Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 February 2010

Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 February 2010

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Participants

James Mbuthia – Team Leader Julius Kyalo Daniel Lekoiten John Wahome Samuel Adero Peter Wambua David Wambua

Mtito Team Members:

Francis Chege Nterio Kapina Samuel Lolochuraki Vincent Mutua James Nyumu

Areas Covered

During the course of this month the Chyulu Team patrolled in conjunction with Mtito Team in the Kibwezi Forest.

Introduction

Kenya is in a pivotal point at its development, previous poor & irresponsible management of Natural Resources have landed the country in serious environmental degradation problems. The current suffering taking place is as a result of years of abuse. Many crops have failed, livestock have died, and hence people are living under greater poverty than before. The destruction of Kenya’s natural resources can only be as a result of previous human activities and hence it is of vital importance that Conservation minded people assist in influencing others in a positive way. Trees hundred of years old have been cut down which is a difficult thing to replace, at least not in our lifetime. Yet looking to the future is all that we can do in order to restore what has been lost. The Kibwezi Forest has endured a lot of deforestation and it is up to the Team to initiate a sustainable & conservation based project in order to stimulate the local communities to change their way of living for the long run. The planting of indigenous trees and securing the protection of remaining forest areas is high on the agenda.

Patrol Objectives

• To completely eliminate Charcoal burning activities from within the Protected Area of Kibwezi Forest. • To heavily patrol the areas with wildlife and ensure security against poaching. • To Map all areas in which illegal activities take place and feed this vital data into the Trusts Database.

Findings

17 SNARES COLLECTED 13 ARRESTS

Kibwezi Forest

Patrols for the month were carried out in joint effort with Mtito Team following the resignation of Mtito Team’s Leader. The Chyulu Team leader took on managing the Mtito Team members for the month until the new Mtito Team leader is trained and able to join the field. Camp was made near Umani Springs and the Teams began operation on the eastern side of Kibwezi forest where 3 charcoal burners were captured and arrested. The men arrested where part of a group operating from Usalama village which is a large supplier of charcoal for commercial gain. The Team kept up pressure on this side of the forest in order to get control of human movement coming from this village. During this time a further 2 men were intercepted, this time they were poachers armed with bows and arrows. This sighting took place at about 8pm and unfortunately following a long chase the poachers got away. However one of them dropped his weapons and the Team recovered one bow & several arrows. One cannot rule out that these where elephant poachers heading for Umani were the last remaining elephant herd is currently at. Due to word having spread amongst the Villages of the Teams presence many poachers & charcoal burners have switched to carrying out their activities at night in attempt to avoid capture by the Team. The Team has therefore adapted its operations in response to this change and Patrols at night are carried out.

The Teams relocated their camp to Kenze area which is another notorious charcoal burning hotspot. During patrols 7 charcoal burners were arrested all carrying charcoal as well as wet wood freshly cut for charcoal kilns.

These charcoal burners were caught operating at night using the moon light as well as torches to get around. Part of these arrests took place at 3am while the rest took place at dawn.
The charcoal kilns were destroyed and the tools confiscated.

Since the Team has gained a reputation of being active against illegal activities some poachers & loggers have moved to other areas which are not protected. While others have even tried to abandon their illegal activities in attempt to find a legal & sustainable way of living. The Team is confident that with continued patrols & community work the Kibwezi Forest has a good chance of becoming a secure place for wildlife & the forest may be spared from destruction.

The Teams continued their patrols from Kenze towards the Southern side of the forest where an elephant carcass was found. The carcass was approximately 6 months old with the tusks intact. The cause of death could not be established due to the prolonged decomposition. Poaching cannot be ruled out as it is very possible the elephant managed to get away wounded and died later on. The Team leader handed the tusks over to KWS for safe storage.

Illegal activities seem to have shifted to the National Park’s side since there is less policing there and hence is less of a risk.

The Team has come to the conclusion that having a camp in Kenze will help boost security for Umani Camp and the Forest as well as assist in stopping movement of poachers & charcoal burners towards the protected area.

Although snaring has undergone a general decline it seems that more poachers have switched to using poison arrows as their prime method. This is most likely due to the fact that the Teams constant desnaring work becomes inhibiting to their poaching and hence they no longer are able to use this method effectively. Only 17 snares were lifted during the month all targeting medium game such as waterbuck, which is remarkably low. With that said, it is possible the snaring activities have simply been moved elsewhere and hence regular patrols of different areas is important in order to ensure the Team is not neglecting any of its assigned patrol areas.

During patrols at Wayani area, 2 loggers on bicycles were arrested.

Their equipment was confiscated and the Team handed them loggers over to the authorities. As the team continued its operation another charcoal burner was arrested at the same place as the previous arrest.

Elephant Rescue

Early in the month the Umani Camp staff sighted a bull elephant in great distress suffering from severe wounds on the front leg and chest. The Chyulu Team alerted the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Headquarters who organized a rescue team with a KWS Vet to fly from Nairobi to Umani in an effort to save this elephants life. The Vet landed at about 5pm and the Team accompanied him to the sight of the injured elephant. The elephant was darted and closely examined.

The bull had sustained 3 arrow wounds to the leg and one to the chest, all wounds were heavily infected and the swelling was very severe.
The Vet cleaned the wounds and administered the bull with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory before reviving the elephant. The Vet requested the Team to keep a close eye on the elephant’s recovery.
Sadly the bull’s injuries were too severe and the elephant died 3 days later. The Team recovered the tusks and handed them over to KWS.

Unfortunately cases of human-wildlife conflict are very high and it is most likely this elephant was attacked by a farmer trying to protect his land. There are plans to build an electric fence along the forest boundary to prevent this kind of conflict.

Community Outreach

School Trips:

The Chyulu Team took the Itumo Primary School on a school trip to Tsavo West National Park. This trip was the 1st of its kind for the students and their excitement was certainly felt. At the end of the trip they were enthralled and deeply appreciative of the opportunity given to them. The trip was both fun & educational as the Team leader explained the importance of conserving wildlife.

World Wetland Day:

The Chyulu Team leader along with other Team Leaders from the DSWT attended the World Wetland Day annual event. This event involves many communities from the Tsavo area and involves raising awareness of the importance of conserving wetlands & forests. Many indigenous trees were planted by participants. The event was held in Kithasyo and had good attendance by local communities. Conservation Awareness Meetings:

The Team also held 2 Conservation Talks at Jasho & Kaunguni Villages in order to highlight the importance on Conservation and establish a good relationship between the Team and the Community Members as most poachers & loggers come from these villages. The proposal of putting up the fence line on the forest boundary was also discussed. Tree planting and the degradation caused by charcoal burning was mentioned.

Report by James Mbuthia