The Masai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya is perhaps the most famous game reserve in all of Africa. A rich ecosystem of grassy plains, riverine forests and high escarpments provides for an abundance of wildlife seen in no other place on earth. While the annual migration of wildebeests and zebras, with the plethora of predators that feast on the young and feeble, is the draw for many, elephants are also an integral part of the scene. The Mara does not boast the density of elephants found in certain other game reserves, but it is an important habitat for the savannah elephant.
The Mara is an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem across the border in Tanzania. For centuries, Masai tribesmen have herded their cattle and claimed the territory in both countries as theirs. Because the land is rich, farming is adjacent to and sometimes spills over onto the reserve. The Mara’s accessibility, natural diversity, international movements of animals and proximity to human settlements combine to make it an ideal laboratory for elephant research.
In 2011, the Escape Foundation, Save the Elephants and the Kenya Wildlife Service joined forces to employ satellite tracking technology to learn more about elephant movement and to address poaching and human-wildlife conflict issues. The Mara Elephant Project has produced a superb video describing their work, which I highly recommend you view here.
Radio collaring an elephant is no small undertaking, and it is interesting to watch the process on the video. A warning — there are graphic scenes of poached elephants with their faces hacked off. Not for the faint of heart. But this effort is full of big-hearted, committed people from a number of nations and represents in my view a fine example of the type of effort needed in many parts of Africa. Watch the video, and if you are inclined, contribute to the project.