It’s been a very active February at Mara Elephant Project. One of the more exciting developments in terms of operations is our collaring operation that took place for 10 days in Tanzania. The Singita Grumeti Fund supported the deployment of 12 elephant collars in the Serengeti, and MEP C.E.O. Marc Goss was tapped for the use of the MEP helicopter in these operations and for his collaring expertise.
Several MEP rangers made the trip to Tanzania and were able to meet their counterparts in Tanzania. It was a great learning experience for them to see how they manage conflict and interact with communities. An added bonus was our head of intelligence was able to meet theirs and agreed to an exchange of information that will create a formidable team.
Collaring in the Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania with TAWIRI and the Singita Grumeti Fund.
Overall, this operation was so vital because now MEP will have access to collar data from these 12 elephants in the Serengeti that when combined with the data form the Mara ecosystem will provide a very broad, comprehensive picture on elephant movements.
The exciting development in terms of fundraising for MEP is that through Trustee Richard Roberts, MEP was able to secure a donation of $350,000 from a single individual. This donation will allow us to deploy nine replacement collars and seven new collars in 2018, provide ranger training and development, purchase a new intelligence vehicle including running costs, and allow us to resume monthly aerial monitoring flights of all the collared elephants.
In addition to this generous gift, we secured $10,000 from a donor for new ranger uniforms and our partners, Elephanatics donated $1,800 that was made during their 2017 march for elephants and rhinos.
In February, we experienced an increase in elephant poaching in the Maji Moto area around Ollaro Conservancy, and continued reports of poaching in the Mau Forest. The intelligence teams are working at both sites and we deployed the rapid response unit to the Mau at the end of the month. Our intelligence team has also been working with TANAPA and the Grumeti Fund in Tanzania and has several promising leads for ivory and firearms. We’re finding that a lot of ivory is coming from Tanzania into Kenya so working together to stop this is key.
We arrested three suspects with 18 kg of ivory in the Oldonyo Narasha area (pictured left). The suspects were intercepted by MEP intelligence and the operation was conducted by a joint MEP and Kenya Wildlife Service team.
We also had a report of a dead elephant in Olaro Conservancy. The elephant has been monitored by Olaro rangers and appeared to have several bullet wounds. Our Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter was deployed to assist the Kenya Wildlife Service vet with treatment, but unfortunately during treatment the elephant succumbed to its injuries.
An injured elephant in Olaro Conservancy where the MEP helicopter was deployed to assist KWS and Olaro to treat the elephant. Unfortunately, during treatment the elephant succumbed to its wounds.
In February, we deployed a new HEC mitigation tool called solar powered flashing lights. These lights can be charged while in the field and provide a bright flashing light that is a deterrent for elephants. We installed them around one big farm in the Olopikidongoe area, the worst conflict site, and the lights worked very well and can be attributed for a decrease in conflict in the area. Transmara responded to 16 conflict incidents this month.
Overall, it was a busy February and we’re looking ahead to a high conflict time in March and April.