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Protecting Elephants to Conserve the Mara Ecosystem

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Mara Elephant Project believes that by protecting elephants they are also protecting the greater Mara ecosystem. In ecological and conservation terms elephants are considered a “landscape species” meaning they require large, diverse areas to live; have significant impact on the structure and function of

natural ecosystems; are culturally or economically important; and are particularly vulnerable to the land-use and other practices of people. Elephants have a strong influence on the well being of other species that share their ecosystem to the point that their extinction is likely to have a correspondingly strong effect on the structure and function of ecosystems. We cannot let this happen.

In the 21 Century, more than any other time in history, elephant populations have been in a sharp and perilous decline. A 2016 elephant census revealed that approximately 350,000 African elephants are left in the wild. Between 2007 and 2014, nearly 35,000 elephants were

killed, the equivalent of one elephant every 15 minutes. Human development has continued to expand into traditional elephant areas, encroaching on their space and creating habitat-loss and human elephant conflict (HEC). Elephants are also still in demand for their ivory.

The Mara Elephant Project (MEP) was established in 2011 in response to the escalating elephant poaching crisis in the Maasai Mara, and throughout Kenya.

The greater Maasai Mara region, sharing its border with the Serengeti ecosystem, is Kenya's most important wildlife corridor and home to over 3,000 elephants.

MEP has been at the forefront of innovative, successful approaches in the fight to protect elephants: training and deploying a team of over 30 rangers from the Mara to conduct regular, safeguarding patrols; working with local communities who live alongside elephants, providing a rapid response to resolve human-elephant conflict; and monitoring and tracking 23 elephants using GPS collars.

In 2012, the first year of operations, 96 elephants were killed for their ivory in the Mara ecosystem. Within five years, the number had been reduced to eight.

The decline in elephant poaching is largely attributed to MEP's intelligence network

and their collaboration with other conservation agencies and anti-poaching teams. But as poaching has declined, so human-elephant conflict (HEC) has increased. HEC is not only a significant threat to elephants but also a major obstacle to the livelihoods of people living alongside them. In 2010, two elephants were killed due to HEC. By 2016, this

number had risen to 12. Farmers have lost whole fields of crops in a single nightfences and maize barns destroyed. It has presented MEP with a challenge in its efforts to protect elephants whilst safeguarding the interests of local communities.


In response to these threats MEP has developed an effective number of interdependent programs including:


MEP has trained and deployed a team of over 30 rangers from the Mara to conduct regular patrols and provide rapid response to safe-guard elephants from poaching and intervene in human-wildlife conflict situations.


MEP works with local communities who live alongside elephants, providing a rapid response to resolve human-elephant conflict and support to the community through development projects.


MEP currently monitors 23 collared elephants with GPS collars, which enables MEP to

track elephants and their movements 24/7. The near real-time collar data is a tool to ensure the security of more than 600 elephants and deploy rangers to monitor the collared elephants and their associated herds daily.

MEP is a critical partner of the Kenya Wildlife Service in protecting elephants in the Mara Serengeti ecosystem and has played a key role in reducing the level of poaching and rapidly responding to human-elephant conflict.


We need your help to protect elephants and secure a viable and sustainable population in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem that will serve as a keystone species, which ensures the long term socio-economic future of the region.


  • Reduce the Percentage of Illegally Killed Elephants (PIKE) to under 20% within 2 years and 10% within 5 years.

  • Replicate MEP's method in the remaining unprotected areas of the greater Mara ecosystem and into the Serengeti

  • Secure vital migration corridors and dispersal areas and see them leased as conservancies

  • Implement an effective national and county elephant strategy that secures space for elephants

  • Increase MEP's community engagement program fostering support for wildlife and conservation

In the face of numerous social, economic and environmental issues, it is critical that MEP focuses on specific issues and activities where it has a recognized strength. Through partnerships, MEP will seek to leverage the resources, knowledge, networks and strengths of other stakeholders to enhance our impact.



PO BOX 16656 (00620) NAIROBI, KENYA

Kenya: +254 710 780215

USA: +1 317 832 8313

The Mara Elephant Project is a registered non-government organisation in Kenya.

The ESCAPE Foundation does business as MEP in the USA and is a 501(c)(3) registered charity,

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