The second quarter started with localized rainstorms, which made the Mara wonderfully green with a lot of grass for both the wildlife and the Maasai cattle. Mara Elephant Project’s rangers used their wet weather gear regularly (pictured left) as they responded to rising conflict with crops ripening bordering operational areas. It also made traversing the Mara a very slow and frustrating task. Loita had exceptionally hard rains which made it difficult to get in and out of the northern ranger base. All of this rain contributed to ripe crops as we entered one of MEP’s busy conflict times in the Greater Mara Ecosystem (GME), which leads to injured elephants needing treatment for conflict related wounds.
On April 14, MEP rangers alongside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Vet Dr. Limo from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mara Mobile Vet Unit successfully treated a bull elephant with an arrow wound. The elephant’s was observed in Mara North Conservancy (MNC) by rangers while out on patrol and the wound was noted on his side, a dangerous spot that needs immediate attention.
This bull elephant was most likely crop raiding in nearby farms across the Mara River from MNC and was chased out using arrows by the community who are frustrated with often crop raids.
MEP participated in another treatment on April 21 of a mother elephant with an arrowhead lodged in her left ear. The quick and successful treatment of this mother is a result of MEP’s newly launched long-term monitoring (LTM) team who spotted the wounded elephant while collecting data on elephants in MNC. Once again Dr. Limo was called in and the MEP leased helicopter was needed to flush this female away from her herd that were located inside a thick area of brush. We also needed extra MEP rangers on the ground to keep her calf safe and away from its mother while she was being treated. It was truly a team effort. The female most likely received her injury while crop raiding in farms that border the conservancy. Luckily, the mother’s treatment went well, and she and her baby are back with their herd and will continue to be monitored by the MEP LTM team.
On April 15, the MEP “Alpha” ranger unit stationed in the Nyakweri Forest were dealing with collared elephant Fitz (sponsored by the Angama Foundation) and his herd crop raiding at night.
They were able to successfully use firecrackers to move Fitz’s herd of 60 back into the forest and protect the community’s farms.
By June 1, crops were ripe in the Maasai Mara, and MEP rangers were busy the first week of June responding to conflict in our areas of operation. On June 1, there was maize damage reported to MEP in the Transmara area. That same day, the MEP “Alpha” ranger unit was meeting with farmers in the Enkutoto area, who had hungry elephants crossing the Mara River and raiding their maize. The team was sent to investigate crop damage from the night before and speak with the farmers to calm rising tensions between elephants and the community. Then, the next day on June 2, both MEP mobile teams in different areas responded to conflict. One team while patrolling the Noobokishi area found a group of elephants that had knocked down a fence to crop raid earlier that morning. That night, a fourth MEP ranger unit chased away a herd of 20 elephants using the cover of night to crop raid maize farms. In total, there were 26 conflict incidents mitigated by MEP in the second quarter.
In terms of illegal habitat destruction activities, all MEP ranger units stationed in key forest areas were busy combatting them in the second quarter. On April 3, the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger unit stationed in Loita Forest, received intelligence that illegal logging was taking place in their area of patrol. Once upon the scene they discovered one suspect with a chainsaw making timbers from trees in the protected forest and carting them out with his motorbike. They successfully arrested this suspect and confiscated the timbers and chainsaw. On May 11, the MEP / SWT Mau De-Snaring Unit stationed in the Mau Forest arrested two suspects in possession of 128 cedar posts being transported via donkey out of the forest. Then, the very next day, they successfully arrested two additional suspects transporting 40 posts and found 38 trees that were in production. Later in the month, the MEP SWT Mau De-Snaring Unit “golf” team stationed in the Mau received information from an informer that people were going into the forest and carting out charcoal. MEP rangers set up an ambush later that night to catch the culprits; however, unable to find the charcoal production operation, they extended their patrol. This paid off when they came upon a poacher’s campsite and were able to confiscate bushmeat, snares and destroyed the poacher’s camp so if the suspects returned, they were without their supplies. In total, in the second quarter, MEP alongside government partners arrested 55 habitat destruction suspects, recovered five power saws, destroyed 34 kilns and 43 bags of charcoal and recovered 1,170 posts, four trees and 57 timbers.
In terms of bushmeat poaching, both MEP/SWT Mau De-Snaring Units have been busy removing snares and confiscating bushmeat inside the Mau Forest. On April 19, the “Golf” team removed 20 bushmeat snares in their area of patrol. A week later, while patrolling in the Mau Forest, they removed an additional 31 snares. That’s over 50 snares in one week removed from a key forest area of the GME. On June 3, they removed 30 snares inside the Mau Forest and discovered a cave where bushmeat poachers had killed a bushbuck. Then, on June 23, the team removed 13 active snares while on patrol and a few days later, on June 25, the team stationed in the Kericho area of the Mau Forest arrested four suspects for illegal logging and charcoal production. The same team removed 10 active snares a few days later on June 28. In total, in the second quarter, there were seven bushmeat poaching suspects arrested alongside government partners and 169 snares removed and 31 kg of bushmeat recovered.
KWS and MEP had a few notable ivory busts in the second quarter. In April, MEP rangers alongside KWS arrested one suspect in possession of 10 kg of ivory. On May 7, the MEP intelligence unit was involved in the arrest of one suspect in Busia in possession of two elephant tusks weighing 9 kg and one hippo tooth (pictured left). KWS, working off of intelligence gathered by undercover MEP operatives, were able to arrest the Ugandan national who had brought the tusks over the border in order to sell them. The arrest and seizure made national news: Africa Science News and the Daily Monitor. In total, two suspects were arrested and 19 kg of ivory seized in the second quarter.
Finally, MEP rangers covered a distance of 5,215 km on foot, 26,321 km by car and 13,444 km on motorbike while on patrol.