Mara Elephant Project employs 57 rangers in our patrol units who work tirelessly to protect elephants to conserve the greater Mara ecosystem, one of Kenya’s most important ecosystems. MEP’s rangers are at the forefront of our anti-poaching operations and human-elephant conflict mitigation efforts through boots on the ground initiatives, living out in the field for up to two-months at a time. MEP’s rangers are the backbone of our organization.
The intelligence reports are received from MEP’s widespread intelligence network of three intelligence rangers that infiltrate poaching gangs. These intelligence rangers infiltrate the poaching network and pose as gunmen, buyers and ivory dealers, then once evidence is presented they call in the ranger units and Kenya Wildlife Service to make arrests. The intelligence network also consists of informal informants who work on a bonus system. Once an informant has led the security team to a number of successful arrests the informant becomes an investigator. A significant achievement for Mara Elephant Project in 2017 is that we recovered more ivory from arrested suspects than was lost in the Mara ecosystem from poaching or conflict. Our intelligence department continues to confirm ivory is still being sought after by poachers and brokers and we’ve recently discovered that the bulk of the ivory recovered is coming out of Tanzania with the Mara Conservancy reporting four bull carcasses in the Serengeti in 2017.
In 2018, MEP also increased our area of operation to include the Mau Forest and Loita Hills. These two areas are vastly under regulated and illegal logging, poaching and human-elephant conflict were all extremely high. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provided funding for the creation of the Mau Forest unit and MEP was able to expand into Loita by re-deploying rangers from the core rapid response units away from conflict hotspots during the low conflict seasons. In 2018, in the Mau and Loita area MEP made significant anti-poaching headway. Additionally, the rapid response unit started working with a self-help forest patrol unit based in the Emitik area near Olengururone, which allowed them to have local help while operating in the forest.
Outside of elephant poaching, bushmeat poaching is on the rise in the Mara. Snares are strands of wire usually strung up between two tree trunks low to the ground. They are often used to catch zebra and wildebeest, so they can be sold illegally for bushmeat. This is a very common form of poaching in the Mara and one MEP patrol units often run into.
All the rangers have completed several training courses, including commander’s, medic courses, and attend annual refresher training. Key to the effectiveness, morale and retention of rangers is on-going training and development which is why MEP aims to provide ten days of training per annum per ranger (excluding the CEO).