TWIGA TRACKERS

The Twiga Trackers Project started as a collaboration among the Biocultural Conservation Institute, North Carolina State University, and the Biocultural Conservation Centre. One of the project partners has changed with the move of Lisa MIlls from NCSU to the University of Montana.

Twiga Trackers is designed to engage Maasai youth through learning about giraffe and other wildlife that live on their tribal lands, allowing them to gain an understanding of the Greater Amboseli Ecosystem. The participants are taught basic giraffe ecology and trained in the use of handheld GPS, Grinnell Journaling, handheld camera, camera trapping, tracking, plant identification, and conservation principles.

The pilot project tested education materials and giraffe population monitoring protocol using photo and geolocation data for individual identification of giraffe for a baseline giraffe survey in the local area. 

Project Goals:

  • Promote the importance of giraffe conservation on the international stage.

  • Secure viable and protect existing habitats for giraffe and other wildlife.

  • Research to better understand giraffe ecology, conservation, and management.

  • Address key threats to giraffe and find innovative ways to mitigate threats.

  • Work collaboratively with local communities to develop a sustainable future for both people and wildlife.

  • Build tolerance, pride, and ownership within the Maasai community for the wildlife that inhabit their lands.

  • Teach marketable wildlife-monitoring skills to Maasai youth.

Mission:  To provide opportunity for local community engagement of Maasai youth and educators in the study of giraffe and their ecosystem on Maasai community ranch lands west of Amboseli National Park, Kenya. 

Vision:  To empower local community youth through education and training focused on learning about and monitoring Maasai giraffe populations, their habitat, and related conservation actions in which youth and their communities can get involved.  Youth will contribute to the scientific study and monitoring of giraffe populations and the ecosystem. 

Youth are expected to gain skills in the use of binoculars, cameras for photo identification of giraffe, and GPS units.  Maasai youth, who may view themselves as outside of the conservation community, will be engaged to become a part of the giraffe conservation community of the region.

The conservation education outreach program at the University of Montana's College of Forestry & Conservation engages communities across the globe in youth education, citizen science and local capacity building around wildlife and natural resource issues.

Collaborating with the University of Montana offers sustainable support and program leadership at the local level, assistance with educational content development and technical training, and resources that may not be possible otherwise to access at the local level (such as GIS mapping and educational project content and program development).  

The giraffe of the Amboseli Ecosystem are largely understudied, yet this iconic animal can both inspire conservation action and provide a readily observable population that can be studied by local citizens and youth with simple tools and observations. With the recent decline of giraffe across Africa, the opportunity to engage local communities in education and citizen science that will lead to conservation action is vital for the species. There is a huge need to engage Maasai people at the local level in the monitoring and protection of wildlife outside of the national parks and protected areas of the region. Without local support, giraffe and other species are at great risk for long-term population survival. Giraffe in the region are under pressure from agricultural development, poaching, and many other factors. Education is an effective tool in species conservation. The simple structure of the Twiga Trackers Project is adaptable to other wildlife populations and communities across Africa.