We’ve made a lot progress since the jihadists overran central Mali, and they were eventually pushed out.
The good news is that since September last year the security situation improved in the centre and south of the Gourma. The bad news is that since 27th December the elephants have been targeted by an external, well-organised, criminal poaching and trafficking network – and we have lost 19 elephants. We face an escalating situation and we are mobilizing all our assets and networks.
We supported community leaders to convene meetings focused on community solidarity to combat the insecurity and reintegrate former fighters into their communities (one of which was described in the last blog). Encouraged by this local involvement, the army strategically deployed additional forces and, since September 2014, the security situation improved in the centre and south of the Gourma with fewer attacks and thefts. People are travelling more freely and the markets have reopened.
Local communities of Mali gather together to restore peace
However it is the dry season and the elephants are currently in the remote north of their range, frequenting the small lakes that still contain water. Since the end of December several people in this area have been contacted by mobile phone to act as accomplices in killing elephants. The method has been for 3 people to arrive by motorbike, shooting in the air to disperse local people and livestock before shooting the elephant(s).
Some elephants are changing their behaviour as a result. Some herds are clumping together (which makes them more vulnerable) and fleeing the area. One large herd with many babies has been trying to find water in areas they used to frequent decades ago before they were displaced by increasing human settlement. Unfortunately these areas now contain little surface water and the project has sent brigade members to warn these communities and inform them how to avoid conflict with elephants.
However at the base of this situation is the ongoing insecurity in the Gourma. Life cannot return to normal until people can live without fear of attack and robbery. As the community meetings show, there is enormous willingness among the local population to do what they can. We have mobilised a response to this most recent development that has already stemmed the killings but working in the insecure north of the elephant range needs substantial resources, and the project is looking for partners to help in its mission to restore security for both people and elephants.
- About the Mali Elephant Project
- The Guardian: Elephant deaths in Mali blamed on poaching by extremist groups
- ABC News: At least 19 Malian elephants killed by poachers
- BBC: Poaching in northern Mali threatens rare elephant