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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

Coordinating Efforts Towards Protecting African Elephants

Updated: Mar 25

In theme with women’s month, our friend for March is Susan Mutua (Suzzi), the Africa Program Coordinator at the NGO Elephant Cooperation where she oversees Africa operations, partner communications and community initiatives, in conjunction with the head office in California, USA.


Elephant Cooperation raises awareness of the African Elephant crisis and supports other conservation organisations. Suzzi is an active voice in Kenyan conservation. When she's not working, she dedicates her time to her family, rescuing and rehoming dogs, and gardening.


Susan with the actor Edward Norton, Magical Kenya’s Tembo Naming Ambassador to Kenya

 

 Tell us more about where you are from, your background, and how it may have influenced your passion for conservation.

 

I grew up in the village in Yatta - which is in Machakos, Kenya. My mother brought us up with a soft spot for animals, whether it was a stray cat or dog or a cow, we cherished them and took care of them. She would tell stories of the wildlife that would come through our small farm in the earlier years of them settling there - rhinos, leopards, dik dik, wild pigs and buffalo - even the occasional lion or leopard. We had never seen any of them because more people had settled in the area. It felt bad knowing that humans, including my family had settled in their space and it was inevitable. But then who was going to protect animals?

 

When I was in high school, I dreamt of becoming a game warden, as they were called at that time. Back then, opportunities in that field for women were very limited. So, I pursued other careers still having the aspiration to one day work with wildlife on the back burner. The dream and passion for protecting wildlife is very personal to me because I want my children and grandchildren to be able to see and appreciate and protect all living things big and small. Hopefully, they can continue to advocate for animal rights as they grow up.

 

What are some of your most memorable experiences working to protect elephants in Kenya?

 

Being part of the team in the translocation of elephants to help prevent Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) is an experience that gives me so much gratification because I know that I have helped both the community and elephants in a way that ensures both are unharmed and happy. Working with communities that live within or on the borders of wildlife areas and educating them about elephants, their importance to the circle of life and knowing that the elephants were here first is very important.



Handing over borehole water project to the people of Kamuthe in Garissa, Kenya

 

Of all the initiatives that Elephant Cooperation has pioneered, which is closest to your heart, and why?

 

Working with communities is closest to my heart. We no longer fight Human Wildlife Conflict. We teach Human Wildlife Coexistence. When you teach children from a very young age to love and protect wildlife, it becomes part of their life, and they live in harmony. Elephant Cooperation has been able to help with sustainable problem-solving projects for the communities.

 

In your experience coordinating conservation projects across Africa, what are some of the barriers you have faced from a community or social level when it comes to protecting the African elephant?

 

The biggest challenge is protecting the elephants where you have a farming community. When elephants raid farms, they might be killed. Most of the farmers are small scale farmers and eke out a subsistence living. These are the communities that need most understanding that we, humans encroached land where elephants used to live. This should be relayed diplomatically and strategically and at the same time offering solutions to all parties affected.

 


Inaugural handover of food for Kenya Wildlife Service ranger support feeding programme in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic

 

Looking ahead on a personal level, what are your dreams and ambitions for the conservation of Kenya’s elephants?  


I would love to see newer technology being applied in protecting elephants. The use of drones in monitoring elephant activity and warding them off  farms and human settlements has been one of the successful projects Elephant Cooperation has funded at Mara Elephant Project. We need to provide more of this technology to more areas. I would also love to see the population of Kenya’s elephants grow to about 50,000, through encouraging Human Elephant co-existence.



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