An exciting, multi-faceted new project led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is about to begin in southern Tanzania, and STEP is honoured to be a partner in the component covering elephant conservation in Ruaha National Park. Last Wednesday, 10th December 2014, STEP Director Dr. Trevor Jones participated in the official launch at Ruaha River Lodge, attended by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism Hon. Lazaro Nyalandu, and the US Ambassador to Tanzania, Hon. Mark Childress.
The broader project is called SHARPP, or the Southern Highlands and Ruaha-Katavi Protection Programme. It is a five-year project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), that will be implemented by WCS in collaboration with the government, local non-governmental organisations, and local communities. As the name suggests, SHARPP covers a huge geographical area (110,000 km2) and will focus on four key components: Wildlife Management Areas, livelihoods, habitat conservation, and elephant monitoring and protection.
STEP has been sub-granted by WCS to carry out elephant monitoring, research and surveillance work within Ruaha National Park, and to work with communities to promote co-existence with wildlife around the Park, over the next three years. During the presentations to the Honourable Minister and Ambassador, STEP’s Dr. Jones outlined some of the aims and activities of our program. The monitoring and research work will build on our existing program, and make use of our developing elephant ID database. One of our top protection-related priorities is to develop a system of surveillance of elephant poaching hotspots, using cutting-edge camera-trapping and other detection technology. If we can raise additional match funding, the terrestrial surveillance program will be complemented and supported from the air by the STEP pilot team, in collaboration with the Park ranger force.
STEP is delighted to be partnering with WCS and USAID to contribute to this critical work, and we can’t wait to get started in the New Year!