THE ANTIPOACHING PROJECT
Since April 1999, the David Sheldrick trust has been involved in operating and funding several highly successful de-snaring teams who continually work what sensitive boundaries can be covered of the giant Tsavo Conservation are, often finding it necessary to penetrate deep inside the Park itself in pursuit of illegal bush-meat activities. Our de-snaring operations are undertaken with the close cooperation of the wildlife authority, (the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Our teams are accompanied by armed KWS Rangers at all times, who have powers of arrest.
Currently we have been able to mobilize 7 fulltime de-snaring teams, all headed by University Graduate Team Leaders endowed with the necessary dedication and passion for wildlife to be able to make a difference. Together these exceptional young men have kept their teams fully motivated and have also been responsible for sensitizing communities bordering the Park within their specific areas of operation, thereby making a positive two-fold contribution to wildlife conservation. Theirs is a crucial holding action until the bush-meat crisis can be adequately addressed through stiffer court penalties and legislation enacted that again outlaws the possession of game meat. The snaring of wild animals, which was once practiced only at a subsistence level, is now commercial big business which is unsustainable and threatens the very existence of many species. Recent surveys show that wildlife has decreased by as much as 60% since l990 when the legal culling of wild game was allowed on a quota system within privately owned ranches. We appeal for financial support for our de-snaring efforts in order to alleviate suffering and cruelty on an immense scale, combined with intense lobbying of the Government to instil deterrent jail terms for offenders. Unless the bush-meat crisis is addressed, this insidious form of poaching will bring down Kenya’s lucrative tourist industry and annihilate its irreplaceable wildlife heritage.
Snaring is a very ancient method of hunting, whereby wire nooses are set on game trails leading to water, high up in trees to trap giraffe, around communal middens or dung-piles to target territorial antelopes such as dikdik and in freshly burnt grasslands where fresh green shoots attract large numbers of herbivores. Sometimes extended brush fences are created to funnel animals into gaps riddled with snares, where they are trapped in large numbers. Snares are made of metal wires, often taken from burst tyres found on main roads, from abandoned telephone lines, fashioned also from nylon fishing line or rope, vegetable fibres, and for the larger species, steel winch cables. These cruel devices are non-selective in that a wire snare set for a small antelope can cause the slow and agonizing death of an elephant as the noose tightens and cuts deeper and deeper into a limb or trunk, sometimes severing it entirely. 1000 snares at a 5% daily rate of success (which is what a poacher expects) will catch l8,250 animals in a year and it is not uncommon for our teams to lift l000 snares in just a couple of days. Today bush-meat is sold widely not only in local butcheries, but regionally further afield in African countries that have already eliminated their wildlife. These include Central, West and North Africa, as well as the Middle East where the demand is great, and it is even on sale internationally, smuggled into European capitals such as London, Brussels and Paris where there are large African immigrant communities.
The snaring of wild animals has always been a concern to wildlife Wardens, but only recently, since l990 when the legal culling of game was allowed on privately owned ranches, has the commercial element crept in and escalated to alarming proportions. Field Reports from our de-snaring units indicate that our activities have had a positive impact along the boundaries we can cover, thereby saving the lives of literally hundreds of animals and alleviating unspeakable suffering on a massive scale. Our mobile Veterinary Units working in conjunction with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and the de-snaring teams has also been very successful in helping remove snares from wounded animals spotted in the Park. The Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit covers both Tsavo East and West, Amboseli and the Shimba Hills National Parks, as well as the neighbouring ranches and is funded by the Austrian NGO Vier Pfoten.
Each de-snaring team is fully mobile. Equipped with four wheel drive vehicles and camping equipment they are on patrol for weeks at a time and have lifted thousands of snares monthly, keeping up the pressure by revisiting the hot-spots.
The Tsavo Conservaton Area is the trust’s main priority area, for the name Sheldrick and Tsavo are synonymous, the late David Sheldrick being responsible for its development from virgin uncharted scrubland bush. 20,000 sq. kilometres (8,069 sq. miles) in extent, the Tsavo National Park was gazetted in 1948 and is Kenya’s largest Protected Area, offering the best long-term hope for the survival of a greater number of species than any other Park in the world for here, by fortunate accident, the Northern and Southern forms of fauna just happen to meet, doubling up on species such as Giraffe, Ostrich, and Grant gazelles. Because it is marginal tsetse infested land, easily reduced to desert and unsuitable for domestic stock, of low and erratic rainfall, and also unsuitable for agriculture, there is no better form of land use for the area than under wildlife – another reason why Tsavo is more likely to endure than other more fertile areas in a country where a galloping human population is making increasing demands on the land.
The community component of our de-snaring operations is equally as vital to the success of the project as the de-snaring operations themselves. Our Team Leaders regularly visit villages bordering the Park boundaries, spearheading conservation related projects, initiating tree planting projects, lecturing on conservation issues, holding environmental film shows and generally encouraging the goodwill and active cooperation of the community. Wildlife Clubs have been organised and numerous student field trips undertaken into the Park every month , whilst stationery, text books relevant to the local school curriculum and sporting equipment is donated to the schools the trust supports along several of the Park boundaries. The community input has born fruit and resulted in curbing a great deal of illegal poaching. Orphaned animals are nurtured and handed into our care, whereas before they would simply have been killed and eaten.
The graph below shows the number of snares recovered since the project was initiated:
The following graph shows the number of poachers arrested since the project was initiated:
WILDLIFE MONITORING DATABASE
The DSWT has been running a field monitoring database since June 2009. This incredibly important database has allowed the Trust to comprehensively monitor ground and air operations in the field in order to reveal key trends and data through analytical mapping and reporting. Developments in the design include a very clever ability to search through arrest records by name or related names, with the facility to find those who have been arrested more than once at the touch of a button. Simple queries can also be easily accessed, such as the quantity of bush-meat confiscated and where it was discovered revealing a clearer picture of what the scale of the problem is on the ground.
The DSWT has been also been collecting MIKE data (Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants) on the database, which allows vital information to be shared with other NGO's as well as Government organizations, which need the data in order to create a broad overview of the poaching situation throughout Kenya. The Trust's projects and data collection covers much of the TCA (Tsavo Conservation Area) which is listed by MIKE as one of the 45 MIKE sites in Africa (four of which are in Kenya) and contains Kenya's largest single population of elephants. This database has raised the Trust’s ability to store information and provide important information to other researchers and interested parties, whilst significantly improving ground activities in the field.
We appreciate enormously the assistance given us by the following supporters and organisations:
The Cullman Foundation
East African Canvas Company
The Capricorn Foundation
The Serengetti Foundation
The Abraham Foundation
The Thin Green Line
The Campbell Elephant Foundation
If you would like to donate to help the Desnaring Program please click here.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust P.O. Box 15555 Nairobi Kenya
All Photographs in this website are Copyright by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and can not be used without permission.