Kids, Camera Traps & Elephants

Blog by International intern, Mikki Koot from the Netherlands.

Time flies when you are having fun! It’s already been five weeks since I arrived at the Elephants and Bees Research Center in Mwakoma village. Before I could come to terms with the sheer beauty of my new surroundings we were already out and about exploring it. After having met Lucy in the Netherlands at the Future for Nature Awards in Burgers’ Zoo back in 2013, I have dreamed of joining her quest in saving the elephants and here I am, doing just that.

The past couple of weeks I got acquainted with all the different aspects of this inspiring project. Going into the field monitoring the beehive fences, tracking crop raiding elephants and experiencing my first “bucket shower” is just the start. I have also helped build a demonstration permaculture garden at Kileva school, danced with the Waatha tribe and tested my crafting skills making honey lip balm. The most exciting thing so far however was finally getting to see the magnificent animals this project is all about.

Mikki with camera traps (s)

Photo: Mikki downloading images of elephants and 17 other identified mammals from the beehive fence camera traps

My main focus since my arrival has been working on the camera trap project. The aim of this project is to find a possible pattern in the crop raiding elephants and answer some important questions like, are it primarily lone bulls who visit the farms? Or are it entire families? When do they visit the farms? During nighttime, daytime, wet season or dry season? Currently four of our beehive fence farms are equipped with each four camera traps, angled in such a way to best capture the crop raiding elephants. Together with Chloe, the project’s other international intern, I have been collecting the pictures and checking the batteries of the camera traps every 10 days. After having collected all the images it is time to go through them, one by one, and record the species and their numbers in each photo. Besides taking a picture of everything that moves in front of the camera, the camera trap also records the date, time, wind speed and direction, temperature and the moon phase. Furthermore these pictures can be used to make elephant ID sheets. With these sheets we will hopefully be able to identify crop raiding elephants more easily in the future.

Elephant (s)

Photo: Example of one of the younger of the bull elephants visiting Nashon’s farm we have caught on a camera trap 

Aside from the many elephants caught on camera we also have numerous pictures of other wildlife. These vary from the common yellow baboon, mongoose and the occasional honey badger, to the more elusive serval and quite rare aardvark. We are so grateful to our private donors for supplying so many camera traps and making this project possible.

Ardvark (s) Serval cat (s)

Photos: Rare photo of an aardvark and serval cat visiting the community farms

It has been a great experience working on this project alongside the community, who have been nothing but welcoming, waiting patiently for us to recall how to reply to “habari ya asubuhi?”. I will be eternally grateful to Lucy for this amazing opportunity.

Mikki with elephants (s)

Photo: Mikki enjoying some time to watch elephants in Tsavo East National Park

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