Aerial Surveillance Report for November 2022

Published on the 13th of January, 2023

November marked the beginning of the rainy season, which brought relief to a parched landscape – at least in certain areas. However with the rains came certain challenges as well, especially because they were not particularly widespread. This included an increase in Human-Elephant Conflict as a result of elephants wandering out of the Park in search of water and browse.

As is common at the end of a severe drought, the initial onset of the rains brings a sudden rush of wildlife emergencies. The change of weather and the sudden availability of fresh green food sometimes accelerates death in the weakest individuals. A total of four orphaned elephants were rescued in November. Additionally, four elephant carcasses - plus two sets of tusks - were discovered, all presumed to have died of natural causes. In the Lake Jipe area of Tsavo West National Park, which was hard hit by the drought, wildlife faced an additional threat; competition with illegally grazed livestock.

Aerial assistance to the SWT/KWS Mobile Veterinary Units consisted of four cases. Two elephants were initially spotted by our fixed-wing pilot, one with a cable snare and the other with an arrow wound. With support from our helicopter, both were successfully darted and treated. On the same day the snared elephant was treated, another elephant was reported stuck in mud nearby. The helicopter pilot and vet flew to the scene to assist in a successful rescue of the bull elephant. The fourth case unfortunately did not have as happy an ending. A well-known elephant called Balachu had been found in a collapsed state. The helicopter was called to bring additional drugs to the scene to aid his recovery, but unfortunately, despite the vet team’s best efforts, they were unable to revive this majestic bull.

The helicopter was also instrumental in the apprehension of multiple suspects on Galana Ranch. On one occasion, an individual was captured in position of 4 machetes, 3 animal horns, 6 torches/flashlights, assorted clothes, and 3 pairs of shoes, as well as the following animal carcasses: 32 dik dik, 2 hares, 3 bustards, and 4 sand grouse. The next day footprints led to the successful apprehension of another suspect and the confiscation of a further 6 dik dik carcasses, 1 bustard, 1 bicycle and more hunting equipment.

One of the most notable events in November was the search and rescue of a young, lost boy who had become separated from his older brothers in a storm, while they were out herding their goats. Our fixed-wing pilot assisted on the initial search, flying over seven-hours lookign for the boy, but sadly to no avail and then, with the onset of more rains, his footprints disappeared. Days later, reports came in that new tracks had been found, our pilot set off once again and this time he would miraculously find the boy. The air wing was also called to assist a 9-year-old girl who had been bitten by a snake. She was medivacked in our helicopter, from her home in Kone, to a hospital in Mutomo for successful treatment.

Sighting highlights during November included a mass migration of elephants as different family herds came together in search of vegetation, a record sighting of 17 rhinos in Tsavo East NP, including the first sighting of a new born rhino in area, and a morning close-up with a leopard.

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