After many months of rain and 'relative' calm in terms of illegal activities, the month of May saw drier conditions and a rise in illegal activity. Fortunately, our teams remain vigilant and two aerial sightings led to arrests.
Apart from poaching, there was also a rise in wood harvesting activities, including wood carving, charcoal burning and logging. This was mostly observed on ranches adjacent to the National Parks, however, a worrying increase in charcoal burning and wood carving was noticed in the Chyulu Hills National Park.
Surprisingly, with the increase in poaching activity, there was no corresponding increase in related veterinary treatments, as is normally the case. In fact, most of the veterinary interventions involved animals that appeared to have been injured due to natural causes.
Although the Aerial Unit is seldom called upon to assist in the treatment of lions, it was utilised twice in the month for this purpose. Firstly in response to a lion that was sighted in thick bush by one of our SWT/KWS ground teams with an injury on its foot, and then the helicopter was used to locate and dart a lion near Mtito Andei, that had been deemed a 'problem animal' by KWS and required translocation away from communities and livestock. The helicopter was also deployed to rescue an abandoned elephant calf that had been sighted by Big Life Foundation rangers on the western side of the Chyulu Hills, with the calf subsequently brought into the expert care of the SWT at the Kaluku neonate unit.
Additionally, the Aerial Unit responded to three human-wildlife conflict call-outs in the May. In respect of cattle incursions in protected areas, the Unit observed that this remain an issue in Tsavo East and Tsavo West, but particularly in Tsavo West, while on a positive note, the Chyulu Hills NP maintained its cattle-free status throughout the month.
Despite the worrying increase in illegal activities, our pilots were treated to some wonderful scenes as well. A herd aggregation comprising more than 600 elephants was seen in the southern sector of Tsavo East, while there were multiple sightings of lions, painted hunting dogs and cheetahs, as well as even rarer sightings including three aardwolf and a striped hyena.