Monthly Report: January 2017

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Aerial and Ground Operations ("Big Tusker Project") Summary:

Activity Hours Flown Miles Covered

Aerial Reconnaissance


Average 75 mph of low level flight


Flights carried out jointly with KWS staff

  No. Observed
Big "Tuskers"   10 Tuskers - 7 bulls (4 Super Tuskers and 3 emerging Tuskers) and 3 cows
  No. Recovered
Ivory Recovered   4 elephant tusks (largest 51 and 50.5kg)

Elephant Carcasses

Fresh (less than 3 weeks old) Recent (less than 3 months old)
   6 (c of d: 3 poached, 1 natural, 1 hit by train, 1 hit by truck)  2 (c of d: 2 unconfirmed)
Carcasses / hours flown 1 every 10.3 hours of flight
Poachers camps and hides/blinds/platforms 5 (temporary camp)  1
Arrests   3 - by KWS / TT – (2 elephant poachers apprehended, 1 bush meat)
Snares/traps recovered   21 (by Tembo Teams )
Response/support to KWS - armed incidents  1 (TENP elephant poaching gang)
Other Illegal actvities 31 cattle bomas (15,900 plus cows, 2,700 shoats and 55+ people seen)
Written reports to KWS 29 (daily emails, SA2 Report and 1 monthly report)
General and significant notes
  • 4/1/17 – Fresh carcasses of “Tusker” SA2 found, ivory recvd. (51kg and 50.5kg). Unconfirmed cause of death but believed to be from poisoned arrow

  • 17/1/17 – Joint KWS / TT contact with poachers, TENP, 2 apprehended, 1 AK47recovered and 12 poisoned arrows, 3 bows and other equip.

  • Aerial support pertaining to rhino security in TW and TE as continued partnership with KWS / ZSL rhino program. 17 rhino specific flights carried out following TWNP / NRS rhino poaching (2) on 31/12/16

It is with very deep regret that we report the death of one of Tsavo's iconic "Tuskers" - SATAO 2

Left Photo: Shows iconic Tsavo Tusker known as Satao 2 on 9th December 2016, TENP.

Right Photo: Shows Satao 2’s fresh carcass, found by joint KWS/TT aerial recce on 4th January 2017. Joint KWS/TT Tembo 1 Team from Dakota Base recovered the ivory weighing 51kg and 50.5kg each (112lbs and 111lbs).

Satao 2 aerial photo © Tsavo Trust     Satao 2 carcass © Tsavo Trust

Big Tusker Project - aerial and ground teams:

Loss of “Tusker” Satao 2:
During a joint KWS / TT routine aerial recce on 4th January 2017, very sadly, the fresh elephant carcass of one of Tsavo’s iconic “Tuskers” known as Satao 2 was found, along the Voi seasonal river south of Satao in TENP. His ivory was intact and later recovered by the joint KWS / Tsavo Trust Tembo 1 ground team based from KWS Dakota outpost. His ivory weighed 51kg and 50.5kg respectively (112lbs and 111lbs). The cause of death is not 100% confirmed but it is believed he succumbed from an attempted poaching via poisoned arrow whilst he was feeding close to the TENP / Dakota Ranch boundary in late 2016. This location is both historically and currently a “poaching hot spot” for elephant poachers who use lethal poisoned arrows. There have been recent reports and information of a gang operating in this location in recent weeks and in fact 3 other freshly poached elephants have been located in the same area in early January suggesting the reports are indeed true!

Photo below shows the joint KWS / TT Tembo 1 team recovering these exceptionally large and long elephant tusks, belonging to the well known “Tusker” called Satao 2, on 4th January 2017 in TENP. His ivory weighed 51kg and 50.5kg (112lbs and 111lbs) respectively. This was an excellent example of ground and air teams working in tandem where this fresh carcass was located during a KWS / TT aerial recce and the KWS / TT Tembo 1 team was called in.

Following this finding, KWS and TT have worked closely to establish the where about of an elephant poaching gang operating in this location. On 17th January 2017, this same combined team caught up with the gang deep inside the Park and a contact ensued. 2 notorious poachers were apprehended, 1 AK47 firearm recovered, 12 poisoned arrows, 3 bows plus other equipment recovered.

