Mara Elephant Project is excited to welcome Eric Sarupa, Gideon Koti, Dickson Nyange, Mike Olomunyak, Nancy Nailantei, Brenda Moonka and Benson Sunkuli as the latest MEP rangers. Recruitment for these new rangers took place in early March and they spent six weeks on MEP’s campus going through training, all run in house by MEP. The ranger training covers various skills and knowledge including internal MEP standard operating procedures as well as first aid, field craft, how to conduct proper patrols and ambushes, maintaining a crime scene, communicating with the community as well as an overview of the laws of Kenya. MEP ranger Caren led the first aid training and Assistant Senior Warden Maitai instructed the rangers in the classroom and on field exercises. After completing training, a Passing Out Parade (or graduation) was held at MEP HQ and then these men and women were deployed to protect the Loita Forest and the wildlife that call it home.
In the third quarter, there was one ivory bust and arrest. On September 7, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) seized 24 kg of ivory and arrested two suspects based on MEP intelligence. The intelligence unit worked throughout the rainy night following a lead from community members near a village in Loita. MEP’s intelligence unit worked alongside officers from the Entasekera police station to apprehend the suspects and seize their motorbike and the four pieces of elephant tusk.
MEP rangers continued to partner with KWS and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mobile Vet Unit to assist with the treatment of injured elephants in the Mara. In July, MEP rangers and researchers assisted our partners with six elephant treatments for injuries related to conflict. The first treatment took place on July 8 when the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team helped our partners with a female elephant treatment. Then, on July 9, a male elephant needed treatment for an arrow wound. On July 11, MEP’s long-term monitoring (LTM) team was in the field monitoring elephants in Olare Orok Conservancy, when they spotted two injured elephants in need of veterinary intervention. The first was an injured female elephant within a herd of six and the second was a male elephant that had a swollen wound on the left side of his stomach. The KWS vet cleaned and disinfected the female’s five arrow wounds and then moved onto the bull elephant’s arrow wound on his stomach. Both treatments went well, and the elephants are recovering. Later in the month, on July 27, there were two injured elephants in collared elephant Chelsea’s herd that the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team identified and assisted with treatment.
In August, MEP rangers from the “Golf” team joined with Mara Triangle rangers to search for a wounded mother elephant, and her calf, after a local guide from Governor’s Camp spotted her injury. It was easier said than done, but after a day of searching, they were spotted inside an area that wasn’t easily accessible for treatment. The MEP helicopter pushed her out, and MEP’s partners did what they do best, treat the wound. The snare had caused a very deep cut into this mom’s leg and the vet removed the snare and treated the wound. After treatment, the mother elephant was up on her feet with her breastfeeding baby by her side. In September, MEP’s mobile ranger unit teamed up with KWS and SWT again to assist in the treatment of a bull elephant with two spear wounds, one on each front leg. He was treated inside a protected area, but most likely received the wounds while traversing into communities bordering the conservancy.
The third quarter saw a rise in conflict related incidents that required MEP ranger’s mitigation efforts. There were 68 total conflict incidents where MEP’s community rangers responded, many at night, and the most in 2022 to date. Crops were ripe and it kept rangers busy. In August, the MEP “Golf” ranger team was called by the community to respond to conflict involving elephants inside their yards. Once the team arrived, the elephants had departed, but their footprints were left behind, both literally and figuratively. There were two homes with major damage, but luckily no one was injured during this encounter.
It was back to school time, and for these children, their walk to school got a lot more interesting on September 1 when elephants decided to join them. The MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team responded to a herd of 34 elephants getting close to a settlement in their area of operation. They responded to move the herd away from the community, which included ushering them across a main tarmacked road children were using to walk to school. Not only did the children get an interesting story to tell once they were at school, but they also got a lift from MEP rangers.
In the third quarter, there were 66 total snares removed by MEP rangers and partners as well as 21 bushmeat poaching suspects arrested and 36 kg of bushmeat confiscated. In terms of habitat destruction in the third quarter, MEP’s rangers alongside government partners arrested 68 habitat destruction suspects, confiscated 1,322 posts, timbers and trees that were logged. They also destroyed 87 kilns, and 48 sacks of charcoal.
MEP’s mobile team and Mara North Conservancy (MNC) rangers joined forces in late September to bust an illegal logging transport taking place on the border of MNC. They received intelligence that a tractor was transporting a large amount of olive posts, and in a joint operation, they were able to seize 300 olive posts. Joint operations like this help to deter habitat destruction activities in the area and increase protection for wildlife.
While MEP focuses on elephants, all other wildlife within their area of operation benefit from their presence. MEP received a call about a young male giraffe stuck in the iconic Mara River unable to move. The MEP mobile ranger team located at headquarters responded alongside Assistant Senior Warden Maitai to attempt a rescue. Once they got to the scene, it was clear the young giraffe’s feet were stuck under river rocks preventing him from getting out. The rangers all had to bravely venture into the iconic Mara River, home to crocodiles and hippos, and it took the entire team half an hour to finally release the giraffe from the rocks and get him on shore. He was inspected and found to have no injuries, and eventually got up and walked off unharmed.
In addition to wildlife, MEP’s community rangers are also tasked with supporting their communities. In August, MEP’s “Foxtrot” ranger team responded to a medical emergency when a motorbike accident occurred nearby their area of patrol. Two men were injured and needed transportation to a nearby clinic. The MEP rangers are all trained in first aid, and a core group including some members of the “Foxtrot” team have patrol medic training. The rangers responded by administering first aid to the men that were injured and transporting them to a nearby clinic where they received medical attention. MEP’s rangers are all local community members tasked with not only protecting wildlife, but also people. We are proud to be able to respond to incidents like this and wish everyone involved a quick recovery.