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Elephant translocation in the Maasai Mara
Date Published: 14 Sep, 2011
The Kenya Wildlife Service will from next week start moving about 50 elephants from Narok North to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok South to mitigate escalating human wildlife conflict in the area.
The 10-day exercise to be officially launched on Thursday, September 22, 2011 by KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich and will be the first phase of an exercise whose total cost is Sh31 million. The first phase will cost Sh7 million.
The whole exercise seeks to relocate a total of 200 elephants from Narok North to Maasai Mara National Reserve in Narok South through funding by the Kenyan Government as part of drought mitigation and livelihood support.
The exercise will involve about 30 technical people who include scientists, veterinary doctors, capture rangers, pilots, mechanics and drivers.
For the last couple of weeks, KWS scientists have been conducting pre-translocation aerial and ground surveys to determine elephant numbers and their distribution. They have also surveyed the appropriate capture and release sites as well as the 150-km route to be used.
The area where the elephants are being moved from can no longer hold 200 elephants in view of the increasing habitat loss due to conversion of areas used by elephant into agriculture, charcoal burning, logging and increasing human population and settlements.
Local communities and their leaders, especially MPs and councillors, have also been sensitised about the exercise and are supportive of the translocation as the long-term solution to the current problem.
A long-term post-release monitoring plan has been put in place, which will include deploying GSM collars to the translocated elephants to guide proactive action in the event the elephants attempt to return to the capture area.
Rapid change in lifestyle of local communities from pastoralism to crop farming and other incompatible land-use practices has tremendously led to increased human wildlife conflict in the Narok County.
Such conflict in many areas is mainly attributed to increased human population and loss of elephant habitat due to uncontrolled human activities, especially crop farming, charcoal burning and human settlements.
Narok County is currently designated as one of the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) hotspots in the country with elephants identified as the most problematic wildlife species.
Long-term monitoring of elephant movements in the affected area through satellite tracking has established that about 200 elephants have been cut off from the greater Mara ecosystem and are currently considered a sub-population of the Mara.
For example reports from the Kenya Wildlife Service Narok station indicates that out of the 9,299 human wildlife conflict cases reported in the last 10 years, 5,052 (54 per cent) are attributed to elephants. Common impacts of human elephant conflict include human deaths, human injuries, crop destruction, human threats/obstruction, other property destruction.