Aerial Surveillance Report for October 2019

Published on the 17th of November, 2019

Poaching activity continued for the first half of the month, however activities dropped off once the rains commenced. It seemed giraffes in particular were being targeted this month, a species that has seen a decline in its numbers as a result of bushmeat poaching and habitat loss across Africa.

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In addition to a snared giraffe in the north, which was successfully de-snared, another giraffe with a snare was spotted by SWT fixed wing aircraft near the Chyulu Gate in Tsavo West. The snare was successfully removed by the SWT/KWS Amboseli Vet Unit who also attended to a third giraffe found in the same area by ground teams.

Further north a poachers' camp was disrupted during a helicopter patrol and a motorbike was confiscated along with a mobile phone and other poaching paraphernalia. On a different day, two poachers were spotted entering the Park on bicycles. When they realised that they had been compromised, they immediately fled; sadly, as there was nowhere suitable to land nearby, both men escaped leaving the Park boundaries; however, one of them left a bicycle behind which was confiscated along with his gear and 15 wire snares.

Livestock sightings in Tsavo East were minimal, with only one major incursion discovered on a KWS requested patrol near Emusaya. In Tsavo West, large numbers of livestock were present on two fixed wing aerial patrols, however, the number of active bomas had reduced by nearly 50% between these two patrols as a result of KWS ground operations.

The helicopter was used in the rescue of two orphaned elephants during October. Big Life Rangers had found the first calf abandoned on Rombo Ranch, and the second was sighted by a Tsavo Trust aircraft.

In addition to the two snared giraffes, the Aerial Unit also assisted in the search for a wounded elephant that had been seen by tourists. The aircraft conducted search patrols for two days in a row, since the first sighting came too late in the day for the our SWT/KWS Vet Unit to respond. The second day of the operation was a success and the KWS vet was able dart and treat the elephant for a suspected arrow wound. On another day one of the Trust’s fixed wing planes flew KWS vet Dr. Poghon, of the SWT/KWS Tsavo Veterinary Unit from Voi to Selengei to treat a lion with a spear wound, which had been reported by Big Life. Very sadly the lion had to be euthanised due to the severity of the wound. On the same day the SWT pilot then flew the vet to Ol Donyo Wuas to treat an elephant with an infected cancerous growth.

As a major contributor to the previous Wildlife Censuses in the Tsavo Conservation Area, the SWT also participated in the initial planning meetings for the upcoming 2020 Aerial Census, which will take place in February 2020. The Trust is able to offer expertise, pilots, aircraft and aviation fuel to what will surely be another successful event, resulting in the collection of invaluable data.

Highlights during the month included repeated sightings of some of our favourite carnivores including wild dog, leopard, lion and cheetah.