Mara Elephant Project and our government partners, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Narok County Government (NCG), ended 2018 with the largest single ivory seizure of the year. On December 23, MEP rangers along with our government partners arrested two poachers and seized 69 kg of ivory (pictured below).
MEP intelligence got a lead that these two large tusks were going to be transported to market. They alerted the Naroosura ranger unit who intercepted them after leaving Loita on their way to Naroosura where the arrest was promptly made by KWS. While protecting living elephants is vitally important to the conservation of the Mara ecosystem, seizing this much ivory and holding the culprits accountable is equally as important to send a message that will raise the opportunity cost in for poachers in the Mara.
A total of 18 snares (pictured left) were removed and confiscated in December all by the DSWT Mau De-Snaring Unit. The Mau Forest unit also uncovered a charcoal operation and destroyed three kilns, confiscated seven sacks of charcoal and destroyed two poacher houses. The Munyas team had similar success when they came across a charcoal operation and destroyed two kilns and sacks of charcoal.
The Mau Team destroying an illegal charcoal kiln.
In terms of MEP collared elephants in December, we were extremely lucky during an aerial patrol in the Loita area, when we located Amare with her collar still on. This was good news as we can now discontinue our search for it at the bottom of a small lake; however, it does mean that the collar failed and will need to be replaced. Additionally, we received an immobility alert on December 27 for World Wildlife Fund collared elephant Alina. After responding to the collar’s location near the Kenya-Tanzania border, we found that unfortunately, the collar had dropped, but thankfully Alina was safe. We had many good sightings in December of MEP collared elephants including Lempiris, Hangzhou, Fred (pictured left), Namunyak, Amare, Ivy, Hugo and Kegol.
MEP collared elephant Hangzhou pictured with a herd of over 40.
MEP rangers along with our embedded government rangers from KWS and NCG responded to 16 incidents of human-elephant conflict in December. None of these responses were out of the ordinary as most were moving elephants out of farms, settlements or away from community areas. In most cases MEP rangers were able to use their vehicles and firecrackers to move the elephants to safety; however, the helicopter was needed for three more pressing incidents. For example, on December 4, the helicopter was used to push collared elephant Ivy’s herd from community land into the safety of the conservancy (video below).
The Oloisukut area was the most active HEC hotspot in December as the area was dry and elephants were moving into community land on their way to get water at the Mara River. Oloisukut Conservancy bordering the Tarakwet area, where crops were ripe, was elephants favorite hiding spot during the day to then crop raid at night. On December 4, a group of 20 elephants were successfully chased away from the Oloosokon area by the Oloisukut patrol team and the same ranger unit responded all night through December 5 with elephant crop raiding in Tarakwet (pictured below). Additionally, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust MEP Mau De-Snaring Unit continues to mitigate human-elephant conflict with the communities surrounding the Mau Forest as elephants are coming out of the forest at night to raid maize farms.
MEP was pleased to attend the award ceremony thrown by the Angama Foundation for the Greatest Maasai Mara photography competition. We were presented with a check for $3,920 from the Angama Foundation, as one of five beneficiaries of the competition and we had 140 entries, the most of any organization.
MEP CEO Marc Goss accepting the check at the December 6 event.
MEP kicked off December by highlighting an amazing collaboration with Seedballs Kenya to distribute one million seed balls in the Mara in just one day. Funded by Diamond Trust Bank, on November 28, the MEP team along with the Seedballs Kenya team showed up to distribute one million seed balls along with the community’s help. We were delighted to find the community all showed up in their traditional Maasai colorful attire and were energetic and ready to make this happen. The energy was electric as the activity began with harmony and togetherness among the over 100 participants.
Finally, Mara Elephant Project through our 501(c)3 the Sidekick Foundation, Inc. is now set up to receive stock donations. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org more information or check out the donate page. We received our first stock donation in December and look forward to this new donating opportunity in 2019.