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Elephant Aware 2020 Second Quarter Operational Report

In the beginning of April the area was lush and green after a lot of continuous rains. Hundreds of elephants and other wildlife enjoyed this time of abundance and many newborns were recorded. Elephant matriarch Mayian and her family spent most of their time eating, playing and moving at a leisurely pace, as did other elephant herds. With so much food availability, this allowed the elephants to spend more energy socializing.

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Among the many challenges faced by wildlife rangers on a daily basis, roaring rivers is one of the lesser heard of. In order to cover the area effectively, the rangers have to get from one side to the other as safely as possible. Luckily these rangers have grown up in this part of the world and are pretty familiar with the terrain but they always act with caution in every aspect of their work. Rain is a blessing in Africa and we are grateful for the bountiful resources rain brings to many wildlife species and people. These rangers are out there everyday continuing their invaluable mission to secure wildlife as well as wild habitat and we could not be more thankful for their tireless efforts!

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They are not called a “dazzle” of zebras for nothing! These beautiful members of the equine family are iconic to Africa and are yet another species which have important roles within their home ecosystems. This stunning photo was captured while on a patrol later in the month.

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On the 22nd of April, while one unit of Elephant Aware rangers were on a routine patrol, other members of the team were busy delivering food packages to women and families in the community. Many around the world have been affected by the current crisis either directly or indirectly. The situation has wreaked havoc on economies and cost many the vital daily incomes they depend upon. Each of these individual women represent their entire families and the food received will go a long way in supporting not only the women but their husbands and children as well. The rangers and our whole team were more than happy to give help to our neighbours and friends during this difficult time. We appreciate the many good, kind hearted individuals out there who make great efforts to help those in need. Communities who live alongside wildlife must be the leaders in the conservation of their natural heritage and by supporting these communities you are supporting the protection of wildlife. We thank our supporters for enabling our important work to continue everyday.

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After a lot of rain that night we enjoyed spending time with the little family of Nasha and Noretet as they were basked in the beautiful rosy evening light the following evening. (Watch the video)

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We watched as these little giraffes enjoyed playtime one evening in early May:

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Our area of operation is home to a significant population of giraffes that our team work to protect everyday as well as elephants and other species of wildlife. The giraffes in this part of Kenya are Masai giraffes and last year this subspecies of giraffe were declared to be endangered due to heavy poaching for their meat, skins and also as the result of habitat loss throughout their natural range. We were delighted to find and spend time with these two happy youngsters and their herd on our evening patrol. Even at this young age these pint sized giraffes seem to have mastered the art of curling their tails up onto their haunches while on their gallivanting adventures.

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“We are all under the same moon.” A special scene from an evening patrol in May. This trio of young bulls were slowly tagging along behind a family herd while the rangers watched from nearby.

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On a routine foot patrol the next morning the rangers found and removed seven wire snares that were set up to trap unsuspecting animals in this remote, hilly location that is inaccessible to vehicles. Snares such as these have devastating effects on wildlife across the continent and by removing the snares many lives could be saved. Snares are indiscriminate killers that poachers strategically place in wildlife hotspots which animals as big as elephants to small antelopes can get caught in only to suffer a slow, painful death. We are glad for the dilligent efforts of rangers like these who work everyday to protect wildlife.

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There are a number of ways to tell elephants apart such as with careful study of their iconic ears, tusks, body and even their tails. The smallest marking, lump, bump vein pattern on an ear or indentation on a tusk can give clues as to who the elephant is. After all, elephants are as individual as we are and this is expressed even on their faces and through their characters. Like us, elephants feel emotions and are often seen displaying remarkably anthropomorphic gestures towards one another as well as toward other species. Now more than ever, let us all work together to ensure that this extraordinary species have a future on our planet so that future generations may have the same privilege of delighting in the intriguing complexity and amazing wonder elephants evoke in their human observers. Equally so that elephants can continue in their important roles within their home ecosystems, the extent of which perhaps has not been fully understood yet, and their contribution to the economies of nations across the African continent.

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On Tuesday evening a herdsman tending his cows came across something unusual and quickly informed the Elephant Aware rangers. He had spotted a lone elephant calf trailing after the cows and the only other elephant in the vicinity was a large bull. He immediately knew something was not right. The rangers quickly responded to assess the situation and carefully observe the calf to make sure that the young elephant was definitely without a mother or family. More than one herd of elephants in the general area meant that the first course of action for our team was to attempt to reunite the calf with the nearest herd and after this was unsuccessful the rangers repeated it again to no avail. During the next four days we hoped she would somehow find her family but after determining that this calf is an orphan and still milk dependent, attempts were made to rescue her but she vanished into hills and densely wooded ravines which forced us to delay any intervention. No other elephants appeared to know this calf and there was no response despite her anguished cries, suggesting that she had lost her herd and her mother was no longer alive or she would certainly have heard her baby’s loud, persistent calls. The little calf would accompany bull elephants who appeared to be very kind to her but they could not offer the maternal nurturing she clearly needs at this vulnerable age. On Friday while the rangers were searching for the calf a bull elephant with an injury was found. We thought it was likely that she might be in his presence because his slowed movements and formidable size meant for the perfect companion to a small calf and yesterday morning when the rangers resumed monitoring of the bull elephant this proved correct. Luckily they happened to be in a more easily accessed area and so a double rescue was necessary.

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A strategic joint capture of the calf with the Narok County, conservancy rangers, KWS, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust teams and community members to carefully load her onto a vehicle and take her to the nearest airstrip to be airlifted to the elephant nursery in Nairobi was successful where she is now being cared for around the clock. At a year old, this calf would not have survived much longer without the care, nourishment and protection from predators in the wild that her family would have normally provided. We believe that the best outcome is of course for a calf to be reunited with their mother but in cases where this is not possible and when rescue is the last resort for an elephant calf we are thankful for the assistance from the DSWT. With the calf safely on her way, attention could be turned to help the bull elephant and we are happy to say that his operation too was successful. He was found to have multiple injuries including a serious puncture wound on his trunk which is suspected to have been caused by a spear.

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The bull elephant, estimated to be about 30 years old, is expected to make a full recovery. The outcome of this double incident where two elephants needed and received urgent help would not have been possible without the tremendous combined effort on the ground and especially the 100% community-landowner involvement throughout. Community members and the rangers have named her Olorien after the area where she was first found. The amazing determination shown by one of the area chiefs and other community members to help, reflects not only a positive conservation mindset but also the enormous importance of locally driven conservation and we would term the events of yesterday as an entirely community led initiative to help these two elephants of the Mara ecosystem.

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No matter what day of the year, our team is out there protecting wildlife and supporting communities sharing the same space. Species like elephants need continuous monitoring to ensure their protection but to keep up with the world’s largest land mammal, rangers must cover a lot of ground and this is no easy task. To be the most effective in their roles as heritage guardians, rangers have to utilise a wide array of skills from networking and collaborating with community members to following signs left behind by people and wildlife, to map reading, GPS usage and telecommunications. Being a ranger is an all encompassing career which has its many benefits, not least of which is the enormous contribution to society through the safeguarding of a global treasure, that is, our natural world. The international day marked to celebrate rangers and the work they do is more than a month away but rangers like Sirere deserve support for their tireless efforts everyday.

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Giraffes are one of the threatened species our team works around the clock to secure through our anti-poaching, habitat protection and conflict prevention efforts everyday and on the 21st of June we joined many across the world in celebrating these beautifully iconic creatures.

