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