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Our Story

The inspiration for the Tsavo Trust’s logo comes from Kenani, the first Super Tusker that our founder Richard Moller discovered in Tsavo. The Tsavo Trust owes its existence to this old and wise icon. When he showed it to conservationists back in Nairobi and abroad, no-one believed that an elephant with tusks of this size still existed. Following significant aerial monitoring and surveillance, along with extensive ground patrols, Richard and his team were able to identify 14 similar creatures. What had been discovered that year in Tsavo was beyond what many thought possible: an existing and viable breeding ground for one of the rarest and most remarkable animals on Earth: the Super Tusker elephant.

These enormous African elephants carry ivory which weigh an incredible 100 lbs or more on each side. Often, their tusks are so long they reach right down to the ground and wear away on the base of the curve as a result.

But these tusks – meant for protection – are now their greatest threat. Thousands have fallen in the name of human greed, leaving only a handful in existence today.

The Tsavo Trust was founded in 2013 with the aim to protect this final gene pool from the relentless threat of poaching, and to give the Super Tuskers a right to life in the wild.

These giants are very special creatures and continue to inspire our work. They command respect wherever they roam, wise authorities within their herds; and royalty within the animal kingdom. Other species keep their distance, bowing in their presence. When faced with loss, elephants grieve; and when faced with mistreatment, they remember. What must be behind those eyes? What stories could Kenani tell, through droughts and mass slaughter as far back as the 70s?

These remarkable creatures represent the plight of all African animals through recent decades. They are beacons of hope. If we can save them, we can save their families. If we can save their families, we can save their environment. If we can save their environment, we save all the other life that exists in this extraordinary ecosystem. The value of the Super Tuskers for future generations of Kenyans can not be underestimated.

Our founding ambition to help them still exist in the form of our Big Tusker Project today – and, by monitoring and protecting them, the ecosystem at large is also able to thrive and prosper safely as a result.

Who we are

The Tsavo Trust is a field-based, Kenyan not-for-profit conservation organisation.

Headquartered in the Kamungi Community Conservancy, which borders Tsavo East National Park (TENP), we are a team of professionals from the world of conservation and wildlife management in Kenya and have an excellent understanding of the challenges that the TCA faces.

We do not have a large back-office staff – each of our employees spend the majority of their time out in the field protecting the animals of Tsavo.

No-nonsense, action-oriented and with our eyes always set to the horizon, the Tsavo Trust is out there making a difference every day.

Our Vision

Tsavo Trust recognizes the importance of a holistic approach to biodiversity conservation.

 

Professional wildlife conservation activities, grass-roots community engagement, valued partnerships and committed supporters combine to create a virtuous circle for the protection of Tsavo’s wilderness.

How we achieve this: 

We are ambitious, yet realistic. Over the next ten years, the Tsavo Trust will undertake three targeted and focused work-streams to help to fulfil our mission:

Wildlife Conservation Program: Continuing as a reliable and key conservation partner to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) through the provision of meaningful aerial and ground support. This relates to not only monitoring and data collection, but also mounting responses to any imminent threats. We will endeavour to create secure buffers bordering the formal Protected Area (PA).

Community Conservancy Program: Developing and stewarding self-governing, community-led wildlife conservancies within the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA), including the fostering of partnerships with other organisations already working in support of wildlife, habitats and communities in the Tsavo ecosystem.

Animal Welfare Program: Developing the Tsavo Sanctuary – a rescue centre for the care, rehabilitation and release of orphaned, injured and sick small mammals indigenous to the TCA. A strong emphasis will be placed on animal welfare and local community education. Importantly, we will ensure that – wherever possible and as soon as they are ready – the animals in our temporary care are given the best possible chance to return to the wild (something that is too often not the case).

Our Impact

Our impact is clear and measurable

• Between 2013 and 2016, Tsavo Trust played a significant role alongside KWS in reducing elephant poaching by over 50% in the TCA.

