In August, Mara Elephant Project had a first of its kind incident on Lake Victoria. Our intelligence team led us to Busia near Uganda where we were tracking 15 pieces of ivory coming out of Tanzania. The suspects decided the safest way to cross the border was via boat through Ugandan waters and then back into Kenya. While the suspects and the informant were on the water a Ugandan patrol boat approached them and they threw the six sacks of tusks overboard, rendering them lost forever in the depths of Lake Victoria. However, overall the intelligence team succeeded alongside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) with two recoveries of 5 kg and 35 kg of ivory and arrested three suspects. The 35 kg recovery was in Kitui County near Mwingi National Reserve illustrating how far our intel team travels to recovery ivory. Pictured left: The arrest on August 28 of two people and recovery of 35 kg of ivory.
The 5 kg of ivory recovered on August 26 and one suspect was arrested.
In terms of ranger success in August, MEP rangers alongside government partners arrested a total of three suspects for bushmeat poaching, confiscated 20 kg of bushmeat and removed 23 snares.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mau De-Snaring Unit rangers and government partners confiscated 10 kg of bushmeat and arrested two suspects in the Mau Forest on August 27.
In addition, they arrested six suspects for habitat destruction activities, recovered one power saw, confiscated 46 trees that were cutdown, 1,500 posts, 30 pieces of timber and destroyed 16 kilns and two sacks of charcoal.
On August 28, SWT Mau De-Snaring Unit rangers destroyed Rangers four kilns in the Mau Forest.
All of these important wildlife, community and habitat protection activities were witnessed firsthand by world famous wildlife photographer and conservationist David Chancellor while he was on assignment at MEP for several weeks in August (pictured left). During his time at MEP, he spent time embedded with the MEP Alpha ranger unit stationed in the Nyakweri Forest and during his time with the team, they were responding to conflict day and night as elephants were staging in the forest to take advantage of the ripe crops. David then joined the collaring of a bull elephant in Oderekesi Conservancy as part of identifying the southern Corridor from the MMNR to the Loita Forest. David also followed two ivory recovery operations taking him all the way to Busia. It was a pleasure to have David.
Honorable Najib Balala speaking at an event during his visit to the Mara.
In August, MEP also had the pleasure of hosting Honorable Najib Balala, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, visited the Maasai Mara and MEP was honored to spend some time with him. MEP CEO Marc Goss not only toured the Mara with Hon. Balala but also met marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchonge who was visiting the Mara for the first time. Finally, Wildlife Direct CEO Paula Kahumbu filmed two episodes of her second season of Wildlife Warriors with Wilson at MEP HQ and in the Loita Forest. This is an extremely important project focusing on young Kenyans who are wildlife warriors. Because mainstream Kenya TV channels air the program wildlife conservation becomes a topic which Kenyans can learn about from other Kenyans.
MEP rangers responded to 13 total incidents of conflict in August. We also had many conflict incidents involving collared elephants. Shorty spent most of August in the Serengeti National Reserve and was crossing into farms at night and going back to the Reserve in the morning. Kiambi (pictured left) was spotted by Olarro Conservancy rangers after we received a low speed alert from his collar. Luckily, he was in good health. Kegol and Fred remained together in a bachelor herd of five bulls and they were breaking geo-fences near a settlement area. Napoleon and Hannibal were both crop raiding as was Ivy. Fitz and his herd of 60 continue to require conflict intervention by MEP rangers in the Nyakweri Forest. Ritan was using the Chemesusi Forest as a staging area to crop raid and was regularly breaking geo-fences at night.
MEP rangers guarding crops at night in the Transmara area to prevent conflict. This area saw regular conflict during August.
This leading into the extraordinary number of hours, 48 hours total, MEP flew during August. The Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter was critical to two collaring operations MEP took part in at the request of KWS. The first on August 13, Jepkemoi was collared in Rimoi the second, on August 17, David, was collared in Olderekesi Conservancy after MEP received reports of a group of three bull elephants going into settlement areas and raiding tomato farms along the Sand River (pictured left).
The Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter operating during a collaring exercise on August 17 of David.
The MEP Research Department had an exciting new inclusion into the monthly reports; GLAD Deforestation alerts that can now show the cumulative forest loss events measured in the three forested areas that MEP is operating: Loita, Mau and Nyakweri. This allows us to see, for example, that the current rate of loss in Nyakweri Forest has reached approximately 1 event per square kilometer – nearly twelve times the rate of forest loss as the Loita Forest. In terms of the fence line mapping, MEP two research field assistants logged 107.7 km of fences (60 km Electric, 40 km Wire and 7.7 km Other) in August adding to the data previously collected.
August is always a very active month for Mara Elephant Project since we celebrate World Elephant Day. It was made even more so with visits from famous wildlife photojournalist David Chancellor. During this time at MEP, David, on assignment for National Geographic, posted on Instagram, tagging MEP 12 times to his over 206,000 followers. This created a huge opportunity for MEP to gain brand awareness and followers on our social media platforms. His exposure encouraged Nat Geo to post to their 144 MILLION followers on Instagram on August 30 about MEP, tagging us alongside David. We can safely say this is the largest exposure MEP has had to date. As of the middle of August we were at 10,200 followers on Instagram and are now over 11,000 followers and rising. We are eternally grateful to David and National Geographic for this rare opportunity.
In other media news, Wildlife Direct CEO Paula Kahumbu came to film MEP for the second season of her show Wildlife Warriors. She spent a significant amount of time with Wilson to gain a local perspective on the work MEP is doing in the Mara. We look forward to the show airing and thank Paula for her spotlight on MEP. MEP celebrated World Elephant Day on August 12 and appreciate everyone interacting with us on social media and supporting us through donations on that day. Prints for Conservation donated 100% of their funds to MEP alongside photographer Finlay Marrian of a print on World Elephant Day; we were also their chosen spotlight charity for the entire month of August. We appreciated their support of MEP. Thank you to Governors Camp for raising money for Mara Elephant Project in August as well.
The print “Clashing of Kings” from Finlay Marrian.
MEP released our 2019 Annual Report on August 24. We appreciate everyone’s feedback on the document and are proud to continue our success in 2019 into 2020 despite increased challenges. The second quarter newsletter was also released on August 31. MEP was featured in an article published in The Telegraph in August. We continue to see wonderful entries in The Greatest Maasai Mara photo competition in August and the auction, run by the Angama Foundation, is still going strong to raise additional funds for organizations like MEP.