The Loita Forest, or Naimina Enkiyio, “forest of the lost child” in the Maa language, is passionately protected by its custodian communities, and three Mara Elephant Project ranger teams operating alongside our government partners. The forest is important elephant habitat and is still about 90% intact. MEP’s community rangers support their neighbors surrounding the forest to keep the Loita Forest intact so flora, fauna and communities can thrive.
The Loita Forest is split into a northern and southern portion that is divided by a large canyon. Alongside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) MEP has previously collared and monitored two elephants in the northern portion of the forest and while tracking their movements, we did not see any connectivity between the northern portion of the forest and the Rift Valley or Sand River. Monitoring efforts from MEP’s ground teams suggest elephants are making this movement from the southern portion of the forest, which is why KWS, WRTI and MEP wanted to track an elephant from the southern portion of the forest.
MEP needed to pull together a large airborne operation to make the collaring operation possible. We were able to hire a large helicopter capable of flying at higher altitudes to support the difficult collaring operation. We partnered with KWS Vet Dr. Njoroge and after weeks of scouting on the ground and hours in the air, we collared a bull elephant in the Nguruman portion of the Kisokon section of the forest on March 17.
We were fortunate to be joined by wildlife photographer Gurcharan Roopra who captured the collaring operation and newly collared elephant.
We are grateful to the Royal African Foundation supporters for making the protection of this bull for three years possible. His name is “Isiah” after a member of the Royal African Safaris family that was gone too soon. Isiah, the person, was from Samburu and was loved by everyone who had the privilege of working with him or hosted by him while visiting Kenya.
He had the best sense of humour and knew exactly how to make everyone laugh. He was also incredibly kind, and we miss him very much.Emma Silvester, Royal African Foundation