Loita Hills Protection

Over the last two weeks Mara Elephant Project deployed our rapid response unit to the Mosiro and Loita Hills area of the greater Mara ecosystem. Our intelligence unit had gathered information that there was an active poaching ring operating in Mosiro, which prompted the rapid response unit to be deployed to this area. Once on the ground, they found some very discouraging evidence that poaching was actively happening in this area and had been for some time. An elephant carcass estimated to be a month old was found without tusks.

The elephant carcass being investigated by the MEP rapid response unit.

Additionally, the animals were all very skittish and though they found elephant tracks, there was no evidence of elephants stopping to eat or drink, meaning they were aware they were under threat. On October 17, MEP C.E.O. Marc Goss was called in by MEP Warden James Ekiru who was with the rapid response unit to provide aerial support to try and locate this herd of elephants. Unfortunately, after an hour of trying to find them in this vast area, they had no luck.

MEP C.E.O. Marc Goss coordinating with Warden Ekiru and members of the rapid response unit.

So, MEP rangers continued on patrol as usual to root out any illegal activity happening in the area. They did manage to arrest someone illegally digging for gold and two men with illegal bushmeat, but, unfortunately, even though the MEP rangers found footprints presumably from poachers, they were never able to locate the poachers in this area due to the large size.

A MEP ranger standing next to elephant tracks found while on patrol.

On Saturday, October 20, the team received reports that this herd of elephants had traversed a great distance of community settled land overnight and gone into the northern section of the Loita Hills, which is heavily forested. MEP deployed the Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter to help find this elephant herd and investigate the Loita area they had moved to. Marc picked up Ekiru and they went out to gather evidence in the northern most portion of the Loita Hills.

Ekiru surveying the area for signs of elephants or illegal activity.

What they found was very discouraging; lots of illegal logging was taking place in the forest, the community farms were encroaching on the forested land and they even found an active poachers camp. What was also found was a herd of over 100 elephants living in this portion of the forest, all of which would be at a high risk of poaching or being harmed while coming in contact with humans.

An illegal charcoal site found in Loita.

An illegal logging operation found in Loita.White smoke from a fire at a suspected poacher’s camp in Loita.A herd of over 100 elephants found not far from the illegal activity in the Loita Hills.

Community farmland found bordering the Loita Hills.

Due to this high-risk situation, MEP C.E.O. deployed the rapid response unit into this northern section of the Loita Hills to monitor the elephants, shutdown illegal logging sites, root our any poachers, and help mitigate human-elephant conflict and better relations for the bordering community. Since moving into the area, they’ve already managed to shut down two illegal logging operations, arrest the loggers and have been responding to human-elephant conflict incidents nightly.

Marc and Ekiru looking for a camp site for the MEP rapid response unit in Loita. They wanted a spot that was accessible to respond to human-elephant conflict.

An illegal logging site shut down by MEP rangers.

Four men arrested for illegal logging activity in the Loita area.

Ekiru speaking with the local community to gather intelligence about the elephant movements.

Fortunately, MEP has the resources during this low human-elephant conflict time to deploy the rapid response unit to this area; however a permanent team is desperately needed to ensure the large elephant population is safe.