I think I speak for everyone when I say that 2020 was unlike any other year to date in our recent history. Mara Elephant Project was faced with many obstacles; however, our resilience showed through and at the root of that was our exceptional staff. MEP’s rangers worked in increasingly difficult situations, combatting a rise in bushmeat poaching and habitat destruction activities. Not just our rangers, but our support staff across all levels of the organization were critical to ensuring we all survived this year. Just like you, they were dealing with children that were home from school, worry over the effects of the virus and the long-term implications for their communities. I have never been prouder to be the CEO of Mara Elephant Project more than I was this year; we kept everyone safe and employed, we combatted the onslaught of difficulties head on and managed to continue making an impact in our areas of operation.
We are especially indebted to our operational partners who were all facing similar hardships this year and yet, joined us to ensure wildlife, communities and habitat in the Mara were all protected. 2020 was the year we saw firsthand what the human spirit working together can overcome and your support allowed us to remain steadfast in our commitment to face these challenges by expanding our presence on the ground. We were able to employ 10 additional Maasai men and women as rangers that were deployed in December to increase our protection of wildlife and wild spaces.
So, as we head into our 10th year of operation in 2021, I say ‘good riddance’ to 2020, but I also acknowledge the impact Mara Elephant Project made in a year no one considered their best. We are committed to helping our tourism and conservancy partners rebuild in 2021.
Top 2020 Highlights
DEPLOYMENT OF A SECOND LOITA RANGER TEAM
The Loita Plains area in the GME includes the Loita Forest, a pristine forest that is an important refuge for elephants and plays a key role in the provision of water year-round for wildlife and communities. Mara Elephant Project’s Maasai rangers are tasked with protecting wildlife from poaching, communities from conflict and the forest from illegal habitat destruction activities such as logging and charcoal production. Their work, especially in forest areas of the GME, Loita, Mau and Nyakweri, resulted in a record breaking 2020; however more protection was needed to immediately mitigate conflict, reduce poaching and increase protection of habitat.
In response, MEP recruited 10 local community members from Loita in September. These men and women all completed a 6-week training course on MEP’s campus and were deployed by December. The 10 new MEP rangers are responsible for responding to conflict and collecting information on all conflict incidents to analyze in MEP’s EarthRanger system. The information gathered when combined with the elephant movements from our collared elephants will be used to inform spatial planning to protect elephant habitat and test and modify different conflict mitigation techniques with the community. In addition, they will be tasked with increasing security in the area for wildlife by reducing poaching and illegal habitat destruction activities. Lori Price, the supporter of the first Loita Forest team, stepped up to fund this team and she was joined by Creatura Wildlife Projects and Elephanatics along with hundreds of other MEP donors in December. The increase in illegal activity around these areas of the Mara due to the pandemic cannot be overstated and thanks to our amazing supporters, we now have one more team ready to combat these long-term threats.
Thank You 2020 Supporters
Photo: William Fortescue
We appreciate everyone’s support big or small in 2020, and we are especially grateful to core supporters for providing the stability our organization needed to focus on the task at hand. In 2020, despite the year being extremely challenging, MEP raised a record amount of funds to support our efforts and expand them in the GME. This support allowed MEP to deploy a new team in the Loita Hills, and it was all kicked off on Giving Tuesday by a long-time MEP champion, Lori Price, who is now a key support system for two MEP ranger units in a critical forest area. We’d also like to thank Elephanatics and their loyal supporter base for giving to this team, founder Fran and Lorne Duthie personally donated towards these efforts and Creatura Wildlife Projects.
Other core supporters of MEP gave us stability in 2020, the Sidekick Foundation, Inc.®, OAK Foundation, Angama Foundation and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. We received a donation from the estate of Mary and Maurice Woulfe who were passionate about conservation. We received another year of support from the J.E. Fehsenfeld Family Foundation to support our core operations and Elephant Cooperation supported MEP with two key donations in 2020. We are also very grateful to Sue Anschutz-Rogers for her continued support of the helicopter, which we had to use more during the COVID restrictions. MEP was also the proud recipient of the Shining World Compassion Award given by Supreme Master Ching Hai and the International Association which included a donation to our core operations. MEP’s direct mail campaign in the U.S. helped our organization expand in 2020 and brought along new key donors like the Leslie L. Alexander Foundation.
MEP also received several large donations of seedballs from Seedballs Kenya that were donated by individuals for our rangers to distribute in the Mara. The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year not only accepted entries in their competition, but also launched an online auction platform selling beautiful images to raise much-needed funds. Thank you to the Angama Foundation for supporting MEP. Finally, thank you to the donors who donated supplies like Life Straws, lithium batteries and backpacks from MEP’s Amazon Wish List.