Mara Elephant Project has started off 2018 with a new partnership, a significant arrest, many MEP HQ visitors and the loss of one of the Kenyan conservationist greats.
We had a notable joint operation with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) that resulted in an ivory recovery and arrest of two middlemen. The MEP intelligence team was following a gang they suspected were poaching and on January 23, MEP and KWS undercover rangers arrested two individuals with 50 kg of elephant ivory (pictured left). While interviewing the suspects it became evident that the tusks came from Olkeri Loita on the Kenya/Tanzania border.
MEP is happy to announce the new David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and MEP partnership, the DSWT Mau De-Snaring Team. This is a partnership that we’ve recently started in the endangered Mau Forest and already they are having success in removing drop spears, snares and arresting poachers and illegal loggers. They even already had an arrest, booking one suspect with a yellow backed duiker he killed in a snare. We are thrilled about this partnership and plan to grow the Mau activities to cover the entire forest.
The patrol teams in the Olkinyei and Eketoto areas have been experiencing a high level of wildlife caught in fences. In January alone, they removed 14 giraffes from fences in Olkinyei and four in Eketoto. MEP has also been busy in the Transmara responding to conflict due to the ripening maize farms. This month we have experienced an increase in human-elephant conflict from eight incidents in December 2017 to 30 incidents in January 2018. The Olopikidongoe team has responded to 25 conflict incidents alone. This ranger team has been chasing elephants out of farms nearly every night and large herds of elephants have been seen coming out of the Nyakweri Forest. Our rangers have been working hard to make sure we record zero elephant deaths related to conflict. In the Munyas area, farmers have just started planting so we expect to see more conflict in this area starting in April.
Unfortunately, in late December, MEP collared elephant Ndorre dropped her collar and we will need to re-collar her in the next couple of months. We ended January by re-collaring Kegol in the Mara North Conservancy. Kegol’s collar battery had reached the end of its lifespan (3 years) and we’re happy to report the collaring operation was successful. We did have some trouble getting him up after the collaring because of his old age (60 years) so, we’ve determined this will be the last time we collar him.
The MEP team helping Kegol to his feet.
The Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter assisted the Bongo Surveillance Project team by strategically mapping their patrol route in the Mau Forest and by collecting them in the helicopter once they had completed their mission. These bongos are extremely endangered and MEP is happy to assist the efforts of this team to save them.
Collecting the Bongo Surveillance Project team in the Mau Forest after a week-long trek through bongo country.
Finally, we started January off with another visit from His Holiness Acharya Purshottam Priyadasji Swamishree Mararaj. He came back to MEP HQ and blessed our new office. We also hosted MEP Founder Suzie Fehsenfeld.
His Holiness Acharya Purshottam Priyadasji Swamishree Mararaj with MEP C.E.O. Marc Goss.
Finally, it’s important that we share with you, the forefather of wildlife conservation in the Maasai Mara passed away on January 26. Mr. Willie Roberts came to the Mara in 1980 planning on farming sunflower and maize, but after seeing a gap in the protection of wildlife he soon became a full-time conservationist and naturalist. It wasn’t long before Willie was designated an Honorary Warden for the Maasai Mara and in 1993 he singlehandedly brokered a deal with the Paramount Chief Ole Ntutu and Former Kenyan President Arap Moi to make the first conservancy named Ol Choro Oiroua Group Ranch. That same year the High Court of Kenya decreed that all of the group ranches surrounding the Maasai Mara National Reserve could collect tourism revenue independently of the Narok County Government and this was the birth of the Mara conservancies as it is today.
Willie Roberts in his uniform as Honorary Warden for the Maasai Mara.
Willie worked hard to make Olchoro a world-class conservancy putting in infrastructure for rangers, and wildlife management that included importing six white rhinos, not seen in the Mara for some time, from South Africa. Willie was an entrepreneur and saw the huge potential this magnificent area had for tourism, so, he founded Willie’s Camp. Willie’s son, Richard Roberts, MEP co-founder and trustee, continued his father’s legacy in the Mara with Richard’s Camp, a luxury camp that remains one of the most successful in the Mara. On the 12th the whole MEP team gathered at HQ to observe a minute of silence in remembrance of Willie Roberts. Go well Mzee and know we will be working hard to continue your legacy.