Tag Archives: Elephants

Coastal Conservation Issues

David writes: It is said that that in the past, the Coastal Forest reached all the way from Mozambique up to Somalia. But due to growing human population many areas have been settled and the forest has gone.

The coastal people still remember the past situation compared to today. Every corner of the coastal forest is still giving thanks to the British Government before independence who demarcated and gazetted the natural forest as a Forest Reserve, protected by its own department and as a result the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is now the largest forest on the Kenya Coast.SNV31611

Some years after independence, some politicians began to demand some areas of the forest to be given to the community to settle. They did this to further their own campaigns. We are very thankful to the community elders around the forest who managed to stop the degazettement, and thereafter they were helped by the Birdlife International Conservation Project from the UK with community projects and later various other donors who supported the construction of an electric fence around the forest to stop elephants from destroying their crops.

SNV31400On the Kenyan Coast, during dry seasons, some areas of grass and plantations catch fire. In the last dry season, we had fires in the plantations and some grass areas, and a large number of hectares were burned. Birds like rollers and bee-eaters fly into the smoke to look for insects escaping from the fire and I found some that by bad luck some were burned.

This year, there has been global climate change. We were informed by the Kenya Meteorological Department that there will be very little rain during the coming rainy season. We were told our planting should happen very soon before the rains stop. The majority of farmers in the coast had planted maize as their staple food. Some of the crops are almost ready, many are not – and the rains now seem to have stopped.

In the forest, there are some water ponds but due to the global climate change, the rains were not sufficient to fill the ponds. The result of this is that the wild animals will suffer from water shortage.

The Kenya Wildlife Service at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest faces a hard job to help the animals get water up to the next rainy season, which arrives in September. This is a major challenge and we are as yet unsure what strategy they will employ to solve the problem.

More Elephant Poaching in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest

While patrolling the elephant trails in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest on the 16th of September, a Kenya forest guard accidentally stepped on a trap set by elephant poachers. The trap (pictured below) is a crude device, which essentially amounts to a poison-covered knife, stuck through a piece of wood and buried in the ground so that only the tip of the knife is above ground.

The guard was rushed to the hospital, where he remained for nearly a week. He returned home on the following Tuesday and is now on his way to a full recovery. As we’ve previously reported, however, a poacher who stepped on an elephant trap two years ago was not so lucky, and was found dead in the forest some days later.

The greater issue here is that there is no way of knowing how many more of these traps are in the forest. This latest trap was found in the northeast part of the forest, near Mida Creek, and the first one was found some fifteen to twenty kilometres from this one, nearer to the middle of the forest, suggesting that there may be a great deal more poaching going on in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest.

David has suggested to the Kenya Wildlife Service that in order to avoid these kind of mishaps in the future, metal detectors should be used when patrolling the elephant trails for poachers.

Tracing the tracks of the dead man (poacher).

Tracing the tracks of the dead man (poacher).

In an earlier blog I had mentioned the story of the poacher who died in the forest after he accidentally stepped on an elephant snare that was set by another poacher who was targeting to kill an elephant. I later on when to do a follow up of that story and retraced the path taken by that poacher. I started by visiting the dead man’s family, I was taken to his family by some community members. I however did not refer to the dead man as a poacher this was to show some respect to the family. The family gave me their view of what they thought happened. I was also informed that on that fateful day the dead man was accompanied to the forest by his elder brother, his elder brother retraced the last moment and he even agreed to take me to the forest and show me the path where it all happened.

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The household of the man.

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The grave.

We followed the path that the dead man took, as we continued following the path I came across 31 snares they seemed to be snares for small animals such as Sunis, however most of them were dismantled. The path we took lead us to the road from Kararacha to Nyari view point. At this particular spot the elder brother showed me the path that he had marked, it was sort of an agreement between him and his brother on which route not to take. Unfortunately it seemed the dead took a wrong path and ended up stepping on the snare. After stepping on the snare he tried to walk for a while however he could not go far as the poison on the snare was quickly running through his body, he decide to sit down and he asked his brother to go get help, when his brother returned with help unfortunately he was already dead. He quickly went back home to inform the rest what had happened and they found a way to carry his body from the forest.

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Me being shown the path.

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The sign.

When I asked his brother what they were looking for in the forest he simply said mushrooms, I was not full convinced that they were looking for mushrooms, as why would they go deep in the forest to look for that and secondly why would they take the paths that are restricted, and why take the elephant tracks? I kept on wondering this but I did not want to raise it up with his brother as it would be pointless to argue with him on that.

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The brother of the dead man holding mushrooms.

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The mushrooms.

Personally I am very sorry that his brother died, am mostly sorry for his family. However I still feel that they had ill intentions especially where the elephants were concerned. The elephant trap has not been found till now and this poses a big risk not only to the elephants but to those who use the forest daily such as researchers, tourists and even me!

It was helpful to be shown the path and to follow it, we now have a clue where the traps could be located for we also took the GPS coordinates, it just a matter of time before we actually locate the them, in as much as we have a clue where to start from, no one is willing to take the risk of going to look for the traps without the proper equipment for fear of being the next victims. We tend to think that they are many snares in the forest.

