Tsavo Trust’s Big Tusker Project (BTP) works in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other support partners to provide an aerial blanket over the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) to support biodiversity protection operations and play an active role in research and monitoring of wildlife with a focus on Tsavo’s elephant population (approximately 15,000 individuals), with specific emphasis on the iconic ‘Tuskers’. This project also provides a ground follow-up capacity to boost KWS’s efforts on the ground especially in ‘hot-spot’ poaching areas.
2-Seater Super Cub Aircraft
Map shows flight paths flown by Tsavo Trust’s aircrafts over the TCA in 2020, where 78,043 kilometers were flown over 708 hours of flight. This equates to flying around the circumference of the earth 1.9 times in a 2-seater Super Cub aircraft that averages 115kph.
Tsavo Trust’s Aerial Unit currently operates two Super Cub aircrafts. The Super Cub is an ideal aircraft for the type of flying required on aerial reconnaissance flights over the largely roadless Tsavo during BTP operations. Slow, low level flight allows for effective reconnaissance by both the pilot and a rear seat observer. The Super Cub is also a relatively inexpensive aircraft to purchase and operate, providing an essential and highly effective element to BTP and KWS operations.
Tsavo Trust has two experienced bush pilots trained, capable, and permitted to fly these aircrafts on aerial reconnaissance flights, in support of KWS, achieving meaningful and measured results in the fight against wildlife crime. A third pilot, Joseph Kyalo, head of Tsavo Trust Research and Monitoring, recently completed pilot training, and will hopefully take to the skies over Tsavo soon
A key aspect of aerial reconnaissance is the ongoing battle between conservationists (Tsavo Trust, KWS and other partners) and the multitude of illegal activities such as ivory poachers, bushmeat poachers, illegal livestock encroachment and Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) that haunt Tsavo’s wildlife daily. The Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) remains a multimillion-dollar industry and there appears to be no end to this worrying trend.
Through aerial reconnaissance, Tsavo Trust alongside KWS has been able to map poachers’ movements as well as monitoring poaching camps and identified “hot spot” zones that require constant attention. Other illegal activities are also closely observed and addressed as necessary. For example, between 2013 and mid 2020, 740 arrests were made in Tsavo following illegal activities by joint KWS / Tsavo Trust activities. The use of our Super Cub aircraft was vital in allowing ground units to make these arrests. Aerial reconnaissance and monitoring remain THE most important conservation tool over the wilderness of Tsavo.
Tsavo Trust is currently seeking funds to maintain existing aerial operations, and to completely rebuild 5Y ACE, the first Super Cub in operation at Tsavo Trust, which now needs a complete overhaul. 5Y ACE knows Tsavo very well and was first deployed for conservation work in Tsavo in 1966, and Tsavo Trust feels she really deserves to enjoy Tsavo’s expanses once again.