Mara Elephant Project is excited to announce the launch of our long-term monitoring (LTM) team in March to increase MEP’s research capacity under the direction of Dr. Jake Wall and Wilson Sairowua. This new team is tasked with gathering individual based sightings and re-identification of elephants across the Mara, and ground-based census of elephants along fixed routes within the conservancies and protected areas. The long-term monitoring of elephant populations is used to collect important information about demographics to help our organization grow our database of known elephant individuals. Information like overall population size, age and sex structure, births, deaths, injury and disease rates help us better understand the elephant population in the Greater Mara Ecosystem (GME). Additionally, monitoring individual elephants over time by re-sighting the same individuals is an important part of behavioral research. It can help us better understand habitat preference and identify crop-raiding elephants by monitoring injuries and look for other signs of conflict.
The MEP LTM team is also gathering data that establishes the relative density and distribution of elephants in relation to season, livestock and other factors affecting the spatial distribution of elephants across the ecosystem. Although collar data provides very granular and detailed observation of a small number of individual elephants, regular elephant census will provide a more general overview of what the population is doing as a whole.
The new team consists of four Maasai men and women recruited by Dr. Jake Wall and living on MEP’s campus in the Mara. They each completed a two-week basic training course that covered first aid and an overview of GPS and radio to ensure they are able to work alongside MEP ranger units. In addition to basic training, they also learned about the various data systems in use by MEP such as EarthRanger, Cybertracker, ER Track, Njia and ElephantBook. This team also has a designated Toyota Landcruiser for tracking and professional photography equipment for capturing detailed images of individual elephants. MEP’s applied research creates solutions for conserving the GME for generations to come and we extend a warm welcome to Vincent, Sarafina, Fintan, and John to the MEP research team.