Henry Lekochere – team leader Peter Wambua Ezra Mbuthia Kennedy Mungai Samuel Masaku Rajab Fundi Two KWS Rangers
Area of operation:
During the month of February, the Burra team covered the following areas: Sagalla ranch, Ndii, Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Ziwani, Bachuma, Kizingo Ranch, and Ngutuni ranch.
112 SNARES RECOVERED 2 ARRESTS
The Burra team operates mostly in Tsavo East National Park and the surrounding ranches. Most of the ranches are under private individual ownership or shareholding. Most of the ranches keep cattle, although wildlife exists in their ranches creating a poaching area for both big and small game as these ranches are not frequented by KWS rangers. We have noticed that the owners of these ranches sometimes carry out poaching for commercial purposes, where they sell meat as beef or goat meat in towns to unsuspecting customers. Other ranches like to keep wildlife due to the benefits they get from tourists who come to their lodges, so there is little effort to conserve them, thus poaching takes place in these ranches as well.
Tsavo East National Park lies North of Mombassa-Nairobi road near Voi township in Taita District of Coast province, Kenya. The park can be accessed by four main gates, from Voi gate, Manyani gate, Buchuma gate and Sala gate. There are also airstrips in the park that allow chartered light planes. Inside the park, the Athi and Tsavo rivers converge to form the Galana River. Most of the park consists of semi-arid grasslands and savanna. It can be considered one of the world's biodiversity strongholds because of the vast amounts of diverse wildlife that can be seen. The park also offers camping and several geographical points of interest. There are dry plains across which the Voi and Athi rivers flow. Due to its large size the whole Tsavo ecosystem i.e. Tsavo west, Tsavo east and Chyulu Hills which can be regarded as a self sustaining ecosystem, with Taita hills and Sagala hill acting as an inland barrier for moisture laden winds from the Indian ocean hence creating rains and streams and springs for the ecosystem.
FINDINGS During the months operations the team lifted a total of 112 snares, 70 of which targeted big game and 42 targeting small game. The team managed to arrest two poachers at Kizingo ranch. A male and female elephant were hit and killed by a speeding bus at Bachuma.
Most of the areas patrolled during the month recorded a drop in the number of snares collected. This is not due to a decrease in the numbers of poachers but to a change in the poachers poaching methods, with poachers choosing to operate at night using the lamping method.
Ndii/Irima. 20 snares were lifted during our patrols in the area 18 of which targeted large game. A decline in the level of snaring was seen.
Taita hills wildlife sanctuary. We patrolled this area after the management called and reported poaching to be going on and lifted 4 snares targeting big game.
Kizingo ranch. Aerial surveillance of the Southern side of the park revealed a snare fence near Kizingo ranch. Snare fences are a common snaring tool whose purpose are to keep animals on designated routes on which snares have been set. Sadly it is a rather efficient poaching method with the poachers trapping a large number of animals. With the help of a KWS pilot we were able to follow the fence and locate the poacher’s hideout. With the use of GPS co-ordinates we located the hideout on the ground and were able to arrest two poachers. Sadly another two of their accomplices were able to evade arrest. The poachers were in possession of game meat from 20 Dikdik’s, 2 lesser kudus, one porcupine and two guinea fowls, in total weighing about 100 kgs.
Ngutuni Ranch. This ranch is in the vicinity of Tsavo east National park headquarters near the Mombassa road. After patrolling this ranch and adjacent crop land we managed to lift a total of 26 small game snares and 6 big game snares.
Report by Henry Lekochere