Today, we celebrate 50 years of Earth Day and no theme is more appropriate for Earth Day 2020 than climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to our collective future globally and impacts every aspect of how the natural world operates. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are on track to have the lowest year for carbon emissions ever, which has restored clean air and water to heavily populated locations around the world. While a silver lining of the pandemic, there are still enormous challenges to face with climate change.
In the Mara ecosystem, forests are crucial to the well-being of the ecosystem. They not only act as a water tower for key rivers like the iconic Mara River, they are also safe havens for wildlife like elephants to seek refuge during a drought. While the full scope of the long-term effects of climate change have yet to be seen, we’ve all seen firsthand the catastrophic damage more recent natural disasters like bush fires, droughts and hurricanes have caused. The Mara is extremely green right now; however, we don’t know that it will last. As large swings in weather patterns are expected due to climate change, it’s all the more reason to ensure key corridors for wildlife like elephants remain open for them to access forests. If a drought were to occur in the Mara, while devastating, if elephants and other herbivores are able to reach the forests to find food, they will survive. A good example of this occurred in 2019, when Hannibal was collared in the Thogoto Forest, near Nairobi, after elephants had not been seen in that forest in recent history. One guess is that Hannibal had sought refuge in the forest due to the extremely dry conditions that area of Kenya was experiencing at the time.
Mara Elephant Project is thinking about the long-term implications of climate change and taking action today to ensure key areas of the Mara remain intact and accessible to wildlife. We are working hard to ensure that the Mara’s forests are heavily protected by deploying rangers to increase security and by collecting long-term movement data from collared elephants to inform spatial planning. Now, is the time to act to ensure wildlife, communities and habitat thrive in the Mara.