Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mwaluganje Elephant Reserve

We’ve been busy our second week – teaching the children, panga-ing the forest transects and following the dolphins through the Indian Ocean waters. So what do you do on your day off? Go learn about elephant poo! Our hardworking intern, Sara, researched and arranged a day trip to the Mwaluganje Elephant Reserve.
Two hours of driving through the gorgeous Kenyan countryside gave us a little taste of inland Africa. After avoiding the wandering goats and crazy matatu drivers we arrived at the reserve. Before even entering the gates we were greeted by a huge African elephant along the road!The Reserve was created in 1995 by members of the community to protect a longstanding elephant migration route between Shimba Hills National Reserve and Mwaluganje Forest Reserve.

The information center claims to have the highest concentration of elephants in Africa! One of the challenges of this kind of conservation though is human-wildlife conflict (elephants trampling farmer’s crops). So they had an idea about how to turn lemons into lemonade…or, more specifically…poo into paper! We got a lesson in the process of collecting, boiling, drying, mixing and filtering dung into paper and the reserve then sells the recycled paper as cards, albums, bookmarks etc. It’s a simple but impressive process that results in quality paper – and this poo doesn’t stink! Our goal is to then teach this technique to the villages we visit on Satellite Camp later in the expedition.After the lesson we were rewarded with an amazing drive through the reserve where elephants could be found at just about every turn! Crossing the road, having a drink by the watering hole, hanging out in the shade of the baobab trees – they never seemed to be concerned about the car full of excited EM’s snapping pictures of them! We were able to drive up within 20 feet of them sometimes. It was the closest most of us had ever been to wild African elephants and the experience was incredible.
They are truly beautiful animals that we had the pleasure of watching all afternoon. Even as we drove out of the park to head home we were able to spy a few more loping along the valley. The entire day was an inspiring lesson in conservation and wildlife appreciation. Just goes to show that one person’s pile of poop is another person’s potential paper product!