Aerial Surveillance Report | December 2023

Published on the 31st of January, 2024

Exceptional rains continued in December, transforming the parks into a paradise. This year has seen the most widespread, above average rains in recent memory — both in Tsavo and across the country as a whole. The recovery of vegetation all over the park, even in those areas most severely degraded, has been a miracle to see. This has been most notable in southern Tsavo East.

Livestock incursions continued in December, but KWS was able to keep up the pressure and repel the majority of livestock by the end of the month. On several occasions, the Aerial Unit supported KWS by providing aerial support on request. During one patrol, it was estimated that around 15,000 head of livestock were inside Tsavo East, entering from the eastern boundary with Galana Wildlife Conservancy. In this instance, SWT supported KWS by deploying KWS rangers because the area was difficult to access by vehicle due to the wet and muddy conditions.

In Tsavo West, a relatively large livestock incursion — although not by historical standards — was observed in the early part of the month but brought under control before January. Waterholes across the park were filled to the brim with water, supporting a mass migration of plains game to the eastern border of southern Tsavo West.

There were a small number of human-elephant conflict callouts in December, which mostly resulted in the successful removal of elephants from community land and their return to protected areas. A total of five callouts were responded to, four of which were at least partially successful. Unfortunately, during one attempt, which required the use of two helicopters, only six out of ten elephants were successfully pushed through the fence, while four remained on the community side of the fence.

No veterinary cases were supported by the airwing in December; however, one bull elephant was sighted with a suspected arrow wound during an aerial patrol. The vet was unfortunately unavailable on the day and three subsequent attempts by two aircraft to re-locate the bull were unsuccessful.

Two elephant carcasses were discovered in December, both of mature bull elephants that appeared to have died of natural causes. Their tusks were found intact and retrieved by KWS rangers for safekeeping.

Other illegal activities sighted during the month included charcoal burning, most notably the discovery of a large deposit of around 600 charcoal sacks on Galana Ranch that had been offloaded from trucks unable to be transported off the ranch due to the road conditions. Two instances of illegal mining were recorded, one old and the other active with seven suspects sighted, one of whom was later arrested. Various logging activity was also observed in Arabuko Sokoke Forest on multiple occasions.

An obvious highlight of the month was the dramatic recovery of vegetation across the entire landscape. Initially, there were large aggregations of elephants, which gave way to a more even distribution and dispersal, including to many typically unused corners.

SWT Aerial Unit

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