Elephants and lions in the Maasai Mara are being collared in a new effort to track their movements and reduce poaching.
WWF Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who are conducting the exercise, said it would improve understanding of wildlife movements to inform research. The data collected shall be used to inform decision-making processes for wildlife conservation both on the ground but also at regional and national levels.
“To mitigate the conflict, detailed real-time data on elephant movement is vital, but without collaring of these species and other wildlife species such data is seldom available,” said Robert Ndetei, WWF Kenya species manager.
Tracking the movements of wildlife through the use of GPS collaring and VHF transmitters is a well-tested tool for conservationists in order to manage wildlife populations and in turn put in place effective land management policies that support both wildlife and people.
It comes as a relief after the poisoning and disappearance of some lions inthe Mara last month.
An elephant census carried out in 2014 highlighted the limited understanding of elephant movements across the Mara ecosystem. Elephants are known to make use of a wide variety of habitats. However, without the empirical evidence it is difficult to demonstrate to design makers on how best to manage these complex relationships and trade-offs.
WWF said the GPS collaring of the matriarch elephant within each herd will allow partners to track and manage securely the movement of elephant herds within the Mara reserve and outside.
The resulting data will allow partners to plan for effective land management and help mitigate human-wildlife-conflict.
Lion collaring focuses on tracing their movement and reduce human-lion conflict in the expansive Mara. Mara ecosystem has the highest density of lions in Africa. To understand the crucial stage of lion’s movement, collars will be attached to young male lions before the dominant male forcibly eject them from the pride.
Once removed from the pride, these lions are most likely to come into contact with people and kill livestock, so monitoring them will hopefully help reduce conflict and enable on-the-ground teams to inform farmers when lions are nearby.
“The Masai Mara game reserve is home to 25% of Kenya’s wildlife. However, most of the wildlife is found outside of formal protected areas. Conservancies now accounts for 40% of the Kenya’s wildlife. It is therefore of paramount importance that all partners understand movements within and outside of the Mara reserve to enable effective land management and mitigate human wildlife-conflict,” says Ndetei.
Across Africa, wildlife including elephants and lions are disappearing and current statistics suggest that lions in Africa have declined dramatically to around 30,000. In Kenya, they are about 2,000 and are endangered.