On patrol over Tsavo, our fixed-wing pilot sighted a poachers' hideout – no easy feat in this terrain – he called in the GPS coordinates to our Kaluku Operations room, from where a rapid response was organised.
This involved immediately deploying the SWT/KWS Canine Unit and SWT Helicopter, both of which are based at Kaluku and well versed in rapid deployment operations. Within an hour of the initial call they had landed close to the location provided by the our pilot. Once on the ground, the KWS Rangers led the approach to the hideout, where they found a range of paraphernalia utilised by poachers.
Naiko, of the Canine Unit, and her handler set about picking up the scent of the poachers, but due to the sheer number of tracks in the area and the rocky terrain, the team were unable to pick up a live scent. The team did however confiscate a significant haul of weapons and bushmeat from the hideout.
Bows, arrows, heavy duty snares, modified torches and 54kg of bushmeat were among the items seized. The torches, adapted to increase their brightness, are used by poachers to temporarily blind animals at night; a poacher then kills the innocent victim while it is dazzled – known as lamping! Not only are these items now out of use, these poachers know that there are teams actively patrolling to prevent illegal activities, which is an effective deterrent and for these poachers too, other items recovered mean that KWS are still very much on their trail.
In the last month the SWT/KWS Canine Unit has been involved in no less than 7 arrests, involving individuals carrying out illegal activities in the Tsavo Conservation Area. Each arrest not only removes the perpetrator from the equation, it also acts as a strong deterrent, sending a message to others that if they enter the National Park there is an ever growing chance that they will be found and arrested.