Many people don’t know that Mara Elephant Project was developed to fill a gap in protecting elephants outside of conservancies and protected areas in the Mara ecosystem. Elephants that are “safe” in the Mara have been in the formally protected national reserves. The Kenyan government through Kenya Wildlife Service with the Narok County Government formally protects the animals within the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR). Bordering three sides of the MMNR is private land, which forms part of the elephants natural rangeland. The private lands, over the last 20 years, have gone from group ranch ownership to individual ownership. During this period, tourism investors built lodges and camps on the private land. Over time, the community and the lodge and camp owners entered into partnerships to lease land for conservation.
An aerial view of the Mara.
MEP operates inside conservancies like MMNR when it needs to check on collared elephants, but overall they have been relatively safe. As a result, most of the illegal killing of elephants, and hence the work MEP does, is concentrated in an area of 4,000 km2 outside of these areas.
Protecting this large area of land outside of the conservancies tends to get especially tricky when there hasn’t been much rain, as is the case with this April to June, and farmer’s crops are starting to ripen. An elephant in a dry, but protected, conservancy sees these farms in private lands and thinks they are worth raiding, especially at night. This scenario illustrates many of the 89 rapid response calls MEP has received and responded to over the last three months.
An elephant crop raiding.
MEP continues to be extremely fortunate to have the only helicopter in the Mara thanks to the generosity of Karen Blixen Camp, Ree Park Safari and the support of individual donors who have given toward flying hours over the last quarter, but more is needed. MEP operates the helicopter on average for 25 hours per month at $400 per hour and in order to do this vital work, we need more support. Please consider making a donation today to enable more essential helicopter flying hours.
A donation of any size will make a significant contribution to protecting elephants from HEC, which is now the biggest single threat they face.
MEP’s most recent human-elephant conflict mitigation responses have included building a new chili fence in Munyas, deploying permanent rangers in Loita Hills, a hotspot for poaching, building our partnership with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), re-collaring elephant Mytene, petitioning the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) for a license to use UAVs on ranger patrols (now that government approval has been given in Kenya), and strategically using our newly donated Land Rover generously provided by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
Karsten Ree from Ree Park Safari with re-collared elephant Mytene.
MEP held our first supporter engagement event in April at the Tribe Hotel in Nairoibi. We invited key stakeholders to a short reception so that they could better understand the work MEP is doing in Kenya. We invited everyone to come visit us in the Mara and have since had great meetings to develop support and partnerships. The distribution of the MEP Pamphlet in a number of safari lodges and hotels throughout Kenya and the world is very exciting and will hopefully expose interested travelers to the work MEP is doing. Additionally, the Earth Day seedling initiative at Ngoswani School was a great day and a project I continue to oversee and grow.
Finally, I would like to end this Quarter 2 highlight by pointing everyone to the newly finished MEP Annual Report and the MEP Annual Helicopter Report from 2016 as well as the helicopter and monthly reports from the last quarter. The June & July Monthly Report will be released later this week.
We are very proud of our successes in 2016 and are currently planning for the future.