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POTENTIAL HUMAN ELEPHANT CONFLICT AVOIDED

The land owning Maasai community within the Siana Conservation Area have set aside large portions of wild habitat for the sake of conservation, an act which shows their committment to being wildlife custodians and active investors in the preservation of their own heritage. Wildlife zones and human settlements interconnect and occasionally overlap across this region, as is the case in many parts of Africa and indeed, the world. It is therefore no surprise that wild animals such as elephants come into contact with humans almost daily. When a community member finds that a herd of elephants has got into their fenced land in the night and requests assistance from the Elephant Aware rangers, our team is swift in responding to ensure the safety of both people and elephants.

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In the last week of June a herd of 10 elephants were discovered in a large privately owned property situated on the border between community settlement and wilderness. Approximately 90% of this piece of land consists of a densely forested area where the elephants had been and despite the appeal of this miniature paradise, the proximity between them and the people living nearby posed too great a risk of potential conflict. With an electric fence surrounding the property, it still remains unclear as to how the elephants got in and they appeared to be unable to leave again the same way so our rangers along with KWS worked for five days to try and gently maneuver them out. A section of fence line was lowered with the owner’s permission to allow the elephants an opening but this did little to encourage them, we suspect this is because there may be newborns in the herd who would be incapable of stepping over the wire but after about 100 metres of wire was completely dismantled yesterday, the elephants finally felt comfortable enough to tiptoe out and found their way back into a bushy hill, a safe distance away from people. As if sensing that we were there to help, the elephants left at the right moment. The profound intelligence of elephants is ever awe striking and often leaves us amazed. Patience, caution and immense painstaking care, which is always a crucial priority in our approach, led to a peaceful result. As always, we are thankful for the community collaboration and for the cooperation of the elephants. A united effort to protect people and help wildlife in a challenging situation made a peaceful outcome possible, much to the happy relief of everyone present.

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June was a very busy month for our team and through the support of our donors we were able to achieve a lot for the wildlife in our area, working closely with our partners and especially the Siana community everyday. As the sole elephant conservation project in this part of the Mara ecosystem, our team’s daily efforts are crucial for the overall security of elephants and other species in this area. As always we are tremendously grateful for all the support we receive from around the world which enables our important conservation work to continue every single day, year around.

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Elephant Aware 2020 First Quarter Operational Report

A FINAL FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND

A double tragedy occured in the first week of the new year.

A man who was walking home in community land one night in early January after dark sadly ran into a herd of elephants and their calves who in turn killed him soon after. Our sympathy and condolences go out to his family as it is a huge tragedy in this community. It is our understanding that he leaves behind a grief stricken family, his wife and children. This painful loss is mourned by our team and the community.

The second tragedy was the killing of a Mara treasure. A bull elephant named Oloropilé who had lived in this area for fifty years and who, in our many years of knowing him, never had an issue with this community and lived peacefully alongside humans everyday. Oloropilé was mistakenly accused for the killing and lost his life because of it. He was in a private conservancy some distance from our core area of operation.

Oloropilé was 50 years old and a true walking treasure on this planet. He will be greatly missed as there are few bull elephants his age bracket remaining in this ecosystem.

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Our team is very sad after all the time and work they spent trying to protect him over the past decade and knowing him, respecting him and growing to care for him so much as we did for so many years. A wonderful gentle giant who will never be replaced. The entire team at Elephant Aware are completely devastated by the death of magnificent Oloropilé. We have shared stories, videos and countless experiences we have had with Oloropilé over the years and many of you will likely be familiar with his name. Oloropilé will forever be remembered by all of us as the special and majestic bull elephant whom we grew to know and love over many years of being in his awe inspiring presence. Our thoughts are with the family of the man who was killed and our hearts are broken over this combined loss which will be felt for a long time to come. The rangers visited Oloropilé today to pay their last respects and salute him in honour of the memory of two innocent lives. Rest in Peace.

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With continuing heavy rain throughout January, February and March the area was completely transformed into a lush, green paradise after the amount of rain we’ve had in recent weeks. With an abundance of food and water available, many species including elephants don’t have to move over as large a distance in search of resources and are able to spend more time playing, eating and socializing. The rangers were kept busy during this time monitoring the large number of elephants in the area.

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Two male giraffes “necking” which is a form of sparring and a test of dominance among giraffes. The intensity varies depending on the situation and these two appeared to be on the friendlier side. This photo was taken on a ranger patrol recently.

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Similar to elephants, giraffes are large herbivorous mammals and both are iconic species contributing to the healthy function of their ecosystems. Giraffes can have symbiotic relationships with other species of wildlife as well including elephants, from our experience.

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Ranger Lilanka on a routine patrol watching elephants with his unit in mid February. The rangers patrol mostly on foot with vehicle support and this allows them access to important wildlife “hotspots”. Area surveillance, monitoring of elephants and other wildlife as well as constant community networking and partnership is the main priority for our team in our daily operations.

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On a patrol in late February we found this young male elephant hanging out with the big boys! Dwarfed by his giant friends, this juvenile elephant still has a great deal of growing to do before he is at their eye level, yet he is welcomed into their presence in an atmosphere of genuine male camaraderie. At approximately 11 years old, he is at the age when males begin to venture further away from their families to shadow adult bull elephants and learn their ways. His herd were not far away and it is likely that he would go back and forth between the two groups until he is ready to become fully independent from his family and pursue a life of adventure as a bull elephant. Emunyani is one of the adult males in this photo and it was heartwarming to see how tolerant and gentle he is towards the much smaller elephant. Right now this little male is miniature next to Emunyani but one day he will be the same size! The world of elephants is not always easy to navigate and having many helping hands (or trunks) along the way will undoubtedly be to this youngster’s benefit.

The 3rd of March marked World Wildlife Day and the rangers had a special message to share: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2973267252731865&id=146762032049082

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In early March we found a handsome bull elephant hidden in this thicket and it took a few minutes of careful observation to find out who he was! Sometimes when we are monitoring elephants we find them in the thickest bush you can imagine with only small glimpses here and there and we have to do some guess work to know who the elephant is. After a bit of cross referencing and meticulous study we realized that this handsome bull is Lereyiet!

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Click on the link for the video! https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2985151894876734&id=146762032049082

To see Rangers and Elephants together in the same frame is not unusual as it has become a necessary and effective measure over recent decades for securing this iconic species faced with, at times, overwhelming threats. Except that the Elephant Aware rangers know many of these elephants by name and appearance, through working to protect them everyday. The elephants are familiar with our team and vehicles as well, often choosing to be in proximity of us as they peacefully go about their day, such as in this scene. To the rangers, elephants are not simply a species needing protection nor are they only an economic commodity but individuals each with unique characters and faces. While on a routine patrol in the midst of a herd of elephants it is not long before the rangers quickly announce the names of all the individuals they recognise, as if referring to good friends in the human world. This personal connection between the protector and the one dependant on it is truly special. Because most of the elephants in this area are named by community members, from school children to women to the rangers themselves, a crucial perception of elephants as individuals with human-like traits is expanded to a much wider scale. We were thrilled to see so many newborns in this aggregation as well as bulls in musth, females busy socialising and happy, healthy elephants overall!

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In March our team had a busy time of conflict prevention, community collaboration and spending time with some special bull elephants! A group of bulls have been attracted to a particular open glade where copious amounts of lush long grass is thriving due to an underlying natural spring brought to life by immense rain and a river nearby. Soft, juicy grass is a welcome relief when available for many wildlife species including elephants. This small paradise, however, lies in proximity to a nearby settlement where human activity is bustling in tandem with the lives of all manner of wild creatures, from elephants to dik diks, in the adjacent woodland. Community members requested our help when they noticed the elephants were coming a little too close to their homes and the rangers immediately responded. Our ranger team have been working around the clock to maintain calm and patience among the community and we are very thankful for the excellent cooperation displayed. Though the elephants are only in search of a comfortable spot to enjoy the ubiquitous vegetation and are not looking for trouble, it can be quite intimidating to have six ton mammals as neighbours which necessitates the presence of a literal ‘thin green line’ to ensure the safety of community members which in turn protects the elephants. Among the bulls are individual elephants well known to us from years of dedicated monitoring by our team, each with a unique character and varying levels of experience based on their age. The oldest bull who is around 50 is definitely the leader and the younger males appear to worship him! M0024, or Steven as he is called, is actively teaching his younger companions valuable survival lessons and judging from the way the young males, including Kedienye, loyally keep at his flank, it seems that he in turn perhaps benefits from their devoted guardianship. The rangers work alongside community members everyday to promote a peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife which has been continuously showcased this past week.

