Q1 2024 Ranger Report

Anti-poaching activities remain a key focus for Mara Elephant Project rangers. Since the pandemic, the demand for bushmeat has increased, and poachers use snares to kill wildlife for bushmeat. In 2023, MEP rangers alongside our government partners removed the second highest number of snares in organizational history, and their efforts continue in 2024. The MEP / Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mau De-Snaring Unit alongside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Bongo Surveillance Project (BSP) are tasked with anti-poaching efforts in the Mau Forest and are responsible for 75% of the total snares removed annually.

The Shimba/Mwaluganje Ecosystem contains a lowland coastal forest home to a diverse selection of flora and fauna including several rare and endemic species and is an important dispersal area for elephants. Alongside the three collared elephants in this ecosystem, MEP deploys one wildlife ranger who works alongside Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary community scouts and KWS rangers to monitor elephants and respond to conflict and deter habitat destruction activities in the forest. In the first quarter, the team destroyed charcoal kilns, arrested habitat destruction suspects and seized illegal timber posts.

Another area of operation outside of the GME, the Marmanet Forest where the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI), KWS and MEP have tracked elephants that inform ranger deployment. Collared in February 2022, big bull Lolotoo moves between the forest and Leakey’s Farm southwest of the forest bringing him close to settlements. In February, the team of rangers and scouts overseen by MEP used his movements to intervene to conflict incidents.

In the first quarter, farmers in the Mara harvested their short season crops, increasing the number of conflict incidents MEP rangers responded to both day and night mostly using the latest tool for response, drones. Thanks to Elephant Cooperation and Robs Magic, rangers were equipped with thermal drones which allowed them to respond day and night. They were especially useful when heavy rainfall in the first quarter made many areas inaccessible to vehicles and motorbikes.

In the first quarter, the SWT Mau De-Snaring Units have been monitoring the forest using a drone, primarily focusing on observing people’s movement within the forest and detecting any illegal activities same for the “Bravo” and “Echo” ranger teams in the Loita Forest.

The “Golf” ranger team in Nyakweri continued monitoring collared elephant Fitz and his herd and responded frequently at night to move the herd back into the forest before entering farms. The “Lima” ranger team in Mosiro continued their monitoring and conflict mitigation efforts using drones oftentimes monitoring large herds in the Rift Valley.

The mobile ranger team continues to react to conflict by deploying drones to push elephants out of fences.

The MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team had a first-time drone experience, when a herd of elephants they were monitoring had just minutes beforehand welcomed a new member to their family. The rangers after deploying the drone to monitor this herd for injuries, discovered a just born calf under his mother’s belly.

As part of the MEP’s support to our partners and being the only drone training organization in the Mara, we conducted comprehensive day and night operation training at MEP HQ for rangers from the Mara Triangle in February. MEP also started the process of integrating our drone operations into EarthRanger to not only track their trajectories, but also their effectiveness. For now, we’re able to provide a map of the Mavic Air 2s drones deployed to show their location and the area covered. As our system advances so too will this map.

In February, the MEP mobile ranger team were monitoring elephants when they noticed a bull with a wire snare wrapped around his back leg. They called in KWS Vet Dr. Njoroge from the SWT Mobile Vet Unit and assisted his team to remove the snare. Luckily, there was minimal damage to the foot.

Then, in March, MEP rangers monitored a female elephant with an arrow wound on her back, making matters more urgent was the young calf by her side. This female is a MEP known individual, number 78, and she and her herd of 20 reside in an area bordering community land which is likely where she encountered people and received the wound. We called in our partners once again to respond on the ground and in the air. The helicopter helped keep the calf and herd away as the vet treated her wound and after the operation MEP and Lemek Conservancy rangers helped the baby and mom reunite.

Collared elephant “Olchoda” needed treatment after the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team spotted a wound on his right hind leg while on patrol. MEP assisted KWS Vet Dr. Njoroge from the SWT Mobile Vet Unit with his treatment on the ground while the SWT Aerial Unit aided in the air.

Finally, in March, MEP rangers received a report of an abandoned baby elephant in an area with a high level of conflict. She was most likely separated from her mother and family herd during crop raiding activities or by fences. After spending three days monitoring the baby, MEP rangers were hopeful that a new herd had adopted her, but unfortunately, they abandoned her as well. Seeing no other options, we called in the SWT to airlift her to their Nairobi orphanage where she’ll be looked after by their dedicated staff.