The return of significant numbers of elephants to the Shompole and Olkiramatian community lands speaks to the success of the community-based conservation efforts ongoing in this area. This story is best told in the words of Albert Kuseyo, a community member, leader and former elephant research assistant:
‘When I was growing up in this area we only ever heard about elephants and rhinos. Back then there were not many of these animals and they were not safe. Over time they disappeared from this area. Maybe they ran away and maybe they were also being poached. All we were left with were stories. Very few people could say they have seen them with their own eyes. But now, thirty years or so later, elephants are back.
The first research work I was involved with was with Marissa Ahlering who came here to study elephants, but we rarely saw any elephants, just their tracks and signs. In fact, in the two years she was here we only saw elephants on two occasions and they were very afraid of us. This was in the year 2007, and now today we see elephants regularly and in every corner of our land.
We are not sure why this is but it might be because they feel that this is now a safe space, protected by us, the local community and the area has connections that can use across the landscape. It seems they feel free in this area since they are behaving more and more like they are less and less afraid. As a community we now get to see the elephants, and be proud to show our visitors these animals.
It makes me feel proud that my children can now see these animals rather than just hearing about them and shows that as a community the decision we took to be actively engaged in conservation has had results. The only thing that worries me is that in general we are not sure about how to live with elephants, and especially how to handle situations when they come close to our homes or even raid our farms. We will welcome support and ideas for how to live with the consequences of our success.’