The Loita Forest, commonly known as Naimina Enkiyo, is home to elephants during the dry and rainy seasons. The isolated area has seen a steady increase in poaching every year and on January 15 a carcass was reported by Kenya Wildlife Service. After investigating, the cause of death was considered poaching, which pushed Mara Elephant Project to deploy a rapid response team of rangers in the Loita area as well as our intelligence team warden to reconnaissance the area.
In early February, MEP was also receiving reports of gunfire from the local community in the Loita Forest. So, on February 13 MEP, Kenya Wildlife Service and Narok County Government rangers deployed to Loita for a two-week operation in the forest.
Here is the report from that time.
February 16: The first day of the operation. The team went to Endoinyio Ngiro and received information from herders of dead elephants. They went to the forest together with the herders who know the forest well. Before reaching the carcass the team found a cave suspected to be a poachers cave. In the cave there was a fire, which seems to have lasted for two days. The team proceeded to Enenkeshui where they found one carcass, which was thought to be two weeks old. They were directed by the local community to go to Endoinyio Ngiro where elephants were seen the previous day. But did not manage to see elephants.
February 17: The team went to Osupuko Oirobi because elephant tracks were spotted in the area. The whole team patrolled the forest to look for elephants but unfortunately none were seen. A GPS location of the elephant tracks was taken and a leopard was spotted in the area.
February 18: The team went to a Manyatta and was given a report of a dead elephant in the forest. The team went to see the carcass of a one-month old elephant in the Mzee village.
February 19: The team went to collar a female elephant in the Shompole area, where they met with the MEP aerial team. The elephant was collared and named “Ndorre.”
February 20: The patrol team went from Empurputia to Naroksura for refueling and later went on patrol at Enkutoto. Many elephants were spotted in the area heading to the Eastern side of the Loita forest.
February 21: The patrol went to Entasekera, though nothing spotted in the area. Later in the afternoon the team followed up intelligence reports at Entasekera shopping center.
February 22: Normal patrol to Enkutoto, nothing spotted in the area.
February 23: The team traveled back to the Mara.
Overall, this operation is the start of something long term in the Loita Hills area. This is clearly a hot spot for poaching right now and we are hopeful a continued MEP presence will deter future poaching.