We’re delighted to introduce our Friend of the Month for June, Donatus Gadiye. Donatus is Elephant Monitoring Coordinator in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). The EPI Foundation has recently begun providing technical advice to the NCAA on human-elephant conflict (HEC).
Donatus - please tell us a little bit about yourself…where in Tanzania are you from, and were you interested in wildlife growing up as a child?
I was born in Karatu in the region of Arusha 47 years ago. I grew up in a village bordering Ngorongoro's Northern Highland Forest Reserve (NHFR). When I was young wildlife like elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, wild dogs, just to mention a few, were common. I wasn't so happy with the jackals, honey badgers and hyenas because they'd steal my chicken and piglets. When I was at secondary school, we had a class trip to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. It changed my life. I started to learn about wildlife behaviour, and its cultural, social and economic importance. After school, I joined a tour guiding school in Arusha. I applied for a ranger's position with Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). They accepted me, and positioned me inside Ngorongoro Crater to monitor black rhinos. Later, I was sent to monitor elephants in and around the NCAA. That’s the job I still do today, and I love it.
What are your main responsibilities?
I monitor the movement of elephants, establish the home ranges of families and individuals, study the demography of elephants and quantify the magnitude of Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) while suggesting and implementing the best mitigation measures.
Across Africa, we’ve been talking a lot recently about a growth in HEC. From your own experience, do you think HEC is actually increasing? Or are we just talking about it more?
In my area HEC is REAL. People are losing their crops, injuries and death to humans are becoming common and we have seen retaliatory killings by people of elephants, using spears and poison. In recent years, Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) has become almost disconnected from Lake Manyara National Park. Former elephant corridors have been turned into farms and elephants have lost their migratory routes.
And…what do you feel are the most effective responses to HEC?
The best options are: educate people about the importance of conservation of elephants, open up migratory corridors and stop encroachment, erect fences (chili, beehives and electric) in areas already occupied by humans, and also locate all HEC hotspots and make frequent visits to contain elephants within the park. Finally, when we have GPS collared elephants, we can see which ones are approaching community areas, and send the rangers to respond timely.
You work in one of the most precious wildlife areas in all of Africa. What do you enjoy most about your job, and are you optimistic about the future of Ngorongoro?
I feel privileged to work with Ngorongoro and help in its conservation. It’s not about the salary, it's about the survival of elephants and other wildlife, and improving people’s lives. I am optimistic that the future of Ngorongoro will be bright, despite the fact that its multiple land use model is in jeopardy.