KWS and Tsavo Trust Tembo 1 team recovering Satao 2 tusks © Tsavo Trust

Although this is a very sad loss in everyway, we can take some positive from this in that Satao 2’s carcass was indeed found with the ivory intact and recovered before it could fall into the wrong hands and further fuel the illegal ivory market but also more importantly, this poaching gang that possibly tried to poach Satao 2 has been broken for ever. KWS acted swiftly and with support from Tsavo Trust and the informer networks in this area, the desired result was realized.

The Tsavo Trust’s Big Tusker Project (BTP) recorded the following details in the BTP database:

  • Total of 10 different individual Tusker’s were observed from ground and air coverage
  • 3 bull Super Tuskers – 17 different sightings
  • 3 emerging Tuskers – 9 sightings
  • 3 iconic cow Tuskers – 7 sightings
  • Total sightings – 33
  • Weather conditions: Some very isolated and sporadic light rain in a few parts of TCA.
  • Elephant mortality: As reported above, there have been 8 fresh / recent carcasses found this month. The elephant poaching gang that was operating around the Satao / Voi River has been dealt with and this will hopefully bring reprieve to this location. There have been other poaching cases – see summary below.

 - Rhino security: 17 rhino specific aerial recces took place with KWS / TT aircraft as well as Tembo 3 team joining KWS in ground operations in the IPZ following 2 rhino poached in TWNP, NRS on 31st December 2016. Strong and valuable 3 way partnership between KWS / ZSL and TT continues with specific focus on rhino protection.

Table 1: Shows “Tusker” code, number of times observed during month and brief remarks. 

Tusker Code No. Times
Seen / Month
LU1 5 Crosses SGR regularly. Frequents an unsafe area!
SA2 - Found dead 4/1/2017
KA1 3 Back to normal location
DI1 - Not seen all month, which is VERY unusual, he is such a creature of habit!
WS1 8 Back to normal location
IL1 1 Same location
MU1 7 (Previously called SA80) Back to normal area
AR1 1 Back to normal area
KI1 1 Back to normal area
F_SO1 1 Moving big distances
F_XT 3 Moving big distances
F_VPL 3 Back to normal location
Total 7 bulls, 3, cows: 33 different sighings  
Close working relationship between KWS and Tsavo Trust (aerial and ground units combined) is without doubt adding to elephant security and safety of the big Tuskers and other elephants within the TCA through meaningful collaboration alongside KWS Security and Research and Monitoring Departments.

 Super "Tusker"LU1 on 20th January 2017Super "Tusker" LU1 on 20th January 2017 © Tsavo Trust

Areas Covered: Table 2: Shows the main areas covered within the TCA for this month:

Tsavo East

Tsavo West

Ranches and Dispersal Areas

Northern Area – Yatta Plateau, Durusikale, Garasamuke, Emusaya, Golf Charlie, Koitu, Sobo, Sangayaya, Dabaduke, Mufupa ya Ndovu, Ithumba, Tiva River, Roka

Southern Area – Voi, Ndololo, Kanderi, Wagalla, Ndara Plains, Buchuma, Maungu, Murondo, Dakota, Voi River, Dika Plains, Satao, power lines, Aruba, Mukuaju, Dika, Konu Moja, Dida Harea, Balguda, Sala, Lali, Sobo, TENP boundary, Koitu, Galana River

Central Area – TE R/S, IPZ, Manyani east, Punda Milia, Hatulo Bisani, Lugards, Mbololo lugga, Balguda, Irima, Mudanda, Maka Hill, Man-eaters, Triangle, Mtito Lugga, Zero Delta, Voi north & east, Galana River, Tsavo River and Yatta Central, SGR


Northern Sector – IPZ, Mangalete, Kamboyo, Kisimeka, Chyulu south, Mtito lugga, Mungai Hill, Finch Hattons, Mzima Springs, Shetani volcano, Severin, Kilaguni, Ndawe, Tsavo River

Southern Sector – Nil

Central Sector – IPZ, Rhino Valley, NRS, Tsavo River, Kinyek, Maji ya Chumvi (north & south), Ziwani, Lesoito, Kyulu, Manda, Kishushe, Murka, Mombasa Highway, Man Easters, Kenani, Kanga, Manyani north and west, SGR line


TENP border -Ngiluni/Kamunyu, Kulalu, Derea, Murondo, Magram/Dakota Ranch, Ngutuni, Galana Ranch boundary

TWNP border – Ziwani, Rombo and Lualenyi

Chyulu Hills NP - Mukururo

Taita Ranches – Rukinga

  • The locations mentioned above is only an indicator of flight paths taken, many other areas in between are also covered and in so doing providing “eyes in the skies” over Tsavo and directional guidance to ground units.
  • All flight paths are logged and recorded with all relevant real time observations relayed to KWS on a daily basis for their records as well as necessary rapid reaction.

