Why are so many elephants coming to Kenya’s Laikipia County, the area that surrounds the Mpala Research Centre? Mpala research director Margaret Kinnaird is looking for the answer. Dr. Kinnaird believes that poaching and habitat loss are driving elephants from northern Kenya to Laikipia, which she says is “a crossroad of a major elephant migratory pathway.” She also believes that elephants sense that the Centre is a refuge. Sandy Oduor, an elephant researcher at Mpala, monitors the ever-changing elephant population. He keeps close watch on the 1,500 that they've recorded so far, especially noting the movements of families and their reactions to humans. He believes that skittish families are reacting to previous encounters with poachers. Every time he spots a family, he records its exact location through a GPS device and notes family activity at that moment. He keeps such close track that he can note the age—12 to 14 years—when a bull leaves his family to wander on his own. His observations and photos go into catalogues, which identify each elephant by name and family. Through such close monitoring, Mpala scientists hope to find clues about the impact of poaching on elephant movements in Laikipia.
Stories from the Bush
Mpala Live! brings you a collection of documentaries produced at the Mpala Research Centre and featuring its stewards of African wildlife. Coming soon: Live chats with scientists who work in this living laboratory of discovery and hope.