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As always, we are tremendously grateful for the vital cohesion between the community and rangers. Equally the patient compliance of the elephants makes a huge difference. When the bulls meander casually towards any homesteads the rangers are quick to encourage them to move away through gentle persuasion which A, is extremely important to prevent a panicked situation that could become dangerous and B, keeps the elephants calm. Shrinking space means humans and wildlife are living closer together than ever before and species like elephants are forced to adapt to the rapid changes in their world if they are to survive. Coexistence between people and wildlife is possible but it requires patience, tolerance and above all benefits on all sides; for the owners of the land to see a profitable value and for wildlife to live in peace.

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The ready assistance of passionate individuals like the Elephant Aware rangers certainly plays a key role in the picture and elephants would not be found in the wild in Africa today if not for these amazing wildlife warriors on the frontline of conservation across the continent. While following the trail of the bull group on a foot patrol the next day, in an area where a vehicle could not cover, the rangers had a touch and go incident when they encountered a buffalo obscured by the tall grass! If you know anything about Cape Buffaloes you know that this would be a pretty harrowing moment for anyone but to everyone’s relief the buffalo chose flight instead of fight and went in the opposite direction and into a large thicket! This again demonstrates not only the challenges of being a ranger but also the unwavering commitment a ranger must have to do their incredible work. Our team will be continuing to work alongside the community and monitoring this area carefully. Elephants have lived in this precious wilderness for many centuries and it is our constant mission to secure their future and that of other species as well as the natural habitat on which they depend for the long term benefit of communities in the Masai Mara ecosystem.

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Since the beginning of the year the world has been thrown into a crisis. Millions of people in over 70 countries have been severely impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic both directly and indirectly. The global situation is far from normal. Countless jobs have been lost and livelihoods jeopardized. Scores of establishments and businesses that only recently served as sources of income to so many have been forced to shut down. Kenya, a country which is presently on the lower end of the statistical spectrum for cases of Covid-19, feels the massive reverberations of it and her people carry on to do the best that they can of making ends meet, of putting food on the table for their families in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. Those directly affected by the virus fear for today and those indirectly affected by it fear for tomorrow. There are those who do not have the luxury of staying within their well stocked houses with access to most modern conveniences. There are those who can barely afford food, water or electricity, let alone hygiene. There are those who have no roof over their heads at all. And there are those who must do their jobs because so much hangs in the balance if they don’t. From medical workers, caregivers and even parents to all those in the food industry feeding the world and all the people keeping supermarkets and pharmacies open for the public, electricians and technicians ensuring that the power and internet services are running, the companies making the soaps and sanitizers you need to clean your hands and of course law enforcement and emergency services, to mention a few, are appreciated all the more at this moment. There are those doing thankless jobs as well, who go under the radar in the grand scheme of things, people who are equally dedicated to making the world safer. RANGERS and conservation teams on the frontline of protecting the natural world cannot stop for even an hour, much less a day. For the very same reason that the police must continue in their roles, rangers too must continue because crime, whether it is towards the environment or other people, does not stop. Rangers are the eyes and ears in some of the most remote areas on the planet and without their diligent presence in such places, who knows what sinister activities against wildlife might ensue. Wildlife and wild ecosystems depend on the active daily protection by dedicated men and women in green. Rangers depend on wildlife to survive as well.

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Lest we forget, rangers are individual people who need the valuable income derived from their jobs to provide for their families and quite often, rangers are the sole breadwinners at home. Entire communities rely upon the support and security rangers represent in preventing conflict and helping people and wildlife to coexist peacefully. Rangers represent a significant section of African society which benefits from wildlife. The potentially devastating aftermath from such a pandemic is already showing trickling signs with tourism industries almost freezing overnight, debilitating huge numbers of people in this single sector alone. Tourism is a giant income generator and for countries like Kenya, it provides employment and secondary benefits for countless people. Many of those who had planned trips to visit Kenya’s beautiful wild destinations have been forced to cancel or rearrange them. If you did have a holiday planned, we hope that instead of cancelling you will consider postponing your dates so that you can enjoy your trip in the future and help give thousands of Kenyans working in tourism or environment related fields the crucial support that they need.

We do not have all of the answers and there does not appear to be any simple solution but what we can do is continue to try our very best to secure a future for our wild friends and provide vital livelihoods for many in the Mara ecosystem. We hope our friends across the world stay safe in this challenging time. At least there is good news coming out of so much chaos. Thousands are said to have recovered after contracting the Covid-19 and many more thousands are working around the clock to save lives. We are grateful for the many individuals and teams out there who are doing good and who are committed to helping those in need, both humans and animals alike. The world would not be the same without good and compassionate individuals making a difference every single day. Thank you. While taking every precaution and keeping safety in mind at all times, our team is carrying on in our own constant mission to protect elephants, all wildlife and to give support to our neighbouring communities. We could not do our important work to safeguard elephants, giraffes, lions and other species if not for the help of our partners, friends, community and supporters both far and near. Remember to be kind to yourself so that you may be kind to others including animals. Let us all do our part to get through this difficult time together. Please consider supporting the Elephant Aware rangers if you can. We thank all of you for your amazing support that enables our team’s vital work to continue everyday.

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Elephant Aware 2019 Fourth Quarter Operational Report: End Of Year Review

On the first day of October our team were busy monitoring a large aggregation of elephants and we got to observe some interesting elephant behaviour. These two bull elephants were having a bit of a standoff and they appeared to be using the small ravine as a “barrier” between them while they stood on opposite sides sending threatening signals to one another. This behaviour is referred to as the ‘parallel walk’ and bull elephants engage one another in this manner to assert dominance. Usually there are two versions of this behaviour and in this case it was the less serious, with more playful undertones. Boys will be boys but we are happy to say that they made up as friends again later!

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After a considerable amount of rain the area was full of content wildlife, including happy baby elephants playing together among the protective throng of their family. These tiny giants were moving from one loving trunk caress to another and it was so wonderfully heartwarming to witness the enormous affection each of the adults had to give them. This is exactly how we believe wild and free elephants should look and it is our mission to secure a future where elephants in the Mara ecosystem can live as they should by simply being elephants.

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Later in the month our team celebrated Mashujaa Day, a day to honour amazing conservation heroes both here at home and around the world.

The rangers were monitoring an aggregation of elephants on the 24th while on a routine patrol one afternoon and these two bulls stayed behind when the rest of the herd moved into a nearby hill. Minutes later both bulls decided to lay down for a nap right next to us, completely unperturbed. Soon after it started to rain but this didn’t seem to bother them, if anything both elephants appeared to be enjoying the gentle shower. The bulls were very aware of us watching quietly from the vehicle but they felt comfortable enough to have a siesta, displaying profound trust towards us. Though it is not a common sight, adult elephants do take naps on the ground just like calves but only when they feel it is safe enough to do so. We have shared stories before of elephants sleeping in our presence and each time it is always a wonderful scene to be a part of. The elephants in this area are pretty familiar with our team; they recognize our smells, voices and vehicles from many years of working here and spending time with them. It is greatly due to this that we have the privilege of witnessing such special glimpses into fascinating elephant society. We waited in silence so as not to disturb the sleepy elephants and after resting soundly for quite a while the two young bulls got up, first one and then the other, before later rejoining the herd elephants.

