On August 14, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) reported crop raiding elephants deep inside a farming area on the slopes of the Mau Forest on the Naivasha side. This situation quickly became an emergency as large numbers of community members had gathered to protect their farms from further damage.
The KWS ground team mobilized rapidly to prevent the community from attacking the elephants, but they were not able to chase the herd out of the large-scale maize plantations. That’s when KWS called in Mara Elephant Project’s leased helicopter to move the elephants toward Mt. Suswa.
Piloted by Marc Goss, the MEP leased helicopter is a very effective tool during situations where rapid response is needed to assist teams on the ground. He was able to move the elephants southeast 24 kilometers (15 miles) toward Mt. Suswa where they would be safe, but not without navigating a few obstacles.
There were a number of very steep ravines that elephants weren’t able to cross, which meant we needed to push them along the edges of farms. As you can see from the video, when the elephants got to the Standard Gauge Railway the engineers had luckily made large underpasses for wildlife and so they easily went through.
When we reached the main tarmac road from Nairobi to Narok town KWS officers on the ground were able to stop the vehicle traffic each way to let the six bulls cross safely.
Elephants make extreme movements when they are searching for mates, food resources or are following historical corridors. We are not certain where the elephants came from to reach this area, maybe the Rift Valley or Mau Forest? That’s why collecting movement data using satellite collars is a critical component to KWS and MEP’s approach to promote co-existence. If there had been a collared elephant in this herd, we would know for certain where they came from and get an early warning if they tried to reach these farms again.
We are happy to report that the mission was a success in keeping the elephants and the community safe. This is a great example of Mara Elephant Project working closely with our government partners Kenya Wildlife Service and using key tools like the leased helicopter to prevent escalating conflict.