The biggest global issue at the moment is the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 virus. It is already having a huge impact on the global economy and Kenya is taking this threat very seriously as is Mara Elephant Project. We’ve taken the proper steps to ensure our rangers and headquarter-based staff are all safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. We have implemented strict new protocols to ensure that MEP is an example of an organization taking the correct measures to deal with the virus.
At the moment, it’s extremely green in the Mara as the abnormally high previous rains stopped, and the short rains arrived. On the 22nd MEP core staff attended the Celebration of Life for MEP Founding Member Richard Roberts. Around 500 people attended the event and the ceremony was extremely touching. MEP’s Chairman Colin Church gave a moving speech and each speech from family members and close friends captured a glimpse of the amazing man Richard was; truly a larger than life person. Our hearts are with his family during this difficult time and we can only say that time heals all wounds. You are hugely missed by your MEP family. Kwaheri bwana.
MEP has been supporting the process of adjudicating the Loita Forest and attended two meetings with agency stakeholders and then community committee members. This transparent process is extremely important to get right to ensure that the forest is protected, the community is empowered with the tools to protect their forest, and that there is no land grabbing. The Loita community is one of the best examples of a properly managed community forest and satellite imagery supports this claim by indicating minimal forest cover loss in the last 20 years. As the adjudication process continues and individuals are given parcels of land surrounding the forest, we all must ensure that the forest remains intact. We will be working closely with the government and the community to ensure this process happens transparently and appropriately.
Overall, in February, MEP rangers destroyed 13 kilns, 36 bags of charcoal and a poacher’s cave; recovered 1,000 pieces of cedar, 45 illegal posts; removed six snares and arrested 10 suspects for illegal logging or charcoaling in collaboration with Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the local police. There were 13 incidents of human-elephant conflict that MEP rangers responded to during the month of February. Most were mitigated using ranger’s vehicles, firecrackers or drums. The Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter was called in twice to move elephants out of settlements.
The Transmara team destroyed two kilns and 36 bags of charcoal at Nyakweri Forest on February 21. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mau team arrested three suspects transporting charcoal in Kericho Forest, both suspects taken to Kericho police station and booked.
The two most notable flights in the Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter in February were transporting the Kenya Wildlife Service vet to treat an injured lion and rescuing a poisoned vulture, our first bird passenger. According to the Mara Raptor Project, MEP’s involvement with the rescue of the vulture sent a strong message about the importance of vultures in this ecosystem. (pictured left: MEP’s first ever vulture passenger in the Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter heading for treatment.) Additionally, along with Seedballs Kenya, we were also able to re-seed some of the worst hit locations by charcoal makers in the Rift Valley. We assisted in an elephant treatment on February 24. MEP’s Director of Research & Conservation Dr. Jake Wall assisted KWS Vet Dr. Limo in the treatment of a very sick elephant calf. Unfortunately, despite the team’s best efforts, the calf was not able to be saved.
On February 24, MEP’s Director of Research & Conservation Dr. Jake Wall assisted KWS Vet Dr. Limo in the treatment of a very sick elephant calf. Unfortunately, despite the team’s best efforts, the calf was not able to be saved.
A YouTube Originals series Age of A.I. recently featured Mara Elephant Project’s Marc Goss, Dr. Jake Wall, Wilson Sairowua and rangers. Along with our partners from RESOLVE and Intel the episode demonstrates how TrailGuard AI anti-poaching system can stop poachers BEFORE they kill wildlife. MEP received 50 kilograms of seed balls from Seedballs Kenya in February thanks to a generous donor, Mergim Berisha and another 75 kg donation from Salmaan Visram, founder of Oak and Timbers. Thank you to Valerie for celebrating her birthday by raising $297 on Facebook for Mara Elephant Project. In total, during the month of February, MEP raised $129.88 on Facebook and $5,143 via PayPal. Creatura Wildlife Projects & Travel supported MEP this month with a $2,500 donation and brought along visitors from Richard’s Camp to see MEP HQ and hear about the work we’re doing in the Mara. We received a further $1,725 in donations in the form of checks from individuals as well as $60,348 in form of wire transfers into MEPs accounts. We had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from the ICCF U.S. Congressional International Conservation group and discuss the work we are doing and the challenges facing the greater Mara ecosystem. We also enjoyed visitors from Asilia Africa and Kicheche Mara Camp. The month of February had 17 captivating images in The Greatest Maasai Mara photo competition to benefit MEP! Thank you to Dave Richards, Harman Singh Heer, Vijay Harinathan, Stephen Underwood, Amish Chhagan, Pepe Arespacochaga, Gurcharan Roopra, Tommy Mees, Alison Mees, Yaron Schmid, Diana Knight, David Roberts, Victor Kimathi, Ginger Lyvere Peck, Thorsten Hanewald, Phil Parks, and Kyle Borlase for supporting us!
A February entry in the GMM competition from Phil Parks that benefitted MEP.
MEP’s research department continues to provide inputs to the Narok County Government draft spatial plan; they’ve also made great forward progress on the fence line mapping project and all MEP vehicles are now outfitted with Android phones and the new ER ‘Roam’ application for real-time reporting of their location. These data will help operations but also help us refine metrics of patrol effort.
MEP’s collared elephant Shorty visited Grumeti during this reporting period before safely returning to Kenya. Fred and Ivy spent time together, Namunyak was spotted by MEP rangers while on a monitoring patrol with a herd of 30, all in good condition. Lempiris was spotted by MEP rangers with a bachelor herd of four bulls. Patrol teams also visited Chelsea and she was reported in a herd of 40 individuals. Hannibal and Napolean continue to move together. Fitz and his herd have been actively crop raiding and the MEP Transmara ranger team was pushing them out of farmland regularly in February.
MEP collared Namunyak with her herd of 30 observed on the ground by MEP rangers.