Felix Micheni Feisal Muteti Peter Ndungu Samuel Lolchuraki Julius Mumo Boru Okicha 2 KWS Rangers- Brandson Kiboi and Paul Onyango
During the month of October the Gazi team patrolled the following areas: the general area around Sheldricks blind, the area surrounding Tsavo Safari Camp, opposite Kilalinda, Upstream of Kilalinda, opposite Moody Awori’s farm, Kona ya Nyati, Gazi hills and the Mukua Nima general area.
TOTAL SNARES COLLECTED 382 ARRESTS 4
The month started with the team preparing itself for a visit from the US Charity Trustees who were due to arrive. On the 4th of October we left our camp at the Athi River and headed to Ithumba.
Before starting our patrols, the Gazi team members helped to track down a seriously injured bull elephant near Kampi ya Faru. The wounds were septic with lots of pus and we suspected that the bull had been shot with poisoned arrows.
A few days later we embarked on a detailed de-snaring programme. We began our patrols at the Sheldricks blind area where we discovered old snares. There was strong evidence of elephant poachers who were operating from the top of the rocks targeting elephants as they came to drink from the spring water below. In the area near Tsavo Safari camp we came across a dozen snares which generated a lot of heat especially from the camp employees. There was also litter all over the nearby bushes which was a sign of neglect and poor management by the camp. We felt that the camp which relies on wildlife base tourism ought to take conservation of both the environment and wildlife more seriously.
Opposite Kilalinda camp, which is a snaring hotspot, nothing was seen or recovered. Further upstream we came across a few old snares, though some of them were active and able to kill any unfortunate animal that got snared in it.
We came across three sets of well concealed footprints during our patrols opposite Moody Awori’s farm. The footprints led us toward the Yatta plateau where we lifted 158 snares, 14 of which targeted large game.
We carried out an intensive patrol in the surrounding areas including the laggas that originate from the slopes of the Yatta plateau. In one such lagga, which has water even during the dry season, we came across a blood stained arrow shaft. It was evident enough that an animal had probably been shot with it; however we did not come across an animal carcass or any evidence of an animal being slaughtered.
At Kona ya Nyati we noticed that there was a decrease in human activities in the area, especially poaching, which is endemic in the area. Only two sets of footprints were discovered along the river, but their destination was unclear.
We then moved our operations to Mukua Nima which is well known hotspot for poachers, charcoal burners, illegal loggers and livestock herders. Due to the constant pressure from the team and the rangers attached to us, these illegal activities have decreased. We discovered very few poachers’ footprints and arrested four offenders,
The team has observed that there is a gradual decrease in the frequency of footprints as well as the fact that snaring has decreased. It is also evident that the few poachers still operating in the areas have become very discreet going to lengths to conceal both their snares and their footprints.
Before we could complete our operations, the two rangers attached to us were withdrawn to provide support to rangers battling armed bandits in the park. This in conjunction with the unpredictability of the river forced us to move our operations to the “triangle area”. We patrolled the Mtito River to the Ngiluni crossing and lifted a total of 38 snares including one for medium sized plains game. We then linked up with the Mtito team and patrolled the area between Komboyo gate and Kenani railway station. We also patrolled water points in the Triangle including Kampi ya Faru.
As the team breaks off for its annual leave, we all pray that poaching will not worsen as most of the poachers will probably return to till their farms for planting as the rainy season has begun which will also raise the level of the Athi River making it more difficult to cross.
Report by Felix Micheni