In early 2011, ElephantVoices launched a citizen science elephant conservation project in the Maasai Mara ecosystem, known as "Elephant Partners". Our goal was to develop a working model for citizens to monitor and protect elephants. This initiative was made possible through support from the generous organisations and inviduals listed at the bottom of this page.
Our concept was to connect individual people - guides, scouts, researchers, photographers, tourists, people of the Maasai Mara and all those who care - with the lives of individual elephants. Through use of social and educational media, our intention was to develop a community sharing knowledge of the Mara elephants and working together to protect them.
We wrapped up our work in the Mara in mid 2016, ensuring that the conclusions of Elephant Partners were incorporated into national and county level spatial and development plans. The overarching results of our project can be found in the collaborative report: Mara ecosystem connectivity: Information on elephant population status and movements for spatial planning and conservation in Narok County (A click on link will download low resolution version of report, size 3,8 mb).
Citizen Science in the Mara
We built a fully searchable online elephant ID database for storing information, photographs and identifying features of each elephant. We called it the Mara Elephant Who's Who and populated it with photographic records contributed by many people residing in or visiting the Maasai Mara. You will find an article about The Mara Elephant Who's Who and how to identify elephants published on National Geographic's A Voice for Elephants 16 August 2013, which includes photographs and an educational video.
Citizen scientists uploaded their observations of elephants via the Mara EleApp to the online interface of a second database, known as the Mara Elephant Whereabouts. The app provided an efficient way for people to collect and upload observations directly to the the database.
In the four years of our project, we collectively identified and registered over 1,200 individual adult elephants; collected data on the size, location and composition of over 4,000 elephant groups; determined habitat use, key resources and migration routes used by individual elephants; and documented over 100 mortalities. We made these and other baseline data available to the public throughout the project and in the final report linked above. Furthermore, we focused attention on the conservancies to bolster their important work; the future of elephants and other landscape species in the Mara ecosystem depends upon their commercial success as well as the sustainable management of the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Elephants are important for the survival of the Mara
As an iconic landscape species elephants are important to the survival of the Mara. They play a key role in the ecosystem and, through tourism, in the local economy. Their great size, sociality, intelligence and charisma make them important ambassadors for other threatened species. Yet, the Mara elephants are currently threatened by habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, fencing and ivory poaching. Many elephants are killed each year and an even greater number are wounded by spears, arrows and snares. By engaging people in the monitoring of elephants, our hope was to engender enthusiasm for the collective custodianship necessary to protect elephants and the ecosystem. Additionally, our goal was to provide data to Narok County and other leaders to help them manage the ecosystem in a sustainable way for elephants and other stakeholders - knowing that without active engagement from key decision makers, the future of the Maasai Mara, would be at stake.
To achieve its vision Elephant Partners served and belonged to everyone: The many conservancies (Mara Triangle, Mara North, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oiroua, Enonkishu, Motorogi, Olare Orok, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, Olderikesi, see map), Kenya Wildlife Service, Maasai Mara National Reserve, members of the local community, the tourism sector and members of the general public. Kenya Wildlife Service, the Mara Elephant Project and the Koiyaki Guiding School were just a few of many important collaborators.
We are grateful to those that through their monetary support made this project possible.
|You'll find a list of in-kind supporters, collaborators and data contributors here - your support, friendship and interest were truly appreciated!|