Wednesday, September 14, 2011

KWS to move 50 elephants to Maasai Mara


The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) will move about 50 elephants from Narok North to the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve, about 80 km southwest of Nairobi to mitigate escalating human wildlife conflict in the area, said a statement from KWS on Wednesday.

KWS said the 10-day exercise to be officially launched on September 22 will be the first phase of an exercise whose total cost is expected to reach USD328,000. The first phase will cost USD74,000.

“The exercise will involve about 30 technical people namely scientists, veterinary doctors, capture rangers, pilots, mechanics and drivers,” it said.

The organization said 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.

“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 150km route to be used,” it said.

According to KWS, the area where the elephants are being moved from can no longer hold 200 elephants in view of the increasing habitat loss due to increased human activities.

KWS said local communities and their leaders, especially lawmakers and local leaders have also been sensitized 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,” KWS said.

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.

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.