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What makes elephant matriarchs so amazing? The reasons are of course vast and immeasurable. Perhaps one of the most remarkable however is that a matriarch takes her role very seriously, often dedicating her entire life to protecting and caring for her family at all costs. We watched as this herd of elephants, one of the families we have known the longest, walked calmly past us yesterday evening. Bringing up the rear was none other than Eseseri, the matriarch. She is often the last elephant while the herd is on the move because she is busy ensuring that every single one of her family members are safe and accounted for. She is a large female in her fifties with a lifetime of experience navigating the unique Mara landscape and we have had the privilege of spending many countless hours in her presence. Eseseri truly epitomizes the importance of an elephant matriarch. Most of all, Eseseri is known to our team as a wonderful mother, a wise leader and an all around walking treasure among elephants.

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On the path of giants….. this photo of a group of bull elephants was taken while we were on a patrol in 2015 in the middle of a severe drought and these majestic males were on their way to water. Each of them calmly walked past as the rangers observed them quietly, to ensure that they could have a peaceful drink undisturbed by nearby human activity. In this photo are Tepesi, Subat, Murran, Ilariak, Osupat and bringing up the rear in this scene is Oloropile, all magnificent bulls whom we have known for many years and vital role models to younger males among the Mara elephants.

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During the first week of November in what was perhaps the most challenging operation we’ve had to date of helping an elephant in desperate need, we managed to save this young calf through an amazing concentrated effort between our team and the Mara SWT /KWS vet team. The Elephant Aware rangers had been dilligently monitoring this four year old elephant calf since we discovered that he had a snare around his front left foreleg a few days ago. Due to difficult circumstance he could not receive life saving treatement until today. Aside from the calf’s fragile state, horrific injury and the impossible terrain, our collective teams faced another formidable obstacle; his mother and their herd. The calf chose to be in a small ravine surrounded by very thick vegetation in order to soothe his agonized foot in the cool water and he was darted with expert precision by Dr. Limo. A few minutes later he succumbed to the anaesthesia, meaning we had to act fast. It was impossible to approach the calf at that point as he was surrounded by 10 angry elephants who had gone into a frantic frenzy, not knowing what had happened to their suddenly unconscious relative.

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Fear for the calf’s safety set in and all of us started making as much noise as possible to drive the elephants far enough away so that the vet team could run in to check on the calf. The mother would not budge and fearlessly stood her ground in an act of unbelievable maternal instinct. Luckily our persistent racket persuaded her to give the vet room to tend to the calf. Helicopter assistance arrived shortly after to keep the herd at bay thanks to MEP. Dr. Limo was finally able to remove the thick snare which was so tightly bound around the elephant’s leg that it had cut deep into this poor calf’s flesh and after cleaning the wound thoroughly, pain relieving antibiotics were applied. Once revived, the little elephant managed to get back onto his feet and to our amazement, clamberd up the steep bank before reuniting with his overjoyed family. All in all the operation was life-risking and incredibly challenging but we were enormously grateful for the positive outcome.  Thank you to the Mara Mobile Vet Unit for their fantastic work. It was our collective hope that this calf would fully heal with time.

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It was with very heavy hearts which we discovered that the elephant calf we had all been working hard to save, who was treated for a serious snare injury a while ago, sadly did not make it and died on the night of the 22nd of November. All indications were that he succumbed to his horrific injury, despite everyone’s best efforts to rescue him. The rangers had been watching over this calf continuously everyday for over two weeks right up until the evening before he died as it was impossible to keep up with him in the darkness. It was not at all the outcome we worked so tirelessly to achieve and our team is deeply heartbroken by this enormously tragic loss. Considering the unimaginable suffering this calf endured, we hope he is at least at peace now. It is a powerful reminder of the very real plight elephants face as a species and is all the more reason why they need all of our help in securing a kinder future for elephants.

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As part of their routine patrols the rangers are always keeping a watchful eye out for poacher’s snares. The effectiveness of the work we do greatly revolves around our close collaboration with neighbouring communities and maintaining an active network of information. These rangers are from this area and therefore have an essential relationship with their fellow Maasai, assisting enormously in our team’s daily conservation efforts.

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These beautifully adorned Maasai ladies are members of the Oloilale Women’s Group we support from our neighbouring community. They are proud women who continue to adhere to their unique culture and all the while are leading voices for conservation in their society, thanks to our close collaboration. This is something we have always strived for as we believe that the traditional Maasai culture plays a vital role towards protecting their own natural heritage and goes hand in hand with the conservation of wildlife.  We strongly believe that community empowerment and leadership in conservation is pivotal in any successful conservation model which is why partnering with community landowners has significant importance in our approach. This photo was taken after a fun social gathering with our team to catch up with friends and discuss new micro projects within the group in November.

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For us and many in conservation, 2019 has been a year of highs and lows for wildlife. Throughout the year our team at Elephant Aware have carried on with our daily work to protect wildlife, secure wild habitat and benefit communities living alongside some of the planet’s most incredible creatures like elephants with heartfelt dedication and tireless fortitude.

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Truly effective conservation work must surely be reflected in the form of a steady population of wildlife and the functioning ecosystem on which they depend for survival. All in all our team’s achievements this year in conjunction with our partners leave us optimistic in continuing our important efforts with the invaluable support of many around the world. Together with fellow conservationists, it is our hope to continue making a positive difference in ensuring that species such as elephants have a future in places such as the Maasai Mara ecosystem. Ultimately conservation requires a united approach to be successful and this goes far beyond those on the ground, encompassing caring individuals all around the globe. Thank you for supporting Elephant Aware!

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Elephant Aware 2019 Third Quarter Operational Report

Between July and September 2019 the Elephant Aware team patrolled approximately 15,000 kilometres in total through vehicle, motorbike and ranger foot patrols. The area covered consists of vast hill ranges, dense woodland and rivers, all of which are key wildlife areas.

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In July 2019 the Masai giraffe, the subspecies of giraffe inhabiting the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and other areas of East Africa, was officially declared to be endangered. Though their numbers have been in decline for some time by as much as 50% in 30 years, mostly as the result of poaching and habitat loss primarily, the severity of their plight has been made all the more alarming with this press release. Masai giraffes are among a number of wildlife species Elephant Aware works to protect everyday and this news is a wake up call to the world that another subspecies of the the iconic giraffe needs all of our help in order to secure their future. Please share, help raise awareness, get involved and support those already trying to safeguard giraffes in the wild.

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On the 17th of July our team responded to a conflict incident between elephants and community members. After receiving a report from our neighbouring community about elephants being stuck in a fenced property our team reacted immediately and once the area in question had been ascertained, we found that a small family of around 15 elephants, including Naisiai and her young calf, had entered a fenced homestead during the night to access the long, succulent grass within and could not come back out again due to the human activity surrounding them as soon as it was light. We found them huddled into a corner of the fenced paddock, normally used by cattle, trying their best to keep away from the people in the vicinity which was no easy feat. The elephants were only approximately 5 metres from the nearest house at one point as they tried to find a way out but they were driven back again by the variety disconcerting noise and smells. Neither the homestead owners nor the elephants felt comfortable being in such close proximity to each other and it was clear that something needed to be done to ease the situation. Depending on circumstances such as the size of the property and proximity between the elephants and people, in some cases we will leave the elephants to quietly move out on their own come nightfall but in the incident it was obvious that the tension was building and the elephants were eager to leave the area. The Elephant Aware ranger team quickly made a plan of action and after evacuating the entire homestead for the safety of everyone concerned, we moved in to help the elephants move out. It took just under an hour of painstaking and careful strategy but thanks to the united approach between the rangers and community members and the patience and expertise of our team, we gently guided the little family with a number of tiny babies, slowly around the houses until they found the exact path they used to get in, remembering every inch of their journey from the previous night with amazing intelligence and all without breaking a single post or wire. In these situations we always prioritize the safety of everyone and therefore the rangers must act with meticulous care at all times while working hard to achieve a happy ending. Without our team’s rapid response, things could have escalated and become dangerous for not only the people but the elephants as well. We are tremendously grateful for the wonderful cooperation displayed by the community and for the incredible patience and intelligence shown by the elephants.

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During the third quarter of the year the Mara ecosystem was blessed with a lot of rain and with rain came plentiful resources which helped alleviate drought induced pressures on people and wildlife alike. Replenished water sources and an abundance of vegetation provided more freedom of choice for species such as elephants and they did not need to go near human settlements to meet their needs with so much availability of resources.

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On the 31st of July we celebrated World Ranger Day to honour the hard working rangers across the continent for their dedication to protecting endangered species of wildlife.

We were delighted to find Olomunyak as well in July, one of the very few tuskless bull elephants in this ecosystem. Named Olomunyak by a Maasai community member, here is more to this elephant than meets the eye. Other than his obviously distinct appearance, Olomunyak has an equally unique character and our team have known him for many years. It is thought that male elephants without tusks struggle with certain aspects of elephant life, such as when competing with males with tusks for females but Olomunyak holds his own pretty well and we have even seen him mating with a female on one occasion! He is estimated to be in his early 30s and this means that he has a considerable amount of growing to do still. In our eyes Olomunyak is already a magnificent elephant and he is another walking treasure whom we work to protect through our daily conservation efforts.

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The 12th of August marked World Elephant Day! This is an important annual event on the calendars of conservationists and activists around the world.

FB_IMG_1575718566068There was some good news from CITES for elephants and giraffes coming at the 18th Conference of the Parties or CoP18 in Geneva! All giraffe species were successfully up-listed to the Appendix II category of protection from not being listed at all previously and two proposals which we believe would have been detrimental for African elephants have been rejected thus far. This positive progress has greatly been driven by the strong conservation voice of countries like Kenya to enforce higher protection of these and other species. Though our work takes place primarily in the field, the outcome of such a legislative decision would ultimately reverberate and affect the species in question as well as those trying to protect them, in light of this we are relieved and hopeful that the outcome, though not 100% what many were fighting to achieve, rested greatly in favour of the safeguarding of  many endangered species.

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The rains continued in Siana throughout this three month period and the area returned to being a beautiful, vivid green again. Wildlife and Maasai cattle in the region were given the chance to recover from a very serious drought and the habitat also was transformed.

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Handsome Oloropilé going about his business at a leisurely pace when we found him again one morning in September this year. Oloropilé is a truly magnificent bull elephant whom we have known for many years and yet it is always an enormous privilege to be in his presence. He is a walking inspiration to us and one of the many reasons why we are working everyday to secure a future for his species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elephant Aware 2019 Second Quarter Operational Report

In the beginning of April our team was busy monitoring elephants and because the area was starting to dry out again this meant that conflict between people, elephants and wildlife was on the rise due to less water and grass availability.

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By the end of the first week on the 7th of April our team received a report from community members about an injured male giraffe lying down and unable to move inside someone’s fence. We responded immediately and according to eye witnesses in the area, the large adult male giraffe had been with a herd of other giraffes next to a settlement and sometime around dawn they were startled by something and stampeded. This giraffe got separated from the others and while running he tripped over a fence and fell violently more than 20 feet into a deep ravine. We quietly observed him to see if he could get up on his own but it was obvious that he could barely lift his head. We informed the Mara Mobile Veterinary Unit and the rangers kept all people away from him to allow him some peace but sadly the giraffe died due to the severity of his injuries not long afterwards. With the Maasai sub species of giraffe having recently been declared as endangered, this was truly a terrible loss for the ecosystem.

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During much of April there was no rain in sight and this placed more pressure on both the community and wildlife. Not a day went by that the rangers didn’t respond and help prevent cases of potential conflict throughout Siana. As always we tremendously appreciated the collaboration from the community in such instances.

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Thankfully with the arrival of May came much needed rains! The area was quickly turned green again and immense challenges brought on by drought were alleviated.

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A few familiar elephants returned to the area to enjoy the abundance of food and muddy waterholes such as Osupat [pictured] who we have known for more than 10 years. As one of the highest ranking bulls in the area, Osupat is a vital member of the population because of his experience and guidance of younger males. The rangers were kept busy monitoring as many as eight different groups of elephants on their daily patrols.

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While on an evening patrol on the 26th of May we found Naisiai [pictured below] with a newborn calf! She is a first time mother as far as we know and she is already very diligent as she constantly checks on her newborn, notice in this photo how the tip of her trunk is pointed towards the calf in an attentive monitoring posture. We are overjoyed for Naisiai who has graduated from being a fiercely protective and caring allomother to being a proud mother herself.

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In June a new Elephant Aware ranger mess/pavilion was built thanks to generous support from one of our donors. The completion of this structure coincided with heavy rains and it has been a crucial addition for the rangers.

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On the morning of the 9th of June while the rangers were watching over this herd of elephants they helped prevent potential conflict between a motorbike driver and this herd of elephants was successfully prevented thanks to the dedicated efforts of our team at Elephant Aware! As always, we are grateful that the outcome was peaceful for all involved and for the incredible calm patience displayed by the elephants! HEC is an ongoing issue across much of the continent and we work around the clock to help elephants and people coexist in harmony. Follow this link for the video: https://www.facebook.com/ElephantAwareMasaiMara/videos/vb.146762032049082/380516209481002/?type=2&theater

Between April and June the Elephant Aware team covered more than 9000 kilometres (almost 6,000 miles) through vehicle and motorbike patrols and roughly 6000 kilometres of ranger foot patrols. This is a testament to the dedication of our team and to the extent of our everyday efforts.

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Nelion, her older calf and her newborn calf follow behind their herd this evening. A few months ago, on the 29th of March to be exact, we put out a post saying that we expected for Nelion (also known as Namunyak) to have another calf soon after seeing her being “guarded” by a male in musth (a common behaviour when males in musth mate with females in estrous) called Meure in August 2017 and today we are overjoyed to have been proved correct! Nelion has a tiny new baby who we think was born very early this morning and this evening she brought her calf to our camp. We have no doubt that because we have known this elephant family for many years, they also know us and Nelion purposely brought her newborn to show us how proud she is. Needless to say, we were all incredibly honoured and happy!

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This is the dedicated Elephant Aware canine unit on patrol recently. These wonderful tracker dogs are specially trained to work alongside the rangers in their work and they are invaluable members of our team who contribute enormously to our conservation efforts.

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World Giraffe Day on the 21st of June was made even more special with a number of giraffe births in the area and we were overjoyed to come across some of the tiny newborns on our patrols!

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This exquisite vista, captured on a recent ranger patrol, perfectly showcases the very purpose of conservation and what exactly it is so many of us are fighting to safeguard. It is a sad fact that wilderness like this is becoming more and more rare throughout the world but it is up to all of us to ensure that the natural treasures remaining on our planet are secured.

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The area received a considerable amount of rain throughout the month of June which helped the wildlife and surrounding communities tremendously. As always, our team is enormously grateful to each and everyone of our supporters. Remember to keep up with our social media pages for frequent updates of our work here on the ground to protect elephants and other species in the Mara ecosystem. Thank you!

