AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
104.2 HOURS FLOWN
13,047 KMS COVERED
Mwaluganje, Shimba Hills, TENP, TWNP, Chyulus, Amboseli, Taita Ranches
MONTHLY AERIAL PATROL MAP
The much-needed rains, which began in November, continued through most of December across much of Tsavo, although they were late in areas around Voi. Many parts of Tsavo received heavy downpours, especially the Chyulu Hills, the northern part of Tsavo West, the Tsavo Triangle, the Yatta Plateau and Ithumba. These areas, unsurprisingly, all witnessed high concentrations of elephants at various times during the month. Thankfully towards the end of December the southern sector of Tsavo East received some heavy rain along the Galana river and southwards.
MONTHLY AERIAL SUMMARY Illegal activities remained relatively low, with livestock incursions being the major observation. Contrary to expectations, the rains did not draw herders away from the Park in Tsavo West. Despite efforts by KWS to remove them, the numbers of livestock actually increased in Tsavo West, with over 30,000 head of livestock counted during a requested survey by KWS. The major emerging challenge has been human-wildlife conflict (HWC). In December three attempts were made by the helicopter to move elephants out of community land and back into the Chyulu Hills NP. Of these attempts, two were successful, however, on a third occasion, a lone bull was pushed up to the boundary of the Park but panicked when it reached the threshold, not realising that the electric fence had been removed.
Our efforts to keep charcoal burning under control in Gazi has so far been successful with only a small number of kilns discovered during the month by aerial patrols. One flight by the helicopter revealed a charcoal burnerâ€™s camp, which was ambushed by the DSWT ground team and resulted in the arrest of 3 bush-meat poachers in possession of wire snares. In the Chyulu Hills, a sudden increase in charcoal burning and wood-carving along the eastern foothills prompted action from the helicopter and ground teams. When the helicopter arrived to investigate, they found active charcoal kilns, whilst a wood-carversâ€™ camp was also discovered. The ground team laid an ambush, successfully capturing a miraa harvester and a bush-meat poacher with a dog. While in the area, 2 herders were also discovered and arrested. Both the fixed wing and helicopter spent several hours patrolling areas where intelligence indicated that armed gangs were operating. Efforts led to new information regarding one of the gangâ€™s movements, no arrests were made nor carcasses discovered. However, one elephant carcass was found during the month by the helicopter who spotted it from the air, but the carcass showed no signs of a poaching attack and the tusks were still intact, which were handed over to the KWS.
Lake Chala visited during a daily patrol
Three elephant treatments requiring aerial support also took place during December, two on the 12th and one Sky Vets case on the 15th. All cases were attended to by Dr. Ndambiri Ephantus of the DSWT funded Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Unit, as the Tsavo Vet Unit was on leave during the month. The first case on the 12th was treated in the Kamboyo area in Tsavo West, having received a report about a bull elephant with a spear wound, the second case was also found to have a spear wound in the Maktau area. Sadly, the Maktau case had to be euthanised due to its severe injuries but the Kamboyo bull was given a good prognosis and is healing well. The Sky Vets case involved an elephant treated for a poisoned arrow wound in the Kaluku area in Tsavo East. Dr Ephantus successfully darted the bull by helicopter and was happy to give the elephant a positive prognosis for a full recovery. On another occasion, the helicopter was called to assist with the removal of a lion, allegedly trapped within the KWS Manyani Training Schoolâ€™s compound. The lion had been part of a group of three, two of which had been successfully removed in another operation. After an extensive search, the lion could not be located so it is assumed that it managed to make an escape.
During the month one of the DSWT’s pilots also visited the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary in the Shimba Hills, which is one of the Trust’s supported projects helping to provide protection for the area’s threatened elephant population. Other highlights for the month included sightings of 6 rhino in Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West, wild dogs, a leopard in Gazi, and a number of large herds of elephants.
The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary in the Shimba Hills
Photographs copyright Â© 2017 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust