AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
DSWT Helicopter rescuing a calf from Tsavo and transporting it to the Nairobi Nursery
116.88 HOURS FLOWN
13,653 KMS COVERED
Tsavo East and West National Parks, Taita Ranches, South Kitui Reserve, Chyulu Hills NP
MONTHLY AERIAL PATROL MAP
July was a very positive month, seeing a significant reduction in poaching activity, with the only activities responded to including two old shooting blinds and a poacherâ€™s hideout. The hideout, although having not been in use for around a month, turned up a bow and some cooking utensils. It has been added to a growing database of known hideouts within the greater Tsavo ecosystem, which the teams can continue to monitor in the hope of making an arrest in the future.
Destroying a Bushmeat Poacher's hideout in the Kishushe area
A poacherâ€™s camp spotted from the air by the Aerial Unit
MONTHLY AERIAL SUMMARY This month is historically one of the worst months of the year for elephant poaching, as July through to October are the driest months, when many would-be poachers are struggling to make a living from the land and relying heavily on subsistence farming. Additionally, poaching for elephants during this time is made easier by the increasing concentration of elephants around the last remaining waterholes. Last year during this period, cases of vet treatments and carcasses were already down from previous years, and this year the numbers have dropped further. In fact, the Aerial Unit only sighted one injured elephant in July in Tsavo with a very minor abscess, which was healing on its own and did not need treatment, whilst the unit also attended to a couple of other cases with ailments relating to natural causes. In contrast, in 2013 there were more than 30 elephants in the month of July which received veterinary intervention, which shows just how far the Tsavo partnerships have come with KWS in the fight against poaching.
One of the most significant sightings this month was a massive, commercial charcoaling operation in the northeast corner of Tsavo East. This remote part of the Park is difficult to patrol by vehicle due to its distance from the nearest ranger outpost, and an absence of water, which is why aerial surveillance is so important in this region. Fortunately, on a routine patrol, a DSWT fixed-wing aircraft noticed a small column of smoke in the distance whilst inspecting the northern boundary. Upon arriving, multiple lorries were discovered dropping off water to a large labour camp inside the Park. 10 additional satellite camps were then discovered, as well as over 30 charcoal kilns and a staggering 351 sacks of charcoal ready for collection. In addition to this, a road network was being constructed in the Park to access the charcoal. The KWS took swift action and removed the charcoal burners from the area. However, a follow-up flight towards the end of the month revealed that a handful of charcoal burners are still producing charcoal having returned to the site. At the time of writing this report, an operation is being planned to rid the area of the remaining charcoal burners.
Illegal charcoal operation taking place inside the Park
On the 21st of July, the DSWTâ€™s Ziwani team reported that they had rescued an orphaned male baby elephant found in the community adjacent to Tsavo West, near Maktau Gate. Unfortunately, the charter company that the Trust uses for orphan rescues could not send a plane until the late afternoon so after determining the size of the baby elephant, it was decided that our new A350 helicopter could be used to transport it directly to the nursery in Nairobi. Upon arriving at Maktau Gate, where the orphan was being kept, the Ziwani team assisted in restraining the young calf and loading it into the helicopter. The rear and co-pilot seats had to be removed to accommodate him, but he was safely secured and rapidly transported to Nairobi where the Nairobi keepers were on hand to carry him to his new stables. He was extremely dehydrated and the quick response contributed to his ultimate survival, enabling him to get the allimportant veterinary intervention and nutrition he so desperately needed.
DSWT Helicopter pilot Andy and the rescued calf
Flying the rescued elephant calf to Nairobi in the helicopter
Rescued elephant arriving at the Nairobi Nursery
Livestock continues to be a threat across both Tsavo East and West, with sightings mostly concentrated along the Tiva River, Emusaya, Dakota, and Maungu in Tsavo East and near Lake Jipe, Salaita and Rombo in Tsavo West. Charcoal burning continues to be under control in the Gazi area, where no charcoal kilns have been sighted in several months now. In the Chyulu Hills, charcoaling has been reduced by consistent aerial and ground coverage, but this remains an area that still requires ongoing efforts if the charcoal threat in remote areas is to be eliminated altogether
Highlights for the month of July included multiple sightings of wild dogs, including 3 dogs sighted at the end of the DSWTâ€™s airstrip at Kaluku. On one patrol, a total of 29 rhinos were also spotted which is always a pleasing sight.
Photographs copyright Â© 2017 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust