Wambua Kikwatha Ekai Patrick
Over the last few months the Ithumba de-snaring team has been operating in conjunction with the Gazi de-snaring team. During the month of May the teams carried out their operations in both the Ithumba and Gazi areas. The teams worked in two groups. The larger of the two groups carried out de-snaring operations, while the smaller of the two groups, compromising of the team leader and the driver, carried out community projects in the Northern area.
The community activities that were carried out included video shows, talks, meetings with the community’s wildlife committees, as well as a wildlife teacher’s forum. During this time the de-snaring team also met with the local administration members.
During the month we visited seven primary schools, Kivuti, Kakindu, Kaluluini, Ngwate and Kimweli as well as Kasaala secondary school. The schools were shown films about wildlife and a film by Simon Trevor that was narrated in Kikamba which is their native language. They received both films well, enjoying everything that they saw. We did however observe that their concentration and understanding was more apparent when watching the film in their own language. One of the best ways to observe this was through the students who were quieter and more attentive when watching the film narrated in Kikamba. After the videos we engaged the students in discussions about wildlife and wildlife conservation. Wildlife club guide books, obtained from the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, were then distributed to the schools, in order to help them form wildlife clubs and give them ideas on the kinds of activities that the students can undertake to help conserve the wildlife and the environment around them.
The de-snaring team leader met at Ikutha with the chiefs and the divisional officer in order to discuss how the local administration can support us in curbing the bush meat trade. The divisional officer admits that there is an escalating trend in both the bush meat trade and the acquisition of wildlife trophies. He feels that the booming charcoal business contributes to this rise as the poachers can use the trucks to transport bush meat, ivory and animal skins. We reached an agreement with the divisional officer whereby the police would set road blocks on the main road in order to carry out regular checks on trucks passing through the area. In addition the divisional officer said that they would also carry out searches at the local homesteads and brew dens which are known for harboring poachers and bush meat traders. He started on these new initiatives the next day, raiding several homes, and setting up irregular road blocks in order to try and control both the charcoal business and the illegal bush meat trade. A major limiting factor in the divisional officer’s efforts is the lack of transport of the administration police.
Another meeting aimed at environmental, game and vet issues took place with the Kitui county council. The council has been in the process of developing the South Kitui National reserve. They visited all the communities that border the reserve sensitizing people about their plans and the need to conserve wildlife. The council now supports our conservation efforts and aids us and the KWS in sensitizing the communities about wildlife conservation.
Several projects are being undertaken in the Northern area that required our attention. The most important being the erection of a radio repeater on top of Ithumba hill. This project involved the transporting of all the building material to the hill, and the subsequent erecting of the mast, repeater house and solar stand. Other projects that needed our support were the construction of the Ithumba campsite and erecting of the Mavuko Umbi electric fence.