Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 January 2009

Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 January 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 January the Chyulu team patrolled the following areas: Umani springs, Kibwezi forest, Kenzili, Kaunguni, Tindima and KARI. .

ARRESTS 19 • 4 Bush meat poachers. • 2 Loggers. • 2 Wood carvers. • 11 Charcoal burners.

22 SNARES

OPERATION OBJECTIVES

• To investigate the truth about a report of alleged gunshots heard near Umani Camp late in December 2008. • To gather the necessary intelligence and give a report on the security situation on the ground. • To establish a patrol procedure, together with KWS, Bonham Game scouts and the Mtito desnaring team in order to apprehend those indulging in illegal activities around Umani, Kibwezi forest/Kenze, Kenzili, Kaunguni and Tindima areas. • To examine, and dominate the poaching hotspots, as well as gather information on the poaching trends in the target areas. • To suggest appropriate strategies that could be used to alleviate the vices.

INTRODUCTION As the scale of habitat destruction continues to multiply so have human efforts to vigilantly protect what is left by applying ecological principles to safeguard, legislate, evaluate and manage fragile ecosystems and their declining species.

All natural resources custodians must look at biodiversity according to the following perspectives: What is happening? What is being done? What should be done? It is however important to recognize the dependency people have on natural resources. That dependency should be such that it is sustainable in order to avoid their depletion. Where resources have been depleted, then ecosystem restoration is necessary. Where species have been poached translocation from other ranging areas for reintroduction is quite necessary. Umani Springs was a haven of waterbucks which have now been completely wiped out by poaching. Following persistent drought being experienced in Ukambani and the surrounding environs people are starving and hence poaching trends are becoming even more sophisticated. The use of arrows, snares and lamping are being used interchangeably by the poachers in order to succeed in killing animals. The off take of bush meat by the poachers through these methods is quite astonishing. This calls for a concerted effort between relevant stakeholders in order to contain these vices. Joint operations and well networked information gathering are some of the strategies that are being employed to contain the situation in the Tsavo conservation area and specifically Chyulu National Park and its environs. FINDINGS

UMANI SPRINGS/KISULA CAVES

The team patrolled the area around Umani springs and lifted 22 snares targeting bush buck. The skin of freshly slaughtered bush buck was also found.

The teams patrolled towards the Kisula caves in order to clear the general area and managed to arrest 2 people and lift 4 snares.
About an eighth of an acre of bhang was found near the caves and destroyed.
After persistent pressure on the hotpots 2 wood carvers were arrested in the same area.

KARI / KIMOOINI

Following a tip off from one of our informers we decided to patrol the Kimooini area. We had received information that a gang of 4 bush meat poachers had killed a buffalo and were actively hawking meat in the village.

At around midnight the team ambushed them at a house in Makindu; Kimooini village arresting the whole group. The group was in a possession of 40 Kgs of buffalo meat, 5 bows and 26 poisonous arrows.
One of the poachers was wanted by KWS as a dangerous person threatening the rhinos. The poacher had been caught on a KWS Camera in the rhino area. That arrest was a tremendous achievement for the desnaring team and KWS. The poacher was interrogated in order to glean as much relevant poaching information as we could. Security compromised. After booking the poachers and their weapons at Makindu police station, the team leader instructed the officer in charge to keep the weapons at a safe place for collection after the mention of the case. The police did the opposite by re selling the bows and arrows to the poachers. This was a security lapse and we feel that our conservation efforts are being compromised. The issue was reported to the KWS investigation officer to follow up the case.

KENZE AREA / KIBWEZI FOREST

Charcoal burning in the Kenze area is still high due to the prolonged drought that continues to be experienced in the area.

While the teams patrol intensity has increased, so also the charcoal burners have become more elusive. The team has had try and locate the new routes being used by the culprits. A total of 9 people were arrested for charcoal burning, vegetation destruction or related cases in the Kibwezi / Kenze areas alone.
4 were arrested logging in the forest or generally destroying the vegetation.
The joint operation between the Chyulu team, KWS, Bonhams Game scouts and the Mtito desnaring team was extremely successful as many people were arrested and flushed out of the forest and its environs. The operation started from the Umani spring camp heading towards the north of Chyulu national park. The operation was lead by O,C Lenguru of KWS, Edward Paya from Mbirikani game scouts and James Mbuthia from David Sheldrick wildlife trust all of whom are quiet familiar with area. Taking part in the operation were 8 KWS Rangers, 8 Mbirikani rangers and 9 Sheldrick rangers.
KWS supplied one vehicle which was fueled by Maasailand Preservation Trust and Sheldrick supplied two vehicles. Rations were supplied by MPT. The operation ended on 19th January 2009 with all the teams appreciative of the success and collaboration. The need for the continuous joint operation between the three conservation bodies which will help the officers to cover a larger area within a short time enabling them to cover the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem and ensure wildlife security in the area. Special thanks should go to Maasailand Preservation Trust, David Sheldrick wildlife Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service who made this joint operation successful

ANIMAL SIGHTINGS

During the patrols hartebeest, elephants, baboons, zebras and other wildlife were seen. The animals were sighted at different isolated positions due to the pressure from livestock. The elephants were concentrated near Umani springs.

SENSITIVE REPORTS The alleged report of gunshots heard around Umani camp towards the end of December last year could not be forgotten and investigations into the matter are ongoing. The team is dominating the area in order to establish the truth and finally apprehend the poachers.

The patrol of Kaunguni area was meant to confirm the alleged rumour of a poached rhino. After intensive patrols and information gathering it was established that the information was false and misreported. This called for caution and proper channelling of information.

CURRENT SITUATION

It is practically impossible to think about a single habitat that has not been modified by human culture, either by the deliberate dismantling of its food chains or by pollution at a distance. Even landscapes that from a far vantage point appear to be free of human interference; will probably be found, on closer inspection, to some form of human activity. Populations of species can only survive if they have large enough habitats and/or enough possibilities to interact with other populations. Due to the fragmentation of their habitats as a result of changes in land use, many species in Kenya have disappeared or may disappear in the near future. Good landscape connectivity will give species a better chance of survival.

Report by James Mbuthia