Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 July 2006

Duma Team Chyulu Update: 01 July 2006

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CHULU TEAM

De – Snaring Report for July 2006

Participants:

James Mbuthia – team leader Julius Kyalo Nasarwa Esmegere David Wambua Isaiah Ndei 4 KWS rangers

Area of operation:

During the month of June the Chyulu team patrolled the following areas: Kikunduku, Kaunguni, Mitaba, Kibwezi forest, Umani Springs and Satellite Areas.

122 SNARES COLLECTED 37 ARRESTS

FINDINGS.

Kibewzi Forest

This forest is famous for its Umani springs from the Chulu Hills, is a very important conservation area as it is one of the only fresh water sources for the Southern end of Makueni District and is therefore a matter of life/ death to a large population.

Unfortunately is it under sever threat from deforestation. The team patrolled the forest and found a lot of illegal activities taking place, particularly charcoal burning & logging.
We made a lot of our arrests in this region.
These activities are contributing largely to the deforestation and degradation of this forest, and are a very big business for the loggers.
Encroachment form Kenze and Wayani areas are evident, and are a walking distance from the Mombasa Highways were the charcoal and wood is then sold. Big bags of charcoal are stacked along the highway and while the rest are smuggled into the surrounding villages or towns and are sold along the roadside or shops to motorists and charcoal dealers. The biggest puzzle is why the forest department does not take action to stop the destruction of this vital and yet fragile forest. The officers for the forest department are meant to be within the forest protecting its resources yet whilst the Chulu Team patrolled the forest there was not a single officer in sight. The general neglect of the Kibwezi Forest Department is a contributing factor to the problem of the destruction of Kibwezi forest. This issue needs to be attended to have an effective long term conservation solution.

Ecological Implications:

The forest houses quite a large number of birds, butterflies, monkeys, Elephants, and many other animal species. These animals rely on the forest for shelter, food and water throughout the year. Therefore further destruction to this fragile ecosystem will lead to the death of many animal species as well as the drying of the springs which in turn will effect the human population and deprive both the animals and humans of vital water supply. The charcoal burning business in not sustainable because the reforestation process will always be a challenge in these area considering that the rainfall is erratic. We fear this degradation will also contribute to more human- wildlife conflict as the animals will begin to pass through farms in order to reach water from the Athi River. The general climate in the area is already getting increasingly hotter and drier.

Solutions:

In order for this problem to be tackled it is important to sensitize the surrounding community to the importance of conserving the forest and the park itself. The forest is at a critical stage so it is important that the KWS and other law enforcement bodies like the forest department work together to intensify patrols, apprehend offenders, and also educate the community & future generations on the importance of their cause.

Park Patrols

The team also concentrated on the park boundary to reduce illegal entry to the park. Kikunduku area is a well known charcoal burning hotspot in the Chulus. About 18 were arrested in this area. We saw huge smoke clouds from far away caused by charcoal burning activities, when we reached the spot we destroyed the charcoal kiln and confiscated a large amount of charcoal.

The charcoal burners, cattle grazers, as well as poachers cause a lot of damage around this time of year as they often start forest fires which destroy large amounts of indigenous forests in the park and on its outskirts. The poachers use forest fires to drive out the wildlife so that they can be snared or shot as they escape form the fire.

A total of 122 snares were lifted.

All the snares targeted medium sized game. We arrested 2 bush meat poachers in the park, sadly one managed to escape.
The poachers arrested were in possession of 2 bows, 5 poisonous arrows, and some bush meat of a slaughtered Kongoni. During the course of the patrols we came across a snared bushbuck.
This period of the year is a peak snaring season and the team is intensifying its patrols in order to meet with the high poaching levels.

Observable Evidence

The park seems to have had an increase in wildlife numbers following a period of tough anti poaching efforts. Many herds of hartebeests, Elands, and Zebras where sighted.

We are also noticing new arrivals of wildlife coming into the park. There has been an overall decline in charcoal burning and forest fires in the park.

Report by James Mbuthia