The Maasai Mara ecosystem in Kenya covers only 0.1% of Africa but is home to 40% of its large animal species. Human encroachment has been detrimental here. The elephant population had been steady at 3,162 until 2010, but dropped to only 1,488 by 2014. Mara Elephant Project works mostly in the 11,500 square kilometers outside of protected reserves and conservancies. They train, deploy and manage a team of 38 rangers in the field plus three intelligence rangers with a vast informant network. Since 2011, they have reduced the number of illegally killed elephants from about 100 per year to only 15 in 2017. In the same timespan they have arrested 316 ivory dealers, middlemen and poachers while recovering 1,137 kg of ivory. Their methods include: using drones & a helicopter in tandem with chili fences to steer elephants away from people and crops; collaring 45 flagship elephants to monitor, protect and analyze their rangeland, and; providing outreach in communities that border conservancies and have been poaching and Human Elephant Conflict hotspots.
In 2018, Bently Foundation awarded the Sidekick Foundation with a $31,540 grant to support Mara Elephant Project’s ranger activities. The grant provided the rangers with needed uniforms, wet weather gear, backpacks & LED flashlights. The organization was able to obtain many of these items for even better prices than expected, and used savings to purchase mobile solar panels and a drone to assist in their field activities further.
Photos courtesy of Mara Elephant Project