Space for Giants is a conservation organisation working across 10 countries in Africa to protect the African elephant, and to restore the country’s remaining wildlife and the natural landscape. Since its establishment 10 years ago, the conservation group has taken a number of measures to combat wildlife poaching, promote natural ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods of local farming communities.
Illegal elephant poaching remains to be a salient problem in Africa, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries’ security and monitoring forces have been diverted towards the health sector and efforts to combat the pandemic. Taking advantage of the situation, poachers have been making easy access to less protected areas.
Today, only 415,000 African elephants remain. Despite anti-poaching efforts, the animal is also experiencing the loss of their habitats as land development continues to expand. This creates more competition for resources for local farming communities and wildlife, leading to conflicts over the shared landscape and endangering both humans and animals. There’s a need for better This is where Space for Giants comes in.
Training and Enforcement
One of the biggest missions of Space for Giants is to pay, train and equip wildlife rangers to better protect the remaining wildlife and elephant populations in the countries that they work in, deploying intelligence-led tactics and operations.
The organisation also works closely with national governments to drive change in anti-poaching legislations for greater deterrence. Significant attention and efforts are also invested in academic research and data collection to create practical solutions to conserve and expand natural ecosystems, building strategic fences to cut crop-raiding, and secure critical elephant habitats.
Image 1: The West Laikipia Fencing Project in action. Photo: Maurice Schutgens
In April 2021, Space for Giants, in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service, helped move 49 elephants across fences in Kenya to deter the herds away from local smallholder farms. The crops from these farms are the sole income source for many farming families especially in the wake of the pandemic disrupting their livelihoods.
The African elephant drive was one of the major milestones of the West Laikipia Fencing Project, which offers a solution to mitigate the human-elephant conflict prevalent in the area after the migration of elephants onto the Laikipia plateau in the 1960s.
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Working with Heads of States
The Giant’s Club is an initiative started by Space for Giants that works directly with the heads of states and leaders of major businesses to create high-impact policies and create wildlife economies. Participating members include the presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Kenya, and Uganda – home to half of Africa’s savannah elephants and half of its forest elephants.
Image 2: African elephant herds hydrating in their protected habitats.
Conservation Efforts Realised
In 2020, by creating and maintaining 237km of fences across Kenya, Uganda, Gabon and Botswana, the organisation helped protect the livelihoods of 245,491 farmers and people. They also helped train 160 rangers and scouts, 154 prosecutors and judicial officers across four countries.
Over the 10 year period, Space for Giants has managed to help cut illegal animal poaching by 84% in the Laikipia county of Kenya. Wildlife crime prosecution rates have also surged from 24% up to 90%.
However, much more work needs to be done as well as monitored as the African elephant have been known to challenge the fences.
Featured image by Bobby Neptune; courtesy of Space For Giants