African Chiefs meet for a ‘Room to Roam’ summit at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park

– The chief official of IFAW stated that the mission is to end poaching, support communities, and rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals back into the wild.

Staff Reporter

Chief Alphius Msindazi Siphoso from Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe on the far left with his counterparts at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park

Nairobi, Kenya (CZ) – Traditional Chiefs from East and Southern Africa recently gathered at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, courtesy of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), to redefine peaceful cohabitation with animals through the “Room to Roam” program.

Amboseli National Park is located 365 kilometers southeast of Nairobi, the country’s capital, and is home to 600 different kinds of birds as well as the leopard, cheetah, wild dogs, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, and zebra.

Lion, Crocodile, Mongoose, Hyrax, Dik- dik, Lesser Kudu, Nocturnal Porcupine are also found in the park

The visiting traditional chiefs from Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were in awe of how the Maasai people of Kenya peacefully coexisted with the roaming wildlife when they landed at the airfield in Amboseli.

Chief Alphius Msindazi Siphoso from Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe, and Senior Chief Felix Lukwa from Kasungu, Malawi’s central area, took the helm of the expedition that would forever change their perception of life in the bush.

It was a dramatic contrast to Chief Lukwa’s own region, where living among nature was only a distant possibility.

“Living beside nature is difficult back home. But here, while on a wildlife drive, we saw herders taking care of their livestock close to herds of peacefully grazing African elephants. It’s simply amazing,” Chief Lukwa exclaimed in amazement.

Chief Siphoso, brought to tears by the peaceful coexistence he saw, found it difficult to put his feelings into words. “I stand humbled,” he said.

“I’m speechless after seeing how these cultures coexist with nature. They live in perfect peace with nature and derive value from tourism-related activities.” He added.

Azzedine Downes, president and chief executive officer of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was aware of the significance of this gathering of traditional leaders from far regions in Amboseli.

He emphasised their crucial role in creating open, culturally informed, and cooperative methods so that humans and wildlife can coexist.

According to Downes, who emphasised their critical role in developing partnerships between humans and animals, “These local leaders collectively represent well over 100,000 individuals living alongside wildlife.”

Downes anticipated that through studying Kenya’s example, the visiting delegations would be motivated to use the conservancy model in their own nations.

The IFAW-organized gathering promoted conversations between the visiting chiefs and prominent Maasai locals about wildlife conservation.

These chiefs made a groundbreaking effort at this summit to engage in open discussions, share the actual problems that their communities were facing, and look into solutions for peaceful cohabitation between people and wildlife.

With a strong emphasis on community engagement, IFAW has been actively supporting conservation programs in each of these nations.

The Kitenden Community Wildlife Conservancy in Amboseli is one such project that stands out as evidence of their dedication.

IFAW secured 26,000 acres of crucial animal habitat in 2013 using a land leasing method to wildlife conservation, and it has plans to lease an additional 29,000 acres in the same ecosystem.

The conservation strategy of IFAW aims to join together dispersed landscapes, giving elephants and other migratory species the freedom to move freely while also empowering local communities to coexist peacefully with them.

Downes stated, “Our mission is to halt poaching, support communities, and rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals back into the wild. Such endeavors can only succeed with unwavering community support.”

Chief Siphoso stressed the need to execute a “Room to Roam” campaign, establishing an area where people and animals can dwell peacefully, echoing the views of the crowd.

“We now have traditional leaders from Botswana and Zambia on board, and we are anxious to learn from the Maasai in Amboseli so that we may duplicate their achievements in our nations. We must learn from their example,” he insisted.

The African Chiefs, encouraged by the Kenyan experience, declared renewed resolve to apply the “Room to Roam” conservation strategy in their communities as they left Amboseli.

As Chief Siphoso noted, “Botswana is our neighbour, and we share the same land zone, so there is a need for cross-border collaboration. We must cooperate, just like Zambia and Malawi must collaborate, given our geographical proximity. It’s imperative.”

In his final remarks, Chief Siphoso emphasised the significance of traditional leaders in conservation efforts, emphasising their close ties to both the community and wildlife, particularly in contrast to politicians who are frequently removed from the issues at hand.

An important lesson learned from their eye-opening meeting in the Amboseli forest, he called attention to the need of protecting elephants in Zimbabwe, not just as a cultural icon but also as a significant factor in reducing climate change.

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