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Concept for Establishing Additional Mobile Field Units (TEMBO TEAMS) in the Tsavo Conservation Area, Kenya

The Tsavo Trust (TT) works in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), through a valid Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) covering several programs and objectives across the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) including enhancing aerial and ground anti-poaching operations as well as wildlife monitoring with a special emphasis on Tsavo’s iconic “Super Tuskers”.

The TCA spans a massive 40,000 square kilometers (22,000 square kilometers of National Park alone) and harbour’s immense biodiversity. The TCA holds the single largest population of elephants in Kenya – just over 11,000 animals at the last aerial census (February 2014) – and arguably the world’s last viable population and gene pool of elephants carrying exceptionally large and long ivory.

Following the death of the iconic Tusker known as “Satao” in May 2014 (via a poachers poisoned arrow), the Tsavo Trust established a mobile Tusker monitoring unit called Tembo 2 team in October 2014 as a follow on to Tembo 1 anti-poaching unit (established in June 2014).

Tembo 2 team is not directly involved at the sharp end of anti-poaching, but more alongside KWS Research and Monitoring Departments within the TCA, mainly in Tsavo East National Park (TENP). The main emphasis here is to monitor the large Tuskers as often as possible in-situ on the ground and frequently in tandem with aerial activities whereby ground deployments can be guided. In so doing a layer of “eyes and ears” at ground level is achieved to compliment the “eyes in the skies” under the aerial unit. A combined ground and air project has proved to produce far better monitoring results and in turn provides greater security for the big Tuskers. For example in September 2014 there were only 14 different observations made of Tuskers (12 known individuals) yet in September 2015 there were 62 different observations made consisting of 10 iconic bulls, 4 emerging bulls and 3 iconic cow Tuskers. Within the TCA only 10 remaining big iconic Super Tuskers exist (those with ivory to the ground and over 45kg each tusk), a further 16 emerging bull Tuskers and 7 iconic cow Tuskers known and recorded to date.


Tembo 2 team consists of 3 Tsavo Trust men, led by 1 Field Officer (holds a degree in wildlife management), 1 driver and 1 Field Assistant (all of whom received elephant identification training by Save The Elephants in Northern Kenya in September 2014). In addition at least 2 KWS field research staff makes up the complete Tembo 2 team, who conduct field-monitoring patrols on a daily basis in TENP.


Tembo 2 is mobile, self sufficient and able to move across TENP with a 4 x 4 vehicle fabricated and modified for rugged off road conditions. Other equipment includes tentage, camp beds, bedrolls, cooking utensils, camera, binoculars; GPS, mobile phone, radios, staff salary costs and food ration supplies (see budget breakdown below).

Wildlife monitoring:

The Tembo 2 team currently provides the only platform available in TENP Research Department for meaningful field data collection to KWS (presently there is no vehicle or resources at KWS’s disposal) and this reflects the importance of the Tembo teams to Park Management. As well as big Tusker monitoring, this on-going project also contributes valuable data on endangered and threatened species including the Hirola or Hunters antelope (Beatragus hunter, Endangered), Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi, Endangered); African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus, Endangered), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus, Vulnerable), Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious, Vulnerable) and Lion (Panthera leo, Vulnerable) – thereby adding value to any investment in this project as well as an excellent example of where Government/Private conservation partnerships exist.

Through the consistent findings of the aerial unit combined with the Tembo 2 team, the Tsavo Trust maintains a database on relevant information gathered pertaining to the big Tuskers. This information has been collected since the Tsavo Trust BTP began in January 2013.

Establishing Tembo 3 and Tembo 4 teams: With additional funding support the Tsavo Trust plans to establish and deploy a further 2 more mobile field based monitoring teams – Tembo 3 and Tembo 4 teams. For the reasons shown above this is a vital extra component in order to tackle the ever-growing pressure on elephant populations but also essential if the big Super Tuskers of Tsavo are to survive and pass on their unique and rare ivory genes to further generations.

Tembo 3 team:

Currently Tsavo West National Park (TWNP – 9,500 square kilometers) does not have a ground-based team to monitor the big Tuskers. This is a must and deployment of Tembo 3 to TWNP working on the same basis, as Tembo 2 in TENP is a priority.

Tembo 4 team:

To relieve some of the pressure on the Tembo 2 team who attempts to cover TENP (12,000 square kilometers), it is envisaged to deploy a second Tembo monitoring team to TENP on exactly the same basis as Tembo 2. The second TENP team will be called Tembo 4.

Big Tusker Project/Aerial and Ground Units:


The table below summarizes number of hours flown, miles covered, individual big “Tuskers” observed, ivory recovered, numbers of fresh and recent elephant carcasses, numbers of poachers camps/blinds/hides and platforms, number of joint TT/KWS arrests and number of aerial responses to armed situations for 2015.

