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The unit patrolled extensively throughout Tsavo East and Tsavo West, including Ithumba, Mukomwe, Yatta Plateau, Masobo Hills, Tabanguji, Lali Hills, Galana River, Dakota, Satao, and Emusaya



Very strong winds over the dry landscape of the Tsavo Conservation Area during August created challenging flying conditions for the DSWT’s aerial unit especially the low-level flying Super Cubs, yet despite this the pilots flew a combined total of 70.7 hours covering a massive 12, 577kms. Within the peak of this dry season the lack of surface water available has also led to increased pressure from livestock, which are now being led into the Park in very large numbers, especially along the Tiva where herdsmen have dug hundreds of wells to extract water from the river.



Extensive aerial patrols carried out around the Gazi area within northern Tsavo East has discovered widespread charcoal burning activity, which has become a very commercial illegal activity for bordering communities. This extensive logging and burning of forested areas was investigated by the DSWT/KWS anti-poaching ground teams leading to the arrest of several charcoal burners and poachers over the space of a week during August.

The aerial unit has assisted in numerous veterinary cases during the month of August by searching for injured elephants and flying KWS veterinary officers to identified locations to dart and treat elephants, which have been targeted predominantly for their ivory. Yet on the 18th of August one of the Super Cubs located an injured elephant, which needed to be treated for an infected snakebite.


The helicopter was active on the 4th August, flying to Amboseli National Park to treat an injured elephant in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, which needed treatment for a spear wound (this story can be read here). On the 11th of August the helicopter was also called on a special mission to the Masai Mara after reports of several cropraiding elephants being speared and shot by the community, which required immediate veterinary assistance, before flying to Ithumba in northern Tsavo East on the 14th to locate and dart a bull elephant with an arrow wound; both of these stories can be read here.

Image courtesy of Marc Goss – Mara Elephant Project

On the 21st of August one of the Super Cubs was used to search for an injured elephant which had been spotted near Roka in Tsavo East. Once the elephant had been sighted the vet was collected from Kilaguni airstrip and the helicopter assisted in the darting. Unfortunately the infection, which had been inflicted by a poisoned arrow, was too severe and the elephant had to be euthanized. A week later on the 27th, the Super Cub once again assisted in flying one of the DSWT’s seconded KWS veterinary officers to Satao Lodge where a large bull elephant was successfully treated for an arrow wound, before later on the same day, the vet was returned to Kilaguni airstrip to re-treat the elephant with the snakebite, which was now thankfully showing improvement.

On the 25th of August, one of the DSWT pilots was called to assist KWS in the search for poachers, who had been interrupted by KWS Rangers in the process of removing tusks from a freshly poached elephant on Kuku Ranch. Unfortunately the poachers had escaped into local community farms and their trail was lost, however the rangers did retrieve intelligence from local herdsmen and are confident that arrests will be made.

Photographs copyright Š 2014 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

DSWT Aerial Surveillance Unit Report August 2014  

A monthly report from the DSWT Aerial Unit operating in the Tsavo Conservation Area