As we lack the necessary equipment such as metal detectors to enable us to locate the traps quickly, the snare continue to pose a big risk. We are kindly requesting for your help in purchasing a metal detector and good walking boots, to be used for patrols in the forest, these equipment will assist us to remove the metal snare that are normally targeted for elephants and make the forest much safer for them and for people as well.

Yous David Ngala

Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest

Conservation Officer.

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Day one of the forest trail clearing.

Day one of the forest trail clearing.

So this group of young guys from Nature kenya – Nairobi decided to come all the way to the coast in Arabuko-Sokoke forest, and to do what? To help clear the nature trails in Arabuko-Sokoke forest.

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The camp site at sokoke pipit at the forest.

They set up camp at the forest camp site, they would be there for four days so they better have things set up right, from putting up the tents, to the kitchen and assigning duties of cooking and washing, everything had to be in order.

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setting up the tents.

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who knows how to cook best? Onesmus or Susan?

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watch me cook! Tony seems to be telling the crew.

I must admit the first thing that came into my mind when I saw them was – will they really do it?, can they really manage?, how about the heat will it drain them before they begin?, and the women can they make it?, so to give them the benefit of the doubt we set out to the elephant track a trail in the forest that is used to tourist who especially want to see the elephant. The elephant roam around the area freely and many times we find elephant dung on the roads, fallen trees and huge mountains of dug up sand, this was one of the trails that really needed a lot of work and this is an intriguing trail as well, as elephant can surprise you any time.

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Fresh elephnat dung on the trail.

So off we went, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) provides a truck to ferry the 18 volunteers to the site, the long journey to the site was really tiresome and I kept on praying that we don’t say “hallo to mr ndovu” – the elephants. A trained ranger accompanied us to the site, but still my heart was in my mouth. Since I was somehow leading the team I had to show some sign of bravery, and not my fear be revealed.

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Preparing to be ferried to the site.

The trail were in such a state that needed help like yesterday, trees overgrown blocking the roads, all types of trees, thorny trees, shrubs and even dead logs.

And the work began, it didn’t take me long before I thought I think they will make it…….will they?

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And the work began!

To be continued…….

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Making use of the available resources!

I traveled by piki piki (motorcycle) about 98 kilometers from Gede forest station to an area called Mrima wa ndege. I was requested by the Kenya Wildlife Service warden to educate the local community on environmental conservation.

Mrima wa ndege location is a big area consisting of three sub-locations. The area is dominated by shrubs and a few trees some Brachystegia species which are scattered throughout the area. The population is sparse and hence the community faces problems during the dry seasons , their crops die due to lack of water and they have to travel long distances in search of water for their crops, animals and for drinking.

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A cut tree.

The community is constantly faced with problems of elephant invading their land, some of these elephants move from Tsavo East national park to Arabuko-Sokoke forest passing through the human settlements and shrubs. The ecosystem is conducive for elephants who find their way to Arabuko-Sokoke forest.

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one of the elephants trap

The high level of poverty in the community has led them to destroy their environment, they cut down trees for building, for poles and charcoal. They also hunt wild animals to earn an income and sustain their families. This location has been facing food shortages over the past few years and the government recently donated food aid in form of maize to some families.

While at Mrima wa ndege I was very fortunate to meet with the three assistant chiefs of the three sub location and also all the village elders. This was a good opportunity for me to speak to the chiefs and elders to share my views on their issues and educate them on how they can use their land to earn an income without destroying their environment. After a long and fruitful discussion, the leaders were receptive and welcoming to my suggestions and they farther went a head to propose having a community park as a way to earning income and the villagers will eventually realize the economic value of animals such as elephants and hence conserve them.

David Ngala

FoASF – Conservation Officer

A poacher killed in the line of “duty”

sorry i was not able to load the photos well, here they are…

Hi this is Carol,

Activities at the forest have been quite overwhelming, data is collected daily on the illegal activities in the forest and the results are just overwhelming. Recently there was a poacher who was killed in the forest. The poacher was accidentally killed by a trap laid for elephants by other poachers.

The number of poachers within the forest is increasing, and with Arabuko Sokoke forest having big game such as elephants, there is intense survey of the forest and also of poachers, yet some go unnoticed.

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Map of illegal activities in the forest.

David reported to me that last week, a poacher was killed in the forest when he accidentally fell for an elephant trap that was laid by another group of poachers. The poachers normally lay down the traps deep in the ground and cover them with earth and grass making it look almost normal ground that one may not be able to see the trap.

These traps are normally laid down inside the forest where elephants can be found roaming. It is difficult to lay a trap along designated paths as people often use these paths and rangers are often on patron on such paths hence the traps are hidden deep in the forest away from the designated walking paths.

desgnated-paths2.jpgDesignated foot paths in the forest.

The poachers make the trap using long nails that are pinned on wooden frames and the tips of the nails have poison on them, such that when an elephant accidentally steps on the tips of the nails, the nails will penetrate through the elephant eventually releasing the poison to the animals blood stream fast enough to kill it almost instantly. They later remove the elephant’s tusks and will eventually sell them to middlemen and to the ivory black market.

These are some of the activities that are on going in the forest and that David monitors daily. These activities pose a danger for researchers and others that don’t use the designated paths when going about their business.

David is still carrying out more survey on illegal footpaths in the forest. He has set up a meeting with the chief to discuss how the community can get involved.

That’s all for now, I will keep you updated on any occurrence within the forest.