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A total of 26 elephants have died in Maasai Mara in the past three months, 11 of them having been poisoned according to the Mara Elephant Project report.
Six deaths were reported in the Triangle and Lamai Wedge in the Northern Serengeti.
In a report released on December 14, MEP said the deaths were reported in September, October and November.
During this period, the Project reported three unknown elephant deaths.
The three were carcasses all found in close proximity in protected areas of the Mara ecosystem all within a three-day time period.
In all three deaths, Kenya Wildlife Service and MEP rangers took samples that were sent to a Kenya Wildlife Service lab for analysis.
The report noted that they are looking for evidence that poison was used intentionally to kill the elephants.
“We may also find out that the elephant died of a natural blood disease,” it read.
The report noted that if they can find out that the elephants were poisoned with carbofurudan, then it means that they were targeted either for their tusks or as retaliation for a conflict-related incident.
Carbofuran is one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides. It is marketed under the trade names Furadan, by FMC Corporation and Curater, among several others.
It is used to control insects in a wide variety of field crops, including potatoes, corn and soybeans according to Wikipedia.
“Depending on the situation, we can then send our intelligence team to investigate and hopefully bring the culprit to justice…” it read.
“If we find out an elephant died as a result of a pesticide it helps MEP determine where the pesticide is being used, on what crops and whether it’s now in the water source the elephants were exposed to.”
In October only one carcass was reported.
During this period, seven elephant deaths were categorized as “unknown.”
According to the report, there is some evidence based on the location and circumstances of these unknown deaths that are pointing toward poisoning as a result of conflict retaliation.
Some unknown deaths point to pesticide poisoning.
The report noted that during the post-mortems conducted by KWS vet there was no indication of disease.
“Well, for one, all of our ranger units have been on high alert in the areas where conflict has been up, and this is where we now suspect retaliation poisoning to be the culprit,” it noted.
They have asked their intelligence unit to infiltrate communities where the unrest is high in hopes of finding out more about these poisonings.
All ranger units are looking for any signs while out on their daily patrols of sick elephants, elephants that are sluggish or not eating and drinking along with the herd, in hopes of intervening before it’s too late.
“The Mara elephant deaths account for almost 42 per cent of the total elephant deaths through December,” the report read.
Where the use of strong pesticide is being used on tomatoes, MEP has set up their rapid response unit to monitor the situation, keep elephants out of tomato farms.
They have tasked their officers with speaking to community members about the pesticides they are using and monitor the elephant’s water source.
“While the MEP rapid response unit is having success in this area, MEP needs a permanent ranger presence to really make a lasting impact,” it noted.
According to the report, having collared elephants in these areas would be extremely helpful in deploying rangers to respond to these conflict-related deaths.
But it noted that their collaring program is still on hold due to the national ban by KWS on any non-emergency veterinary treatment.
In a statement, KWS said they are following up with the Mara Elephant Project for clarification and will be issuing a comprehensive report in due course.