KWS/MEP Transmara Team Responds to Protect Fitz

The Nyakweri Forest is a hotbed of deforestation activity and Mara Elephant Project has witnessed firsthand the alarming levels of charcoal production and illegal logging that is contributing to the deforestation of this critical elephant habitat.

Charcoal confiscated in February in Nyakweri.

A kiln destroyed in March in Nyakweri.

An arrest from just today, May 9, of two men with a chain saw illegally logging in Nyakweri.

Through our monitoring of MEP’s collared elephant Fitz, sponsored by the Angama Foundation, we have seen how quickly the forest is changing. He and his herd have also been a constant source of concern for MEP rangers deployed in the Transmara and have accounted for most of the human-elephant conflict incidents they’ve needed to mitigate. In late March, with COVID-19 restrictions tightening and human-elephant conflict increasing, the Transmara team were re-deployed to Naroosora due to the immediate need there; however, recent escalating poaching threats to elephants in the Nyakweri Forest, prompted Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to immediately deploy a ranger unit to provide protection to the elephants in this area. The team is made up of both MEP and KWS rangers and is tasked with patrolling the forest to eradicate illegal activities and provide security for the wildlife in the forest and the communities surrounding the forest. pictured left: the team on patrol.

The KWS/MEP Team on foot patrol in Nyakweri isolated in the forest.

MEP works closely with these local communities to protect Kenya’s iconic elephants and the Mara ecosystem and we are deeply concerned about the socio-economic downturn in the Mara due to COVID-19 and the impact it has on them. The current economic downfall threatens communities, wildlife and protected areas like Nyakweri, which depend on tourism revenues to thrive. We are just now seeing the start to a bigger long-term issue, which is, what will happen when these communities no longer benefit from wildlife? While, we don’t know what the future holds, what we do know is that a partnership approach like the one KWS and MEP have taken works. The rapid deployment of a team specifically to combat poaching in an increasingly threatened area is key to increasing security in an area.