Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 April 2009

Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 April 2009

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Participants:

James Mbuthia – team leader Julius Kyalo David Wambua Isaiah Ndei Daniel Lekoiten 2 KWS rangers

Area of operation:

During the month of April the Chyulu team patrolled the following areas: Umani and the Kibwezi forest

ARRESTS 4 • 3 Bush meat poachers. • 1 Wood carver

78 SNARES

OPERATION OBJECTIVES.

• To intensively patrol the Umani springs area and the Kibwezi forest to ensure maximum security of the wildlife. • To establish the correctness of information about the alleged plan to poach elephants in the area. • To gather the necessary intelligence and obtain information on poaching trends in the area and the environs. • To amend the patrol process and finally apprehend those indulging in illegal activities. • To examine and dominate the poaching hotspots in the target areas. • To suggest the appropriate strategies to alleviate the illegal vices.

INTRODUCTION. Today’s pervasive conservation efforts are in contrast to the widespread indifference towards protecting mans habitat from destruction. A philosophy of indifference towards nature’s delicate balance and its finite resources is comfortably unacceptable. This country’s’ agriculture and wildlife sector is further threatened by both natural problems such as drought, and man-made pressures. Man’s insensitivity and continued destruction of nature will definitely translate to irreversible calamity. It is necessary to point out that for the first time this country has not received enough rainfall to sustain arable agriculture. People and livestock are already dying of starvation and other related causes. All these problems are related to man’s destruction of the environment. Even as these events unfold man continues to assume that all is well and the plundering of natural resources is still in progress. A generally insignificant, in concomitant change in attitude within the judiciary has not facilitated the growth and enforcement of an environmental control program within the framework of our legal system. To carry out an environmental control policy the government must make use of its police power. We must indeed join hands because, ‘if man destroys’ nature, then nature will destroy him’. Currently controlling unsustainable off-take(of bush meat) through law enforcement fails to deter trade motivated hunting as the authorities generally lack implementation capacity in most cases and penalties in form of judicial fines are often less than the meat value of the carcass. The Kenyan courts are unable to execute meaningful sentences to reprimand those who are involved with illegal activities.

FINDINGS

UMANI CAMP AND KIBWEZI FOREST The operations at Umani were aimed at leaving no doubt about the information received that ivory poachers had sneaked into the forest looking for elephants. The desnaring team in conjunction with KWS patrolled the area, checking every hideout for signs of poaching as well any other human activities. In the course of the patrol a fresh shooting platform was discovered, which showed no signs of recent use. The platform was then destroyed by the team. The thickness of the forest and terrible terrain is the biggest challenge faced by the patrol team when combing the area. It is necessary to realize that it is easy to assume nothing is happening in the forest due to that thickness, but poachers take advantage of that and hide there. The team leader received intelligence information that there 3 active poachers operating in the Umani area. Through the use of an informer, the KWS Rangers ambushed their homes and arrested them.

4 bows, 12 arrows and 7 snares were recovered. The operation was a big blow to the poachers’ operations. As our presence continues to be felt more poachers are being frustrated or exposed. During the operation 78 snares were lifted all of which targeted medium sized game.
A wood carver was re-arrested which is an indicator of the ineffectiveness of the wildlife act and our courts.
The team has and will constantly patrol the hotspots in order to keep the area safe. The elephant herds continue to visit the pools for their mud bath and to drink. The poachers obviously trail the animals towards the pools but the presence of the teams deters their efficacy. The presence of the Umani unit is a plus and a boost to our security system. The unit of 2 desnarers patrols around the camp, as well as the springs and the hill to find out if there are any illegal human activities taking place. Charcoal burning continues to be a problem in the Kibwezi forest.

ANIMAL SIGHTINGS. During the months patrols elephants, buffaloes, baboons, forest hogs, and birds among other wildlife were seen. The elephants were found to be concentrated near Umani springs. Animals continue to flourish in both areas due to the intensified security provided by the Chyulu desnaring team.

CURRENT SITUATION. The number of animals in the areas patrolled is increasing. We are currently in the process of refilling the dry waterholes (by water from the springs); and young trees and fresh grass have started to grow. Animals now frequent the forest gap where the can be seen at a close distance. The only natural forest existing around the Chyulu catchment which has rare tree species and an abundance of animals is under threat from man.

POACHING TRENDS Something important to note is that the greater reliance on smaller species by poachers for bush meat is a likely indicator of a decline of bigger mammals in the poaching areas. Greater prices motivate hunters and traders to maintain a continued supply by traveling greater distances, with poachers coming from as far away as Kitui. To improve their catch number, more sophisticated and unsustainable hunting methods are being introduced. Increased numbers of hunters and traders relying on bush meat revenues has resulted in their undertaking hunting and trading for longer periods of the year. This means that the wildlife will no longer benefit form recovery periods when poaching will not be taking place.

COMMUNITY AWARENESS. A baseline survey on the root causes of poverty was done though community interviews, focus group discussions and resource mapping techniques, with the community neighboring Kibwezi forest, particularly the Nduti community. The root causes were identified and prioritized. A comprehensive community project that alleviates poverty, through income generation initiatives was found to be the best intervention.

It was clear that we need to partner with the local people to enforce our conservation agenda. The attendance of the baraza was good and participatory. We ended the meeting with a video show.

Report by James Mbuthia