Helping Northern Tsavo to Stem Bushmeat Poaching
Due to its remote location and close proximity to the Somali border as well as bordering the Kamba community – once a hunter-gatherer people - Ithumba Sub station in the Northern area of Kenya’s Tsavo East Park grapples with numerous challenges, key among them poaching and human-wildlife conflict.
“Bushmeat poaching in particular is rife in this area. It tends to be non-discriminatory, targeting any wildlife species that wonders into crude but deadly wire snares and traps” says Josphat Erupe, KWS warden and officer in charge of Northern Tsavo.
Death for the hapless animals is dreadfully slow and filled with excruciating pain as it may take days before poachers check the snares. But even when animals spring clear of the traps and dash before the hunters arrive, their fate is worse for then as they hobble painfully across the plains until gangrene, or the merciful predator, takes their lives.
Various types of snares are used depending on the animal targeted – large mammals like elephant, giraffe, buffalo and zebra require stronger snares than their smaller counterparts such as dikdiks, impala or lesser kudu.
In some cases, poachers blind their quarry with powerful torches at night and then hamstringing them with machetes to render them immobile. In other instances, they use poisoned arrows. Those who prefer blinding the animals leave the animals hamstrung and in agonising pain overnight before they return before dawn to finish the job.
Oft times, poachers can get away with tens of dikdiks to sell off to traders at small market centres, to individual homes or even to transporters along the main Mombasa-Nairobi highway.
“It’s so unfortunate,” laments Erupe, “that when we apprehend the poachers, they are handed light jail sentences or sometimes fined $80 (Kshs 6,000) - many times even less,” he says.
To keep one pace ahead of poachers, reliable mobility for park rangers is of utmost importance. Hence, IFAW procured a brand new Toyota landcruiser. Besides reducing maintenance costs by a quarter every month as the landcruiser remains the only serviceable vehicle for Ithumba, the wire snares lifted on patrols have now been reduced from 350-3380 pieces to only 30 per month.
Several arrests of poachers have equally been made and owing to their enhanced mobility, rangers have managed to map out all hide-outs, shooting areas and poachers harbours. As a result, and in comparison to the time before procurement of the vehicle, park officials report a reduction of poaching incidents from 75 per cent to 40 per cent.
“In the long-term, multi-pronged solutions to the bushmeat poaching will need to be instituted. Stiffer penalties by the courts would certainly act as a deterrent to such crimes. Still, we need spirited educational campaigns and the means to assist the local communities to adopt alternative ways of eking a living that aren’t in conflict with wildlife and its conservation,” says Erupe.