Q4 2023 Ranger Report

The biggest activities in the fourth quarter for the over 80 Mara Elephant Project rangers were the wide range of trainings offered and the added boost their operations received now that MEP can regularly deploy drones. In October, the MEP “Lima” ranger team based in Mosiro attended an advanced training course organized by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO). The training covered the basics on human rights, making arrests, law enforcement, and crime scene management. In November, fifteen MEP rangers completed advanced training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy. The intense 3-month course meant to advance their skills in areas of bush craft, navigation, disaster management, first aid, community engagement and more concluded this week with a passing out ceremony (graduation). MEP rangers were joined at the ceremony by over 50 other Kenyan wildlife rangers and 100 guests all presided over by KWS Director General Dr. Erastus Kanga, HSC. MEP rangers Lesikar, Melami, Dickson, Gloria, Brendah, Daniel, Benson, Stanley, Maitoyo, Alex, Latiff, Raymond, Fancy and Willy returned to the Mara and deployed their new skills in the field and passed them along to their colleagues. Later in November, MEP staff took part in a snake bites and handling training at MEP HQ hosted by East African Reptiles – Taylor Ashe Antivenom Foundation. There are over 140 known species of snakes in Kenya and 33 of those are venomous. The training covered how to identify snake species, snake bite first aid procedures and the basics of snake removal, all important information for our rangers and researchers to know as they encounter snakes while in the field. Not just that, but as MEP Ranger Purity Masuntu says, “the knowledge we learned will be very useful not only to our operations but also in the communities we come from.”

MEP also offered a comprehensive night operation drone training at HQ. Nine rangers completed the training and met the requirements set by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. Besides attending trainings, MEP rangers conducted a 2-day training for 10 security officers from Asilia’s Encounter Mara Camp in November. The training covered medical emergency procedures, fire training, security, patrols, securing a crime scene, powers of arrest among other topics aimed at enhancing their work and continued protection of the camps and the guests. We are grateful for our partnership with Asilia over the years and their support of our elephant conservation work.

The fourth quarter was a busy time for all MEP’s drone pilots, as the number of conflicts incidents remained high and the addition of three new Mavic 3 Thermal drones donated by Elephant Cooperation and Rob’s Magic will assist the rangers day and night. In November, the Lima ranger team in Mosiro played a crucial role in moving a large elephant herd out of a settlement using a drone. In December, MEP’s rapid response team deployed a drone to mitigate several different conflict incidents involving elephants inside fences and pushed the herds across the Mara River.

The MEP/Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) Mau De-Snaring Units alongside partners KWS, Kenya Forest Service and Bongo Surveillance Project continued their efforts to protect the Mau Forest and the wildlife that call it home. Overall, in the fourth quarter, MEP rangers alongside government partners arrested three bushmeat poaching suspects and 42 habitat destruction suspects. They confiscated 145 kg of bushmeat and removed 173 snares. They also confiscated 973 pieces of timber, 4,963 posts, destroyed 37 charcoal kilns and 82 bags and mitigated 68 conflict incidents. MEP rangers also covered a distance of 4,320 km on foot and 32,671 km by car in the GME. One of the large bushmeat busts was made by the MEP “Lima” ranger team deployed in the Mosiro area. They received a report from the community about a potential bushmeat poaching incident involving a giraffe. After following up on the tip, the MEP rangers laid in wait to ambush the suspect and arrested him in possession of 50 kg of bushmeat, which was indeed from a giraffe.

During a routine patrol in October, the MEP mobile ranger team encountered a motorbike accident with injury. The rangers took immediate action and administered first aid to the injured 23-year-old woman and transported her to a nearby clinic for further treatment. On December 18, the MEP “Foxtrot” ranger team was on a joint patrol with Mara North Conservancy rangers when they noted a bull elephant with an injury on his front leg. We immediately called in our partner KWS Vet Dr. Njoroge from the SWT Mobile Vet Unit to treat him for an arrow wound, most likely sustained during an encounter with the nearby community. The prognosis for a full recovery was good and our rangers are monitoring him as he recovers.

Here are some additional monitoring highlights from MEP rangers in the fourth quarter.

Finally, the 2023 UltraMARAthon took place on December 2 and over 300 runners joined the race through a very muddy Mara. The MEP relay team consisting of Cosmas Bett, Joshua Karia, Benson Sunkuli and Philip Lenkume brought home the bull winning the marathon with a time of 3 hours and 21 minutes, officially cementing us as the fastest rangers in the Mara. Beyond participating, MEP was in the air and on the ground providing security for the runners. A special thanks to all of the runners, volunteers and sponsors that made this possible all to support MEP, Africa Mission Services (AMS), Mara Conservancies, and other conservancies working to protect the Mara’s wildlife and local communities surrounding this beautiful landscape.