2020 has been a challenging year globally and as we wind the year to a close it is always good to reflect on positive stories and Mara Elephant Project has a big one to share. This year MEP raised a record amount of funding, and in December it was our largest fundraising month in the history of the organization, all THANKS TO YOUR SUPPORT. We are humbled by the overwhelming support donors like you have given our organization in a very trying year.
Thank you from all of the MEP staff photographed in December at HQ.
In December, we raised over $188,000 for core support from 442 individuals and foundations, which includes over $50,000 for our Giving Tuesday campaign alone! What does this mean? This support allowed MEP to expand our boots on the ground efforts in the Maasai Mara to include a new team in the Loita Hills, and these rangers are already increasing protection in this critical area of the Mara into 2021 and we can’t wait to update you on their impact this time next year. This was all kicked off by a long-time MEP champion, Lori Price, who is now a key support system for two MEP ranger units in critical forest areas. We’d also like to thank Elephanatics and their loyal supporter base for giving to this team, founder Fran and Lorne Duthie personally donated towards these efforts. Additionally, Creatura Wildlife Projects gave $9,000 to support the new Loita team, which was made possible by artist Mark Ryden.
The new Loita team was officially deployed the first of December with all of their new kit and were given instructions to stop deforestation in the Entesekera area. The team has already made a dent in the logging cartels working in the area and the community and local administration have been supportive of our newly increased efforts to stop the forest destruction and employ their youth. Thank you again to everyone committed to this endeavor and for your continued support of MEP. Pictured left: Some of the new MEP recruits on patrol in the Loita Hills.
The other remarkable news from 2020 that MEP is very proud of is that we retained our full complement of rangers through these difficult times, which has led to a record number of arrests and recoveries. Keeping the rangers deployed has been extremely important this year as we have seen an increase in bushmeat poaching and habitat destruction and December was no exception. We have been frustrating logging operations, arresting bushmeat poachers, and arrested one suspect with ivory this month.
Overall, in December, MEP rangers alongside government partners Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) arrested two bushmeat poachers and confiscated 12 kg of bushmeat. As mentioned, one ivory suspect was arrested, and 7 kg of ivory was confiscated. MEP rangers also arrested a total of 24 suspects for habitat destruction activities (one pictured left) and confiscated three power saws, three trees that were illegally cutdown, 370 posts and eight timbers. They also destroyed 24 charcoal kilns and 36 bags of charcoal.
MEP rangers alongside KWS destroyed 20 sacks of charcoal on December 7 in the Nyakweri Forest.
Six kilns were destroyed by the MEP/Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mau De-Snaring Unit on December 5 in the Mau Forest.
In December, MEP rangers covered a distance of 1,180 km on foot and patrolled 6,727 km by car and 2,144 km on motorbike. (Pictured left: One of the MEP Research Field Assistants ready to go out for the day on the motorbike.) The MEP Research Department mapped a further 260 kilometers of fence in December.
There were four total incidents of conflict MEP rangers responded to in December, but as our data suggests, in January, we will see an increase in conflict. It’s been a very wet December, so we will be gearing up to protect farms as the crops ripen. In December, we conducted one conflict flight in the Suswa region where a large herd of 72 elephants were destroying community dams and disturbing herders near Suswa Mountain. Collared elephants Hannibal and Napoleon are in this herd. The community and KWS were both very helpful to MEP during this operation.
The Mara has stayed wet and we experienced almost daily rain, so we were expecting to see some of the collared elephants like Ivy descend into crop-raiding, but the crop growing pattern has been very different this year and elephants are not following typical movements. Harriett streaked down to Tanzania and returned which is interesting given her previous months of relative residency over a small area. Fitz, sponsored by Angama Foundation, continues to keep rangers busy in the Nyakweri Forest as he and his herd have been moving into farms at night and using the forest for cover during the day.
Collared elephant Fitz always keeping MEP rangers busy.
In addition to the aforementioned support, we had several grant renewals in December, and we had three Facebook fundraisers in support of Mara Elephant Project. Thank you to Lori, Nick and Danielle for running holiday giving campaigns in support of our efforts. MEP also received two donations of seed balls from Seedballs Kenya from Spirit Foundation and Klaus Wachsmuth for a total of 110 kg of seed balls to distribute in the Mara. The SAWA Shop has been a supporter of MEP since their inception in 2018 and thanks to their efforts in 2020, MEP just received $882 from SAWA to support our core operations into 2021. MEP also received a donation of $691 from Foreningen Forsvara Elefanterna, a long-time supporter of MEP. On December 1, members of the MEP team joined others virtually to celebrate another successful year of the Greatest Maasai Mara photo competition. The 10 finalists for the grand prize were honored including three entries that benefitted Mara Elephant Project: Graeme Purdy in October, William Fortescue in August and Graham Wood in May. Congratulations to the winning photographer Paolo Torchioand thank you to the Angama Foundation for supporting Mara Elephant Project with a check for $5,164 raised in 2020.
Finally, on December 13, a MEP ranger team and Drector of Research & Conservation Dr. Jake Wall (pictured left) participated in the Ultra MARAthon, which was a 50 km relay race to raise funds for rangers in all of the Mara conservancies. This was a partnership between ForRangers, MMWCA, Salomon and MEP. The first prize for the fastest ranger team was a Boran bull. We are very proud to announce that the MEP ranger team took 1stprize and took the bull back to HQ the same day. We then sold the bull and split the winnings amongst the four team members who won the race. This makes the MEP rangers officially the fastest rangers in the Maasai Mara.
The entire MEP Ultra MARAthon team on December 12.