Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 June 2010

Ndovu Team Ithumba Update: 01 June 2010

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PARTICPANTS

Patrick Mutuku Musau Kitulya Noah Lesirmindana Lemanten Labarakwe James Lodungokiyok 2 KWS Rangers

Areas Covered

During the month of June the Ithumba Team patrolled the following areas: Kalovoto, Kyamanyenze, Kyae-rock, Power line, Mathae, Nthalakana, Sheldrick’s Blind, Macho-kobo, near Moody Awori’s farm, Buffalo Bent, and Kanziko area.

FINDINGS

During the course of the month a total of 118 snares were lifted. While carrying out patrols it became clear that poachers have changed their movements. The team re-visited several known poaching hotspots and hideouts. The hideouts were all unused yet poaching activities were high. The Team is therefore carrying out a thorough investigation in order to find the poachers trends & patterns.

OBSERVABLE EVIDENCE

The Northern Area of Tsavo had received good amounts of rain. As a result the area is still green and overgrown with vegetation. This has made it very difficult for poachers to lay snares and move around. Many of the poachers are therefore lighting fires in certain areas in order to clear thick bush and flush out wildlife. The burnt land will revive with new shoots which will attract small game that the poachers can target.

Most of the poachers tracks seen lead the team to waterholes indicating the poachers are targeting big game when coming to quench their thirst.

Patrols at Kalovoto, Mathae, and Powerline The Team began its patrols near Kimweli gate along the fence line in response to a tipoff from a regular informer regarding poachers entering the National Park on a daily basis. Findings showed clear evidence of poachers entering the Park, one poacher was so confident he wore new shoes which made tracking him easier. The team followed his tracks for two days without success. During patrols un the power line area 99 snares were lifted.

The Team managed to rescue a dikdik trapped in a snare.

Patrols at Kyae-Rock, Kyamanyenze, and Tiva River stretch

These areas used to be poaching hotspots, but patrols yielded no snares. There were no sings of illegal human activities. This could be attributed to the long grass in these areas. The few footprints sighted were moving from one baobab tree to the next indicating the men were honey hunting. This is the peak period for honey hunting; the poachers come inside the park during the night to steal honey. This is destructive to the bees and is illegal to carry out inside the park boundary.

Patrols at Yatta area, Nthalakana, Sheldrick-blind, and Macho-kobo.

Poachers in these areas were very alert, taking great care to conceal their footprints on the paths to waterholes and when crossing roads. The Team lifted a snare targeting elephants along a path to a waterhole. The poachers had placed a big stone weighing more than 20kgs on top of a tree, this was attached to a cable loop on the ground fixed using weak pegs.

They then carefully laid out two lines of stones so that the elephant passing by will have to lift their foot to step over the line of stones, making sure the snare tightens around the leg as the elephant steps over.
The team has been in opreation for more than 10 years and has never seen this type of snaring in the northern part of Tsavo. This is a worrying discovery, indicating poachers are beginning to turn their eye on elephants in an area which was previously less heavily targeted when compared to other areas in the Tsavo ecosystem. This type of poaching is also very unfair because a baby elephant or an elephant without tusks may get trapped which is of no use to the poacher and a great loss to wildlife populations.

Patrols upstream of Tsavo safari camp, opposite Moody Awori farm, Buffallo bent, Kanziko, and along Kasaala fence-line

These areas had a lot of footprints heading to the top of Yatta. Much of the bush had been deliberately burned especially along the River Athi, opposite Moody Awori farm, and buffalo bent.

On patrolling Kasaala fence-line, 17 snares targeting small game were lifted. Most of the waterholes near the power-line had shooting platforms.

On 27/6/2010 a pilot spotted a poachers bed erected on top of a tree and informed the Team of the sighting. The tree was at the centre of a waterhole. The bed had been used for many years and there were many routes leading to the waterholes. The Team destroyed the bed and hideout and aggressively patrolled the area. This area will be re-visited in effort to arrest the poachers.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMME

On the last few days of May and in the beginning of June the Team hosted Alfred Mutua, the government spokesman at Ithumba area. Together a visit was arranged in the neighbouring community at Kanziko gate. The local leaders including the area chief, assistant chief, area councilor and the chairman Kitui county council accompanied him. The KWS Warden for the Northern also hosted the event.

School trips for Kasaala youth polythenic and Ngwate primary school

The Team arranged two school trips to the park. The trips involved touring the Tsavo northern area and visiting the main attractions. The first trip was for Kasaala youth polythenic. The students from this educational institution are from the areas bordering the Park.

None of them had ever visited the park. This was like a golden chance in their lifetime and was greatly appreciated. The students were picked up very early in the morning and began the day by climbing part of Ithumba Hill.
They then were taken on a game drive in the DSWT Bus before heading to the mud-bathe at 11am to see the orphaned elephants raised the Trust have their milk and daily mudbath.
This experience is always the highlight of the trip, as many of the students have never seen an elephant nor known much about their social behaviour and lifecycle.
The students then headed to Tiva where they had lunch. They later went to Kiasa hill before heading back to the stockade.
By the end of the trip joy was written all over their faces and some were even requesting to return to see the orphaned elephants at the stockades.
The second school was Ngwate primary school. This was their third time for the school but a first for the students taken on the trip. Some of the schools have an enrollment of more than 600 pupils so the demand for the trips is overwhelming.

REPORT COMPILED BY

PATRICK MUTUKU I/C ITHUMBA TEAM