If you are a regular reader of our articles, you may have seen our last article on how conservation has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. If you have not yet had the chance to read it, you can access it here.
As many of you will know, poaching is very often the unfortunate side effect of socioeconomic hardship, especially bushmeat poaching. Poachers often come from the more disadvantaged groups of society and illegal hunting often rises in times of hardship.
We are currently living through such a time.
On our doorstep, we have seen crimes against protected wildlife increase and, unfortunately, we at the Tsavo Trust find ourselves increasingly hindered in our attempts, as a support body to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to combat this resurgence in illegal hunting,.
How the economic downturn is affecting Tsavo Trust’s Conservation efforts
These are testing and unprecedented times. As they force prospective poachers into the wild places of Kenya in search of bushmeat or ivory and rhino horn, the economic downturn has also hit the Tsavo Trust’s valued donors.
As the fight to protect our wildlife becomes increasingly desperate, our funding is becoming increasingly challenging to raise. Our employees, so committed to the project they believe in, have accepted significant salary cuts. Our ground teams have been reduced by half, our flying operations curtailed and our monthly budget for fuel has been severely slashed, in an effort to reduce our operating costs and ensure longevity of our field activities.
Currently, it is our hope that we will be able to avoid laying any of our hard-working and committed employees off. This all stands, however, on our ability to strategize our depleted finances in the hope that it allows for continued operations, albeit at a reduced level.
A reminder that our work is more important than ever
On the 14th of April, we received a chilling reminder of the relationship between poaching and poverty. In one of our previous articles, we highlighted the importance of community engagement in the preservation of our wild spaces.
Wildlife is all too often considered a threat to subsistence farmers, or else it can be considered an easy meal when no other is available. One of our proudest achievements has been the improved relations we have helped foster, through development of Kamungi and Shirango Conservancies that boarder the Tsavo parks, whereby both community members and wildlife have benefited from this conservancy model.
Within Kamungi Conservancy, where Tsavo Trust is headquartered, and prior to this pandemic, we noted happily that snares were less often found and wildlife had recolonised areas they previously avoided. Last week, however, we found an arrow lodged in the neck of an adult zebra.
As our neighbours within the area are forced to contend with an unforeseen threat to their livelihoods, some it seems are growing more desperate. Fortunately, one of the KWS veterinarians, supported by SWT managed to help this zebra by extracting the arrowhead. But it is another example, close to home, if any was needed, that our battle to protect these animals is fast reaching a crucial stage.
To add to the above example, joint KWS / Tsavo Trust field teams have made significant bushmeat poacher arrests this month, with 3 poachers having killed several lesser kudu, 450kg of meat and poachers hunting equipment recovered.
Encouragement given to us from our incredible benefactors
Despite the limitations we have had to place on our everyday operations, there is still some positive news to share from the world of conservation.
In our attempts to undermine the increased bushmeat poaching, we are providing a “stop gap” alternative. We have decided to supply a stockpile of foodstuffs to the local Kamungi Conservancy members who border Tsavo West northern boundary. Comprised of various beans, maize meal and other staples, our care package is so far worth Ksh. 300,000 ($3,000) and growing.
Now, more than ever, the Tsavo Trust needs your assistance
The threat to the longevity and beauty of our natural world has never been higher. It falls to us, uncomfortably and regrettably, to ask for aid when we know that the rest of the world also suffers from the fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic. The wildlife we work so hard to protect cannot write and they cannot ask for help.
If you think you are in a position to help, then please do. You can do so by following this link. Now, more than ever before, your donation will be appreciated.