James Mbuthia.(DSWT-Team leader). Sgt.Nderu Munyei.(Mbirikani-Team leader). Julius Kyalo. (DSWT). Musa Lokinda.(Mbirikani). Daniel Lekoiten(DSWT) . Musangau Ndoki.(Mbirikani). David Wambua.(DSWT) Kanai Kitiva.(Mbirikani)
Area of operation:
During the month of September the Chyulu team patrolled the following areas: Kiboko and the Soysambu ranches and was a joint effort between The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts Chyulu desnaring team and the Mbirikani group ranch game scout teams
43 SNARES COLLECTED 5 POACHERS
• To search and remove any snares set for animals • To establish the extent of poaching through snaring • To find and rescue snared animals still alive • To report injured animals for treatment • To identify other negative human activities in the ranches • To map the area and mark snaring spots. • To create conservation awareness to the local community • To document project findings
The Killing of wildlife for bush meat is a big threat to wildlife in Kenya and a great challenge to conservation. The demand for illegal bush meat for local trade and consumption can quickly surpass the reproductive rates of wildlife and if unchecked it would lead to the extermination of many species. The future of Kenya’s wildlife lies with the people’s conservation endeavours. The dwindling animal populations through various poaching threats are proof that policing around protected areas alone cannot solve the poaching challenges that the country faces. Partnership, awareness ,empowerment and ownership of wildlife resources by the local communities will bring about attitudinal change towards wildlife as well as get people to participate in combating illegal activities such as bush meat trade, ivory poaching, charcoal burning, etc. This argument is based on the premise that people neighbouring the parks and the ranches know those who poach or do other illegal activities. It is on this belief that conservation proponents should engage communities whole heartedly. There is no development in the country if just a few people benefit from available resources, including wildlife. Those communities that live with wildlife in their farms should share in the benefits that come from the tourism businesses. Communities neighbouring the parks and those that own great group ranches rich in wildlife are therefore stakeholders in conservation programmes.
The protection of the Umani springs remains our number one priority. The fact that the country is in a severe water crisis makes these natural water springs of utmost importance to both people and wildlife in the area. Thousands of people in the Kibwezi district depend on the springs as a source of water and hence all stakeholders should cooperate in ensuring this resource is sustainable for future generations. Our community project had been very successful in enhancing this cause.
During patrols the Team lifted 28 snares all targeting medium sized game at Nduti area, and 109 snares targeting medium game along the forest/park boundary. These patrols were crucial bearing in mind the wildlife is trying to cross out of the park to Umani springs for water. This means although the forest may be safer the park is vulnerable to poaching activities. The team noticed new recent arrivals of wildlife in search of water, two Zebras are now regularly visiting the camp. Aside from threats of poaching, other negative effects of areas bordering the park is that cattle herds are driven into the forest and compete with wildlife for foliage.
KARI / KIBOKO RANCHES
The de-snaring exercise in these areas was aimed at removing snares, rescue trapped animals and report any injured animals. The team was to establish the extent of poaching, identify any other illegal activities practiced in the area and to mark poachers hide outs. The team also had a role of gathering information and documenting the findings. In addition the team strived to educate the local communities about conservation issues.
The patrol was also aimed at apprehending those involved with all illegal activities. The main poaching tracks were identified and followed. A lot of dead animals were seen especially zebras which had been shot with arrows and the wounds could be clearly seen. The team kept pressure on the hotspots and deterred poachers from accessing the Kiboko river stretch. The team discovered a wood carving hideout and destroyed it completely. The gang provides materials for wood carvers near Hunters lodge.
We came across rhino middens near Dojini hill where we had previously spotted a rhino wallow in 2006 which implies that Kiboko is still a rhino ranging area and needs to be regularly patrolled. The lava near Mwailu hill is presumably the home for the rhino and has enough forage. The intelligence information we have gathered reveals that poachers come from the Ngulia area to the south of Kiboko. It was also established that the Masai are allowing charcoal burners to operate in their ranches and wanton destruction of trees is going on. During the operation the team spoke to the elders about the dangers associated with this vice. Our presence at Kiboko was itself a deterrent to the poachers who have been moving freely in the area. 43 snares were lifted all of which targeted big game.
SAMULI, SOYSAMBU – MASAI RANCHES
The patrol of the above areas was aimed at eradicating snaring, lamping (use of torches and pangas), as well as the poaching through the use of bows and arrows. Poaching in this area is purely for commercial purposes and with a ready market at Emali town and its environs. The mushrooming development of the town has drawn a lot of people from various parts of Ukambani putting pressure on the ranches as alternative sources of cheap protein. The proximity of the ranches to the town makes it easier to access and kill animals. The team relied on intelligence information from informers about the most frequented routes as well as the poaching hotspots. Most of the paths normally used were ambushed at night to avoid detection during the day. The vehicle was not used during the patrols because the wilderness was flat and with few isolated trees which allows the poachers to easily sight animals and see anyone coming. During the patrols the team found the main lugga where animals are slaughtered and we saw many heads of dead zebras, Thomson gazelles, Hartebeests, and Elands.
Our informers also told us that poaching during the day involved dangerous gangs of poachers armed with bows and arrows often moving in groups of 4 -10 people. The team set an observation post at one of the hills and sighted a gang of 5 people chasing zebras. We managed to arrest the individuals and confiscated 7 bows and 11 arrows.
During our patrols it was established that the Maasai are selling the trees in their ranches to charcoal burners from Ukambani. The targeted tree species are Acacia tortilis and Balanites aegyptiaca. Small ungulates and the giraffes depend on them and this will have a far reaching ecological implications. The Masai need to be sensitized about the importance of the available vegetation and the dangers associated with charcoal burning.
Kasasule Secondary school benefited from a school trip to Tsavo west national park. Being their first wildlife excursion to the park the pupils were overjoyed by this experience. The tour was educative on the current conservation concerns facing the country and the role of young people in conservation. The trips are very popular and the small bus can hardly meet the demand of those who wish to go. The parents, teachers and the pupils were very grateful. All involved got to see a wide variety of animals such as Elephants, Giraffes, Buffalos, Impalas and Zebras, among others.
Report by James Mbuthia