Aerial Surveillance Report for August 2018

Published on the 31st of August, 2018

In August there was an increase in poaching activity which is not unusual given past trends of poaching as conditions dry out. What seemed unusual is this year it appeared to gather momentum almost overnight.

Early in the month two Helicopter/K9 callouts involved close encounters between poachers in the Park, whilst ground teams (DSWT and KWS) later in the month apprehended another gang of 5 poachers suspected of being responsible for the death of an elephant in the Northern sector of Tsavo East. On a separate occasion, a DSWT helicopter discovered two suspects hiding in a known poaching harbour in Tsavo East, one of which was arrested after a chase.

Predictably, as poaching levels increased, so too did vet treatments. Five elephants were discovered on fixed wing aerial patrols, and two of these were treated for either spear or arrow wounds with the help of the DSWT helicopter and Amboseli DSWT funded Mobile Vet Unit. To the south of Ithumba a young bull elephant was also discovered and treated successfully for 2 arrow wounds.

The helicopter’s new 820 litre Bambi Bucket was deployed for the first time in August to aid in fighting a fire northwest of Ol Donyo Wuas in the Chyulu Hills. The water drops were completed from a nearby dam and greatly assisted some 200 Maasai who were fighting the fire on the ground determined to ensure their dry season pasture was not lost. Within 2 hours, the fire had been put out and thousands of acres of grass and woodland saved from destruction.

The DSWT helicopter was used again to medivac a KWS Officer to Nairobi who had been injured by an elephant that he was trying to free from thick mud. The huge bull had become trapped fast in the unforgiving quagmire and for several days all teams fought to free the bull, eventually achieving success but sadly too late for this elephant.

Charcoal burning activity was down significantly in both Kishushe and the Chyulu Hills, but especially in the Chyulus, thanks to sustained effort from both the Aerial Unit and ground teams, livestock encroachment was also down significantly from this time last year in both Tsavo West and East, but especially in East where only a few bomas were found.

Highlights of the month included some interesting carnivore sightings. A large group of hyenas were spotted on a buffalo carcass on one patrol and nearby a pack of 10 wild dogs. One of our planes was also lucky enough to spot a lion stalking a Grant’s gazelle. The hunt was unsuccessful but provided a few exciting moments for the circling pilot. The month ended with a beautiful leopard sighting on the Yatta Plateau.