We protect wildlife through our anti-poaching patrols and intelligence gathering which raises the opportunity cost for poachers and increases security for not only elephants but other wildlife.
In partnership with government organizations, MEP employs local Maasai 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 rangers are really the backbone of MEP and the reason why the community calls these rangers is not only because they know them and trust them, but because of the medic training they get, it’s their ability to go into a difficult and stressful situation.” Marc Goss, MEP CEO
MEP has a vast intelligence network that has been at the center of many arrests and seizures. The MEP 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. The MEP intelligence department continues to impress with their ability to root out poachers, which has extended beyond Kenya to include Tanzania. In 2019 alone, MEP along with our government partners KWS and Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) arrested a total of 19 poachers for ivory or bushmeat and seized a total of 182.5 kg of elephant ivory. Our anti-poaching patrols and intelligence gathering raises the opportunity cost for poachers and increases security for not only elephants but other wildlife. Since 2012, MEP alongside government partners have arrested 373 total ivory and bushmeat poachers which has resulted in the seizure of 1,676.5 kilograms of ivory. MEP’s presence in the Mara has resulted in less elephant deaths due to poaching. In 2012, 96 elephants were poached for their ivory in the Mara ecosystem, in 2019, that total fell to three. This is a reduction in the percentage of illegally killed elephants (PIKE) in 2012 from 83% to 24% in 2019.
In addition to continued successes in MEP’s security activities, we’ve also continued to increase our area of operation to include more of the Mara ecosystem. We established and increased our permanent presence in key endangered areas of the ecosystem, the Mau Forest and Loita Hills; two areas that are under regulated with high levels of illegal logging, poaching and human-elephant conflict. While these two critical areas of the Mara ecosystem now have additional protection, in 2019, we focused on the Nyakweri Forest; a hotbed of deforestation activity that MEP witnessed first-hand with alarming levels of charcoal production and illegal logging that is contributing to the deforestation of this critical elephant habitat. In response to escalating poaching threats to elephants in the Nyakweri Forest, KWS and MEP immediately deployed a ranger unit to provide protection to the elephants in this area.
Outside of elephant poaching, bushmeat poaching using snares 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. In 2019, MEP rangers removed 231 bushmeat snares and seized 82 kg of bushmeat, and we believe these numbers will continue to rise.
Mara Elephant Project ensures our rangers have the latest equipment while patrolling in the field. New equipment like projectile flares that are used to attract attention from a search and rescue aircraft help keep rangers safe. Ensuring they have well stocked medical kits helps them treat themselves or others in the event of a medical emergency. Powerful flashlights help them respond to conflict safely at night and Garmin InReach devices that have SOS location capabilities alert HQ at the first sign of trouble.
Training is also essential to keeping rangers safe while deployed in the field. Currently the bulk of MEP operations is the daily wildlife security which we furnish over a large diverse area. Each security staff member of MEP undergoes in-house basic tactical training which provides the platform for navigating dangerous situations while out in the field. All the rangers have completed several training courses, including commander’s, medic courses, and attend annual refresher training. In addition, support training including computer literacy, driver training, asset training, and other specific skills training outside paramilitary training is also part of MEP’s ranger development program. The wide skills training and the specific training enables our rangers to focus on their dangerous job of protecting wildlife, communities and habitat.
“The rangers are really ambassadors inspiring young people to want to protect wildlife and if we can do that, we’re going to see a whole movement, a whole change in society. Our rangers have made us one of the most relevant conservation organizations in the Mara ecosystem.” Marc Goss, MEP CEO