The Kasigau Corridor conservation project, managed by the California-based company Wildlife Works, has focused on safeguarding endangered dryland forests in southern Kenya, critical for the habitats of elephants, lions, and other wildlife.
This conservation endeavor generates carbon credits and has been lauded for its positive impacts on biodiversity and local communities. However, recent reports lay bare a disconcerting underbelly of exploitation and abuse within the project’s ranks.
According to the investigation, a total of 31 present and former staff members, spanning both genders, as well as local community members, have come forward with distressing accounts of sexual abuse, harassment, and exploitation allegedly perpetrated by senior male employees of Wildlife Works between 2011 and 2023.
Shockingly, some survivors recounted incidents of physical assaults and attempted rape occurring within the project’s premises.
One survivor bravely disclosed, “Senior male staff members exploited their positions, coercing sexual favors in exchange for promotions and better treatment.”
Another victim added, “Even the wives of male rangers were not spared, as one senior staff member allegedly threatened that their husbands’ jobs hinged on their compliance.”
In a letter dating back to August, the KHRC and Somo alerted Wildlife Works to these widespread sexual abuse allegations. While they only named one alleged perpetrator, they believe that the issue is extensive, involving multiple staff members.
In response to the allegations, Wildlife Works’ President, Mike Korchinsky, issued a statement acknowledging that the company had taken immediate action upon learning of the claims in August, suspending three individuals and launching an internal investigation.
Korchinsky stated, “Our investigation revealed evidence of deeply inappropriate and harmful behavior by two individuals, for which I offer my sincere apologies.”
He underscored that the problem was not widespread, asserting that many of the allegations could not be substantiated.
Audrey Gaughran, the Executive Director of Somo, expressed deep concern about the environment within the project saying, “Perpetrators enjoyed relative impunity due to their senior positions, and no one seemed capable of reining them in. One perpetrator, in particular, was widely named; he approached the wives of rangers once the rangers were stationed out on the property.”
The Kasigau Corridor conservation project has marketed itself as a champion of women’s empowerment in the region, a claim endorsed by companies like Netflix.
A promotional video produced by Netflix highlights this commitment, stating, “A key part of this project is empowering women.”
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Shell and Netflix have purchased millions of carbon credits from this initiative, but as of now, Netflix has not responded to requests for comment. These allegations cast a dark shadow on the environmental integrity of forest protection offsets.
Earlier this year, an investigation by The Guardian unveiled significant issues with the effectiveness of such credits, including evidence of forced clearances in a leading project in Peru, although Verra, the leading carbon offset certifier, disputed these findings.