AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
AREAS PATROLLED Tsavo East and West NPs with a focus on the Northern Area of Tsavo East and Tsavoâ€™s abutting Ranches. A 1 day trip was made to Lamu County to treat an injured elephant.
MONTHLY AERIAL ROUTES
The month of March proved to be another wet month across Tsavo with severe thunderstorms and rain. The Aerial Unit continued to patrol the region, with one Super Cub concentrating on the Northern Area and the other supporting KWS in Tsavo East and Tsavo West.
MONTHLY FLYING SYNOPSIS
A number of elephant carcasses were sighted from the air this month indicating that ivory poaching is indeed still an ongoing threat to Tsavo's elephants. The carcasses were all south of the Athi/Galana River, signifying that the thorough presence of aerial patrols in the Northern Area along with DSWT ground patrols is proving to make a difference. Two of the carcasses had their tusks intact.
Livestock continues to be sighted inside the park in large numbers along with bomas. KWS have worked hard to hold the advancing cattle back along the Tiva River. The Gazi area has been clear of charcoal burning and illegal activity following an extensive operation on the ground with aerial support. Whilst Gazi is clear there has been continued sightings of logging and bicycle tracks in the northern end of Tsavo East NP. The ground teams have set up ambushes sighting signs and sometimes culprits, but it has proven very difficult to apprehend offenders. Several old shooting blinds have also been sighted in the north which were dismantled by DSWT ground teams
One of the Voi Stockade orphans, Mbirikani, was kidnapped by a wild herd during the elephant orphanâ€™s daily outings in the surrounding bush. The Trust's Super Cub was called in to assist the Keepers to locate her, which was done just in time before she became prey to two large lions. After the aircraft located her with the aid of a keeper in the back seat, the ground team moved in quickly and guided her home safely, you can read more about her story here.
A highlight of the month was the congregation of over 1000 elephants in the southern sector of Tsavo East NP - always an amazing site when it occurs, reminding us of the once huge herds that used to roam the Tsavos. This congregation only lasts a few days and occurs about twice a year when it rains heavily. A large flock of vultures (nearly 30) was spotted circling something on the ground south of Voi, which was later found to be a kudu carcass. Another elephant carcass was sighted with a large group of vultures on it. Vultures have become a very rare sight in Tsavo due to poisoning by Masai herders and poachers, and therefore seeing these two groups of vultures is a very promising sight. One of the aircraft joined in a search along with community members in search for a young man who had been swept down the Tiva river during a flood a few days beforehand. There was also a search party on the ground walking the river's edge, with about 50 people including the local Governor. Unfortunately, he was not discovered. Several small groups of Grevy's zebra, totalling 14, were seen in the Taita Ranch area. This data is passed on to Dr. Zeke Davidson, Conservation Biologist, Marwell Wildlife, who is monitoring the numbers as this is the only small collection of Grevy's in the Tsavo area.
On the final day of the month a call was received from the Kenya Forest Service Officer in Kipini Conservancy, Lamu, where the Trustâ€™s Cessna 185 has been carrying out an extensive aerial survey with KFS. The officer had sighted a young bull elephant with a severe snare around his front leg. With the help of a KWS ground team and the DSWT funded vet from Voi, the elephant was quickly located, darted and treated. You can read more about the story here.
Photographs copyright ÂŠ 2014 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust