Since 2018, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) has supported the increased protection of the Mau Forest by funding two Mara Elephant Project ranger teams. The “Golf” and “Charlie” co-ed ranger teams patrol the Mau Forest Complex alongside government partners, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS). They are tasked with removing snares, arresting individuals for poaching, shutting down illegal logging and charcoal sites, mitigating conflict between humans and elephants and abating encroachment.
In 2021, these two SWT Mau De-Snaring Units alongside government partners successfully arrested 22 bushmeat poachers, seized 107 kg (236 lbs.) of bushmeat and removed 298 snares.
In terms of habitat destruction, they arrested 137 suspects for illegal logging or charcoal production, destroyed 169 sacks of charcoal and 191 kilns and confiscated six power saws, 2,587 posts, seven trees and 1,054 timbers.
The SWT Mau De-Snaring Units also patrolled a total of 5,237 km (3,254 miles) on foot, 15,344 km (9,534 miles) by vehicle and mitigated five conflict incidents in 2021.
The MEP leased helicopter is a key operational component to support these two teams due to the thick forest cover. It patrolled 1,771 km (1,100 miles) in the air conducting reconnaissance flights to support the two ground teams in the Mau. One example from 2021, on October 25, an aerial patrol flight of the Mau Forest was conducted with partner KFS. During the flight, an active illegal logging site was spotted from the air and busted on the ground. The “Golf” SWT Mau De-Snaring Unit, KWS and KFS recovered and destroyed 1,600 posts and 170 beams using the intelligence gathered in the air.
Though many successes, the year also saw some frightening moments when rangers from MEP’s operational partner in the forest Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP) were attacked on October 23 and injured. The injured rangers have made a full recovery and the suspects have been identified; however, the incident really highlighted the importance of having our government partners, KFS and KWS, by our side while patrolling. Supporting our partner BSP is crucial to the continued protection of the endangered bongo antelope in the Mau Forest. Their patrol efforts and camera traps are supporting SWT and MEP’s efforts to protect wildlife and their habitats in the Greater Mara Ecosystem.
It will take a team effort to continue the protection of this critical forest habitat and the wildlife that call it home. We are grateful for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s continued commitment to the fight.