We started the third quarter off with a successful collaring in the Mau Forest. We collared a female elephant, Bettye, in the southwest portion of the forest who resides with a herd of five. This was a significant collaring because we now have one elephant on either side of the Mau Forest bottleneck, which will help us study if elephants travel between the eastern and western portions of the forest. This critically important habitat, the Mau Forest being the watershed for the Mara River, needs as much protection as MEP can provide along with its partners Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forestry Service and Narok County Government. We submitted all the tracking data for the Mau Forest collared elephants we had collected thus far to KWS at the beginning of July in response to a request from them to put together a position paper for supporting the increased protection work needed in the Mau to stop the illegal logging and poaching. This is an excellent example of how collared elephants are unknowingly providing a case for support to government for habitat and direct protection.
Collaring Bettye in the Mau Forest.
Meanwhile, on the ground in the Mau Forest, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Mau De-Snaring Team continues to be successful in their mission. In July, MEP, using DSWT funding, purchased a dedicated vehicle for the Mau Team, and in the same month the team was split up so that a greater area of the forest could be patrolled. They are now deployed in both the Kericho area and the Emitik area, and so far this approach has proven effective, as they recovered a total of 71 snares in July and no poached elephants were seen in the forest.
A Mau Forest ranger removing a harmful snare.
On July 20, MEP hosted their third quarter Board of Trustees meeting in Nairobi. Several key decisions were made at this meeting including bringing MEP accounting in house with the addition of Stanley Misoka (pictured right) who is now working out of MEP’s new Nairobi office. MEP would like to thank Seiya Limited for the support they provided since inception. Colin Church was voted in as board chairman replacing Brian Heath who will remain on the board. We would like to officially acknowledge his huge support to MEP over the years. As his first act as new chairman, Colin visited MEP HQ and spent three days with me to visit ranger stations, give a detailed update on current projects, and brief him on internal systems.
In terms of collaring, we were lucky to get Bettye’s collaring operation completed because in the middle of July, KWS declared that all veterinarian interventions that are considered non-emergencies must be put on hold until further notice. This is in response to a terrible incident involving the death of 10 rhinos after they were translocated from Nairobi and Nakuru National Parks to Tsavo National Park this month. This decree also means that MEP has to put all elephant collaring operations on hold until further notice which means we continue to fall behind with our collaring and re-collaring program. There is some promise though because on September 28, KWS held a board meeting where the temporary ban on collaring was discussed. We understand the protocols for collaring were approved and we hope this ban will be lifted in October.
In other collared elephant news, Amare’s collar dropped off in August in the Loita Hills area. Her collar stopped reporting from the middle of a large pond in one of the forest clearings (pictured left). After searching the 5 -foot-deep pond we still have not located the collar. We suspect it fell off when she was inside the pond, but we are not ruling out poaching or a malfunctioning collar.
The collar location as shown on the Save The Elephant Tracking App.
The Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter continues to be a vital asset to MEP operations. In July the helicopter was instrumental in collaring Bettye in such thick brush in the Mau Forest. In fact, in July, I flew for seven hours straight in one day to respond to an incident in Kericho in the Mau Forest and transport a baby elephant rescued from Mara to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphanage in Nairobi. In August, the helicopter transported KWS vet Dr. Limo from the DSWT Mara Mobile Vet Unit to the Mara Triangle to respond to a baby elephant who had a snare wound around his mouth and head. After a successful treatment, the helicopter was instrumental in reuniting the calf with his Mom.
The baby elephant in the Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter.
In September, the next draft of the Technical Report was presented to the leadership of the Sidekick Foundation (formerly the ESCAPE Foundation, Inc. – see the Q3 Communications and Fundraising Report) during the board meeting and Dr. Jake Wall was introduced to the Sidekick board for the first time as the 2019 MEP director of research and conservation. He was able to explain the importance of MEP’s research objectives and we are excited about working together in the near future. Ryan Wilkie, who was attached to MEP from Save The Elephants, completed his internship at MEP in August. He was an extremely hard-working person who under the guidance of Jake Wall completed the first draft of the Technical Report, Elephant Yearbook, created a number of outputs, and taught Wilson, MEP’s tracking manager, to create outputs using ARCGIS. We were impressed by Ryan’s work ethic and he is always welcome back at MEP.
In August, myself along with Tracking Manager Wilson Sairowua (pictured left) escorted the winning MEP intelligence ranger to the first annual African Ranger Awards in Cape Town, South Africa. This award given by the Paradise International Foundation and Alibaba Foundation acknowledged 50 rangers throughout Africa with a $3,000 prize. Each ranger was presented with the award at the ceremony with Jack Ma in attendance.
In September, I traveled to the US to spend time with our main supporter and founder in Indianapolis, IN, the Fehsenfeld family and the Sidekick Foundation formally known as the ESCAPE Foundation. On September 28, I presented to the Sidekick Foundation board at The Heritage Group’s main headquarters, The Center, which was a good chance to update each other. The Sidekick Foundation has committed to funding MEP for the next three years which is fantastic news. I presented at the Friends of MEP & Wildlife Conservation event that evening at the Fehsenfeld residence and the night before attended the Indianapolis Prize kickoff event.
Introducing Brett to the crowd of MEP supporters in Indianapolis, IN.
It was an honor to attend the 2018 Indianapolis Prize Gala where the winner, Dr. Russ Mittermeier, was presented his award by actor Harrison Ford. In the world of conservation, the Indy Prize is comparable to the Noble Prize and it was wonderful to learn more about each of the finalists and to congratulate Russ in person for this huge accomplishment. Also, during my time in the U.S., I presented about MEP to Tuft’s University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and for the residents of Lopez Island off the coast of Washington.
A major highlight from the third quarter was the work MEP did with Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. We collared a total of 13 elephants between September 4 and 11 to start to understand how elephants move inside this huge ecosystem. In addition to this main goal, it was also a great cross boundary team building exercise. I was impressed by the expertise of the TAWIRI team and it was a pleasure to work with them.
Here I am with the team of vets in Selous collaring our first elephant.