By Geoff Livingston
You may be familiar with the Animal Planet reality TV show, “Ivory Wars.” In it, rangers fend off local and Somali poachers seeking to kill elephants for their ivory. However, the rangers do much more than just protect elephants.
The 81 rangers working in the Kenya Kasigau Corridor are employed by REDD+ Project manager Wildlife Works. The project encourages sustainable living through new eco-friendly career opportunities and solutions for the many citizens living here.
Audi supports Wildlife Works and the REDD+ Project as part of its carbon offset program that compensates for the manufacturing and first 50,000 gas-driving miles of the new A3 e-tron. Audi sent me as part of the larger VIVA Creative film crew to document the incredible work taking place.
We spent seven days in the company of Joseph, community manager for Wildlife Works, as well as Bernard and Evans, the two Wildlife Works Rangers pictured below. I was impressed by their work, their passion for the wildlife in the Project area, and the danger they face from poachers. A poaching incident occurred on my last day in Kenya, and the pain was evident on their faces.
Their responsibilities extend well beyond protecting elephants. Here, trees are as precious as the wildlife. Rangers seek to stop people from slash-and-burn farming and others from cutting down the trees for charcoal. Deforestation is a primary driver of rising CO2 levels and also creates the loss of habitat for many of the indigenous species.
Many animals other than elephants call Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor home, including lions, giraffes, baboons, buffalo and zebras. These animals are present throughout the wildlife preserve, randomly appearing every day as you traverse the land.
There are valid reasons behind the poaching and deforestation. People need to earn a living, and some methods of doing that include selling ivory, creating charcoal from the trees, and using the land for farms. However, not even the latter is sustainable, as within a few years the soil loses its nutrients and cannot yield crops.
Wildlife Works looks to offer new financial alternatives to these people. A wide range of opportunities exist, including teaching women how to start their own arts and crafts businesses; sharing new job opportunities such as protecting the land; providing education to the next generation; and teaching people alternative methods of producing charcoal and farming.
The Wildlife Works Ranger team fits within this larger context by not only protecting the land and wildlife, but also providing jobs and giving people an opportunity to change the environment and their local communities.
Women have joined the Wildlife Works Ranger staff in its efforts to protect the Kasigau Corridor, namely through loosely knit associations of women entrepreneurs. These women are part of a larger effort in the Corridor to invest more in women, who, in turn, reinvest their earnings and experience with their families and surrounding community.
The Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project area is enjoying the prospects of a brighter future thanks to the many revitalization and entrepreneurship programs occurring in the region. In many ways, the Ranger uniform is the iconic representation of the new way of life brought about by Audi’s carbon offset program. Stay tuned for more details when the Audi documentary comes out this fall.
Disclosures: Audi paid me to visit Africa and capture content as part of a larger documentary that will be released this fall. Audi supports Wildlife Works as part of a carbon offset program that compensates for the manufacturing and first 50,000 gas-driving miles of the new A3 e-tron.
All photographs by the author, Geoff Livingston.
A former journalist, Geoff Livingston continues to write, and has authored four books. Most recently he published his first novel “Exodus” in 2013, co-authored “Marketing in the Round,” and wrote the social media primer “Welcome to the Fifth Estate.” Professionally, Geoff founded Tenacity5 Media, a marketing consultancy serving companies and nonprofits. He has advised more than 10 members of the Fortune 500.