There is literally a War of Space occurring in the Mara as the Mays Entertainment short film suggests. Mara Elephant Project, WWF, Narok County government and conservancies in Kenya all agree that space is limited and essential to both elephant and human well being, and therefore, at a premium.
On one side is the wild animals that need vast amounts of space to roam, especially keystone species like elephants. These animals will roam large amounts of land to carve out territories to find food, water and a good mate. Humans also need vast amounts of space. Farming and livestock rearing are both large parts of a Maasai’s livelihood and culture in the Mara.
Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) is on the rise in the Mara as a result of the war of space. Farmlands, Bomas (kaarals), settlement areas, fragmentation of land, growing populations of people and roads are all cutting off key elephant corridors and, as a result, elephants are coming into contact with humans much more often. Elephants are starting to see crops as a food source as well as unknowingly trampling through villages or farms while on their way to find necessary resources like food or water. Meanwhile, large cattle herds are wiping out grasslands that elephants like to feed on making elephants travel even farther to find a good food source. All of this is leading to an increased level of both elephant and human deaths in the Mara.
What’s the solution? There isn’t just a single one.
We need data collected in order to inform our government to make better elephant-friendly spatial plans. MEP’s collared elephants provide valuable data that helps us determine elephant corridors and map out movement and large herds. This data can then inform the government when they are spatial planning to ensure they are developing in an elephant-friendly way in areas where there isn’t much elephant activity.
Fair compensation for landowners in the Mara North Conservancy is another key piece to the space puzzle. We need landowners to view their precious conservancy land as valuable because of the wildlife roaming on it, not because of farmland or cattle grazing. At this point they stand to make more money from owning cattle or farming the fertile land. There needs to be a more transparent income structure so that we can convince landowners to keep their land wild. MEP’s co-founder Richard Roberts is working on several projects that would increase the transparency of the income structure in the MNC and help convince landowners to keep their valuable land wild.
We need a more accurate account of cattle herds in the area and mapping to show where they graze. This ensures that there isn’t over grazing and Olaro Motorogi Conservancy, MNC and Mara Naboisho Conservancy all have active plans for this.
MEP’s Rapid Response Unit and HEC Toolkit, which include our helicopter, have made a huge impact in the area in terms of mitigating HEC. Though the root of the issue hasn’t been solved, MEP is prepared to respond immediately when either human or elephant lives are in danger .