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Hope For Stronger Protection Of African Elephants At CITES

By Gini Cowell

In the months leading up to every CITES conference there is usually mounting pressure from conservationists, activists, officials and individuals to implement a full ban on trade in products of species at threat of exploitation and destruction. This year it is the same. Kenya is one of the countries actively leading the drive to place all African Elephants back on Appendix I (elephant populations in four countries still remain on Appendix II) and add giraffes as a listed species under CITES, among other legislative appeals.

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The 18th Conference of the Parties is planned to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka and has, understandably, been postponed to October which gives more time in the decision making and for the public’s voice to be heard. Endangered species of wild fauna and flora are depending on stronger protective measures either through implementation of stricter controls on certain trades in wildlife products or by banning certain trades entirely. The latter often leads to contentious debate and there has been enormous and widespread public demand for stricter controls of trade, especially pertaining to species at high risk of precipitous decline in population. The outcome of the last CITES conference was deeply disappointing for those who were pushing to have all African Elephants upgraded to the ‘Appendix I’ protective status. Presently African elephant populations in all remaining range states are on Appendix I except for in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana – some of the same countries who have been unitedly opposed to a complete ban during past conferences and maintain this stance today. The majority of African countries have their elephant populations listed on Appendix I and are against trade, so why is it an issue? In a nutshell, elephants vulnerable to ivory trade and therefore poaching anywhere imperil elephants everywhere. Even if one local population of elephants is appearing to thrive, there is another population elsewhere fighting for survival. Any conservation approach, in my opinion, must include the species as a whole. As an example, Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa and Southern Africa claim to have an overall healthy population of elephants but this is not a uniform trend throughout all other elephant range states sadly. A multitude of enormous illegal ivory seizures including a 9 ton shipment said to be the largest in a long time from this year alone indicate a sobering, undeniable fact: elephants are still dying for their ivory on a frightening scale.
The pro-trade bloc of Southern African countries consistently state that because the southern part of the continent represents about 60% of Africa’s elephant population and that their elephant numbers are well managed, it makes sense to allow them to sell registered elephant ivory to profit conservation of the species. Let’s talk about that briefly. I am curious to know whether there has been a recorded instance of successfully sustained legal trade in ivory in recent history, because to my knowledge there is not. A prime example which suggests the absolute opposite is that from 1977 until 1989 all African Elephants were listed on CITES Appendix II, during this same time period a horrific poaching epidemic of catastrophic proportions took place, costing the lives of thousands of elephants and causing the overall African Elephant population to fall from more than one million to a staggering estimate of less than 600,000. In October 1989 after prolonged debate it was finally agreed that the African Elephant would be up-listed to Appendix I which effectively banned all trade in ivory. Many across the world regarded this single legislative action, combined with huge awareness of the plight of Elephants, to have brought poaching to a near halt not long afterwards and allowed remaining populations to recover slowly. Between 1997 and 2008 CITES downlisted some elephant populations back onto Appendix II and sanctioned the sales of large quantities of ivory from government stockpiles in some countries in what was referred to as “one off” sales, within the immediate following years this decision saw thousands of African Elephants killed – a 30% decline in African savanna elephants and a 60% decline in African forest elephants. The traumatic effects of which are still very visible today.
Even the smallest loophole has been shown to incentivize a surge in trafficking and buying of illegal ivory and it is widely believed that these so called one off sales, most especially the 2008 sale of around 110 tons of ivory, were significant contributing factors to the poaching crisis which has devastated the elephant populations of East Africa and elsewhere in the following years since. So again, how do you sustain any kind of trade when the demand completely overshadows the supply? Recent studies on this have revealed that there are not enough elephants in the wild today to sustainably meet the demands of ivory consumers without forcing the species into extinction. Additionally let’s not forget what decades of research on elephants has taught us because it cannot be ignored and must surely go hand in hand with any decisions related to the conservation of this species – though certain populations may be much bigger and steadier than others, elephants are a slow reproductive species and they are extremely sensitive to intrusive human disturbance. Such high losses within a population and among families of elephants has shown clear signs of complete devastation to the intricate societies of this sentient species.
I for one hope that history won’t repeat itself with another consequential decision that would trigger the further slaughter of wild elephant populations. After all, “No Trade, No Market” and vice versa. Ultimately, the future of more than one entire species is at stake and will be affected by the decisions made at CITES CoP18 and many, including myself, hope for an outcome which places the best interests of wildlife first and foremost. Kenya was the first country to destroy their ivory stockpiles in 1989, sending a powerful message that the heinous, commercial and bloody trade in ivory would not be tolerated but instead be treated as the crime that it is.

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Hopefully this year Kenya will again, together with a number of fellow African countries, inspire the world at large to stand firm on their commitment to safeguarding a future for elephants and other wildlife species. African Elephants are one of the most intelligent, unique and socially advanced species on the planet. There should be no debate necessary and no uncertainty whatsoever when it comes to securing a future for the world’s remaining elephants.

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Elephant Aware 2019 First Quarter Operational Report

The scene in this photo, of a majestic elephant roaming wild and free, is what so many of us in conservation endeavor to achieve for this species and all wildlife. The new year arrived with new challenges and for our team that means a renewed commitment to our mission which is to secure a future for African elephants but this also encompasses the bigger picture of safeguarding the vast array of biodiversity in the Mara ecosystem as well as the crucial wild habitat. Together with our partners we will continue to work everyday to ensure that elephants like Olarriponi [pictured] may also continue to live peacefully in their natural environment.

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Rains in January and February helped replenish the area’s water sources and promote regrowth of vegetation, much to the delight of the elephants and all wildlife. When soft, green grass is in ready supply elephants don’t hesitate to take advantage.

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In the first three months of this year the Elephant Aware team have covered approximately 9050 kilometres (5,623 miles) in overall vehicle and motorbike patrols. The rangers have walked an estimated 6,800 kilometres on their daily foot patrols since the start of 2019!

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“Jamhuri” who was born on the 12th of December 2017 is now over a year old and he is almost twice as big! He is already growing into his own unique character and from what we can tell he is a little handful! Jamhuri is always busy learning new things under the watchful eyes of his mother and matriarch Eseseri, as well as his entire family of elephants!

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Giraffes are another species our team at Elephant Aware works daily to protect and considering the plight of many giraffe populations across the continent primarily due to poaching for bushmeat and dwindling habitat, it is with good reason. The Elephant Aware team have had countless incidents of helping giraffes out of fenced land where they can seriously injure themselves without assistance, monitoring giraffes with injuries and on a few occasions calling in veterinary assistance for a giraffe in need. As one of the world’s most iconic animals giraffes need more attention from the global community and increased support for their protection if they are to have a future in the wild.

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Handsome Oloropilé, an iconic bull elephant of the Mara ecosystem, enjoying a bit of mud on a hot day in February. Because of his age and his experience, Oloropilé is a very important member of this elephant population. He came into musth again at the same time as last year and hopefully that means there will be more generations of elephants carrying his precious genes in the future. We have known Oloropilé for many years and it is always such an enormous privilege to spend time in his awe inspiring presence.

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A tiny newborn elephant born on the night of the 3rd of March in the Elephant Aware camp! We heard a great amount of elephant commotion next to the camp in the night and due to the nature of the noise we knew instantly that something of a celebration was taking place and we suspected that it was an elephant birth. The next morning it was obvious from the stained and trampled ground as well as the scattered remains of the birth sac that indeed the Loilale herd had welcomed a new member to their family. Later in the day we caught up with the young, first time mother and her infant, still a bit wobbly but already slowly familiarizing herself with elephant life.

