ELEPHANT POACHING STILL HIGH
Elephant and rhino poaching has recently been declared a “national disaster” in Kenya by former head of Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) Richard Leakey. The magnitude of poaching has reached terrifying levels and poachers are operating with outrageous impunity, backed up by an extraordinary network of organized crime.
Unfortunately the Kasigau Corridor has not been immune from this increase in elephant poaching. Whilst the year started relatively calmly, March and April saw a significant rise in poaching incidents, totaling 30 elephants by mid May. The worst incident to date saw six elephants shot dead on Dawida Ranch, four of which were youngsters not bearing tusks. A further three elephants were lost on Amaka Ranch in March. This indicates the indiscriminate nature of killing that the poachers engage in, as well as the ruthlessness of the individuals involved.
To combat this, Wildlife Works has been working closely with KWS and other official organizations to tighten security in the area. We have increased patrols and security measurements significantly. In particular, we have drastically increased aerial surveillance throughout the project area thanks to the support of an additional aircraft pilot. Weather permitting, Keith Hellyer, a Canadian conservationist, has been lending his time and the use of a gyrocopter to patrol the 200,000 ha large project area and beyond at least twice a day. This helps the security team to locate illegal activities, carcasses or charcoal camps early on and respond accordingly.
Furthermore, Wildlife Works has also employed six additional wildlife rangers from the surrounding communities in order to increase manpower. The new recruits have already been orientated with Wildlife Works’ security operations and they have all been posted to the various ranger camps where they are taking up their patrol and surveillance responsibilities. Wildlife Works continues to be committed to the protection of wildlife and will do everything in its power to prevent the further slaughter of these majestic animals.
A LETTER TO OUR COMMUNITY FROM OUR HEAD RANGER, ERIC SAGWE
I wish to express my personal and sincere gratitude to all of you who have helped make the Kasigau Phase I and II REDD+ Project a success for the past few years! Despite the challenges we are facing inside the project area, especially regarding a recent escalation in poaching incidents, my ranger teams are working tirelessly with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to ensure the culprits involved are caught and remain in police custody, so that justice can be served. In the first five months of 2014 alone, we have lost 30 elephants to poaching. Whilst this is a shocking figure, let me assure you that we are using every measure, in conjunction with KWS teams operating in various ranches, to ensure that we have intensified security in terms of patrolling and monitoring.
I still admire our ‘no arms’ policy, since it serves to deter violent confrontation. I wish also to bring to your attention that elephant poaching is increasingly carried out using sophisticated weapons, as well as poisoned arrows. I kindly urge community members to share with us any information, however seemingly small, which they might have regarding the menace so that we can channel it into the relevant authorities, especially KWS.
I wish to honorably recognize all members of the community who have responded to our call to protect our wildlife and surrounding environment. As a result, we have witnessed a drastic reduction in charcoal burning, with the exception of a few ranches in the Project Area. Whilst some cases remain unreported, I would like to highlight that community feedback is happening more and more with assistance from the Wildlife Works community outreach team. I encourage all community members to help in the protection of the environment and wildlife, which is possible through our hotline: +254 (0) 727 957 482.
I would like to take this opportunity to salute all members of the community for their effort in helping us to achieve our goals. Conservation is for us all, it does not belong to only one party, and requires the involvement of everyone. Let us keep our heritage safe for the future; our beautiful environment is a valuable resource, which must be preserved.
I am also happy to report that we have increased our ranger force and now number approximately 120 wildlife rangers, all of whom are patrolling the project area on a daily basis. Around twelve of these are operating on the hills and land corridors. Three quarters of my ranger team are members of the community who were selected during the 2010/2011 recruitment exercise. I understand that not everyone who was present at this selection was recruited, and I would like to inform community members that there will be further opportunities for employment following the expansion of the carbon project. Being part of the ranger team is a highly sought after position however, and realistically we are not able to offer positions to all young applicants. Our recruitment process offers a fair way to select individuals who are suitable for this physically and psychologically demanding work.
Thank you all,