The Amboseli landscape covers an area of approximately 5,700 Km² stretching between Mt. Kilimanjaro, Chyulu Hills, Tsavo West National Park and the Kenya/Tanzania border. The area is generally arid to semi-arid with a very small variation in its agro-ecological zones and is more suitable for pastoralism rather than cultivation with a high potential for conservation of wildlife and tourism enterprises. Administratively, the Amboseli ecosystem consists of Amboseli National Park and the surrounding six group ranches. The six group ranches namely: Kimana,/Tikondo, Kuku, Olgulului/Olalarrashi, Imbirikani, Kuku, and Eselenkei cover an area of about 506,329 hectares in Loitokitok district. It also includes the former 48 individual ranches located at the foot slope of Kilimanjaro that are now under crop production, mainly rain fed agriculture.
Where the Transrift typifies the arid and semi-arid lands making up 70% of Kenya, Amboseli typifies the problems facing national parks under government jurisdiction. Kenya’s protected areas cover less than 8% of its land surface but account for over 70% of Kenya’s tourism income. Amboseli is one of Kenya’s premier parks both in terms of biodiversity conservation and tourist visitation. Therefore the problems and solutions in Amboseli are used for building national capacity and policies applicable to national parks and reserves, as well as local, NGO and tourism and wildlife industries around parks.
Both pastoralists and wildlife share the same ecosystem and shadow each others movements through the season. The tightly bound ecology makes it impossible to set aside sufficient space for an ecologically viable national park without marginalizing pastoralists. Recognizing this problem, ACC’s work over the years has focused on reconciling the interests of people and wildlife through an integrated ecosystem approach that maintain abundance and resilience of wildlife populations to the benefit of pastoral communities. The Amboseli Research and Conservation Programme (ARCP) that established ACC has worked continuously in the area since 1967. During that time, ARCP and ACC laid the foundation for Kenya’s integrated ecosystem approach to parks and community-based conservation. The many innovations that developed out of ARCP/ACC research and conservation programs included revenue-sharing, wildlife associations, community wildlife sanctuaries, community scouts and ecotourism enterprises.
Despite these positive developments, many new threats common to parks throughout East Africa face Amboseli. These include demographic and socio-economic transition, sedentarization and land fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict and inequitable distribution of wildlife income. These factors are at root of intensifying drought, growing conflict between wildlife, livestock and agriculture, and a rapid decline in biodiversity in the park.
ACC’s goal in Amboseli is to strengthen and support the practices, policies and institutions that maintain the productivity and ecological resilience of pastoral communities and savanna ecosystems while diversifying rangeland economies and providing new opportunities off the land. To achieve this, ACC and other stakeholder have developed Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan 2008-2018 to address these conservation and livelihood challenges. The management plan aims at maintaining ecosystem integrity and enhancing the ecosystem’s benefits to the local community in view of increasing environmental threats facing the local community, their livestock and wildlife.
Map showing the South Rift landscape