 10 African Wild Dogs, eight of which were puppies. This was the fifth time that African Wild Dogs have been spotted in our project area in the span of a year.


African Wild Dog pups

The international Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Wild Dog as an endangered species and the sighting of a den in Rukinga is very advantageous to our conservation efforts. It is estimated that the global population of the African Wild Dog is around 6,600 dispersed over 39 subpopulations, with anywhere from 6 to 276 wild dogs in each subpopulation. Other reports of the African Wild Dog in Kenya have been made in Laikipia and Maasai Mara.

A lion approaches the den at night

A lion approaches the den at night

Infectious diseases, habitat fragmentation, accidental killing by snares set by small game poachers, natural predators and conflict with human activities form the majority of threats on this rare population. Wildlife Works, in conjunction with the local community, hopes to conserve the species in our project area from deprivation. To achieve this, we provide the local community with sustainable and alternative sources of income, which keeps humans from encroaching on the wildlife sanctuaries.

With the support from all our stakeholders, we strive to protect the species of African Wild Dogs as well as all other wildlife that inhabit the Kasigau Corridor.


Wild Dog and pups outside their den

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About Wildlife Works Carbon:

Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests.

Over a 15 year history Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets to protect threatened forests, wildlife, and communities.

The company helps local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals.


Protecting + Forests + Wildlife + Community since 1997.

Wildlife Works is the world's leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world's forests.