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This lovely female is called Norkinye and she is one of the elephants we talk about quite often as we have known her for many years. She is very iconic with her almost convergent tusks and “frilly ears” which have acquired a number of notches and tears over the years. To us of course Norkinye is beautiful and not just because of her appearance, she has a fearless and defiant personality which is incredibly admirable. On the countless occasions when our team is privileged enough to observe this elephant family we have noticed how protective Norkinye is of her herd but there are rare moments when she relaxes around us and we get to see Norkinye’s sweet side – she is the proud mother of a young calf and it is obvious how much he is treasured. After spending so much time around elephants in the wild and gaining a tremendous insight into their lives, our team view elephants as unique individuals who deserve their place on this planet as much anyone. Sadly not everyone shares this sentiment and we must all continue to fight for a future for elephants in their natural habitats.

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The Elephant Aware rangers monitoring a large aggregation of more than 100 elephants on the 11th of March. Shortly before this photo was taken a herd of cattle were approaching the elephants, their herder unaware of the elephants and the rangers quickly stepped in with vehicle backup and prevented potential conflict from occurring.

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A GOOD REMINDER TO NEVER LEAVE ANY LITTER BEHIND

On the morning of the 12th, while we were closely monitoring a herd of elephants we noticed this young male with a plastic water bottle in his mouth! He was carrying the bottle with him for a while, seeming to find great amusement in a foreign object.

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We aren’t sure where he found it but we waited and followed him from a distance and when he finally dropped it Ranger Sirere immediately collected it so it could be later disposed of properly. This is a strong reminder of the many reasons why you should never litter and always be respectful of the natural environment.

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Two days later Subat, a bull we are very familiar with, came into the area and we found him in full musth and on a determined mission to seek out any estrous females to mate with in the area. The Loilale herd happened to be close by, though inside a lugga (small riverbed) where the rangers could not see them well. We certainly hope Subat was successful. Being one of the males we have known for many years makes Subat all the more special to our team and it is always a thrill to spend time learning more and more about his life.

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The Elephant Aware rangers are on foot for the majority of their daily patrols and this is an irreplaceable tool for effective wildlife conservation as it allows them to access hotspot areas where no vehicle can venture and to the top of hills which are an essential part of the ecosystem.

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In late March while observing a family herd of elephants we were quite surprised to find Meure (Meyuré) in musth as we normally see him in musth in August. Males in his age bracket can enter into the sexually heightened state of musth twice in a year and as they get older their musth cycle becomes more defined, synchronous with a time of year when there is more food availability. Aside from being a sexual advertisement, musth is usually also a sign of good health in bull elephants.

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Lovely Nelion/Namunyak walking closely past us, displaying trust and familiarity towards our team. She is a member of the Loilale herd who we have monitored for many years. As you can see she has an ‘outstanding’ tear in her left ear which she acquired years ago, we dont know the exact circumstances of how it happened but it appears to have healed and it has become one of her most distinguishing features. We are hoping she will have a little one on the way soon after we saw Meure courting her and staying by her side in typical musth ‘guarding’ behaviour almost 22 months ago.

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In other elephant news Eseseri, the matriarch of the Loilale herd, recently broke her left tusk! We think it happened while she was breaking the branch of a tree or possibly while shoving another elephant. When elephants break their tusks close to the roots or pulp cavity it can be very painful and we therefore hope that this was not the case for Eseseri. Even after breaking her tusk and altering her appearance considerably, to us Eseseri is always a beautiful and wise female who commands the respect of all within her presence.

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Two of the Elephant Aware rangers successfully completed a two week refresher training course held at the nearby Nashulai Community Conservancy in early March and we are all very proud of their accomplishment which is an added testament to the commitment they have for their roles as wildlife guardians.

20190401_153452We are well into 2019 and we would like to take this opportunity to thank our many supporters again for helping us to continue in our dedicated efforts to protect elephants and other species in the Mara ecosystem.

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To directly support the work of Elephant Aware please visit: https://elephantawareblog.wordpress.com/donate/

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Elephant Aware December 2018 Operational Report

The month of December began with busy ranger patrols. The rangers mostly patrol on foot with vehicle support. This allows them to access key wildlife areas which are inaccessible by vehicle. Our team cover a large area everyday as part of our daily work and efforts to protect wildlife.

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The photo below was taken recently while on a patrol showing an elephant in a hill following a traditional route not far way from a house. This scene is becoming more typical in areas where both elephant and people live and is a circumstance we often find on daily patrols. It illustrates how communities like this one live alongside species like elephants everyday and depicts a certain amount of tolerance on both sides which is crucial. It also shows the need for the rangers’ constant presence and the importance of the work our team does to avoid conflict and promote harmony between wildlife and humans. The glaring truth is that wildlife is running out of space and it is up to all of us to find solutions for a peaceful coexistence between humans and the natural world. It really comes down to SHARING space peacefully and this is no easy or straightforward task but it is imperative in order to secure a future for elephants and other wildlife.

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This poignant photo of a herd of elephants fleeing from people was captured during a ranger operation on the 9th of December which luckily prevented harm to the people, livestock and elephants concerned. The elephants had a brief few moments of panic during the situation but they soon calmed down thanks to the wise guidance of their experienced matriarch, Mayan and partly because they recognised our vehicle, our voices and we believe the elephants knew we were trying to help. As depicted in this scene, it has been very dry and at times the dust was so thick that we could not even see the elephants or the cows and our team had to act quickly on skill, training and years of experience. This incident represents an increasingly common problem that is occurring on a widespread scale in traditional elephant ranges and elephants as well as other wildlife species are being forced to change some of their habits and adapt to living in closer proximity with people than ever before. fb_img_1548243343200

Moving forward finding a solution to achieve a peaceful coexistence which would ultimately secure a future for elephants is not in any way simple but it is possible through collaborative (between conservation stakeholders), inclusive (of communities) and compassionate (towards both wildlife and people) conservation.

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After continuously monitoring this lovely female elephant for almost two weeks and reporting it immediately she was treated yesterday afternoon for two very serious spear injuries by Dr. Edward of the DSWT / KWS veterinary unit. The vet team were flown in by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust plane in an amazing effort to help an elephant in need. Once the Elephant was darted and immobilized, we were able to see clearly for the first time that she is a young female in her 20s as she had previously remained in thick bush. Her wounds are undoubtedly inflicted by humans and she is in a very weakened state. In this scenario it was very apparent that there is still no better protective force for elephants than well trained rangers with a boots on the ground approach and though technology certainly enhances these conservation methods, the fundamental basis to effective conservation is pure dedication. The Elephant Aware rangers had to keep up with this elephant in difficult and challenging terrain (in a hill, in thick bush and in a river) for the past 12 days straight. This is surely a testament to their capacity to find and stick with elephants in trouble. This female still has a long way to go before she is fully recovered and the Elephant Aware team will be keeping a close watch over her in the coming weeks and informing the vets on her progress. Because of the urgent nature of her circumstances, we knew that this elephant needed immediate attention due to the severity of her badly infected wounds and rapidly deteriorating condition. In light of that, all of us at Elephant Aware are tremendously grateful to the DSWT and Kenya Wildlife Service for their swift response and excellent emergency service which Kenya is lucky to have and which has given this elephant a chance of survival. After crosschecking we found that this elephant is in fact Naseyian and we are familiar with her family herd. Today the rangers are watching over Naseyian again and she appears to have a visible spring in her step! Her appetite has increased from yesterday which we are happy to see and the strong antibiotics applied to her should be busy working to heal her slowly but steadily. Of course it is our hope that this elephant will heal completely and that she will soon rejoin other elephants.

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Some members of the Loilale Women’s Group, supported by Elephant Aware and our partners, pose with individual elephants they have named. This women’s group has grown in 2018 and are continuing to progress through various micro self-help projects.

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2018 was a year with many ups and downs, enormous challenges, tragedies, countless long days and wonderful milestones as well. Small triumphs were achieved through the dedicated hard work of our team and in collaboration with our partners.