 Map below shows flight paths for January 2017 where 83 hours were flown in support to KWS for anti-poaching and wildlife monitoring across 6,264 miles over the Tsavo’s

Tsavo Trust flight paths for January 2017

Field Mobile Units:

All Tsavo Trust mobile field units work with and in support of KWS on a daily basis. Some are anti-poaching focused (Tembo 1 and 3) and some are monitoring and research dedicated (Tembo 2).

Anti-poaching teams:

Table 7: Shows outcomes from anti-poaching activities from Temboa 1 and 3 teams:

Anti-poaching teams No. Field days No. arrests No. Ivory recvd. No. Snares recvd. Bushmeat recvd. Poachers equip. recvd. No. Poacher camps Vehicle mileage Km
Tembo 1 31 2 2 15 16 dikdik 1 AK47 rifle, 12 p/arrows, 3 bows, 1 axe, 1 panga, cooking equip. 1 2,749
Tembo 3 Kamungi 31 1 1 6 4 dikdik 1 horn/torch, 2 pangas, 1 knife 5 2,468
Others Chui team - - - - - - 2 -
TOTALS 62 3 4 21 As above As above 8 5,217
Totals 2017 62 3 4 21 - - 8 5,217

Poached dikdiks jan 2017 © Tsavo Trust

Photo shows 4 freshly poached dikdiks on 29th January 2017 on the border of TENP, having been poached using the horn/lamping method at night. This form of poaching is very effective. 1 poacher was arrested and booked for this case.

Monitoring teams:

Table 8: Shows activities carried out by Tembo 2 team:

Monitoring team   No. Field days Activities   Endangered species records / sightings  Operating locations  Vehicle mileage km
 Tembo 2  20
  •  Tusker monitoring
  • Endangered species – database records
  • Road and SGR kill surveys
  • Camera trap surveys
  • Fixed point photos
  • Predator monitoring

Tuskers – 17 sightings
Hirola – 4 sightings
Grevy’s Zebra – 1 sighting
Predators – too many to mention

TENP, Voi River, Satao, Buchuma, Ndara, Aruba, Manyani, KMC, Lugards, Galana River, Msa Rd., Dida Harea  3,067 
 TOTALS  20  As above  As above  As above  3,067
 Total 2017  20  -  -  3,067

Unusual Photo of the Month:

Photo (courtesy of Ranger Ali) shows an elephant that was hit by a train on the old Mombasa to Nairobi railway line on 26th January 2017.

These cases have increased in recent years as major transport infrastructure develops along this access route. Underpasses are being constructed and in time elephants will learn how to traverse safely between TENP and TWNP.

Elephant killed by train on Mombasa to Nairobi railway line © Ranger Ali 

With Sincere thanks and appreciation to:

Kenya Wildlife Service, Save The Elephants/Wildlife Conservation Network Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF), Stuart Herd, Nick Southgate, James Robertson, US Fish & Wildlife Service, International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Tusk Trust UK & USA, The Woodtiger Fund, The Oak Foundation, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Ndovu Trust (UK), US State Dept., Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Wines of the World Ltd, Africa Spirits Ltd, Mike Kirkland/Torben Rune, Satao Camp (Tsavo East) & Southern Cross Safaris (Msa), Tropical Ice Ltd, International Elephant Foundation (IEF), Salama Fikira, The Art of BAS & Oak Furniture Ltd (UK), Geri Bauer, Kathy Snowden, Simon Herd, Saving the Survivors, Karen Laurence-Rowe, Anadarko Kenya Co., Askari Project – Australia, Chris Acreman, Paul & James Wilson, Enable Green Energy, Eaton Electric, Michael Cheffings, Pembroke House School and numerous other individual supporters.

Report compiled by Richard Moller – Chief Executive Officer, Tsavo Trust
All photographs ©Richard Moller / Tsavo Trust 2016

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