Driving Elephants Back into Tsavo National Park – Reducing Human-Elephant Conflicts in Taita

Thunder clap. Bright flash. Elephant shrieks rent the air. Thickets ruffle and sway vigorously. A thick cloud of smoke and dust rises. More thunder blasts and bright flashes. More smoke, followed by elephant shrieks and clouds of blinding dust.

The post was filed by Liz Wamba from the International fund for Animal Welfare's office in East Africa.

Stray elephant move towards Tsavo Park from neighbouring Taita area. c. N. Grosse-Woodley Thunder clap. Bright flash. Elephant shrieks rent the air. Thickets ruffle and sway vigorously. A thick cloud of smoke and dust rises. More thunder blasts and bright flashes. More smoke, followed by elephant shrieks and clouds of blinding dust.

Up in the sky, a chopper roars, diving momentarily here and there. The diving signifies to the team of men and women on the ground the location and direction of big herds of elephants. Rangers speak rapidly into their hand-held radios and follow in hot pursuit, blasting thunder flashes to scare away elephants from community land. IFAW-donated vehicles are on standby in case the rangers need to move faster than their legs can carry them.

Elephants had in the recent weeks invaded people’s homes and farms at Kishushe, Latika, Maktau and Msorongo in the Taita region, leaving, in their wake, havoc and destruction.
The Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) of the Kenya Wildlife Service embarked on an operation to drive 400 stray elephants back into Tsavo National Park and the neighbouring community wildlife conservancies. They have successfully driven them three kilometres into the Park and will be monitoring them closely to ensure they do not find their way back to the community areas.

“Up to 100 officers from PAMU were deployed in a ten-day operation in the area,” says Yussuf Adan, Tsavo East Park senior warden. “This was a first ever operation of this magnitude in the Tsavo. We wanted to keep our word that we stand to protect human life and property against wildlife raids.”

The PAMU officers came from all over the country. More personnel were drawn from sanctuary scouts in the neighbouring Lumo Conservancy.

Area residents are now hopeful that the operation will help reduce incidences of human-elephant conflict, which are now reported to be rising. The Area District Warden who is also heading the operation, Samuel Rukaria, concurs that this operation will herald a lessened human-wildlife conflict season once the elephant herds are safely driven back into Tsavo.

However, the human-elephant conflict problem has been exacerbated by the annual elephant migration from as far as Tsavo East and West towards the Lake Jipe area and Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania, both in the southern areas of the largest park in Kenya.
Tsavo is home to the single largest elephant population in Kenya, with more than 11,600 elephants. The Park abuts Taita, a farming community. For almost five years, IFAW has been supporting Tsavo through the provision of the vehicles and radio equipment rangers need to protect elephants.

For more information on IFAW's work in Tsavo national park, please visit www.ifaw.org.

Photo c. N. Grosse-Woodley

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