Mara Elephant Project took part in this year’s Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) in Rwanda, an invitation-only event that brought together top African leaders, philanthropists, policymakers, innovators and students in the conservation space to discuss ways of investing in wildlife and their habitats to derive economic and cultural value for Africans.
Fred Swaniker, chairman of the African Leadership University (ALU) located in Kigali best summed up the focus of the two-day event, “over the next couple of days, you will see conversations revolving around facts and figures that we can really use to back up why nature is important to man.” Specifically, results from the 2023 Wildlife Economy Investment Index (WEII) were presented by the African Leadership University School of Wildlife Conservation Director of Research Dr. Sue Synman, providing insights into a country’s attractiveness and potential for investment in the wildlife economy.
During the conference, MEP CEO Marc Goss and Deputy Chairman Kevin Rodrigues led a popular session that addressed how advanced drone and conservation technology training provide skills that support viable employment opportunities for men and woman in or out of the conservation space. Technology plays an important role in protecting and growing the wildlife economy and MEP invests in training our rangers and researchers to use the latest technology to address threats to elephants.
“The presentation highlighted the brilliant work that MEP is doing in the Mara, integrating technology for conservation. They demonstrated that it is easy, cheap, and accurate. We need to integrate technology into conservation.”Community Relations Officer at Wildlife Works Joseph Mwakima
The conference highlighted the efforts by many conservation organizations to appeal to the next generation of indigenous conservationists. Many of the conversations during the sessions revolved around how to make conservation appealing to the next generation and ensure that people are not deterred from pursuing it as a vocation. “We need to change our thinking in how we address the threats to elephants and their habitats,” says MEP CEO Marc Goss. “Our staff are young, and their attitudes towards wildlife are shifting as they gain more training to master skills that provide them with advanced employment opportunities not only in the conservation space. They are no longer saying, ‘I want to work for MEP because I want to protect elephants,’ but instead view this job as a great opportunity to advance their careers.”
Empowering women to join the male dominated conservation space was an underlying theme of the conference. The Dianne Skinner Unsung Hero in Conservation Award was presented to Norah Njiraini from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, a partner of MEP. Her conservation career and dedication to saving endangered species has carved a path for women in the conservation field.
Actress and activist Danai Gurira spoke about bringing more women to the table, “because we sat on the sidelines power-wise, forever, our focus and our willingness to give it our all when we make the decision to pursue something and we push through for that opportunity, is nothing to be taken lightly.” The conference also featured UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity Edward Norton who spoke about his passion to see communities and governments gain more from conservation-focused businesses.
Mara Elephant Project was honored to participate and exchange ideas with the over 300 others at BCC and is committed to contributing efforts to build resilient and sustainable wildlife economies.