Max Jenes – a young conservationist braving elephant poachers


IUCN, Article

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Max Jenes, winner of the International Young Conservationist Award 2014, works with the PAMS Foundation to protect Tanzania’s elephants from poaching. Here, he explains what inspires him to continue this risky work at the frontlines of conservation.

I am Maximillan Jenes, I was born 30 yrs ago in a family which relies on small business and small scale farming activities. I was born and raised in a small town called Tarakea, which is in Rombo District, Tanzania, under the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

I selected to join Mkuu Secondary School for my Ordinary level (O-level) studies where I opted to pursue science subjects having Biology as my favorite subject. After my secondary studies, I applied and selected to join Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), where I studied Wildlife Management.

As I was born and raised in an area where conservation is very important, my dream was to become a conservationist after my studies. My first inspiration in conservation was when I went to Kilimanjaro National Park, where I conducted a research on Conservation and Tourism as part of my O-level studies. In this research I learnt about ecology of different wild species. Thereafter, my heart was telling me to care for wild creatures in their natural habitat. However, I had very little knowledge about the word “poaching”. I didn’t know the actual facts about anti-poaching and that, if somebody is a conservationist, he/she must fight against poaching.

After my university studies, I did an internship at the Natural History Museum in Arusha, meanwhile I was selected to join a team of paleontologists as a research assistant for two months. It was a great opportunity for me to conduct paleontological research in Olduvai Gorge, which is a very important historical site in the world.

In 2011, I joined the PAMS Foundation team. In my interview, I was asked about the poaching crisis. By that time, I was aware of the prevailing elephant poaching crisis from various media reports, but I never worked in the field of anti-poaching – I had no experience at all. However, I recognized the importance of fighting poaching, so I said “yes” and was ready to work on this issue, despite being intimidated and warned by my close friends. They were worried about me, as I was going to work in a tough and risky environment. I blocked my ears and joined community scouts who had very little anti-poaching skills and were highly underequipped.

I was about to lose hope when my scouts came back from the first patrol operation with a number of elephant carcasses and other animal’s carcasses, including very fresh ones. Yet, I realized that poaching in this area is financed by rich men. I got very close support and advice from my colleagues, especially from the PAMS team, through regular changing of strategies and approaches to anti-poaching.

It has now been three years that I do this work. I am confidently and proudly saying that me and my team members have managed to reduce poaching in the Selous-Niassa Corridor by 94%. I felt very honoured when my work was recognized with the International Young Conservationist Award during the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney.