Meet Our Rangers
The Mara Elephant Project’s Maasai male and female rangers have been a crucial part of the organization since the start and work tirelessly to protect elephants and their habitats across the Greater Mara Ecosystem, one of Kenya’s most important ecosystems. Since 2011, MEP has educated, trained and employed over 60 rangers in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service. MEP rangers are the next generation of conservationists who were raised alongside wildlife they now work daily to protect. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the rural youth population (people ages 35 and under) accounts for 68.9% of the total population in Kenya, and MEP is offering them a skilled job that doesn’t require formal education and that can sustain themselves and their families. It’s our rangers locally acquired knowledge about the wildlife and habitat that makes them the best at protecting both into the future.
“THE BACKBONE OF THE MARA ELEPHANT PROJECT ARE THE RANGERS. THEY’RE FROM THIS AREA. THEY’RE AMBASSADORS IN THE COMMUNITY. THEY ARE TAKING OWNERSHIP OF BEING ABLE TO RESPOND EFFECTIVELY.”CEO Marc Goss
Children growing up in the Mara need role models, just like children around the world. MEP rangers fulfill that role and represent one of the professional opportunities available to Maasai children when it comes time to build their own future. Our legacy is so much more than elephant protection; it’s the creation of a people-centric sustainable NGO model that puts Kenyans at the heart of protecting their birth right.
MEET THE TEAM
Thorsten Hanewald Photography
Suzanne Fehsenfeld co-founded Mara Elephant Project when she saw a need for investing in talented young conservation driven people that were making a difference protecting elephants and their key habitats during her extensive travels throughout Kenya. Originally the founder of the Sidekick Foundation, Inc.® in 2011, Suzie channels her passion for wildlife conservation with both a global and local lens. Globally, Suzie’s commitment prevails through her past work with The Nature Conservancy, Stop Ivory, Tusk Trust and LEWA Conservancy. Locally, in Indiana, she serves as a founder member of the Indianapolis Zoo. Suzie first visited Kenya with her husband Fred Fehsenfeld on their honeymoon in 1989; the beginning of many trips to Kenya for Suzie, which inspired the idea for Mara Elephant Project. The Sidekick Foundation® not only funds Mara Elephant Project but has a vested interest in youth conservation education in Kenya as well as sustainable community development through The Maa Trust.
Richard Roberts co-founded Mara Elephant Project in 2011 with Suzie Fehensfeld. In 2011, Richard noticed an increase in elephant carcasses and this concern coupled with a tragic incident involving human-elephant conflict that occurred on his doorstep spurred Richard to act. Richard and Suzie teamed up and looked to local experts Mr. Brian Heath and Iain Douglas Hamilton to start a project that made protecting elephants and humans the core of its mission. Thus, Mara Elephant Project was born, and Marc Goss came on board to lead the first rapid response team. In 2000, together with his partner Liz, Richard created Richard’s Camp and in his role as owner, he secured key funding for MEP and participated in the growth of the organization from a single team to a world-class organization. Richard’s Camp served as the traveler’s first introduction to the Mara Elephant Project and to at-risk ecosystem conservation in general. Born in Kenya and raised in the Maasai Mara, Richard shared an inspiring knowledge and love of the local people, the wildlife and the beauty within this amazing area of the world. His lifetime of work in Africa led to significant accomplishments in the areas of habitat protection and wildlife conservation until his tragic death on August 17, 2019. Richard left behind Liz, and their children, and the rest of the Roberts family, who carry on his legacy through Richard’s Camp. Richard loved all creatures and by sharing this love for wildlife and wild spaces people gravitated toward him to join him on this most important journey to protect the Maasai Mara.
Beatrice is a strategic communications specialist with over 20 years of experience as a communications development professional covering the African continent with extensive experience in East, Central and Southern Africa. She has worked as a journalist with BBC and Reuters and for several international NGO’s including African Wildlife Foundation, UNICEF and Oxfam (GB). She has also consulted for Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Kofi Annan Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a child of Africa with roots in Kenya and Uganda, Beatrice has a strong and unyielding passion for African development and environmental issues. She believes that conservation and development can co-exist and is keen to play her part to make sure Kenya’s future is sustainable, balanced and wise.
Colin Church managed conservation projects and businesses in Kenya for 40 years. He was chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee from 2000 to 2012. His previous positions include: chairman of Kenya Wildlife Services, Trustee Board 2003-2004, founding member and past chairman of the Public Relations Society of Kenya and president of The International Public Relations Association; the global body developing the public relations profession. Up until his death in March 2021, Colin was the chairman of MEP and a founding member of the organization. Colin was a pillar, mentor, and gentleman who did so much for so many.
Trey serves as the liaison between ground operations in the Mara and our U.S. backers as well as MEP’s outreach initiatives and is the Executive Director of the Sidekick Foundation, Inc. Trey has overseen the development of MEP’s headquarters in the Mara and his experience includes the research and development of sustainable agriculture systems. In 2015, Trey co-founded ROOTS Coconut Oil, a social enterprise that uses commerce to improve the lives, land and coconut trees of Pate Island, Kenya.
Kevin Rodrigues is an investment professional with over 13 years of experience in investment banking, merchant finance and private equity gained in the United States, Europe and Africa. Kevin currently works as a Director at LGT Lightstone, managing investment activities in Eastern & Lusophone Africa. Focusing on impact investing in key emerging economies, LGT Lightstone is a fully owned subsidiary of the The LGT Group Foundation (‘LGT’). LGT is a multi-generational company, owned by the Princely family of Liechtenstein, consisting of multiple business verticals, including a Fund of Funds, Private Bank and Asset Management. Prior to joining LGT Lightstone, Kevin worked for Credit Suisse First Boston, International Finance Corporation, Black River Asset Management (now Proterra Investment Partners) and CDC Group. Kevin holds an MBA from London Business School, UK and a B.A. (Economics) from Northwestern University, USA.
Marc has worked in the greater Maasai Mara for 10 years, starting as manager for Olchoro Oiroua Conservancy and then Mara North Conservancy. Marc assembled the first Rapid Response Unit for MEP in 2011 and in 2013 started working full-time with MEP. Before Marc moved to the Mara he completed his bachelor’s degree at The Evergreen State College, Washington. During this time Marc started sustainable woodlot cycles and tracked the bongo antelope in Kenya’s Aberdare National Park under the guidance of Richard Leakey. He is also the current Kenya Wildlife Service Honorary Warden for the Maasai Mara.
Zakayo Lenaeku joined Mara Elephant Project the year it was established in 2011. He began his career in Olchoro Conservancy in 2000 as a ranger tasked with guarding the endangered white rhino. He later moved to Mara North Conservancy and worked as a patrol ranger there alongside MEP CEO Marc Goss from 2008 to 2010 before moving over to MEP. Zakayo started his career at MEP as the Head of Intelligence and during his time leading the intelligence team 90% of MEP’s ivory arrests and seizures can be attributed to his efforts. In May 2020, Zakayo was promoted to Senior Warden and his duties include managing all of MEP’s patrol rangers. He plans operations, organizes their deployments and is MEP CEO Marc Goss’ second in command. Zakayo helps MEP work with communities to mitigate conflict and reduce poaching. He’s helped MEP build a better relationship with local chiefs and community members in the Mosiro area to ensure we could have a ranger unit safely operating in that area to increase protection. Zakayo’s consistent leadership skills have led him through his many promotions to Senior Warden.
Jackson Maitai was born in the Maasai Mara in the Lemek Hills. He joined MEP in 2011 and was among the first recruits of rangers from Mara North Conservancy. He has worked in many different positions as a ranger in the Mara ecosystem including an anti-poaching unit stationed along the Kenya/Tanzania border near Cottars 1920a Safari Camp and responded to a lot of conflict mitigation in hot spots over the years. Jackson is responsible for recording the human-elephant conflict incidents, MIKE data and habitat destruction activities that take place over our area of operation. In 2014, Jackson was promoted to the post of the Corporal at MEP and later Assistant Warden due to his exemplary job performance. Jackson attended Ngosuani Primary School, Sotik High School for his O level and completed Prescott College of Wildlife in 2007. Later, he joined the Koyiaki Guiding School and graduated as a safari guide in 2009. His passion and determination has been a driving force during his time at MEP.
Chief Financial Officer
Stanley Misoka joined Mara Elephant Project in 2018 and is a Certified Public Accountant with experience in accounting, budgeting and grants financial management. He’s previously worked at NGOs Heifer International, Amref Health Africa and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Stanley grew up in Nakuru and graduated from Egerton University with a Bachelor of Science specializing in Mathematics & Statistics.
Aileen Keis Nkoitoi grew up in the Maasai Mara and works as the administrator for Mara Elephant Project overseeing the day-to-day office and field operations for the organization since November 2019. Prior to joining MEP, Aileen worked at Bomas of Kenya and Direct Line Assurance Company. She has a Bachelor of Science in human resources from Moi University that allows her to help shape MEP’s HR policies among her many roles within the organization.
Claire studied journalism at Purdue University and pursues that passion through her work with Mara Elephant Project and the Sidekick Foundation®. She previously owned her own consulting company that provided marketing and social media management for small businesses in Indianapolis, IN. Email her, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jake Wall joined MEP in January 2019 as the director of research and conservation and leads our applied research agenda aimed at enhancing the protection of elephants and the habitat upon which they and other wildlife depend.Dr. Wall completed an undergraduate degree in physics and then a master’s degree in geography at Queen’s University, Canada specializing in RADAR remote sensing in the Canadian arctic. He began as a volunteer with Save the Elephants (STE) in 2003 and completed a PhD in geography at the University of British Columbia in 2015 studying the geospatial analysis of African elephant movement. As one of the architects of the EarthRanger system built by Vulcan, he developed an extended earlier real-time monitoring system for STE during his PhD and MEP now uses EarthRanger for the real-time tracking of elephants and rangers. Jake is originally from Canada but attended the International School of Kenya in Nairobi during the 1990s.
Wilson grew up in the Maasai Mara and joined the MEP team in 2015. Wilson’s role at MEP is all encompassing. He is tasked with tracking all 23 of MEP’s collared elephants and relaying their coordinates to MEP rangers in the field. He must keep up with the near real-time alerts for elephants in danger or a failed collar. He is also in charge of the backend data necessary to keep track of MEP ranger movements and various other data collected. Additionally, Wilson has taken a leading role in MEP’s school planting initiative, chili fence project and our upcoming unmanned aerial vehicle re-integration. After finishing high school, Wilson completed a diploma at the Maasai Mara University in social work and community development. He then taught children at the Olemoncho Primary School before joining MEP.
Vincent was born and raised in the village of Mara Rianda, just down the road from MEP’s headquarters in the Mara. After school, he completed Koiyaki Guiding School as a silver guide and worked at several high end camps in Mara North Conservancy before joining MEP in March 2021 as the team leader of the long-term monitoring team.
Sarafina Sironka was born and raised in Narok Town. After completing high school at Sosit Secondary School she attended the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute (KWSTI) in 2016 and pursued a course in community wildlife management. In November 2020, she received her diploma in wildlife management after completing her work with the research department in Nairobi National Park. After graduation, Serafina joined Colobus Conservation as a volunteer and then MEP in March 2021 as a research assistant on the LTM team.
John Pesi grew up in the Maasai Mara in the Talek area. He attended Siana Boarding Primary School, Rongai Boys Agricultural & Technical High School in Nakuru for his O level and joined Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute and was awarded a degree in wildlife management in 2013. He joined MEP in March 2021 as a field research assistant with the LTM team. Before joining MEP, John worked in Mara Naboisho Conservancy as an administrator for two years before being promoted to conservancy warden. John completed the five-month basic paramilitary course necessary to become warden and supervised all security matters for both wildlife and guests using the WILDAPP and cyber tracker. In 2019, John continued to put his passion for conservation to work and got his bronze level award from the Koyiaki Guiding School and became a freelance professional safari guide.
Fintan Sankei grew up in the Nkoikori Mara Ward. She graduated from Koyiaki Guiding School as a bronze level safari guide and worked for several well-known camps in the Mara, Alex Walker Serian, Tangulia Camp Mara and Neptune Mararianta. Fintan joined MEP as a research assistant on the LTM team in March 2021.