Activity Hours Flown Miles Covered
Aerial Reconnaissance
January to December 2015
Average 74 mph low level flight
Flights carried out jointly with KWS Officers/
Rangers, thus current/live info. relayed to
ground units for action

Monthly Average
January to December 2015

 Average of 47.25 hrs per month Average of 3,489 miles per month
 Big “Tuskers”   No. Observed
January to December 2015  

– Iconic Tuskers: 10 different bulls (2 lost in 2015 – IR1 c of d – natural, DA1 c of d unconfirmed)
– Emerging Tuskers: 18 different bulls
– Iconic Cow Tuskers: 7 different cows

Total: 28 bulls & 7 cows

Ivory recovered   No. Recovered
January to December 2015 18 tusks recovered from poached, natural and unconfirmed causes of death. All jointly recovered by TT/KWS ground teams
 Elephant carcasses   No. Observed
 Fresh  Recent
 January to December 2015 45  10 
Poachers camps and hides/blinds/platforms   No. Observed
 Fresh  Recent
January to December 2015  5  11
Arrests following illegal activity inside the Parks   No. Arrests
(Arrests made by KWS resulting from aerial observations and back up to KWS operations by TT aircraft)
Aerial responses to armed gangs and backup to KWS   No. Responses
 January to December 2015   11
(Both inside and outside the National Parks as back up to KWS)
 Notable Occurences  

·       14 Feb 15 – Loss of Tusker DA1, ivory 51kg and 48kg recovered by KWS/TT

·       April 15 – Pilot Josh Outram started work for TT/BTP

·       May 15 – record number of individual Tusker sightings in a single month – 74

·       June 15 – support to combined KWS/Kenya Police operation in the Taita Ranches, with TT aerial back up. Over 100 arrests made

·       27 July 15 – Locating 6 poached elephants and aerial support to KWS ground teams

·       16 Aug 15 – Locating 20,000 cattle and bomas for KWS in TWNP – 22 arrests made

·       14 Nov 15 – deployed new Super Cub aircraft 5Y TTZ to Tsavo Ops

·       16 Nov 15 – donated new Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle to KWS, TWNP

·       Several occasions – avgas and diesel donations to KWS specific field Ops

·       All months – Elephant poaching well down compared to 2014

·       All months – support to KWS in all TCA rhino areas – TENP, TWNP, CHNP

·       All months – support to KWS Research and Monitoring Depts. through predator and endangered species observations – ground and air

Table below shows the capital expenditure and running budget to set up and maintain an additional Tembo team (Tembo 3 or Tembo 4):

1 US$ = Ksh. 100

COST ITEM / EQUIPMENT No. Units Cost Unit US$ Total Cost US$
ONE OFF CAPEX COSTS (US$) – In bold below $78,759
Itemized Budget:
1 new 4 x 4 vehicle Toyota Land Cruiser pick-up 1 55,000 (one off cost) 55,000
Steel fabrication, canvas cover, seating, suspension upgrade of vehicle for rugged off road conditions 1 10,000 10,000
1 trailer/water tank bowser 1 6,000 (one off cost) 6,000
1 years vehicle running cost, incl. fuel, maintenance (Based on AA rates for 4×4 Toyota L/Cruiser costs)  1  $1 p/km, 2500km p/month  30,000
 1 set new vehicle tires x 6  6  216  1,296
 1 years fully comprehensive vehicle insurance  1  1 1,450
 1 years salary to Field Officer, gross 1 400 per month 4,800
 1 years salary to vehicle driver, gross 1 280 per month 3,360
 1 years salary to 2 Tembo 1 scouts, gross 1 200 per month 2,400
 KWS Ranger Field Allowances (daily @ $ 3) 2 180 per month 2,160
 Uniforms 3  212  636
1 years food rations (dry and fresh), 3 men 3  36 per month each 1,296
 Workman’s compensation/insurance/liability cover for whole team, 1 year 1 500 500
 Medical expenses for whole team 1  200 per month  2,500
 Management oversight time @ 15% 1 1,000 12,000
 2 x 10 foot x 10 foot H/D canvas tents (one off) 2  1,800 (one off) 3,600
 Camp equipment, campstools x 6, 2 tables, cooking equip. Misc. Misc. (one off) 294
 3 bed rolls & camp beds 3 205 615
 Radio’s (Motorola type) – 1 base set in vehicle 1  600 600
 Radio’s (Motorola type) – 2 hand held sets plus solar charging panels 2 500 1,000
 1 GPS 1  600 600
1 set binoculars  1 500 500
 1 digital camera for recording purposes  1  500 500
 1 mobile telephone  1 50 50
 Airtime for communications / mobile phone 1 20 per month  240
 Miscellaneous costs / Administration  1 300 per month  3,600
   TOTAL COSTS (US$)  $144,897

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