Quarterly Mara Elephant Project Newsletter
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The rapid and global spread of the COVID-19 virus has brought with it challenging future implications for conservation, particularly elephant conservation in Kenya. Security in the Mara is an increasing concern and at MEP we are keeping our intelligence teams and patrol teams busy by keeping an eye out for any potential outbreaks of elephant and bushmeat poaching. Already we have noticed an increase in the logging and habitat destruction especially in the areas of Naroosora near Loita and the Mau Forest. MEP is staying true to our mission and we are stepping-up to meet the new challenges as they arise. The Karen Blixen Camp Trust helicopter has been vital to our organization during this unprecedented time. It was essential to several aerial reconnaissance missions that spotted illegal logging in the Loita Forest and Mau Forest. In January, MEP increased our boots on the ground presence with the deployment of the second Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Mau De-Snaring Unit and the Lori Price Loita team. The new teams in Loita and Mau enable us to cover more area and increase protection of all wildlife & habitats. 

Now, more than ever, responding quickly and effectively to human-elephant conflict incidents is crucial to ensuring the community’s crops are protected to feed their families. The 5Y-MEP helicopter in Q1 supported mitigation efforts when rangers were unable to safely intervene. Keeping the MEP helicopter flying during COVID is directly protecting communities and wildlife in the Mara during this time of great stress. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, MEP has flown the helicopter 106 hours, more hours than any other quarter and the flying time and needs of the community and wildlife in the Mara will only increase as COVID persists.
MEP rangers started the year with two prominent successful operations by the MEP intelligence team that led to the recovery of a total of 81 kg of ivory and the arrest of four suspects. Our intelligence team continues to shine and the two busts they led in January are evidence of their continued effectiveness. Their first bust was near the main road heading to Nairobi from Narok in Ntulele where one suspect was arrested with four tusks weighing 39 kg. The second bust of 42 kg of ivory was of a Ugandan who also had a huge sack of wildlife bones. This bust made the national news in Kenya. In total, in the first quarter, MEP rangers destroyed 56 kilns, confiscated 154 bags of charcoal, 6,010 pieces of cedar, 45 pieces of cypress, 119 illegally logged posts, one power saw and arrested 29 suspects for illegal logging or charcoal production in collaboration with KFS, KWS and the local police. In terms of poaching, MEP rangers removed 19 snares, found one poacher’s cave, arrested five suspects for bushmeat poaching, and seized 9 kg of bushmeat; we also responded to a total of 31 incidents of human-elephant conflict. In March, five MEP rangers participated in training course given by Ranger Campus in Tsavo. Two of MEP’s rangers completed the operator level while three of them graduated at the instructor level meaning they can  instruct other rangers in this course. 


The year began by deploying two new elephant collars onto one female and one male elephant (Gina and Dicki) in the Shimba/Mwaluganje ecosystem where little is known about their current distribution and range. MEP’s collared elephant Ivy gave birth to a brand-new baby calf in March. Unfortunately, also in March, MEP collared elephant Namunyak passed away from natural causes. MEP collared elephant Fitz and his herd of 65 in the Nyakweri Forest spent their days in the forest and then moved into farmland at night requiring MEP rangers to intervene regularly. The MEP team in Kericho spent a week in the Marmanet Forest monitoring Vasco after an aerial monitoring flight discovered the need for more protection. MEP's research department focused on streamlining our data collection and reporting workflows using EarthRanger. MEP now has fifteen types of field events and corresponding field forms that are recorded by our rangers during their operations. The event forms, such as snare reports or human-elephant conflict reports, are allowing us to monitor key metrics such as levels of poaching or conflict hotspots. The EarthRanger system makes collection of these data straightforward and it also has a powerful interface to watch the data feeds either on the big screen at MEP HQ or on our phones while out in the field. A new MEP research field assistant, David Marima, started in February and was tasked with collecting ground truth points for landcover mapping.



While the world deals with the evolving ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, MEP's aim over the last few months has been to provide our supporters with stories about the work that continues on the ground and bring interesting and informative posts onto your social media feed during a dark and difficult time in history. We appreciate everyone’s support big or small during this time, but we are especially grateful to core supporters for providing the stability our organization needs to focus on the task at hand. MEP was the proud recipient of the Shining World Compassion Award for using cutting edge technology and inventive solutions to protect elephants in the Maasai Mara. This award, given by Supreme Master Ching Hai and the International Association also included a $30,000 donation to MEP’s core operations and MEP was featured on Supreme Master TV in an episode about our conflict mitigation work. A YouTube Originals series Age of A.I. recently featured MEP's Marc Goss, Dr. Jake Wall, Wilson Sairowua and rangers presented by Robert Downey Jr. Along with our partners from RESOLVE and Intel the episode demonstrates how TrailGuard AI anti-poaching system can stop poachers BEFORE they kill wildlife. MEP also celebrated World Wildlife Day, and we thank Vulcan, Inc. for their support and feature.


The New Coronavirus Emerged From The Global Wildlife Trade by Dr. George Wittemyer 
Human-Wildlife Coexistence and the Future of Wildlife on
Meet One of MEP's Female Rangers

Caren Yegon

Our Mission: Protecting elephants to conserve the greater Mara ecosystem. | 
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