Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 July 2003

Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 July 2003

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Area Of Operation

Tiva river stretch, around Ithumba base and the Kimweli – Kasala boundary stretch. After this routine area check, the team was deployed to operate on the Yatta ( Tharakana) and the river Athi stretch including the Cottars- Gazi stretch.

Participants Wambua Kikwatha Learat Kasau Patrick Mutuku Francis Itumo Munywoki Kisangi Vincent Muteti Samuel Lotkoi Francis Ekelo KWS Rangers

Field Findings

During the first days of the month, the desnaring team was based at the head quaters patrolling the areas near the base. This area has been constantly patrolled thus resulting to a declining trend in snaring. During this period only 48 small snares were recovered. It should be noted that the snares were lifted in five days. Usually there is rampant snaring during the dry period but the above results negate our expectation. This could be partly due to the pressure maintained as well as community awareness. From 12th July, the desnaring team together with W13 Wildlife protection unit visited the yatta and the Gazi area. 1272 snares were recovered. Only 195 snares recovered targeted big game while 1077 targeted small game. Two poachers were arrested in possession of bow and poison arrows. Based on our previous findings this area is a hotspot in snaring. The operation was very successful,l however it was called off prematurely due to armed bandits in the area. Our rangers along with others were deployed to attend to this operation. The Gazi area was not patrolled properly. Our next plan is to visit this area once the rangers are available and patrol from Gazi towards Cottars.

The table below shows snares recovered along the cottars gazi stretch in four desnaring operations

Month Total snares recovered. May 2002 950 June 2002 1263 August 2002 1256 July 2003 1272 Total snares recovered 3,475

Note that about 85% of the snares target small game while 15% target big game. The above figures gives an indication of a serious snaring problem that need decisive attention. Read recommendations below.

Animal trend

It has been observed that there are many animals about 8 kms from cottars down stream. The population of common animals likes antelopes and buffalos decrease towards Gazi area. Consequently the rate of snaring follows the same trend such that many snares are lifted towards Gazi and few below cottars. Particularly the area adjacent to the private land along the Athi and Mtito River, snaring is almost zero. The land being private and well monitored, poachers feel insecure to trespass the land into the park. The trust land has a permanent team that patrols the entire area and the neighboring land ensuring that no illegal activities or tress passing take place. In all our operation no new snares have been found across the river near this area. Since the beginning of desnaring operations this area has shown an increase in game.

Other activities

Alongside snaring, the poachers engage in other activities like honey collection, logging herb collection, grass collection and bow and arrow hunting. It must be noted that poachers using this area come from kitui and makueni. It has been established that serious desnaring activities along the northern boundary has displaced poachers towards this end. Poachers arrested mainly come from kitui ( kasaala, ikutha and kanziko). Likewise, the Mtito team has seen poachers from Mtito, Darajani, Kathekani and other areas shift their focus to this specific stretch. As a result there is an increased poaching as this area is left as a corridor for the poachers to use.

Implication The implication of such scenario will lead to overexploitation of game and other resources. Areas regarded as snare free zone will be invaded by the poachers and some going as deep as Kiasa hill and Thabaguji.

Recommendation

1. Intensify patrols along this stretch. This should be done by both the WPU and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust de-snaring teams. Also the desnaring team must note and adapt to the changing style in snaring so as to frustrate the poachers consistently. 2. A permanent team to be based along this stretch is very vital. The move will enhance blocking of this corridor. However caution needs to be taken not to displace the desperate poachers to the Chyulus and Ziwani area. Therefore both areas need to be looked at. 3. The permanent team to be reinforced from time to time to ensure maximum success 4. A tracker conversant with the area to be involved in our operations. He will be very useful in providing useful information and directing the team to hotspots 5. The Gazi loop to be opened to facilitate Gazi area operations. With the availability of funds, the road from cottars to Gazi needs grading. 6. The management should look in the possibility of establishing a road running on top of the Yatta from Tharakana airstrip to Gazi. Access track to Gazi from Tiva ( kyamanyenze) is also very vital. 7. Gazi and Tharakana air strips to be developed. 8. Investigations on the community side to establish any game meat syndicate and the poachers operation needs to be beeped up. This will help in strategizing our operations on the ground. Poachers keep on changing their approach and so we need to change with them to be successful.

COMMUNITY WORK

During this period desnaring patrols went on concurrently with community awareness and education. Our routine schools visit involved kisou primary school, kivuti primary school, kwa- kimweli primary school and kasaala secondary school. Schools were shown conservation films as well as conservation talks.

The Jambo project involving Kaluluini and kisou primary school picked on very well. As part of conservation education Kalulini pupils were involved in drawing of conservation features and wildlife as well expressing themselves on their wildlife perception. On 12th July 26, 2003 Kisou primary was privileged to visit Tsavo west national park. This trip was sponsored through the Jambo project. This trip was the first in the whole region. The pupils had never been exposed to the outside and this was also an ideal learning opportunity. The other schools are anxiously waiting hoping to be considered next time for such field trip. The wildlife resolution committee meeting failed to take place due some unavoidable reasons. However the same meeting will take place early next month. Continuous electric fence sensitization is the main agenda alongside other issues. The meeting draws the attention of all community leaders.

Report compiled by Wambua kikwatha