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All of us at Elephant Aware are tremendously grateful for the wide support we receive, for our many friends, excellent partners and we hope to continue our important work in the new year.

Images copyright: Elephant Aware

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Elephant Aware November 2018 Operational Report

November started out as a very dry month following previous months of drought which has taken its toll on the area. This has forced wildlife and especially species like elephants to venture into community settlements in search of water.

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Lovely Nosentui and her herd seen on our patrol recently! She is one of many individual elephants we have come to know well over the years and as a result the rangers recognise her instantly. This makes it all the more special to spend time with this familiar elephant family which is also vitally important to the work of the rangers and essential for gaining a better understanding of Nosentui’s movement patterns, who her elefriends are, in turn giving our team a broader picture of the areas that need more of a focus in securing. Together with our partners, Elephant Aware is actively helping to protect the Mara elephant population.

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More than one subspecies of giraffes have now been labelled as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List for threatened wildlife due to the severity of their plight which rapidly brings them nearer to extinction. Giraffes need the highest measures of protection implemented to ensure they have a future in the wild. Please, wherever you are, join the many of us fighting to safeguard this species. The time to act is now – speak out, give support, sign petitions, join the general outcry and let the world know that giraffes are important to our planet.

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On the 22nd of November Elephant Aware, the Mara Mobile Vet Unit, the Mara Siana Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service teams together spent many hours trying to help this female elephant after she had fallen into a river. It was quickly discovered that she had been badly injured by three poisoned arrows and it seems she had fallen from a steep river bank, likely during the attack and this resulted in her being partly paralyzed to where she could not move her back legs at all. Despite tremendous effort from everyone to get her out and back onto her feet, thereby saving her life, it was to no avail and the kindest option was to euthanize this poor elephant to prevent enormous further suffering, a decision which was very difficult to make. All evidence points to a poaching attempt which ultimately and cruelly cost this elephant her life. Needless to say this tragic incident has left all of us deeply heartbroken and we are thankful to everyone for trying so hard to save this elephant, as is the intention with every wildlife species in need of help. The rangers will continue patrolling within this remote and key area to try and find the perpetrators in a joint effort together with the authorities. It is our hope that this beautiful elephant who left such an impression on all of us will be at peace now and certainly never forgotten as we keep on in our collective endeavor to protect her species.

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The rangers having a quick briefing at the start of an extensive foot patrol and surveillance operation through some hill ranges which are part of a key wildlife corridor early this morning. These rangers cover many kilometres on foot everyday as part of their daily work, together with their back-up teams and must be commended for their outstanding efforts to protect wildlife everyday.

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Towards the end of the month the rangers were busy as usual watching over multiple herds of elephants every single day and working alongside community members to prevent Human-Elephant-Conflict. This is something our team does daily and it is of vital importance in securing a future for elephants and other wildlife of the Mara ecosystem.

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The Elephant Aware project has been running for just about 10 years now, though our conservation work in Siana officially started in 2007. In that time we are proud to say our team has achieved some fantastic goals. Our daily operational output has expanded enormously and through our work we have been able to help better community livelihoods and improve wildlife security in the area.

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Once again, we are profoundly grateful to all of our supporters and we could not do our important work without your continuous support. Ashe oleng!

 

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Elephant Aware October 2018 Operational Report

The month of October began with the celebration of World Habitat Day. All of us at Elephant Aware feel there is a particular need to highlight how important wild habitats and wild ecosystems are for many reasons but especially because they are depended upon for the survival of many wildlife and birdlife species. Habitat protection has always been a priority for our team at Elephant Aware and over the years we have contributed to the security of very crucial areas where we operate. It is however a fact that vast swathes of wild habitat are being lost to human development at a rapid rate and we must all work together to safeguard our global natural heritage.

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In our area of operation people and wildlife, especially elephants, live in close proximity and therefore preventing potential Human-Elephant-Conflict is a priority in our efforts. Here the Elephant Aware rangers walk along a fence line to inform community members of elephants that are nearby.

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We are now seeing a number of the elephant calves born at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year getting bigger already!

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Norkinyei and her youngest calf recently.

Norkinyei is one of a number of females in the area who has a young calf and we are delighted that these little ones are doing so well under the dedicated care of their mothers and families.

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Despite the area being very dry, the rangers are continuing to monitor large herds of elephants which is all the more in important when water sources are limited and wildlife often are forced to venture close to human settlements in search of any. One of our main objectives is to prevent potentially dangerous encounters between people and species like elephants and to promote harmony all around. This is no easy task but many years of experience has proved vitally useful to our team and the good work of the project.

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The 20th of October marked Mashujaa (Heroes) Day and we celebrated heroes around the world, both human and animal. In this case we made sure to highlight RANGERS who work daily to protect elephants and all wildlife, wild ecosystems and biodiversity. Rangers are known to be at the forefront of conservation as guardians of endangered wildlife especially but they are a great deal more fundamental to the overall endeavour of conservation, they are the thin green line safeguarding what remains of our planet’s irreplaceable natural world and everyday they need YOUR SUPPORT. We take our hats off to these dedicated rangers and all of our team at Elephant Aware and rangers everywhere committed to ensuring a future for species such as elephants. Thank you for your very important efforts and keep up the excellent work!

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This is a special scene we sometimes come across on our patrols, napping elephants! Though it is not uncommon to see elephant calves laying down for a rest, adults doing the same thing is not seen quite as much. We were quietly observing Mbatiany, a bull elephant we are very familiar with, all morning on the 21st and then during the heat of the day he decided to have a siesta under a shady tree, perfectly aware of our presence though we kept a distance so as not to disturb him. His friend Osupat, another iconic bull well known to us over many years, watched over him from some nearby bush throughout his nap and almost an hour later Mbatiany awoke and rejoined Osupat. The two bulls are friends and we often see them together. Such endearing loyalty and affection between bull elephants is something we frequently see and it really shows how amazing they are as individuals and as a species. In our experience we find that people are quite often unaware of this behaviour in elephants and understandably assume there is something wrong with the elephant in question. Thankfully this is part of what elephants occasionally do as they, like humans, feel very sleepy at times and need a refreshing nap amid their busy daily activities!

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Osupat and Mbatiany [above] are two real walking treasures of the Mara ecosystem and of Kenya. Mbatiany is over 40 years old and Osupat is approaching 50 putting them both in an age bracket that is vitally important to the gene pool of this elephant population. They are two bulls whom we have known for many years, we have watched them grow bigger and we have recorded noticeable changes in their appearance such as a broken tusk, additional ear notches and abscesses that are now healed but which were inflicted by humans in the past. Both of these handsome elephants are representative of why the work of our team at Elephant Aware is so essential and must continue to secure a future for precious gentle giants like Osupat and Mbatiany, who just by existing contribute to the tourism revenue and conservation benefits of the country.

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We are all hoping for some rain to arrive soon and alleviate some of the pressures associated with the drought, which affects all of the area’s inhabitants. We are now three quarters way through the year and with all of the rangers and team at Elephant Aware covering an average of approximately 4000 kilometres (around 2,500 miles!)  of foot patrols per month, since the beginning of the year this would total to an estimated 40,000 kilometres or almost 25,000 miles of foot patrols! The project vehicles have equally covered a huge mileage of approximately 35,000 kilometres (around 22,000 miles) combined over the last 10 months! The project motorbike has also done a good share of groundwork averaging around 1000 kilometres each month. This gives some insight into how much work behind the scenes goes into Elephant Aware’s daily dedication to protect elephants and other wildlife in the Mara ecosystem and our conitnuous community outreach. This also shows how much work it takes in conservation in general. As always, we are tremendously grateful to our friends and supporters for helping Elephant Aware to continue in our essential conservation efforts.