About Tears of the African Elephant




2019.01.21 BLOG

About Tears of the African Elephant


Coexistence between Humans and the African Elephants
Every 15 minutes, African Elephants are killed for their ivory. With this rate they will not be around on earth in the next 10 years.


Jambo! This is Asuka Takita and Airi Yamawaki. We are two Japanese who grew up in Kenya and South Africa. The year 2012 was the worse year for the African elephant in the recent years where 10% of the entire elephant population was lost to rampant poaching. It was this year that we came to realization that our young children may not see any wild elephants when they grow up if we did not take any action against ivory demand in Asia, especially in our birth country Japan. To promote the reduction of ivory demand, we registered our own NGO Tears of the African Elephants (TAE) in Japan as well as in Kenya.

We operate projects in both in Kenya and Japan. In Kenya we work with the local Maasai community to ensure coexistence between humans and elephants through our conservation projects. In Japan we are pushing to phase out the legal domestic ivory market and to create a future non-ivory generation through our ivory awareness programs. We hope Japan will not remain to be the stronghold for the ivory market and that we can join the worldwide move to ban the ivory trade once and for all.

We appreciate all of TAE’s supporters who made it possible us to launch exciting conservation projects in both countries and we look forward to working together!

Detection Dog Unit

The detection dog unit comprises of trained working dogs capable of searching for specific item in a designated area and their handlers. The team can search for specific scents and we use our dogs to search for ivory and firearms.

In 2013, Tears of the African Elephant donated two ivory/firearms detection dogs Gage and Garvey to the Mara Conservancy. We continue to support their up-keeping on yearly basis through our supporters’ generous donations.

Source of Terrorism Funds

Poachers kill elephants and rhinos for two reasons. One is for sales of meat and skin for consumption purposes which happens in smaller scale. Another is for sale of ivory and horns for commercial purposes. Ivory and rhino horn can fetch large sums of money in the black market and its proceed is even known to support terrorist activities across African continent.

Illegal guns

The use of illegal guns remains the most common method used for poaching of large pachyderms. The guns are hidden in the bush or hidden inside the car during poaching. Tusks from the elephants and rhino horns are also buried by the poachers once the animal has been killed, giving the them time to strategize their next move and to come back to the site weeks after the incident when security forces are gone.

Searching for Ivory and Poachers

Since 2008 Mara Conservancy has been using tracking dogs to arrest poachers in the difficult terrain where visual search remains challenge. In addition to the tracker dog unit, TAE supported the launch of ivory detection dogs by importing trained dogs from the USA to strengthen the canine unit. The detection dogs are used to search for the hidden firearms and ivory in the vehicle and suspicions premises.

Search for the Illegal Firearms

The expenses of the canine unit include: dog food, veterinary drugs, dog equipments, as well as other operational costs such as handler salary, uniform, and vehicle maintenance. We have been fundraising for the canine unit to sustain the canine work in the Mara since we have donated the two dogs.

Anti-poaching patrol alone cannot save the African elephant from the fate of extinction. In order to ensure the coexistence between the magnificent giants and humans we need to consider the livelihood of the local Maasai people living adjacent to the park where elephants often stray out of the protected area. We have launched several Nyakweri forest coexistence projects in order to ensure coexistence between humans, elephants and the forest itself.

Crop raiding elephants
Maize is the staple diet and most widely eaten crop across the African continent.  It also happens to be elephant’s favourite crop.  A herd of elephants poses threat to farmers as it can easily destroy the entire season harvest of maize in just one night.  Hence rural people in Africa often see elephants as pest that destroy their crops and some even go further and poach elephants in an attempt to minimize the loss and at the same time gain some money.  Pastoralist changing their lifestyle from nomadic to sedentary lifestyle where they engage themselves in agriculture has contributed greatly to the increase in human wildlife conflict.
Deforestation by the local community

Nyakweri forest has been a sacred forest for Maasai people. It is located between villages and the wildlife protected area hence providing safe refuge and maternity grounds for the elephants. The fate of this magnificent forest have been under threat due to rampant charcoal burning in recent years.

The research has shown that African elephants instinctively avoid bees in the wild. This concept was used by Dr. Lucy Kings to come up with idea of using beehives as elephant deterrent fence. We have borrowed her idea in the Mara and started the beehive fence project. The project also aims to support local community to benefit from the sale of the harvested honey from the project beehives as alternative to charcoal burning.

Mara Sora (Sky) Project
This project aims to assist the Mara Conservancy ranger team from the air as well as making the canine training and veterinary care more effective by reducing the travel time.

From the Ground Eye View
Mara Triangle is vast. There are million places within the Triangle where we cannot access with vehicle due to rough terrain such as rocky hills, luggae, river/stream and thick forests. There are so many incidents that goes unnoticed from the ground because of these physical barrier.

Crop Raiding Elephants
Elephants straying out from the park to the surrounding community continues to be major problem for the coexistence. Herd destroys farmer’s crops overnight, block boreholes and these directly leads to angered retaliation attack using spears and sometimes poisons.

Eyes in the Sky!
Our vet Asuka recently acquired her pilot license and she will be soaring above the Mara savannah. This will enable her to reach the faraway rangers station to train and treat her working dogs. She will be on a lookout for injured animal, poaching signs from the air when she is flying around the Mara to aid the rangers.

Bring the Elephants Back!
Observing elephant herd from the sky allows us to alert our ranger team of herd that strays outside the park especially during harvest time.