• In 2015 alone, 567 hours were flown, covering 41,866 miles. Our combined aerial and ground Tsavo Trust / KWS deployments accounted for 276 arrests, 11 responses to armed contacts, the recovery of 18 elephant tusks and locating 16 poacher camps / hides.

• In 2016, 702 hours were flown, covering 52,650 miles. The same joint efforts as above accounted for 142 arrests, 2 responses to armed contacts, the recovery of 62 elephant tusks, locating 18 poacher camps / hides and the recovery of 1,050 wire snares.

• The Kumungi Conservancy has been formally registered both with the Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Association (KWCA) and as a Community-Based Organisation (CBO) with an elected board through a member’s registry of 60 families. This touches on the livelihoods of over 700 individuals on the northern boundary of Tsavo East National Park.

• The Tsavo Sanctuary is in its early days of development, but already several and varying species of small mammals, birds and reptiles have enjoyed a second chance for freedom. This initiative, in partnership with Kumungi Conservancy, has provided alternative forms of income through jobs and animal feed products to benefit the local community who historically relied heavily on illegal natural resource extraction from the Protected Area, such as bushmeat, ivory and charcoal.

Our Needs

Tsavo stands at a crossroads.

A giant ecosystem, home to one of Africa’s largest elephant herds and many species that are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, it is being eroded away at an alarming rate. Illegal livestock encroachment, major infrastructure development (road, rail, power and oil), human-wildlife conflict, pollution, logging, charcoaling, habitat degradation and poaching are all suffocating the area irreversibly. Since the early 1970s, black rhino populations have reduced by over 98% and elephants by 70%. But this can be stopped.

Tsavo Trust is at an exciting moment in its history: we have the expertise, the remit from government and other NGOs, and the relationships with local communities to prevent this from continuing, but we are in urgent need of funding.

ACE

There is one member of the Tsavo Trust Team that deserves a special mention. She has been operating in conservation for nearly 50 years. In her younger years, she partnered famously with Bill Woodley and together they took part in mountain rescue missions, armed poacher attacks, fire fighting and so much more. She has looked after royalty and has done thousands of hours monitoring wildlife over the decades. She has most likely seen and taken part in more anti-poaching operations than any other living sole in the country. She has a mind of her own, no question about that but, she knows Tsavo like the back of her wings and her name is ACE.

We are incredibly privileged to have on board this aircraft who comes with such high qualifications and credentials in the world of conservation. Her C.V. exceeds all our requirements and she is invaluable to our operations, foremost the Big Tusker Project.

Stuart Herd, her fond owner is responsible for this opportunity of having such a distinguished Super Cub on the team, kindly donating her to the Tsavo Trust… so long as she remains willing of course!

However, It did seem at first that she was not willing, returning to work a little reluctantly and Richard Moller had his doubts as to whether the “old bird” was up to it. In ACE’s defence, she was being dropped in the deep end because after removing a birds nest from the engine and replacing a few parts, her first job for the Tsavo Trust was to take part in the Samburu/Laikipia Game Count! That’s no small ask for a pilot and aircraft who have only just met and it requires a great deal of stamina, patience and skill. On the way there her ticker stopped no less than five times (I think Richard’s ticker also skipped a few beats as a result) … but luckily, after being gently coaxed she coughed back to life and they made it to the Shaba airstrip exhausted but relieved to be there. The real test would be over the next week, where she would be required to fly up to nine hours each day, only stopping to be refuelled on hot dusty airstrips. After the journey to Samburu and her initial antics, Richard was unsure whether to continue in the count, however, he worked late into the night and finding nothing obviously wrong and therefore deciding that she was probably ‘trying it on’, he had her warming up on the airstrip at day break the following morning and off they went. That day she flew nine hours without complaint and continued in this fashion for the rest of the count. By day three Richard exclaimed that “she is growing on me!” and by the end of the week, there was no doubt that he had become very fond of her and a partnership was formed, despite the fact that he could barely walk due to spending many hours in the incredibly uncomfortable and bony cockpit.

