Q3 2022 Research & Tracking Report

One of the highlights for the third quarter was that Mara Elephant Project’s Research Department open-sourced ‘Ecoscope’, a conservation data analytics platform developed by MEP. Ecoscope is a python library for performing various data analytics, ranging from simple to advanced, using tracking data coupled with remote sensing and geospatial data sources. The hope is that by making Ecoscope open source a wider range of developers and users can benefit and contribute to the project. Ecoscope is under active on-going development, and it took many talented people to make Ecoscope possible including Peter Kulits, Catherine Villeneuve, Jes Lefcourt and George Wittemyer, and organizations to collaborate on this project, Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), Google Earth Outreach, Save the Elephants, and Elephants Alive.

In the third quarter, MEP rangers and researchers partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mobile Vet Unit for several elephant treatments for injuries related to conflict. 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.

In September, the MEP LTM team alongside Director of Research and Conservation Dr. Jake Wall and Conservation Officer Wilson Sairowua responded to reports of three bull elephants in need of vet intervention in Mara North Conservancy (MNC). MNC rangers first reported the injuries, and the MEP team joined to assist. All three bulls were previously identified by the LTM team as individual 110, 141 and 28. Individuals 110 and 28 had arrow wounds most likely a result of crop raiding in nearby community farms across the river from the conservancy. Individual 141 had a snare tightening around his trunk and an arrow wound near his eye. Luckily, after the snare was cut, the injury was treated, and it appears that it won’t harm his trunk’s movement. The MEP LTM team monitored the more severely injured bull elephant, individual 141, one day after his treatment. They found him in MNC using his trunk to graze and noted that his treated arrow wound was healing nicely.

MEP rangers and researchers were monitoring elephants in the GME in August and had many documented sightings. The MEP LTM team is tasked with monitoring and identifying the elephants that call the Mara home. There is one female that is particularly impressive, individual 77. She is the matriarch of a herd of 40 and is estimated to be in her 30s. She was photographed by the LTM team in the third quarter the Maasai Mara National Reserve enjoying the long grass.

MEP’s Co-Existence Farm didn’t record much rainfall resulting in an increase in predation, which they welcomed for expanding research. The grassland turned yellow making the farm the only green spot, which attracted more wildlife like giraffe that crossed the Mara River to the Transmara side. They also observed a great shift of crop predation where crops like African night shade (Managu) and peppermint that were never predated before turned into a delicacy to wildlife, especially the hippos. Over one night in July, they had a family of five elephants, with two young calves, visit, and they didn’t leave much intact. The lemongrass was uprooted and eaten, clearly favored by the babies based on the footprints. Additionally, the sweet potatoes and spinach were also on the menu as was the maize planted with sunflowers as a barrier. Quite funny was that the rosemary was sampled by this herd but spit out after being chewed. It’s not just what they did or didn’t eat, but their size can also cause devastation. The cucumbers, beans and potatoes weren’t sampled, but were instead trampled on by the elephants, leaving many plants damaged. The MEP Co-Existence Farm welcomes these visits and is collecting the data to find elephant friendly crops that promote co-existence and work for farmers in the Mara.

The MEP Co-Existence Farm’s kitchen garden is really starting to take off. They’ve planted heirloom seeds to test their ability to grow sustainably and deployed several approaches to limit the amount of space needed to grow a wide variety of crops. They have used wine bottles, grow bags and more to test out various designs and are currently growing artichokes, basil, parsley, eggplant, oregano, leeks, carrots, bell peppers, cilantro, collard greens, amaranth, cabbage, tomatoes, thyme and cauliflower.

MEP monitors the movements of collared elephants alongside our partners KWS and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI). In the third quarter, MEP rangers and researchers monitored many of the collared elephants while in the field. Collared elephant Audrey was monitored from the air using the MEP helicopter in August. During the aerial monitoring, it was noted that Audrey’s herd was healthy, her collar was fully functioning without much wear-and-tear, and that her baby is growing fast. In September, the MEP mobile ranger team monitored collared elephant Ivy and her herd in Enonkishu Conservancy. They found Ivy with her herd of eight grazing peacefully and in good health. On September 26, the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team while on patrol monitored Chelsea and her herd in Ol Kinyei Conservancy. The MEP LTM team got a video of collared elephant Fred enjoying some acacia in MNC. Another large bull, collared elephant Polaris, was monitored by the MEP’s LTM team in Olare Motorogi Conservancy.