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Kenya's animal detectives

September 12, 2018

Africa's elephants are on the road to extinction. Faye Cuevas founded the tenBonma project to secure their future by stopping poachers before they kill the animals. And that involves a lot of detective work.

Two elephants walk at the Maasai Mara National Reserve Kenya
Image: Imago/Xinhua

Kenya: Espionage in the service of animals

Project goal: tenBoma uses detective work to stop animal poachers and smugglers before they become active
Project implementation: tenBoma connects local communities to regional and international agencies. In Kenya, the wildlife service and community rangers are trained to collect and analyze data to help predict a poacher's next strike
Project partners: The Kenya Wildlife Service, rangers, local communities in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, non-profit agencies, NGOs, national and international law enforcement agencies

Stopping elephant poachers and smugglers before they kill. That's the aim of tenBoma, a project established by the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW), in Kenya. tenBoma means ten houses, a name derived from the African philosophy that if ten houses look out for each other, the wider community is safer.

To save highly endangered elephants, the project is training local rangers to become data analysts. Their job is to comb through information on poachers collected by the Kenyan Wildlife Services. They're also working closely with local communities such as the Maasai. 

If they're successful, they'll help boost Africa's dwindling elephant population and the rangers will encounter fewer dangerous situations when they're patrolling. Project founder, Faye Cuevas sees the work as a calling. If we do nothing, elephants will die out, says the lawyer.

A film by Bettina Thoma