The third quarter for Mara Elephant Project rangers proved successful in their efforts to protect elephants and their habitats in the Mara. The MEP intelligence unit alongside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was involved in a sting operation on July 26 that resulted in the arrest of two suspects and seizure of 16 kg of ivory.
In the third quarter, MEP rangers alongside government partners also arrested four bushmeat poaching suspects, seized 76 kg of bushmeat and removed 53 snares. On July 19, the MEP / Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mau De-Snaring Unit during their routine patrol of the Mau Forest discovered a temporary camp inside the forest. They arrested two suspects that were illegally logging and making charcoal. In addition, their camp contained 10 snares intended for bushmeat poaching as well as spears and axes. Just a few days after this bust, this team also confiscated 22 snares from the Mau Forest in the Kericho area.
In terms of illegal logging, MEP rangers alongside government partners arrested 37 suspects for habitat destruction activities, destroyed 53 kilns, 21 sacks of charcoal, confiscated 839 posts, 773 pieces of timber and seven power saws. The MEP / SWT Mau De-Snaring Units were busy in August protecting the Mau Forest. On August 6, alongside KWS, they arrested one suspect for illegal logging activity inside the forest and later that week another in possession of seven trees that were found at an illegal logging site. On August 18, while on their way to the forest patrol, they came across a truck loaded with timbers and confiscated the timbers and arrested the driver. The next day, one team took part in a community meeting in Lelaitich to introduce themselves to the community, explain the work they are doing inside the forest to protect it and its wildlife as well as address any questions or concerns from the community. It’s important that MEP rangers take part in these community meetings with neighbors.
In the third quarter, MEP rangers covered a total distance of 4,320.5 km on foot, 33,584.9 km by car and 8,558.7 km on motorbike protecting the Greater Mara Ecosystem. They also mitigated a total of 21 conflict incidents in the third quarter.
Some big news out of the third quarter, MEP has teamed up with the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary (MES) to implement ranger tracking and elephant monitoring. MES is Kenya’s first Community Conservancy established in 1991 on the Kenyan coast and forms part of the Shimba Hills Ecosystem alongside the Shimba Hills National Reserve. In 2020, KWS, MEP and MES collared two elephants Dicki and Gina as a first step to understanding conflict, movement between the conservation areas and the southern Tsavo Ranches. MES ranger Suleiman came to MEP in early August to learn how MEP tracks rangers and assets with the EarthRanger system to better monitor elephants in the Shimba Hills Ecosystem with his new Kibo motorbike. Suleiman is currently patrolling with his fellow rangers and KWS to note any elephant or wildlife activity, remove snares or fishing traps and arrest anyone partaking in bushmeat poaching or illegal habitat destruction activities. On August 7, the team removed one snare and an illegal fishing trap in the Manolo River. The team also noted elephant activity in the area. On August 9, they sighted four elephants on their patrol route, then the next day they arrested one suspect in possession of warthog meat and removed illegal fishing traps in the Manolo River. On August 14, they noted buffalo activity and the next day found an illegal logging and charcoal operation site and elephants nearby. The next day there was more fresh elephant activity as indicated by elephant dung while on patrol. On August 18, they removed more illegal fishing traps in the river and the next day monitored a herd of elephants, one appearing to have an injury. In September, this ranger team removed snares, noted elephant activity and arrested one suspect in possession of 74 kg of bushmeat. In the third quarter, this team covered a distance of 254.7 km on foot patrol and 2,588.9 km on motorbike. All of this data being collected is assembled in MEP’s EarthRanger system and will help inform future deployments in this area alongside MES and KWS to increase protection for wildlife inside the conservancy.
Finally, in the third quarter, all commanders had a training refresher course held at MEP HQ to focus on radio communication and practical exams. Additionally, MEP Senior Warden Zakayo (pictured left) spent time in Tanzania meeting with Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) officials in the Serengeti National Park. This was a very successful visit and included meeting the new Chief Park Warden at Seronera HQ. We thought it was important to introduce ourselves to the senior staff and TANAPA already was well aware of our activities and applauded us for recent recoveries and arrests. They welcomed us to work together in the future and we plan to invite them to visit MEP.