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 Patrolling Tsavo - 4/10/2013
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The north-eastern sector of Tsavo East NP is a vast, wild place and prime elephant habitat. The area is dominated by thick Commiphora bush and bisected by the seasonal Tiva River, which provides water in even the driest of times. It is a beautiful land of ancient baobabs, which supports a rich biodiversity. Upon seeing it one is struck by its wild beauty, seemingly unchanged since the dawn of time. Yet one thing has changed mankind appeared on the scene. Poachers, mostly local Wakamba tribesmen, who hunt both for the pot as well as for trophies such as ivory, have decimated wildlife numbers. Now, after decades of this unsustainable slaughter, wildlife populations are suffering. The Nyati Anti-Poaching Team, one of the Trusts eight field teams operating within the Tsavo Conservation Area, is working hard to protect the diverse habitats and give the land the time it needs to recover. Regular patrols undertaken in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service trace known poacher routes and monitor hotspots. Recent aerial patrolling by DWST Pilot Nick Trent has confirmed the high level of poaching activity. They have visited an alarming number of the few remaining waterholes, evident from the number of shooting blinds nearby. These hides are constructed from cut branches, dead wood and grass, then left so as to allow wildlife to become accustomed to its presence. Returning later and sneaking in through a back entrance poachers then hole up inside, hidden, waiting for an animal to come down to drink and within range of their weapons of which poisoned arrows are the local favourite. They pose serious threat to wildlife and their presence is synonymous with the number of injured elephants seen coming in to drink at the Ithumba Stockade (see previous stories).

Monitoring water holes  Clearing a poacher's hide

A poachers hide seen from the air  A hide spotted from the aerial surveillance unit

During March this year the Nyati Team visited countless waterholes finding and destroying over 20 shooting blinds in just over a week. But this is not enough to deter the poachers. At one site they returned within two days of their first blind being destroyed and constructed a new one. This brazen behaviour is not being taken lightly. The Ndovu team, who have just returned from their well-earned leave, have since reinforced thw Nyati Team and now, with double the men, the teams are regularly rechecking the locations of previous blinds and are preparing to set up ambushes for any returning poachers.

Another camouflaged hide  Rangers discovering hides in Tsavo

Destroying hides

Thankfully the early arrival of the rains has taken some of the pressure off both elephants and man. Tsavos wildlife is no longer forced to choose between a small selection of shrinking waterholes and is free to roam far and wide with plentiful ground water around. Now as green shoots burst from the red soils of Tsavo and the wildlife enjoys this time of plenty, the field teams will continue to patrol and clear snares and blinds, even if they are now partially underwater, which is just one of the myriad of ways the Trust helps ensure the protection of the elephants and other wildlife that inhabits the vast and majestic Tsavo Conservation Area. To support the DSWT's Anti-Poaching Units in Tsavo please donate here https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp and choose Anti-Poaching Operations from the drop-down menu.    

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