Aerial Surveillance Report for July 2020

Published on the 16th of August, 2020

The threat of fire loomed large in July and occupied much of our pilots’ time. An SWT helicopter was deployed to suppress fires in the Chyulu Hills National Park (CHNP) on 3 separate occasions using our Bambi Bucket, making a total of 26 water drops to quench critical portions of the fire while ground teams fought the rest.

The largest fire occurred in Southern Tsavo West, originating on Lualenyi Ranch and burning an area roughly 103,000 acres in size before a concerted effort of more than 300 people representing KWS, SWT, Taita Estate, Tsavo Trust, Finch Hatton’s Lodge and the National Youth Service, managed to bring it under control. Read about the Tsavo West fire.

Poaching activity observed by the Aerial Unit was surprisingly sparse. Although 4 breaches in the CHNP fence were observed during the month, these are thought to have mostly been connected to illegal logging activity as opposed to wildlife poaching.

A positive development, following more than a week of extensive ground patrols in the Umbi area (northern-most part of Tsavo East), was a dramatic decrease in logging activity. Charcoal burning was also reduced in July, with an exception being in Kishushe Ranch where large numbers (10 or more) of charcoal kilns are still being encountered on each patrol in the area. Illegal livestock grazing continues to be a problem in Tsavo West, where cattle, goats and bomas are regularly found in several areas along the Western and Southern boundaries.

Cases of human-wildlife conflict continued in July, but fortunately at reduced levels compared with previous months, as water sources dried up and elephant distribution contracted back into the core of the protected areas.

The Aerial Unit assisted in several SWT/KWS Veterinary Interventions during the month. Whilst one of the Trust’s helicopters also assisted in the rescue of a young elephant calf that had been separated from its mother.

Several unique sightings in July were of interest to the pilots, including multiple sightings of leopards, painted wild dogs, lions and striped hyenas.