Mara Elephant Project (MEP) launched a long-term monitoring (LTM) team in March 2021 to increase MEP’s research capacity under the direction of Dr. Jake Wall and Wilson Sairowua. The LTM team is monitoring the Mara’s elephant population and collecting important information about demographics to help MEP grow their database of known elephant individuals and increase their protection. The team consists of four Maasai men and women (Vincent, Sarafina, Fintan, and John) with a designated Toyota Landcruiser for tracking and professional photography equipment for capturing detailed images of individual elephants. Asilia Africa and Asilia Giving are proud give back partners to MEP to support this team’s efforts to monitor the estimated 2,500 elephants that call the Mara home.
Information like overall population size, age and sex structure, births, deaths, injury and disease rates help MEP better understand the elephant population in the Greater Mara Ecosystem (GME). Additionally, monitoring individual elephants over time by re-sighting the same individuals is an important part of behavioral research. It can help MEP better understand habitat preference and identify crop-raiding elephants by monitoring injuries and look for other signs of conflict. MEP’s LTM team has already recorded 250 individuals across 410 sightings within Mara North, Lemek and Naibosho conservancies, and have moved into the Mara Triangle to expand their monitoring. Their ability to keep a close eye on elephants in the Mara has also resulted in an increase in elephant treatments for wounds obtained during conflict.
“I am the first to be employed by MEP from my village. Myself and my family live alongside wildlife so my work at MEP makes everyone feel represented. I am the breadwinner in my family so not only is my salary important, but the support for my children’s school fees is also extremely helpful.”Vincent Lenkoko
He graduated from Koiyaki Guiding School as a silver guide and worked at several high-end camps in Mara North Conservancy before joining MEP in March 2021 as the team leader of the long-term monitoring team. Vincent knows the Mara like the back of his hand and though he just recently was given the tools to officially monitor elephants, he’s known them as a guide and neighbor for years.
“Working for MEP has been extremely important for me. I want to help MEP achieve co-existence between communities and wildlife. We have a good relationship with communities and partners in the Mara, and by taking part in research and gaining new knowledge about the elephants that call the Mara home, I’m hoping to help find long-term solutions to conflict. I want to be a MEP ambassador for the next generation.”Vincent Lenkoko