The Mara Elephant Project rangers along with our government partners, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Narok County Government, have had a very successful second quarter in 2018. The MEP intelligence unit has had many notable successes starting in April, when they recovered 25 kg of ivory and arrested two suspects near the town of Migori in Kenya. As we’ve been seeing more recently, the ivory came from Tanzania. This indicates the need for cooperation between Mara Elephant Project’s intelligence unit and the Tanzania authorities along with NGO the Singita Grumeti Fund. The intelligence unit has a new vehicle that they’ve already been using as they are concentrating their efforts in the Mau Forest (pictured left), and eastern Serengeti. In May, three suspects were arrested by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers, based on MEP intelligence, in possession of 4 kg of ivory. Finally, in June, the intelligence team connected with KWS in Naivasha who set up a successful sting operation by arresting one suspect with 12 pieces of ivory weighing 41 kg and two leopard skins. In addition to this significant arrest, three suspects were arrested by KWS based on MEP intelligence in possession of 5 kg of ivory, that paired with 2 kg of ivory seized and one suspect arrested in April means that a total of 10 people were arrested, and 77 kg of ivory were seized thanks to the MEP intelligence unit.
The June arrest and confiscation of 41 kg of ivory and two leopard skins.
Total elephant deaths in the second quarter of 2018 were 10. This down from 16 total elephant deaths in the first quarter of 2018. Though the deaths as a result of HEC are down in the second quarter, our poached elephants are up with both MEP collared elephant Mytene being poached in Tanzania and in May another female elephant was found dead in Ngurumani Mosiro with the ivory hacked out by poachers (pictured right).
You’ll see the total number of dead elephants represented on this map with dots. Each dots color represents the cause of death and the dots location corresponds to where the elephant carcass was found.
MEP saw a marked increase in attacks on elephants in the Ngoswani area. As a result, we sent a rapid response unit to coordinate with Olarro Conservancy to create a joint human-elephant conflict team in the area. The rangers mandate was to build better relationships with the community, follow the large elephant herds to track their movements, identify injured elephants for treatment, respond to conflict, and collect intelligence on suspects. This helped the Olarro Conservancy ranger teams who are all well trained and have good local knowledge of the area but due to the large amount of conflict and area they simply didn’t have the man power. There are a number of farms and settlements surrounding the Olarro Conservancy that had been experiencing human-elephant conflict but had not been reporting it. The joint team visited all surrounding agriculture areas and counseled the community on reporting human-elephant conflict and the importance of not shooting arrows at the elephants but asking for other mitigation tools.
Elephant security continued to be an issue in the Ngoswani area after numerous elephants had been seen with arrow wounds. In May, Mara Elephant Project worked closely with Olarro Conservancy and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Mara Mobile Vet Unit to treat many injured elephants. Luckily, in June, the human-elephant conflict injuries decreased, and we only assisted the KWS/DSWT vet with two treatments in the Siana area. We attributed this to the work MEP rangers were doing in the communities by stationing a permanent Olarro MEP ranger unit with the task of working with the community to help them seek solutions for keeping elephants out of their farms.
MEP rangers continue filling out MEP HEC forms and mitigation forms and bringing them to MEP HQ at the end of the month for data to be entered into DAS. April saw 10 cases of human-elephant conflict and as crops continued to ripen in May and June in the Ngoswani area, Lemek Conservancy, Olarro Conservancy and Siana, MEP rangers needed additional human-elephant conflict mitigation tools to address the coming increase in HEC. So, in May, MEP rangers installed two flashing light fences (pictured left) in the Lemek and Munyas areas and also worked with Savannah Tracking to install new boma beacons. These fences and lighting systems with alarms trigger when collared elephants are nearby to scare them away and awake the farmer to respond. We continue to chart the efficiency of these systems but were glad to get them in place because in May we responded to 19 HEC incidents and in June 28.
Finally, starting in March, MEP HQ hosted basic training for the new David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) Mau Team rangers and any MEP rangers who had not received formal training yet. The Narok County Government (NCG) assigned warden Patrick Gilai as the course captain and MEP is grateful to NCG for their support with the training. Narok County Government continues to be a valuable partner for MEP and has shown their willingness to work together by sending an instructor to lead the ranger training at MEP. When training was complete in May, the DSWT Mau Team was re-deployed to the Mau Forest after their graduation ceremony on May 11 at the Emitik Forest station. The MEP rapid response unit had taken over that area of operation while they were in training. We are thrilled that there was a good turnout from the community, over 500 people, and the Narok County Government, KWS, police and local administration were all present as well to witness the new ranger team graduating. The new Land Cruiser donated by DSWT, and the two new rangers from KWS, allows the Mau Team to now be fully operational.
The graduation photo taken after rangers completed and passed their training courses.