Mt. Elgon is world famous for its “cave elephants”. New research is showing the elephants visit numerous caves (Kitum being the best known), sometimes penetrating up to 150m deep into the mountain. They usually do this at night and in the pitch black, following ancient and boulder strewn pathways. High rainfall leaches many of the minerals from the surface soil which, in turn, causes the deficiency of the much-needed minerals by the elephants. To supplement their mineral poor diet, the elephants “mine” the soft, mineral rich walls and floors of the caves.
In an exciting project launched in May 2017, the East African Wildlife Society’s Mount Elgon Elephant Project (EAWLS-MEEP), founded by Dr Emmanuel Ndiema, Christopher Powles and others, seeks to understand more about this poorly studied yet fascinating population of elephants. A key objective of the EAWLS-MEEP is to collect the relevant data so that evidence-based recommendations can be made to mitigate the threats to this threatened and unique elephant population.
Images courtesy Steve Powles
With an ever-increasing demand for land and changing land use on the mountain, human-elephant conflict is on the increase. Some farmers have already lost their lives as they attempt to protect their livelihoods from crop raiding elephants. Knowing where this conflict is likely to occur, and why, is critical to saving lives and the long-term survival of the elephants of Mt. Elgon.
EAWLS – MEEP works in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS). A team of four scouts (recruited from the local community) and some KWS rangers were trained in July 2019 to collect the necessary data using “Cybertracker” technology. Using this technology installed on smart phones, the scouts and rangers gather information such as elephant sightings, the location of human-elephant conflict (e.g. crop raiding), illegal human activities (like evidence of charcoal burning and snaring) and the location of caves. The data collection point is automatically given a GPS coordinate by the smart phone. Once collected, the data has, to date, been downloaded manually for analysis requiring regular visits to Mt. Elgon by EAWLS-MEEP staff. However, with the recent introduction of “SMART Connect”, this has been made easy and efficient as the scouts and rangers are able to directly upload the data collected from their phones and hence the data can be received real time, analysed and alerts issued in a timely fashion rather than only being available after a long delay.
In an important development, early in February 2020, Jabes Okumu (Wildlife Programme Manager, EAWLS), Lizbeth Mate (Project Manager, EAWLS-MEEP) and Clarine Kigoli (Data Analysis, EAWLS-MEEP) travelled to Mt. Elgon to introduce the concept of the technology to new KWS senior staff and train the scouts plus KWS staff in how to implement SMART Connect.
With EAWLS-MEEP having now deployed both Cybertracker and Smart Connect on Mt Elgon, the collection and transfer of data has been greatly enhanced. It is hoped that it will not be long before evidence – based recommendation can be made to benefit both the wildlife and the community on Mt Elgon.
MEEP is, in part, funded by the Mount Elgon Foundation (MEF). MEF is a UK-based charity set up to protect the natural and cultural heritage Mt. Elgon. It is working in close collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya and the Elephant Crisis Fund, a joint initiative of Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network, in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
To read more about the project, kindly purchase or make reference to the EAWLS Swara Magazine 2019 4th edition (Oct-Dec).
If you would like to support EAWLS – MEEP in its efforts to conserve the elephants of Mt. Elgon please go to:
Crowdfunding page: www.gofundme.com/f/mt-elgon-elephant-project
Or for more information contact:
Christopher Powles: + (44) (0)1869 350 978, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mount Elgon Foundation, Reg. No. 1186668
The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of loss of species and their habitats, and the increasing speed of global climate change. While the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are also some successes that deserve to be told. Improvements in the health of species and ecosystems along with their benefits to human well-being need to be highlighted and showcased.
The East African Wild Life Society has partnered with the Tropical Biology Association and others to host the flagship Earth Optimism Event, Nairobi, which will be held on 22nd April 2020 at the National Museums of Kenya.
Earth Optimism celebrates successes and achievements in conservation. It champions a change in focus from problem to solution; from a sense of loss to one of hope in the dialogue on conservation and sustainability.
Towards this end, the East African Wild Life Society invites participants to showcase their conservation efforts at Earth Optimism 2020 through inspiring presentations based on impactful success stories in which people have demonstrably changed the status of a population (species), a habitat, or a threatening process for the better.
The content of the talk should try and answer the following:
- What is the conservation problem the talk is addressing (which species or place, how is it threatened, and why)?
- What has been done to address this (what have you been doing with whom, how), and how is this innovative?
- What is the evidence this is working (ideally with numbers [populations or habitat area stabilized or increasing] or at least good anecdotal evidence [animals being seen where they haven’t for a while, etc.])?
- What is the impact on local people (are they benefiting, and if so, how)?
- Why do you think your approach is working?
- What does the future hold (what are the challenges, are you optimistic and if so why, etc.)?
A projector will be available for PowerPoint presentations, as needed.
Talks will be 20 minutes long and should fall under the following themes:
- Environmental conservation: Species and Habitats
- Climate action: Adaptation, Mitigation and Innovation
- Sustainable food systems: Ecological agriculture, Food security and Nutrition
- Communities: Site action, Research and Capacity Building
Interested in having your work featured at Earth Optimism 2020? Reach out to us by contacting: Jabes.Okumu@eawildlife.org .
The youth, Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and Corporates are highly encouraged to apply.
As a follow up to a workshop held in South Africa on designing linear infrastructure, the African Conservation Centre, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Ewaso Lions, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Power Africa and Endangered Wildlife Trust organised a three-day workshop on February 12-14 whose theme was “Designing Linear Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes.”
The forum, held in the Karen suburb of Nairobi brought together a diversity of voices from governments, technical experts, managers, the private sector and civil society to deliberate on the best practices for linear infrastructure development in East Africa.
Other participants included representatives from Kenya’s Rural Electrification Authority, IUCN, WWF International, the World Bank; the African Development Bank, York University, Montana State University, BirdLife International and the East African Wild Life Society.
The need to incorporate the protection of nature or biodiversity in the planning and design of infrastructure project from the onset was made clear in the discussions. Stakeholders and experts from different agencies need to be engaged from the beginning, it was agreed.
A resolution was passed at the workshop calling for the convening of a conference in 2021 to take the discussion further.
Government representatives acknowledged the need for sustainable infrastructural projects.
There was unanimity that if development projects must encroach on conservation areas then data must be sought to help implementers understand animal behaviour to ensure designs incorporate animal crossing points at appropriate migration areas, taking into account the various animal physical sizes.
Participants visited two wildlife conservancies in Kenya’s Athi-Kapiti plains, south of Nairobi, that serve as dispersal areas for the Nairobi National Park. The aim was to gain some perspective on the impact of the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway on Kenya’s wildlife.
In the Kenyan context, big infrastructural projects have been implemented in the recent past. One of the most notable ones has been the Standard Gauge Railway. Others include roads cutting through the Tsavo National Park, Nairobi National Park and Oloolua Forest, as well as high voltage transmission lines from Ethiopia and the Turkana wind farms through Suswa to Nairobi that traversed wildlife conservancies. In addition, another high voltage line – whose environmental impact has yet been assessed – is being developed to provide power to Konza City, which is under construction in Machakos County.
Designs for high voltage transmission lines in Kenya should also incorporate models that reduce bird strikes. Locations for wind farms can also be chosen carefully in areas with less or no migratory routes for birds to minimize detrimental impact. This will ensure sound development and protection of many species in the long run.