Unfortunately, no elephants are known to have survived permanently on the Uganda side of Mount Elgon since the 1970’s and they are at risk of extinction on the Kenya side. Only around 350 are thought to remain from a past population of several times that number. Key threats to their survival are from poaching, deforestation and human-elephant conflict. This results in the tragedy of human as well as elephant deaths.
The East African Wild Life Society – Mt Elgon Elephant Project (MEEP) was launched in May 2017 to ensure the survival of Mount Elgon’s elephants by finding ways to mitigate human-elephant conflict and, ultimately, seeking UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the whole transboundary catchment area of Mount Elgon, spanning both the Kenyan and Ugandan sides of the mountain.
Banner: adolescent elephant in a cave lifting salt to its mouth, Forest Reserve, Kenya. Above: top left – elephant tied by a snare around its foot to a log, Forest Reserve, Kenya; top middle – entrance to Kitum Cave, Mount Elgon National Park, Kenya; top right – mature cow with young, Forest Reserve, Kenya; bottom left – mature bull, Forest Reserve, Kenya; bottom middle – tusk marks in the wall of Kitum Cave, Mount Elgon National Park, Kenya; bottom right – herd in Forest Reserve, Kenya. Below: SMART training. (Credits: Charles Kerfoot, Christopher Powles, Stephen Powles and MEEP.)
The MEEP team includes eight full-time locally recruited scouts trained in modern “SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool)” data collection mobile phone based technology. They are doing detailed mapping work to gather information on the caves, the routes used by the elephants, the sites of human-elephant conflict, the areas of deforestation and the local community (many of whom have lived around the elephants for generations). This will inform land-use recommendations with the aim of alleviating human-elephant conflict.
Project management and technical support are provided by a team of experienced wildlife conservation professionals.
MEEP already benefits the local community and aims to do so more in the future by seeking to preserve the environment, reduce human-elephant conflict, employ local people in an area where there are few employment opportunities and create further alternative livelihoods in an environmentally compatible way.
MEEP is a project of the East African Wild Life Society, working in collaboration with key partners on the ground – the National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service. The project’s other key partners are its funding partners, notably the Elephant Crisis Fund and the International Conservation Fund of Canada. MEEP thanks all its partners and donors for their generous support.
Cave Elephants and the Search for Our Early Human Ancestors on Mt Elgon, SWARA Magazine article, Oct to Dec 2019 edition.
Chemukung, the Elephant, the Snare and the Log, SWARA Magazine article, July to Sept 2020 edition.