By Will Swanson
Communities that have bought into conservation and tourism risk losing it all to 'new breed of poachers'.
On the busy tarmac of the Kajiado Airstrip at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Fiesta Warinwa - the African Wildlife Foundation's Kenya director - is smiling.
An animal census is under way and aircraft from all over Kenya and Tanzania are counting elephants and other large mammals found in the Amboseli and Kilimanjaro regions.
"Am I optimistic? My answer would be 'yes,'" said Warinwa. "In terms of population stability for the elephants, I think they're very stable."
It is a rare victory in the fight for wildlife conservation. The Amboseli ecosystem is bucking a mortifying trend of declining big game numbers throughout much of Africa's wilderness.
Elsewhere, Kenya has not been immune to the war on Africa's wildlife. In 2012, 384 elephants were slain, many rhinos have been slaughtered for their horns, and as recently as October this year, a four-tonne shipment of ivory was intercepted by authorities in Mombasa.
When the price is right, it's a white gold rush for those willing to take the risks involved. Communities that live side-by-side with wildlife are facing a choice between the sometimes fickle promises of tourism, or the short-term cash bonanza from poaching.
Traditionally, those most prone to poaching have been people with little means of making a legitimate income. More....