AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNIT MONTHLY REPORT
182 HOURS FLOWN
21,618 KMS COVERED
Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Chyulus, Amboseli, Kishushe Ranch, Mbulia Ranch, Taita Ranches.
MONTHLY AERIAL PATROL MAP
MONTHLY AERIAL SUMMARY With the short rains finally arriving towards the latter part of the month both the southern and eastern areas of Tsavo East have enjoyed heavy downpours replenishing waterholes and seasonal streams, but the air wing has remained vigilant and busy throughout despite the more favorable conditions. With what is becoming a welcomed trend, charcoal burning cases are still down in all hotspots. Multiple aerial patrols throughout the Chyulu National Park are still reporting back without any sightings at all. This is unprecedented and is because of the 73km 14-strand un-shortable electrical fence the DSWT has funded along the boundary abutting community lands. This project has been ongoing for 2 years and is a massive investment and undertaking, especially as the terrain is lava rock in many parts making the erection of this fence extremely challenging.
The battle with livestock incursions is ongoing mainly in Tsavo West, whilst the situation in Tsavo East is much improved during recent months. The southern end of Tsavo West remains a challenge with several thousand head of cattle entering from the western boundary and Tanzania with a large portion of them staying inside the park in bomas. The DSWT air wing assisted KWS operations on two occasions in a coordinated effort to push some of these herds back out of the park with the helicopter flying for roughly 11 hours over the course of both operations. These operations have been assisted by the fixed wing aircraft, who have been helping to locate herds and bomas for the KWS teams to respond.
DSWT aerial patrols uncovered five elephant carcasses this month, two of them confirmed victims of poaching with their tusks having been cut out by poachers, the other three were found with their tusks intact, which were retrieved by KWS, however the cause of death could not be confirmed. The helicopter was involved in three elephant treatments this month. On one occasion, a bull was spotted in the Kibwezi Forest with a large abscess on its flank. With the forest in this area being so thick, not only did it prove very difficult to find the patient but also finding a spot to land, so ground teams had to quickly cut a suitable landing zone in the dense bush in order for the treatment to successfully go ahead. The growth is a tumor and nothing to do with foul play. On another occasion a large bull was spotted one evening at the Ithumba stockades with a fresh arrow wound. Early the following morning the helicopter and a fixed wing went out in an attempt to locate the bull for treatment and this search went on for four more days before the bull was finally found again and could be treated with the help of the helicopter. Thankfully due to the timely intervention he will make a speedy recovery and the prognosis was excellent. Later in the month, another bull was spotted by a DSWT fixed wing in Tsavo West with what looked like a football sized abscess on its side. The helicopter and Mobile Vet Unit were called out for treatment whilst two fixed wing aircraft attempted to relocate the elephant. This proved difficult due to the high numbers of elephant in the area. He was eventually found, and Dr Poghon could get to work with the treatment. Unfortunately, it turned out that the bull was suffering from a cancerous growth, which could not be removed.
November has kept the airwing very busy with cases of human-wildlife conflict. The helicopter was required to push either herds or individual elephants out of community land and back into the park on numerous occasions and in every case were successful in their efforts. On one occasion, a herd of over 20 was herded by the helicopter back into the park near Kansiku on the northern Boundary of Tsavo East. Highlights for the month were the rains finally arriving bringing respite from dry conditions, and the successful treatments and success in all cases of driving elephants back into protected areas.
Photographs copyright Â© 2018 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust