The Singita Grumeti Fund based in Tanzania kicked off the first phase of their human-wildlife conflict elephant collaring project in March. They, along with other wildlife partners like Mara Elephant Project, fitted 12 elephants with remote GPS collars in an effort to better protect both the elephants and the humans they come into contact with and get a better understanding of the elephant rangeland in the western Serengeti.
“By collaring select elephants we are able to gain a better insight into the movements and behavior intricacies of these magnificent animals. Our primary focus being on when and where they leave the protected area toward people’s homes and crops. This important project is part of a multi-faceted approach aimed at reducing the number of human wildlife conflict incidences that are occurring on the boundary of the protected area. By placing remote download GPS collars on elephants (six bulls and six cows) that were found along the protected area and community interface, we are able to monitor the elephants’ movements and to create virtual fences, called geo-fences, that trigger an alarm when they are crossed by the collared elephants. This allows our team on the ground to assist by alerting communities to which the elephants are headed or by deploying our human wildlife conflict mitigation unit to assist in moving the elephants back into the protected area.” From the Singita Grumeti Fund’s Blog Elephant Collaring – Phase One
Two wildlife vets from the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) joined MEP C.E.O. Marc Goss and the Singita Grumeti Fund rangers in these collaring operations. MEP was tapped to join this operation because of Marc’s extensive knowledge about collaring elephants. Since 2012, MEP has collared over 45 elephants in the Mara ecosystem. Additionally, MEP’s Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari Robinson R44 helicopter proves to be a vital tool during collaring operations.
“We envisage that this project will help move elephants away from people’s crops and be a positive part of protecting the livelihoods of surrounding communities as well as protecting elephants from human persecution at the hands of irate farmers.” From the Singita Grumeti Fund’s Blog Elephant Collaring – Phase One
MEP’s involvement with our partners in this initiative is extremely important to protecting the Mara ecosystem. The Maasai Mara ecosystem is an extension of the vast Serengeti ecosystem and is Kenya’s most important wildlife area and tourism asset. Similar in Tanzania, the Serengeti is on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage List because of its annual migration of nearly two million wildebeest and zebra. The ecosystem is also home to an estimated 40% of Africa’s large mammal species yet covers only 0.1% of the continent’s land surface. The Tanzania portion of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem stretches 25,000 km2 though the Ngorongo Conservation, Serengeti National Park Grumeti Game Reserve. The Kenya portion covers an additional 7,000 km2 from the Maasai Mara, Loita Hills and Nyekweri Forest.
The Serengeti’s proximity and importance to MEP’s area of operation meant that after six years of operations, MEP needed to start expanding into Tanzania to continue to successfully complete our mission to protect elephants and conserve the greater Mara ecosystem. The partnership with the Singita Grumeti Fund now allows MEP to collect important movement data on elephants living in the Serengeti. This collar data is the single best indicator for identifying elephant density hotspots, defining corridors, and illustrating elephant movements to target audiences. So, combined data from a sample number of elephant collars spread across the elephant population in both the Mara and Serengeti will help present an accurate extent of the current elephant range.
MEP is dedicated to our partnership model of operation. We believe that the more organizations like ours involved in protecting this iconic species and ecosystem, the more likely it is we will fulfill our mission.