August and September for Mara Elephant Project were really productive months. Since it wasn’t harvest season in the Mara we didn’t have as many incidents of human-elephant conflict (HEC), which allowed us to focus on some on-the-ground ranger operations. It also allowed MEP to ground the Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter thus saving on fuel and hopefully catching up to our already depleted helicopter budget. Additionally, MEP CEO Marc Goss, who pilots the helicopter, was able to get his license and certification updated.
MEP sent out two reconnaissance units during this reporting period; one to the Loita area and the other to the Mau Forest. Both of these areas have been seeing a high level of poaching activity that MEP needed to address since they were outside of the protected conservancy land.
This map illustrates the main concentration of our patrol teams and the reconnaissance team’s tracks in Loita and Mau.
In addition to these two new patrol teams, MEP held two very important ranger trainings on the WILD app. The WILD app is a central location for all of the data MEP collects while out in the field. The amount of time rangers recently spent responding to HEC in the last few months, the WILD app’s data wasn’t being populated as it should have been and that needed to be addressed. So, during the staff refresher courses we reiterated the importance of data collection through the WILD app and decided to directly link it to a ranger’s performance. All ranger stations are now recording data daily on their smartphones and sending to MEP HQ every evening.
MEP also assembled a new fence monitoring team that is made up of two rangers with a motorbike and a GPS. They are systematically moving from the most northern extent of the ecosystem east to map fences in the Olkinyei and Maji Moto areas. Once this area is covered we will move them south to cover the Siana and Loita areas. Having an accurate map of fenced in property in our area of operation is going to help MEP better understand elephant corridors and report this for land-use planning.
Tracking Manager Wilson Saiowua wrote up a report about the ranger’s WILD app training and new patrol units.
WILD App Report & MEP Ranger Report: Submitted by Wilson Sairowua
Introduction: Previously, MEP rangers have been recording MIKE (Monitoring of Illegally Killed Elephants) and HEC data manually with text message updates sent daily to HQ via mobile phones. They were also submitting a monthly written report that was recorded daily in the field using a patrol book with photographs and patrol tracks that were recorded by GPS and downloaded every two weeks. What MEP found was that this system wasn’t working. Extracting the necessary information form the six books, patrol logs, cameras and GPS was an extremely time consuming process and left large margins for error.
WILD is a mobile application designed to improve the collection, sharing, management and analysis of ranger data. MEP has been using the WILD app since its inception in 2016. Unfortunately, rangers have not been collecting the data daily as required; however, now all of the rangers are required to log their patrols and incidents into WILD. This data collection is what guides us to directing our resources to the areas needed most.
Recording Patrols: For the month of September MEP rangers managed to cover a distance of 1,072 km on foot and 1,133 km by car. The Enkutoto team covered the largest distance this month on foot at 362 km. Ranger’s patrols logs are now sent daily by each team which is quite different compared to the GPS, which the rangers were logging after every two weeks. Now, these more accurate records will actually award the best team each quarter.
Wildlife Sightings: The easiest way of recording wildlife sightings is by taking photos on mobile phones and sending them immediately, which is a much quicker method of transferring the photos than rangers bringing their cameras and downloading the images every two weeks. The team, which recorded the most sightings, was Olkinyei Conservancy and they sent good photographic evidence of the herd of elephants.
Human wildlife conflicts: For the above period, we did not have many incidents of HEC, the Munyas and Kawai team recorded a few crop raiding incidents but since it’s planting season there are less cases of conflicts. This will rise immediately when crops ripen at the end of October. Property destruction of elephants breaking up fences was also recorded by Munyas. There were no poaching cases reported this month.
Animal mortality: A dead elephant was found in Ildungisho Village, the carcass was reported by the Olkinyei team. The cause of death was considered human-elephant conflict (a spear wound).
Illegal human activity: The mobile teams patrolling in the Loita and Mau Forest have been recording logging incidents inside the forest. Four people were arrested for logging in the Loita Naimina Enkiyio Forest.
Over the last two months, MEP has had some interesting updates on our collared elephants. On the 10th of September Lucy’s collar broke off in the Nyekweri Forest. This was very disappointing as she was difficult to collar initially and we will now need to work to find and collar her or another member of her herd in the thick forest. On the 6th of August Nkoidilla’s collar broke off near Loita and we are doubtful that she can be relocated and re-collared. Chiri was our first collared elephant to move into the Loita Forest from the Mara. The ground team recorded that she was with four elephants but there were many more herds in the forest. Courtney was treated on the 23rd of August for an old arrow wound. Soon after the treatment she moved into the Mara North Conservancy. Ivy has been moving into farms which do not have crops. We suspect she and her family are targeting family gardens and pumpkin patches. Finally, our newest collared elephant, Hangzhou, seems to be staging on the base of the Siria Escaprment but luckily has not gone into farms.
In the next few months we have another harvest season to contend with as well as the re-collaring of Lucy. We’ll be extremely busy out in the field responding to HEC and will need your support to continue to keep the helicopter flying.