With a few of the old cobwebs blown away and some cushions added to the seats, ACE was ready to take to the skies of Tsavo once again and on the 1st of February 2013, she and Richard took off on their first official flight with a KWS officer on board. They covered an area known as the Tsavo Triangle and went in search of the big tuskers. Without the support from SAVE THE ELEPHANTS who are paying her salary (such expertise in her field does not come cheap) amongst other things, it would have taken a lot longer to get this project up and running and very possibly too long for the big tuskers.

Any Valuable member of an organisation must be provided for accordingly. Somewhere nice to live is usually one way of showing appreciation and for ACE; it is vital that we look after her to the best of our abilities. Again, SAVE THE ELEPHANTS generously donated the funds for a fine hanger to be built here in Tsavo that provides a safe and comfortable resting place for her.

A brief history

The most remarkable combination of man and machine was how the partnership between ACE and Bill Woodley was described in Anthony Dyer’s book ‘EAGLES’. This remarkable little Super Cub, began her work in Conservation in 1966 on the Mountain slopes of Kenya. She reached altitudes of 17,000 feet and over and together with Bill Woodley, she flew just under 6,000 hours without an accident. She took part in Royal visits, fought fires on the slopes of Mount Kenya, assisted in rescue missions and medivacs and has dodged hundreds of bullets during armed poacher attacks.

Sadly, in 1982, the partnership of Bill and Ace came to an end. ACE however continued to take part in operations over Tsavo, being piloted by several different people. On 21st September 1990 she was to have a terrible accident that would leave her crippled for some 20 years, her future looking very bleak! However, in the mid 90’s, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy purchased Ace from KWS along with two other wrecks and they sat there in a heap for a number of years. In a strange turn of events, Richard Moller, who was then working at Lewa, came across the wrecks and shortly afterward sent the broken fuselages down to Allan Herd, an incredibly skilled aircraft engineer to be rebuilt.

It took many years and a lot of hard sweat for ACE to become once again airborne in 2010, a legend rebuilt she took to the skies, however, she did not return to Lewa or into Conservation. By then she was owned by Stuart Herd, Allan’s son and she enjoyed the next few years being flown only occasionally for leisure. Upon hearing about the BIG TUSKER PROJECT proposed by the Tsavo Trust, Stuart decided that ACE should once again be put to work and thus, she is back in Tsavo, teamed up with Richard Moller to work in Tsavo as ‘eyes in the sky’ for the unforeseeable future and long may their partnership continue.

Since her move back into Tsavo, she has done a further 15,000 hours. Tsavo Trust is currently fundraising to give ACE a total rebuild, so she can be re-deployed to the skies over Tsavo.

Tsavo Conservation Area

Size

  • Greater Tsavo Conservation Area – 42,000 km²
  • National Parks 22,000 km²
  • Dispersal areas 20,000 km²
  • Approximately the size of Switzerland
  • Comprises 49% of Kenya’s Protected Areas

Wilderness

  • Vast and varied wilderness habitats provide huge potential for wildlife growth – a rare natural resource in today’s world

Diversity of Flora and Fauna

  • Holds Kenya’s largest single elephant population – 12,866 elephants (2017 census)
  • Home to the unique iconic Tsavo tuskers
  • Holds 18% of Kenya’s Black Rhino

The Tsavo Ecosystem

Why is the Tsavo ecosystem special?

This ecosystem, often referred to as the greater Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA), covers42,000k m2 of arid and semi-arid lands in southern Kenya.

It is made up of three adjoining National Parks (Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Chyulu Hills), which together represent 49% of Kenya’s Protected Areas (over 25,000 km2). The TCA holds significant wildlife populations, both inside and outside the National Parks, including extremely large numbers of elephant and black rhino (40% and 18% of Kenya’s populations, respectively).

Though there has been a decline in historic populations, there is nonetheless huge potential for future growth due to the area’s rich habitat conditions and the broad array of dedicated partners operating within. As the human population continues to strangle wildlife habitat, Tsavo represents one of the last relatively intact ecosystems in Kenya and with that, Tsavo is perhaps the last haven in Kenya for many wild animals to live normally – especially those with extensive ranges, such as elephant, wild dog and lion.

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