In the second half of 2020, despite this year being extremely challenging, Mara Elephant Project raised a record amount of funds to support our efforts and expand them in the Greater Mara Ecosystem. This support allowed MEP to expand our boots on the ground efforts in the Maasai Mara to include a new team in the Loita Hills, and these rangers are already increasing protection in this critical area of the Mara into 2021 and we can’t wait to update you on their impact this time next year. This was all kicked off on Giving Tuesday by a long-time MEP champion, Lori Price, who is now a key support system for two MEP ranger units in critical forest areas. We’d also like to thank Elephanatics and their loyal supporter base for giving to this team, founder Fran and Lorne Duthie personally donated towards these efforts. Additionally, Creatura Wildlife Projects gave $9,000 to support the new Loita team, which was made possible by artist Mark Ryden.
New MEP Loita rangers at their passing out parade, otherwise known as a graduation ceremony.
MEP hosted some very special visitors in the third quarter. Famous wildlife photojournalist David Chancellor spent a few weeks documenting MEP’s operations alongside Marc, Jake and the rangers. He was embedded in the Loita and Nyakweri forests where he got a firsthand view of conflict and habitat destruction. He got to document an elephant treatment and collaring operation as well as a joint intelligence operation to root out poachers. During this time at MEP, David, on assignment for National Geographic, posted on Instagram, tagging MEP many times to his over 200,000 followers. This created a huge opportunity for MEP to gain brand awareness and followers on our social media platforms. His exposure encouraged Nat Geo to post to their 145 MILLION followers on Instagram on August 30 about MEP, tagging us alongside David. We can safely say this is the largest exposure MEP has had to date. As of the middle of August we were at 10,200 followers on Instagram and are now over 11,000 followers and rising. We are eternally grateful to David and National Geographic for this rare opportunity.
Wildlife Direct CEO Paula Kahumbu filmed two episodes of her second season of Wildlife Warriors with Wilson at MEP HQ and in the Loita Forest. This is an extremely important project focusing on young Kenyans who are wildlife warriors. Because mainstream Kenya TV channels air the program wildlife conservation becomes a topic which Kenyans can learn about from other Kenyans. We look forward to the show airing and thank Paula for her spotlight on MEP. MEP also had the pleasure of hosting Kenyan artist Nyashinski for two days in September. He was visiting the Maasai Mara with Uvumbuzi Africa and Sauti Za Conservation to promote youth involvement in the protection of Kenya’s iconic wildlife and habitat. This fits well into MEP’s approach, as most of our rangers are Kenyan youth that are actively protecting national assets like wildlife, communities and habitat. Nyashinski was able to meet MEP rangers stationed in Nyakweri Forest, an important area of protection for MEP, and visit MEP HQ to learn more about the activities the organization is undertaking to encourage youth involvement in protection of elephants and habitat. Nyashinski initiated many round table discussions with MEP rangers about engaging Kenyan youth in conservation and he plans to stay involved with the work we’re doing to promote that. Thank you to Nyashinski, Uvumbuzi Africa and Sauti Za Conservation for making this possible.
Nyashinski alongside MEP rangers.
In the third quarter, MEP was featured on a podcast supported by Terra Conservation that was officially published and posted in early July. MEP’s Chairman Colin Church was featured in an article in The Star discussing his new book and his lifetime of conservation work. MEP released our 2019 Annual Report on August 24. We appreciate everyone’s feedback on the document and are proud to continue our success in 2019 into 2020 despite increased challenges. The second quarter newsletter was also released on August 31. MEP was featured alongside The Maa Trust in an article from Talk Africa on September 16 about the food distribution we participated in back in April. Wildlife photographer William Fortescue wrote a great piece about photographing elephants in the Mara, which included a Mara Elephant Project mention. The increase in bushmeat poaching experienced by MEP and other NGOs operating in Kenya is featured in a recent article from the Telegraph and MEP’s intelligence unit is spotlighted in an article from the Daily Mail.
On December 1, members of the MEP team joined others virtually to celebrate another successful year of the Greatest Maasai Mara photo competition. The 10 finalists for the grand prize were honored including three entries that benefitted Mara Elephant Project: Graeme Purdy in October, William Fortescue in August and Graham Wood in May. Congratulations to the winning photographer Paolo Torchio and thank you to the Angama Foundation for supporting MEP with a check for $5,164 raised in 2020.
The 2020 winning shot by photographer Paolo Torchio.
We have also seen an increase in supplies from MEP’s Amazon Wish List. Thank you to the anonymous donors and Jennifer and Walter who donated Life Straws, lithium batteries, backpacks and rain jackets for our rangers. On July 7, Mara Elephant Project rangers distributed masks donated by Paradise International Foundation in the Naisoya area of the Mau Forest; a very remote community that lives alongside the forest. Keeping the community safe during the COVID-19 outbreak has been a top priority for MEP.
MEP rangers distributing masks.
MEP celebrated World Elephant Day on August 12 and appreciate everyone interacting with us on social media and supporting us through donations on that day. Prints for Conservation donated 100% of their funds to MEP alongside photographer Finlay Marrian of a print on World Elephant Day; we were also their chosen spotlight charity for the entire month of August. We appreciated their support of MEP. Thank you to Governors Camp for raising money for MEP in August as well. Finally, Klaus Tiedge Fine Art Photography supported MEP in September with 20% of their sales going back to the organization. Klaus was a world class wildlife photographer and made the very important connection between his craft and the need for supporting the conservation of wildlife and wild places. We very much appreciate their support. Artist Leslie Cline donated 10% of sales back to MEP during the last week of October. She also gave away a free elephant print to one lucky winner. Thank you for your support! The SAWA Shop has been a supporter of MEP since their inception in 2018 and thanks to their efforts in 2020, MEP received $882 from SAWA to support our core operations into 2021. MEP also received a donation of $691 from Foreningen Forsvara Elefanterna, a long-time supporter of MEP. During the second half of the year, MEP also received 135 kg of seed balls from Seedballs Kenya to distribute in the Mara. Thank you to Paul Meulblok, the Spirit Foundation and Klaus Wachsmuth for your donations.
MEP successfully registered on MyGivingCircle a platform where individuals can make a donation to the charity of their choice and also vote for organizations to receive a grant. In total, in the second half of 2020, we raised over $500,000, a MEP first. Thank you to everyone who hosted a Facebook Fundraiser to support us: Mustafa, Lori, Nick, Danielle, Cecelia and Madison.
Finally, one of our long-time supporters passed away this month in India. His Holiness Acharya Swamishree Maharaj visited MEP HQ yearly to meet with Marc Goss (pictured left) and supported our organization wholeheartedly. In addition, His Holiness encouraged society to stop poaching and killing wildlife. To the entire Shree Swaminarayan Gadi fraternity please accept MEP’s deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy.