After a life-changing holiday in Kenya, Mike Korchinsky founded Wildlife Works with a simple but powerful idea: protecting endangered wildlife requires balancing the needs of the wildlife with the need for work in those rural towns. Mike saw first-hand the cycle of violence between the rangers, poachers and animals that prevented any chance for long-term, sustainable solutions for the communities at stake, and he was determined to find a solution.
Wildlife Works Inc. was officially created in 1997 and Rukinga was selected as the first project site. Local men were hired as rangers to protect the 80,000 acres of forest from loggers and to remove the animal snares left behind by poachers.
For years, the forests and grasslands of Rukinga were used as home to a slowly failing cattle ranch and the main migration corridor for local wildlife. By the time Mike first encountered Rukinga, she was a bruised, balding land, barren of wildlife and overflowing with despair.
Within four years of Wildlife Works’ arrival, the first elephants returned to Rukinga. Since then, elephants and other wildlife have been coming back at a rate of 2 – 4% each year!
In 2001, Wildlife Works finished building our eco-factory as the base of the wildlife sanctuary. The first group of local women were hired and trained to cut and sew fabric to make casual apparel. Now, we have over 40 full-time factory employees. As Wildlife Works expanded its conservation strategy of replacing harmful harvesting and poaching practices with sustainable full-time jobs, more key wildlife species returned to the area.
In 2009, Wildlife Works launched the first REDD+ pilot project, which received Africa’s first Climate, Community and Bio-diversity REDD+ validation. Wildlife Works also launched the community phase of REDD+ projects, which expanded our protection area to 500,000 acres and provided carbon credit income to local landowners. With REDD+, we are building schools, funding scholarships, improving agricultural practices, providing health care and improving the community around our Wildlife Sanctuary as a whole. http://blog.wildlifeworks.com/
Wildlife Works Apparel was re-launched to harness the power of the global consumer to create sustainable solutions for wildlife conservation. In 2012, we hired the first female rangers at our wildlife sanctuary. Wildlife Works is now one of the biggest job providers in the area and continues to help local residents break free from the cycle of poverty!
Unfortunately despite our efforts, violence, poaching and wildlife crimes continue to escalate in Kenya due to increasing demands for ivory in East Asia. We can all do our part to preserve our planet and its wonderful wildlife by putting our consumer dollars towards sustainable, eco-friendly products and businesses. We call it Consumer Powered Conservation. Join us. www.wildlifeworks.com
Check out Mike Korchinsky’s REDD+ Talk | May 9, 2013