In July, Mara Elephant Project trained and deployed a new ranger team dedicated to protecting the “Forest of the Lost Child” (Naminina Enkiyio) otherwise known as the Loita Forest. We currently have two ranger teams operating in the Loita Forest, and due to increased security concerns, we’ve decided to launch a third in the Kisokon portion of Loita. MEP started the first dedicated Loita team of community rangers in 2019, and a second team was deployed in the southern section of the forest in 2020, thanks to support from Lori Price. Since then, the two teams have been working tirelessly to protect the forest from loggers, charcoal makers and poachers. The teams have also provided the community with jobs to protect their forest. Recruitment for these new rangers took place in early March and they’ve spent the last six weeks on MEP’s campus going through training, all run in house by MEP. The ranger training covers various skills and knowledge including internal MEP standard operating procedures as well as first aid, field craft, how to conduct proper patrols and ambushes, maintaining a crime scene, communicating with the community as well as an overview of the laws of Kenya. MEP ranger Caren led the first aid training and Assistant Senior Warden Jackson Maitai instructed the rangers in the classroom and on field exercises. Once they completed their training, the seven new rangers, all from a community in Loita, were deployed to increase protection for wildlife and communities in this area. We’re extremely grateful to The Band Foundation for supporting this new team. Please welcome Eric Sarupa, Gideon Koti, Dickson Nyange, Mike Olomunyak, Nancy Nailantei, Brenda Moonka and Benson Sunkuli to MEP.
In July, MEP rangers and researchers partnered with the Kenya Wildlife Service Vet Dr. Ndambiri from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mara Mobile Vet Unit for six elephant treatments for injuries related to conflict. When people and wildlife share the same space, conflict arises, but we’re grateful to have partners that work together to intervene.
The first treatment took place on July 8 when the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team helped our partners with a female elephant treatment. Then, on July 9, a male elephant needed treatment for an arrow wound. On July 11, MEP’s long-term monitoring (LTM) team was in the field monitoring elephants in Olare Orok Conservancy, when they spotted two injured elephants in need of veterinary intervention. The first was an injured female elephant within a herd of six and the second was a male elephant that had a swollen wound on the left side of his stomach. The KWS vet cleaned and disinfected the female’s five arrow wounds and then moved onto the bull elephant’s arrow wound on his stomach. Both treatments went well, and the elephants are recovering. Later in the month, on July 27, there were two injured elephants in collared elephant Chelsea’s herd that the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team identified and assisted with treatment. MEP alongside partners is committed to responding to conflict in the short-term all while finding long-term solutions to promote co-existence.
While MEP focuses on elephants, all other wildlife within our area of operation benefits from our ranger’s presence. We received a call about a young male giraffe stuck in the iconic Mara River unable to move. The MEP mobile ranger team located at headquarters responded alongside Assistant Senior Warden Jackson Maitai to attempt a rescue. Once they got to the scene, it was clear the young giraffe’s feet were stuck under river rocks preventing him from getting out. The rangers all had to bravely venture into the iconic Mara River, home to crocodiles and hippos, and it took the entire team half an hour to finally release the giraffe from the rocks and get him on shore. He was inspected and found to have no injuries, and eventually got up and walked off unharmed. In July, there was also a hippo in need of assistance after he was discovered to have a spear sticking out of his back. The team got together to remove the spear.
In July, there were 22 total snares removed by MEP rangers and partners as well as four bushmeat poaching suspects arrested and 1 kg of bushmeat confiscated. There were also 35 habitat destruction suspects arrested, two power saws confiscated, 590 posts, 181 pieces of timber and 15 illegally logged trees recovered in July. MEP rangers also destroyed 30 kilns and six sacks of charcoal during the month.
There were 13 incidents of conflict mitigated by MEP ranger units in July.
The highlight for July was that Mara Elephant Project’s Research Department open-sourced our ‘Ecoscope’ conservation data analytics platform. Ecoscope is a python library for performing various data analytics, ranging from simple to advanced, using tracking data coupled with remote sensing and geospatial data sources. It powers all of the outputs found in the monthly report for example. We hope that by making Ecoscope open-source a wider range of developers and users can benefit and contribute to the project. Ecoscope is under active on-going development.
Over one night in July, the MEP Experimental Farm had a family of five elephants, with two young calves, visit, and they didn’t leave much intact. The lemongrass was uprooted and eaten, clearly favored by the babies based on the footprints. Additionally, the sweet potatoes and spinach were also on the menu as was the maize we’ve planted with sunflowers as a barrier. Quite funny was that the rosemary was sampled by this herd but spit out after being chewed. It’s not just what they did or didn’t eat, but their size can also cause devastation. The cucumbers, beans and potatoes weren’t sampled, but were instead trampled on by the elephants, leaving many plants damaged. The MEP Experimental Farm welcomes these visits and is collecting the data to find elephant friendly crops that promote co-existence and work for farmers in the Mara.
Mara Elephant Project monitors the movements of collared elephants alongside our partners KWS and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute. In July, MEP rangers and researchers monitored several collared elephants while in the field, Polaris, Chelsea and Fred.
We released the 2021 Annual Report in July and highlighted some of our achievements during our 10th year of operation. We celebrated World Ranger Day on July 31 and highlighted the launch of our newest ranger team in the Loita Forest. Thank you to everyone who joined us to shine a light on these amazing men and women.
We are delighted to announce that Asilia Africa is supporting MEP in 2022 with a $10,000 grant for the experimental farm. They have been a long-time supporter of our conservation efforts and we’re so grateful. Thank you to all of the donors for your support in July. Additional thanks to our tourism friends who supported MEP in July, Abercrombie & Kent Kenya and Southern Cross Safaris. We had 22 entries in The Greatest Maasai Mara photo competition in July. Thank you to all of the photographers for supporting us.