Human-elephant conflict (HEC) is on the rise as the space in the Mara diminishes. In the Kenya portion of the ecosystem (the Maasai Mara and surrounding areas), people and wildlife peacefully co-existed for years when space for both did not overlap. Up until the 1950s, the ecosystem had a very small human population living in the area, but as the human population has grown, the rangeland demand for livestock and farming has increased, pushing wild animals into smaller areas. In 2015, it was reported that the human population around the Maasai Mara was growing at 10.5% per annum, more than three times the national rate of 2.5% (Courtney et al.). This is resulting in the subdivision of land has across much of the Mara landscape, resulting in continued rapid human population growth, through natality as well as immigration.
Outside of protected land, individual Maasai landowners have parcels of land, which range in sizes of approximately 20 to 200 acres that are often fenced. This fragmentation of the ecosystem is blocking key wildlife migration routes (corridors) and is rapidly accelerating human-wildlife conflict. Variable weather patterns, land fragmentation, increasing human and livestock populations, increased demand and use of non-consumptive resources have all contributed to a higher level of human-elephant conflict.
In response to this increase, MEP has developed the HEC Toolkit that includes MEP’s best practices for mitigating human-elephant conflict. The Karen Blixen Camp Ree Park Safari helicopter has enabled MEP to increase our rapid response time and quickly and effectively mitigate a human-elephant conflict situation. Additionally, unmanned aerial vehicles that rangers can deploy are cheap and easy to use as are chili fences that deter elephants from farms. Finally, community engagement and education is essential to everyone coexisting harmoniously together in the Mara.