MEP Helicopter: Essential but Expensive

Mara Elephant Project’s use of the Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter is both essential and expensive, thus creating a dichotomy of need.

The MEP helicopter piloted by CEO Marc Goss.

The helicopter is extremely essential to our operations on a daily basis. It has not only allowed us to expand our area of operation to 4,000 km2, but has also shortened our response time and allowed for more visibility amongst partners in the Mara. It supports our collaring and monitoring efforts by making the collaring of at-risk elephants safer for both the elephant and support team. We are also able to complete monthly monitoring flights that ensures the elephant’s safety and well-being as well as collects important data like herd size and health. Though MEP rangers are the backbone of our organization, the helicopter provides them with aerial support in difficult human-elephant conflict mitigate situations and has saved both elephant and human lives countless times.

Marc Goss piloting the helicopter to move an elephant to safety. 


How can a tool that is so essential to MEP’s mission not be used because it’s too expensive to operate?


This is the question MEP faces daily. The helicopter costs $400 an hour to fly. This amount covers fuel, insurance and maintenance of the helicopter, all vital parts of keeping us safe. On average, MEP is supposed to fly 26 hours a month for a total cost of $10,400, but recently, with the increase in human-elephant conflict (78 incidents alone in June and July) MEP has been operating the helicopter over time with 192 hours flown by the end of June making that roughly 32 hours a month. As such, we are projected to fly an additional 130 hours in 2017 for a total cost of $86,170, but if we’ve already used more than that in the first half of the year, it means we really need your support for the rest of 2017.


MEP never wants to be put in a position where we have to tell a farmer “no, we can’t help” when they call the hotline because we don’t have flying hours left on the helicopter or a ranger team in their area. The helicopter allows us to always say “yes” and respond at a moment’s notice to elephants in trouble or farms that are threatened. If we do not fund the remaining flying time for the helicopter in 2017, MEP is going to be put in the impossible position of determining when we say “yes” and when we say “no” to respond to human-elephant conflict situations.


We operate the only helicopter in the Mara.
We need your support to continue with this essential but expensive work.