Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Social Media Creating Social Change: Mara Triangle

In January of 2001, local leaders in southwestern Kenya created The Mara Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the protection of The Mara Triangle, a 510 sq km (197 sq miles) National Reserve that is home to the Masai people and game such as lions, elephants, cheetahs, hippopotami, black rhinos, and of course the zebras and wildebeest that comprise the Great Migration each year. In the years that followed, the rangers dedicated to Mara virtually ended poaching in the area, built more than 150km of roads, and saw the lion population swell by more than 50 percent. Their successes served as a boon to the region, which became a hot spot for travelers on safari.

However, post-election violence in Kenya erupted late in 2007 and created a catastrophic collapse of the tourism industry (90% drop since January 2008). Without this vital source of revenue crucial park operations, including anti-poaching and de-snaring patrols, are severely hindered in the Mara. Without a new source of funding, these services will soon cease.

No Tourists = No Funding = No Protection for Mara Wildlife

Thankfully, Joseph Kimojino, head of tourism and anti-animal harassment for the Mara Conservancy, has refused to bow to pressures. Using a variety of social media applications, he is brilliantly connecting with his audience and engaging them in the stories and challenges of the rangers in the Mara Triangle.

On a daily basis, they are posting updates and stories to a WordPress blog about the activity of the wildlife and the increasing numbers of poachers their weakened patrols have captured. A comprehensive photo gallery lives on Flickr while Vimeo is home to an impressive video channel. With each update, Twitter followers and Facebook friends are notified and kept abreast of the latest.

It doesn't take a lot of money to build an audience and to make an impact. It takes passion, authenticity, and solid strategy. I'm extremely impressed by Joseph and The Mara Triangle on each. I sent my donation today. I hope you do the same. Support The Mara Triangle.

Wildebeest Crossing the Mara River into Mara Triangle from Joseph Kimojino on Vimeo.

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