February was a mostly calm month with the only signs of poaching detected being a few old campfires spotted during helicopter patrols; follow-ups on the ground did not turn-up any fresh activity.
This positive lack of poaching activity is mostly attributed to the extended rainy season, which continued into the first week of February, having started in October.
The Park and surrounding reserves and ranches have been covered in thick vegetation and with abundant water wildlife has spread out over a much larger area than is normal for this time of year. With the addition of this overgrowth of vegetation access throughout the Park has been extremely difficult, which means that very few would-be poachers are making any attempts to poach. One negative of all the rain has been a slight increase in livestock incursions, particularly in areas that are now inaccessible by vehicle and therefore out of reach of KWS rangers. There were a handful of incursions noted in the northern sector of Tsavo East and a more substantial invasion in Tsavo West, where KWS rangers continue to struggle to keep up with sightings of livestock and livestock bomas by our aircraft.
On an encouraging note, the new elephant exclusion fence is nearly complete which has been constructed around KARI Ranch and should have a dramatic effect on reducing human-wildlife conflict in the Kibwezi area.
More exciting news is also the return of elephants to South Kitui National Reserve after having been absent for nearly a whole decade. There have been signs of small numbers of bulls moving up during the rainy season, but this February, elephants were seen in large numbers on multiple occasions with over 130 being sighted in a single patrol, and many with babies!
Veterinary cases assisted by the Aerial Unit during the month totalled 3, including a young elephant with a snare around its leg in the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary near the coast, another elephant with a snare around its neck near Sala Gate and the third case including an elephant that had been found collapsed in mud on KARI ranch.
The highlight of February was a sighting of a hippo that had somehow found its way onto the top of the Yatta Plateau and is residing in a large waterhole there.