Glamour and Gloom of Tsavo East National Park

Lugards falls at Galana river 
It must have been the best news I received after a series of regret letters from other institutions, a long due invitation to the Tsavo Desnaring team re-initiated. Truly the plans of man have nothing on Gods plan. It must have been the best well laid plan from above. The day finally dawned and with much excitement I packed my bags for camping to the Tsavo east national park. I was eager to arrive to experience to explore and none of this can be over emphasized. My first impression of Tsavo east national park was beyond my slightest imaginations it’s a different amazing world. Arrival at dusk heightened my curiosity not sure what I would wake up to or what the next days would be about everything and everyone was new, it was overwhelming!!

 Dawn wasn’t so far after all, for sure nothing stops time and the incalculable tranquility of Tsavo was laid out at first light. An early morning game drive  uncurled every single bend on the meandering roads displaying the abundant diversity of flora and fauna that give a remarkable characteristic to Tsavo east. The randomly distributed families of the red elephants grazing gracefully and with their majestic stance are a magnificent site. The abundance of antelope species which included Impalas, Oryx, Elands, gerenuk,  Grants and Thompsons gazelle and the eye capturing towers of Giraffes standing tall by the bushes, what more would a conservationist devotee ask for?. Back at the camp the hospitality from the members of our team made the day even brighter. The rangers’ presence and remarks were nerve calming as we embarked on the first exercise of desnaring at Ngutuni area. They had so many stories from their experiences to share and at sunset that day I had no doubt I would enjoy each and every moment with them.

Day breaks at Tsavo are breathtaking picturesque sceneries that any camper wouldn’t want to miss, the golden fireball peeping through the horizon illuminates the skies with a blinding glow and rays lighting up the camp. Tourism abundance was evident especially from the many tour vans that would gather around the easily spotted lions by the road side and the many also that would join the camp especially on weekends. The tourism facilities that were on operation within and without the park, one in specific that I really enjoyed a visit was ASHNIL ARUBA LODGE from the strategic location where the sunset and the sunrise are a luxury, an oasis in the desert for a moment I forgot where I was the well maintained gardens and facilities and the clear view of lions hunting and the waterhole for elephants in a clearing its peaceful and sensational.

However, on the daily desnaring exercise it was crystal clear that the communities around the Tsavo conservation area and Taita hills wildlife sanctuary are not a friendly lot. The amount of snares collected around the bordering areas and the ranches are evident that bush meat is rampant. The evident heavy duty wires and how the live snares were set could only show how the poachers have perfected the art of snaring variably among the species. The snares were for small antelopes and gazelles like the dikdiks and there were the larger snares for the zebras and buffaloes and it was very distressing to actually see some of the zebras that managed to get out of the trap but dragging the snares by their necks. I remember vividly the rangers showing and demonstrating how the elephants and the giraffe snares are set and from an incident that we found a dead buffalo near the fence and the following morning it was gone without a trace I was convinced that the small town had a feast that evening and the poachers around that area are very active.

It was evident from observation that the communities are not very aggressive to have vibrant activities to provide for their livelihoods from their poorly constructed temporary houses and a majority dressed in tattered clothes and having bare soils and very high temperatures was a clear indication that poverty is a driving force turning them to illegal activities. In Mbulia conservancy particularly where I witnessed charcoal burners’ destructive activity at length the thickets led to a clearing where so many old charcoal kilns were and an active charcoal kiln. It was very sad when one was caught and from his explanation was that he was a family man not educated enough to get a decent job and thus was introduced to charcoal burning by a friend and as much as they are aware that they are destroying the habitat and the area has dangerous animals he decided to risk anyway to provide for his family and from appearance it seemed that he had nothing to lose and it was so for many other poachers that were caught during the exercise and a clear picture of disillusionment prevailed.

As my attachment neared to close I had a changed mentality on how I viewed conservation issues. There is the interest of the conservationist and that of the communities. A lot has been documented about poachers and human wildlife conflicts but I felt that the situation on the ground was worse. If communities are not assimilated in conservation, guns and electric fences have nothing on adamant communities and it’s a battle that our wildlife will never win. Community advocacy through education and introducing alternative practices to maintain livelihoods will be a close enough solution to manage our ecosystems. Otherwise the continuous communities’ alienation from wildlife management and lack of accrued benefits eventually poisons the attitude towards conservation escalating problems and making it impossible to conserve our dear heritage.


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