Isaac Maina – Team leader Mutua Koti –Tracker Jacob Dadi –Tracker Samuel Odero- Vehicle guard Evans Butt – KWS ranger Alden Jarison – KWS ranger
The exercise was hampered by a number of factors. The first was the sighting of a young elephant calf which had fallen and gotten stuck on a natural trench at Taru area. The calf got itself into the trench when seeking water on a rocky surface dam which bears a natural crack on one side measuring 5m long and 1m wide. The locals who heard the calf scream rushed to the area and on seeing the calf reported to KWS personnel who were already close by. The KWS personnel pulled out the calf that was too exhausted to stand or walk and which also had some small cuts and bruises on its body. Since the calf could not fit in their vehicle, they temporarily left the calf to collect a larger vehicle and then eventually our team was called to carry out the rescue work. By the time the pick-up team arrived at the area, the calf had gained enough strength to move away and by the time we reached the area the calf had disappeared, it was by this stage too late to look for it and so a search was carried out the following day. Having covered quite a large area and not found the calf we presumed that it had been reunited with its family, as there was no sign of a carcass. On the southern outskirt of the park; an aerial view revealed many fence like barriers on the neighboring kulalu ranch that is common snaring tool used to restrain animals on a designated routes where snares are set. It’s a very efficient method with a maximum return on the side of a poacher and an indiscriminate massacre on the animals’ side. The magnitude of the area and lack of physical reference points makes it difficult to trace the point from the ground thus the coordinates are taken from the aircraft with a GPS and this helps us to trace the points on the ground. The results proved satisfactory and it was amazing to see how technology can simplify the work. On a single day we located three barriers which were several kilometers apart unlike in the previous occasion when none were located. Each barrier extended between 500m to 2 km in length. Many carcasses were found along the fence that was very sad indeed, however we did manage to remove the other barriers. The 3 barriers took 4 men approximately 6 hours to demolish and consequently it must have taken the builders several days to accomplish this work. No village was found near by indicating that the poachers traveled many kilometers to poach. Again the demolishing of barrier exercise was called off prematurely when our rangers were called to be deployed on an operation. On the snaring recovery data, 316 snares were recovered almost all of them targeting dikdiks and several for guinea fowl. Kajire and ndara ranches that neighbor each other domineered in the activity. Kajire ranch contributed 150 snares while Ndara had 79 snares recovered. Many of the areas were covered for the first time while a revisit to the area patrolled before yielded little or none. This was an encouraging observation for us except in Irima where 36 newly planted snares were recovered between the railway line and fence area. In Ndii area where the exercise had started 18 snares were recovered 4 large sized while the rest targeted dikdiks. It was difficult to predict whether they were newly laid or they were left over from previous sweep. Another two days meant for de-snaring were spent on an operation of an elephant which had been shot with a poisoned arrow. The female elephant age between 15 to 20 years was found in a group of seven of varying ages on our way to work. The arrowhead embedded on the right side of stomach was easily visible due to the swelling resulting from it. We traced the group from a distance waiting for the vet but later lost the track. Two days later we were called when the elephant was sighted taking water at Simon Trevor’s place. Her group left her behind where she spent the rest of day standing. The vets who were said to be driving from Nairobi just arrived later in the evening thus the operation as set to start early next morning. The search teams did not trace the elephant at first but later we found her dead a short distance from where she was standing the previous day. The post mortem revealed her to have died about 10 hours before we found her. The poisoned arrow was extracted and more than 5 liters of pus came from swollen the wound. It was obviously a very painful and lonely ending to an innocent animal, something that highlights the need of de-snaring teams as a preventative method and also the vet that in this case could have saved the life of this elephant Reported by Isaac Maina.