AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
86.6 HOURS FLOWN
11,380 KMS COVERED
Tsavo East and West National Parks, bordering communities and ranches, Chyulu Hills National Park and Lake Jipe
MONTHLY AERIAL ROUTES
In early February we responded to a number of reports of crop raiding elephants in the communities surrounding Tsavo East NP where the Trust aircraft were called in to assist. In the peak of the dry season some adventurous elephants go in search of sweet treats in the farms bordering the park. Fortunately by the first week of February most of the farmers had harvested and stored their crops so the visiting elephants did not create too much tension. We received feedback afterwards that the community members were appreciative of the Aerial Surveillance Unitâ€™s support and they were not too concerned about the presence of elephants surrounding their farms, which is a very positive reaction.
MONTHLY FLYING SYNOPSIS
In the month of February a number of aerial patrols have headed as far south as Lake Jipe in Tsavo West National Park this month and patrolled along the Tanzania border where large numbers of livestock and bomas were sighted, reported and followed up by KWS. Two elephant carcasses were located south of Lake Jipe within 500m of the Kenya-Tanzania border; and evidence showed they had been killed by Tanzanians who escaped into Tanzania. KWS rangers recovered the tusks from one of the elephants and then tragically found the other was tusk-less. The poaching had probably happened under the cover of darkness and the poachers had not been aware that the elephant had in fact no tusks. The aircraft combed the area to look for other carcasses and any possibility of orphans but nothing else of significance was noticed. Cattle continue to provide a challenge for KWS, with large number of cattle sighted throughout the month in Tsavo East along the Tiva and around Lali Hills as well as in Tsavo West near Lake Jipe and Kitani; and across the Chyulu Hills.
Early in February four large elephant bulls were sighted from the air in a group, three of which appeared to have arrow wounds. The DSWT/KWS mobile veterinary team was called in headed by KWS Veterinary Officer Dr. Poghon to provide timely treatment. One was a very large bull - one of the few big tuskers left in Tsavo. For the rest of the month this iconic bull was monitored regularly from the air to ensure he made a full recovery. Thanks to the timely treatment all the bulls healed from the injuries. More about this story can be read here.
Another bull was sighted by the KWS pilot with an extremely swollen front leg, and reported this to the Veterinary team. The Trust helicopter provided the platform from which KWS Amboseli veterinary office Dr. Njoroge darted and treated the bull. His wound which turned out to be caused by a bullet was severe and the prognosis for his recovery guarded. He was treated again a week later but unfortunately due to the seriousness of the wound he did not make it. Later in the month, while on regular patrol this time in the southern sector of Tsavo East NP, one of our pilots in the Trust's Super Cub sighted a bull elephant with an arrow wound in his left flank. The DSWT funded KWS Vet and his team were soon on site to treat him. More information of this case can be found here.
The DSWT Aerial Unit continued with ongoing monitoring across the Northern Area of Tsavo East NP assisting KWS rangerâ€™s foot patrols. The waterholes had dried up by early February which meant very few shooting blinds were found as a result. Unexpectedly one day in mid Feb the heavens opened and this unexpected rainfall refilled many of the waterholes, bringing a welcomed break for all the wildlife, but also bringing with it the added threat of poachers hunting from crude shooting blinds built on the edge of waterholes.
Towards the end of the month while flying over the Tsavo bush, one of our pilots noticed something unusual next to a water hole, which was full of water from the recent rain. On closer inspection he discovered a shooting blind with freshly cut vegetation disguising a poacherâ€™s lair. He circled lower looking for signs of activity and on one of his passes a poacher panicked and broke cover. The poacher was followed from above while the helicopter was dispatched with KWS/DSWT rangers. Working closely with the Super Cub overhead and the team on board the helicopter, the poacher had no chance of escape and surrendered. He was taken to his hideout where he had supplies, multiple, arrows, axes and meat, prepared for a long stay while he planned to wait for an elephant to show up. He is presently under trial.
The helicopter has been active this month while checking for poacher activity around water points. On one such task the aim of the operation was to follow up sightings made from the Super Cub and to re-visit the shooting blinds and to inspect as many waterholes in the Triangle as possible for other illegal activity. During this operation 3 shooting blinds were discovered at a water hole and were destroyed, whilst the body of a very young elephant was found near the edge of another waterhole. There was no sign of illegal activity, and when the elephant was pulled out of the water and examined, no obvious cause of death was evident.