AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
Tsavo East and West National Parks, Amboseli National Park, bordering Ranches and Amu Ranch
MONTHLY AERIAL MAP
Following the driest month of the year, the rains arrived late in Tsavo with only a few small showers at first. Finally some real storms rolled in mid-month and changed the parched land in an instant. The Athi/Galana River has been in full flow due to heavier rains inland, whilst the Tiva River, which normally only flows in December, has been in full flood, with the first water appearing on November 4th. The Aerial Unit has focused its efforts within Tsavo East National Park this month with a couple of routine patrols over Tsavo West and Amboseli National Parks. With the onset of the rains the Tsavo bush has become impenetrably thick, and the roads have become extremely wet and muddy, which has been challenging for our ground patrols when trying to get to where they need to be to operate effectively. Foot patrols have been continuing with follow-up operations from the air when signs of poacher activity have been seen. The aerial patrols have been focused on monitoring the elephant movements and keeping an eye on their locations as they spread further afield, often leaving the boundaries of the National Parks with the onset of the rains. The DSWT Aerial Unit has flown many hours keeping a watchful eye in the sky. Illegal activity sightings are thankfully down this month compared to previous months due to the rains, the flooded rivers, and the fact that communities bordering the parks are back working their land in anticipation of a healthy harvest.
MONTHLY AERIAL SUMMARY
The month started on a sad note with the death of the big bull we treated for poaching wounds at the end of October. He was carrying a horrendous large cable snare around his leg and died about three days after his treatment due to the severity of his injuries. Sadly for us all, help came too late. His tusks were recovered and handed over to the KWS.
At this time of year with waterholes full and water no longer a challenge, reports of armed poachers coming into Tsavo East from the eastern boundary have meant that anti-poaching efforts have been increased. The DSWT helicopter has been extremely active in assisting Kenya Wildlife Service rangers on the ground with patrols along this sensitive boundary of Tsavo East where the rains have made it difficult for the KWS vehicles to access the area. The helicopter has provided KWS rangers with the ability to spot check bomas and show a high profile presence in the area, creating a deterrent to potential ivory poachers. In total six tusks were sighted from the air and recovered during November. Two sets were recovered by the helicopter and one pair was recovered by one of the DSWT ground teams.
In November the helicopter spent four days in Lamu County, where the DSWT has a large ‘Saving Habitats’ program, working together with the Lamu Conservation Trust protecting Amu Ranch and the surrounding ranches, including Witu Livestock and Witu Forest. Aerial patrols were conducted over Amu with the area virtually underwater, revealing that many roads were impassable due to recent rains. Large numbers of topi, zebra, buffalo and giraffe were sighted. There was also evidence of new encroachment with ‘slash and burn’ clearing for shambas and illegal settlements along with logging and some charcoal burning. The Minister of Tourism and County and a representative for Lands were flown over the area, enabling them to see the diversity of the wildlife as well as the threats posed to this environment.
On November 15th a call out was received from Amboseli concerning an elephant with a spear wound. The helicopter was dispatched shortly after the report, collecting Dr Njoroge of the Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Unit en-route. The wound, which was located on the elephantâ€™s hind left rump and tail was successfully treated. Due to the quick response of all involved the prognosis for a full recovery for this elephant is good.
Crop-raiding elephants were creating a stir in the community near Hunter's Lodge on the Mombasa Road mid-month. This was partly caused by the new railway construction, as the five big bulls had found themselves trapped in a small patch of forest on the eastern side of the railway outside of the protected areas. At night they were venturing into community shambas and destroying crops. The DSWTâ€™s Super Cub assisted by KWS ground teams managed to push the elephants out of the area and back to the less populated side of the Chyulu Hills - much to the delight of the community members. Some of the elephants were even herded back into the Kibwezi Forest obediently walking through the main gate as that particular boundary is fenced.
A significant sighting was made of a known female elephant, which was darted and treated in 2013 by the DSWT funded Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit, because her left tusk was curling over and growing back into her head causing significant pain. This was actually the second operation with her first happening many years before. This very same elephant was seen from the air amongst a herd of over 500 elephants, and she looked in good shape, her tusk no longer causing her pain, but still remaining very distinctive.
Another exciting sighting was that of Sweet Sally, one of the DSWTâ€™s ex-orphans, who arrived back with Emilyâ€™s exorphan herd after a long absence of over four months, to share the joy of her new born baby, a tiny little boy whom we have named Safi.
Photographs copyright ÂŠ 2015 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust