Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 January 2009

Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 January 2009

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Participants

Patrick Mutuku Mutua Koti Lemanten Lambarakwe James Lodungokiyok Musau Kitulya 2 KWS Rangers – Stephen Wambungu & Patrick Yegon

Areas Covered

During the course of this month the areas covered included Tundani area, power-line, and the edge of Yatta, Umauma, Kanziko, Lagga-Kugu, Kalovoto, Gazi, Buffalo Bent, and Mukua Nima.

135 SNARES COLLECTED 6 POACHERS ARRESTED

Findings

During the month of January the Ithumba team lifted 135 snares, 10 of which targeted large game, while the rest targeted small game. In the Gazi area the situation is quite desperate, there is a very high number of illegal activities taking place including heavy logging, charcoal burning, and illegal grazing.

Observable Evidence

The year of 2008 ended on a sad note when we discovered that an elephant poacher shot an arrow at one of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts ex-orphans who is now in a wild herd. Fortunately the orphan made a full recovery after being treated by the Trusts Staff. The Ithumba desnaring team investigated the incident and early this year the whole story unraveled. A reliable source has led us to believe that the now wild elephant orphan stumbled upon the poacher’s camp in the National Park and seeing the orphan was young and hence barely had any tusks the poachers shot the orphan in order to chase it from their camp. The good news is that one of the poachers from that group who shot the elephant was killed on the 19th of January 2009 when he attempted to shoot KWS Rangers while on their patrol. The poacher killed was in possession of a G3 Gun which we have been trying to trace since 2002.

Patrols at Tundani, Power-line, Kyae-Rock, Yatta, & Umauma

During the 1st week of the month of January the team camped at the Tundani area. The team’s strategy was to camp out and cover a specific zone or block before moving on to another zone. While at the Tundani area, the team patrolled along the Power-line and Umauma. During our patrols we came across various wildlife including Buffalo herds.

On the 2nd day of patrols the team arrested a poacher in possession of a lot of bush meat. It so happened that this poacher had just set some snares. The team found these fresh snares and began desnaring and lifting them when we heard a scream from a lesser Kudu that had become trapped in a nearby snare. As the team rushed over to help the trapped Kudu the poacher emerged with his panga raised ready to attack. The KWS rangers accompanying our team stepped in to help and were able to disarm and arrest the poacher.
Thankfully the Lesser Kudu which turned out to be pregnant was rescued and released back into the wild.
Upon interrogation the arrested poacher confessed that another poacher had been stealing his kill and hence when the Team arrived at the scene the poacher thought we were his adversary whom he wanted to stop from stealing his catch.
The poacher was booked at Mutomo Police station. The team lifted 59 snares targeting small to medium sized game in this area.

At Kaye Rock the team found a shooting platform on a baobab tree.

A herd of buffaloes was seen during patrols near the Tiva River. The Team was surprised to find the Tiva River & Yatta areas, which are poaching hotspots, fairly quiet in terms of illegal activities.

On patrolling the Kaasala Fence- line a family of 4 elephants was spotted on the community side of the fence. This group has been on the community side moving from Umbi to Kanzika and around Kimathenya Hill.

Patrols at Kanziko, Lagga-Kugu, & Kalovoto area

During the 2nd week of January the team camped near the Kanziko Gate. We received information that this area is regularly used by poachers to go in and out of the Park. The area was covered in footprints which got concealed by the rain shortly after the team began its patrols there. At the Kalovoto area the team saw a wild elephant which is a regular visitor to the elephant orphans of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and has been nicknamed Bouncer.

Gazi General Area

Towards the end of the 2nd week of the month the team relocated to the Gazi area and camped near Buffalo Bent. It was here that we noticed a lot of illegal activities taking place which is uncharacteristic of the area. The area was filled with illegal cattle grazing, and the destruction of vegetation was extensive.

There were a lot of smouldering charcoal kilns and plenty more being constructed.
The team lost 2 poachers under pursuit; the poachers dropped their belongings (2 axes, a panga, & personal things) while escaping.
The team did manage to arrest 5 other poachers and booked them at Kibwezi Police Station.
One of the culprits was a cattle grazer in possession of snares and bird traps, and another was a charcoal burner. During our patrols 76 snares were lifted. A snared baboon was found dead in a snare.

Illegal cattle grazing has escalated in this area. The team found 200 head of cattle owned by an Arab and 400 goats deep in the park on two different days.

The poachers & charcoal burners have been trying to hinder our patrol efforts by cutting down big trees and blocking the roads to stop our vehicle.

Community Awareness campaign

Due to the rains the 2 school trips that were postponed in November 08 took place in the last week of this month. The 1st school taken was Little Angels Academy Ikutha. The kids could not hide their excitement throughout the day. They were collected at 6am; some of the parents confessed the excitement was so high that the children were unable to sleep the previous night getting up as early as 4am to prepare for the trip. Our first stop of the day was at the Park Headquarters where we arranged the park entrance fees which have been increased this year. The students were thrilled to see some of the sights in the park and learn about the wildlife and the threats of poaching. At Luggard Falls we watched a herd of elephants and their calves; we also saw some crocodiles and hippos.

After a picnic lunch at the Falls and watching the wildlife near the water we stopped in at the Dog section on our way back. The children loved learning about the Dog Section’s work and how tracking dogs work and are trained. The most exciting part of the day for the children was to watch the Keepers at the Ithumba Unit feeding the elephant Orphans their milk. Meshack Nzimbi, one of the oldest Keepers working at the Trust, was present and gave a thrilling account of the behaviour of elephants. On our way out of the park we saw 5 Jackals on a hunting mission.

The second school to go on a trip was Kone Primary School. This is a school from the Orma community near the Tana River District. The students were picked up from the School compound early in the morning. Their first stop for the day was Lagga-Kugu. Next stop was the park education Centre were the students got a lecture from the Parks Northern Area Warden.

The Students were then taken to the orphan’s mudbath to see the elephant orphans. The children were amazed to learn so much about elephants.
After a short game drive the students visited the Dog Section & were shown around. They had lunch at the Staff lines; these students had never had soda & bread before and had to be shown how to consume these items.

Report by Patrick Mutuku