Mara Elephant Project October Report
The MEP intelligence unit has been hard at work during the month of October contributing to gathering intelligence that has led to arrests and the closure of illegal logging operations.
MEP’s intelligence unit had notable success when they led a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) ranger unit to arrest two suspects with 40 kg of ivory in Meru, which was the second arrest in three months outside of Narok County. We’ve also continued our aerial monitoring of the Mau Forest and tracked all of the illegal logging operations going on in that area. We’ve reported our finding to the KWS, Narok County Government (NCG) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to bring this serious illegal logging issue to light. Additionally, we joined and provided aerial support to a joint operation in the Nyekweri Forest to stop illegal charcoal burning operations. We were successful with 27 suspects arrested.
Ivory seized in Meru.
From a fundraising standpoint MEP is thrilled that the Oak Foundation has signed on to be supporter over a four-year period. The Oak Foundation’s mission is to commit its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. We have also officially launched our collaring initiative for 2018 and have had our first person commit to funding the collaring of an elephant and the monitoring and data collection for that elephant for three years.
Collared elephant Chelsea.
Other exciting news includes the approval by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority for MEP to operate two Mavic Pro unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This is a big step forward in Kenya to allow MEP to once again be able to use UAVs as a mitigation tool for human-elephant conflict. Also, Jake Wall from Save the Elephants was at MEP working with C.E.O. Marc Goss on establishing a DAS chapter for MEP and the Mara Conservancy. This means we will be able to populate the system with MEP data directly and get automated reports from our efforts.
October was a slower month for human-elephant conflict response. Most of the HEC this month related to elephants getting too close to settlements or trying to crop raid recently planted farms. In terms of helicopter flying time, we only used the Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter once to respond to human-elephant conflict and were otherwise able to use vehicles and flashbangs to accomplish our task.
One of the landing zones in the Loita Forest when interviewing herders for an HEC response.
The Mau Forest is still presenting a major challenge for elephant collaring. The rangers the were stationed there recently were looking for good candidates and though we found a lot of elephants in the forest, getting to them was another story. We’ve been granted permission from KWS to collar two elephants in the Mau Forest and are looking to do that by the end of 2017.
All MEP ground patrol tracks for October.
We’ve still had to suspend aerial monitoring for the month because we’re low on flying time funding for the helicopter; however, MEP was able to monitor Hugo, Fred and Kegol by air when they were out on another mission.