AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
Tsavo East and West National Parks, bordering communities and ranches
MONTHLY AERIAL ROUTES
With the onset of the short rains the month of April has been relatively quiet across Tsavo, whilst crops have been planted in community farms across the region bordering the Protected Areas. The Chyulu Hills National Park received exceptional rains during the month whilst rains across the rest of Tsavo have been particularly patchy, with some areas receiving good rain and others none at all.
MONTHLY FLYING SYNOPSIS
During regular patrols eight shooting blinds and one old poacher camp were sighted from the air. All sites were visited by the DSWT/KWS ground teams and destroyed. These blinds are used as vantage points to hunt game meat and elephants with poisoned arrows. They are dome shaped bushes lying on the edge of waterholes, where the poachers camp out and wait patiently for animals to come to water, usually over a full moon. Such blinds are more active in dryer periods when the only water remaining is in waterholes, forcing wildlife to come to drink in predictable places. As it begins to rain and the availability of water becomes more widespread it is more of a challenge for the poacher to predict which water point will be used. Five elephant carcasses were sighted from the air in April. All carcasses were estimated to be between a month and six months old, all were missing their ivory. One elephant case was treated with gunshot wounds by the KWS Amboseli vet who was flown in to attend the case. The Aerial Unit monitored the bull for the week following his treatment until he could no longer be found. It is assumed that he recovered well enough to go on his way.
With the onset of the rains the communities neighbouring the parks have been busy planting crops, which brings different challenges with crop raiding elephants. The Aerial Unit has been busy this month assisting the KWS and DSWT ground teams in locating and driving problem elephants from the farms. Five big bulls had found their way outside the fence on the northern boundary of Tsavo East NP, and for a week they remained in the area destroying crops at night and hiding in the thick bush bordering the park in the day. The fence was taken down, but continued efforts to push the bulls through the gap ended in defeat. The big bulls would stop within 30 metres of the fence and refuse to move. Eventually, after wandering up and down 10km of fence line, they finally sneaked through the open fence one night, on their own accord. The communities bordering the Chyulu NP have experienced challenges with elephants in their crops too. This is why the DSWT has invested in a fence around the Kibwezi Forest and is now in the process of extending the fence along the boundary of the Chyulu NP to the north. This is a significant donation to the Kenya Wildlife Service in an attempt to reduce human wildlife conflict and increase security for the Park. On a couple of occasions the Trust Super Cub has been called to locate elephants in the community. With the help of the Chyulu and Kibwezi KWS/DSWT ground teams the elephants have been successfully pushed back into the protected areas. The communities and local government are extremely thankful for DSWTâ€™s assistance in funding the fence line and for the ground and air support in removing problem elephants from their fields. Since the fence has been protecting their crops land values have sky rocketed and the number of crop raiding elephants has been much reduced in recent years, and with this extension this is expected to reduce further.
Cattle, sheep and goats continued to remain in both Tsavo West and Tsavo East with huge numbers extending as far as 25km inside the park. Permanent manyattas with families accompany many of the livestock. The Aerial Unit simply identifies their positions for the record and passes the information on to KWS park management. The Aerial Unit continues to maintain a regular presence across Tsavo, monitoring wildlife movements and assisting KWS management and rangers with air support. The ongoing patrolling of the DSWT aircrafts covering vast tracts of the National Park inhibits illegal activities enormously. Such a huge and challenging area cannot possibly be effectively managed without this vital support which the Trust is proud to provide working in close partnership with KWS Tsavo management.