Early in the morning on August 26, Mara Elephant Project received a report of a herd of over 10 elephants in Oloonkoliin across the Mara River in an area that was surrounded by settlements. MEP was able to respond at a moment’s notice thanks to the Karen Blixen Camp Trust Ree Park Safari helicopter and successfully pushed them back across the Mara River into the safety of the Mara North Conservancy. The helicopter proved to be vital to protecting these elephants, as we used it as a shield to block the community from shooting arrows at the elephants from across the river while they were crossing the river.
Unfortunately, a mother and baby were left behind after being separated from the herd. We were unable to push them across the river due to the large crowd with livestock that had gathered and were blocking their path to MNC. So, a joint task force of MEP, Mara North Conservancy, Oloisukut and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers were tasked with keeping this mother and baby safe until they were able to cross the river and rejoin their herd. Luckily, overnight, the mother and baby safely crossed the Mara River and rejoined their herd.
Evidence of the mother and baby’s crossing in foot prints at the river’s edge.
The next morning, on August 27, a MEP ranger unit checked in on the well-being of this elephant herd that had just been through a traumatic experience and discovered that two females in the herd had arrow wounds that needed immediate treatment.
Dr. Limo with MEP Tracking Manager Wilson Sairowua after treating the wound. These two females are expected to make a full recovery.
We called in our partner, the Kenya Wildlife Service vet Dr. Limo with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mara Mobile Vet Unit and along with help from both the MEP HQ and Oloisukut ranger units, we successfully treated the two female elephants, one with an arrow wound on her side and the other with two arrow wounds!
Dr. Limo treating one of the females for her injury.
These arrow wounds are a result of this herd of elephants being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The settlement areas might be along a traditional elephant corridor and when they wandered into the area, they were essentially stuck in between farms with no escape. Farmers, protecting their crops and homes, often use arrows or spears to encourage the elephants to move along before they do any further damage. Thus, creating the human-elephant conflict MEP is so often responding to.
Support from partners like DSWT, KWS and Karen Blixen Camp Trust ensures that MEP is able to respond to conflict at a moment’s notice with the helicopter and successfully treat wounded elephants. MEP rangers also gathered the community members (pictured left) together to instruct them not to shoot arrows or throw spears at the elephants, but to let them know that MEP was handling the situation by using our mitigation tools. We asked for patience while we moved the elephants to safety and reassured the community that someone had heard their concerns and were addressing them.
This two-pronged approach to human-elephant conflict mitigation is key. We cannot only focus on treating the elephants, we have to focus on empowering the community as well.