Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 December 2008

Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 December 2008

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Participants:

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

Area of operation:

During the month of December the Chyulu team patrolled the following areas: Utu and the Kibwezi Forest.

ARRESTS 18 68 SNARES COLLECTED

OPERATION OBJECTIVES.

• To investigate the extent and type of illegal activities prevalent in the month of December 2008 within Chyulu Hills National Park/Target area. • To establish the patrol procedure and finally apprehend those indulging in illegal activities within Chyulu Hills National Park/Target area. • To examine, dominate the poaching hotspots and gather information of the poaching trends in the target area. • To suggest the appropriate strategies to alleviate the vices.

INTRODUCTION. The world's greatest concentration of biological wealth is found in tropical developing countries including Kenya that are beset by acute poverty. In these regions, the loss of biodiversity is accelerating as poverty is increasing. African tropical forests represent one of the world's great remnant blocks of closed canopy habitat. This forest is under increasing pressure from population growth, unsustainable resource use, hotter and drier climate, poor management, and other problems related to poverty, scarce financial resources and political instability. Other factors of forestry degradation include unsustainable timber exploitation, shifting cultivation, urban expansion, and other human activities, which are posing increasing threats to this globally-significant tropical forest resource. African countries rich in natural resources and biological diversity are witnessing high deforestation rates and loss of their biodiversity. Search for short-term economic gains and poverty of the populations living in areas rich in biodiversity are at the root of environmentally harmful behavior. Well known examples are slash-and-burn practices, excessive commercial logging and clearing of natural habitats for agriculture and urban expansion

The results of the above are changes in weather patterns of the world, evidenced by the changes in rainfall amount that was recorded in various parts of the country. A case in particular is the little amount of rain that was experienced in the Chyulus which led to the scorching of crops. As a result there will be no harvest in the Makueni district next year, which has far reaching social and ecological implications.

UTU AREA The team was based at the Utu area for a period of about 8 days. We patrolled along the hills checking the old known hotspots and in the process discovering new ones. The farms are drying up in the adjacent areas, and for this reason there is no hope for harvests which has resulted in people from the surrounding communities putting pressure on the park. Charcoal burning and miraa harvesting was noted to be the most common vices taking place in the area.

The animals have been found to have migrated to the surrounding ranches. However due to the fact that there are dwindling grazing reserves, resulting from pressure from livestock and low rainfall, we think that the animals will migrate back into the park early than usual. The prolonged drought will also lead to an increase in the levels of poaching in the park over the year. During our patrols at Utu 5 people were arrested after the team carried out an ambush.
The culprits were 3 miraa pickers and 2 charcoal burners.
The team also discovered a quarter acre of bang that had been planted in the park.
This is the second time that bang is discovered in this area.
Bang is planted for money and is a lucrative business even though, like all drugs, it ruins the lives of the youth who become hooked on it, which poses a big challenge to the social fabric as the unruly youth become uncontrollable threatening the survival of the community. The youth therefore need to be actively involved in conservation, and linking conservation with sports will remain a priority in this area. The Majority of the youth in the area do not go to school and prefer to earn their living from the park. During our patrols we were able to lift 68 snares targeting medium sized game.

KIBWEZI FOREST The team then moved its operations to the Kibwezi forest and was based at Umani camp. The purpose of our operations in the area was to keep charcoal burners out of the forest. As the drought continues more people are heading to the forest in search of an alternative form of income, specifically burning charcoal.

The people have been found to be operating at night in order to avoid being detected.
For this reason our desnaring team changed its mode of operation from morning to night in an effort to arrest the culprits. The team was able to arrest 13 people in the Kibwezi forest.
The forest is a lifeline for many people in the area, especially the Umani springs which provides water for the whole Kibwezi district. The protection of the Kibwezi forest remains the biggest priority for the team at this moment in time. The tree species called Comberetum schumenii, is a target for the wood carvers and is under threat due to the high demand for it in Mombasa.

ANIMAL SIGHTING/PREDICTIONS. Most of the animals that had moved from the Chyulus to the ranches are slowly coming back into the park. This is due to the fact that the rains were not enough to sustain grazing fields in the ranches. The Maasai herdsmen are grazing their cattle in the park which further increases the competition for the grass and vegetation in the area. Some zebras, Hartebeests and bushbucks were seen during our patrols.

COMMUNITY AWARENESS. The following are observations that we feel need to be seriously addressed in order for community projects to succeed. A programme that will empower local communities or promote local initiatives for natural resource management, which could involve for example tree planting, nurseries development, ecotourism facilities and other means of generating income that do not harm wildlife or the environment need to be promoted. • Any project that ignores the plight of the people is bound to fail. Sometimes people feel that the have lived long enough with their problems and trying to change them is often met with resistance. This calls for respect of traditional structures in the given community even when they appear to be oppressive. These traditional structures are the ones that legitimize the project interventions that are being introduced. • The project idea or perception should be shared with the members of the community right at the entry level, for adoption or adaptation. • The projects should be those which alleviate human suffering and root causes of poverty in the target areas. • Finally the project intervention should be sustainable and participatory in nature. When people participate in the project they become part of that project, and if the succeed they will say we have done it ourselves. People have potential at the local level, all what they need is to be empowered to realize those potentials. In order to ameliorate the situation of the poor we should explore and identify those potentials and build projects interventions basing on them. By revolving around those guidelines the projects initiated will ultimately succeed and keep people away from the protected areas.

APPRECIATION On behalf of the trust we would like to thank the company commander of Tsavo West National Park Mr Sangawe for providing the rangers for the desnaring patrols whenever needed them throughout the year. This has boosted security in the hotspots and also a lot of people have been arrested.

Report by James Mbuthia