Large Elephant Monitoring Project, Kenya

Tsavo’s last surviving “hundred pounder” tuskers (elephant bulls bearing ivory weighing over 100 lbs. per side) are in peril. Due to the recent surge in elephant poaching, this action-oriented project will individually identify on a regular and consistent basis the known large bull elephants of Tsavo via light aircraft. Data will be collected during reconnaissance flights then shared with Kenya Wildlife Services and Save The Elephants for research and elephant management purposes. Through this project the profile of Tsavo’s large elephants will be raised and the interest generated for these animals will attract more funds to protect them and more Kenyan and international tourists to this region which will in turn protect the bulls from poachers.

Project Summary

During the project period, January to December 2014, the Tsavo Trust purchased sixteen 55.5- gallon drums of aviation fuel (Avgas) and paid for transport costs from Nairobi to Tsavo to support aerial reconnaissance, anti-poaching and elephant management under the Large Elephant Monitoring Project.

The Tsavo Trust received US$10,000 support funds from the International Elephant Foundation on 6th March 2014. However the purchase order for the Avgas was placed on 14th February 2014, following confirmation by the International Elephant Foundation that this grant had been approved. The thinking behind this was that the sooner the Avgas was received, the sooner aerial coverage could continue.

The Tsavo Trust’s Large Elephant Monitoring Project receives generous funding support from various other conservation organisations and individuals including Save The elephants/Wildlife Conservation Network – Elephant Crisis Fund who provide the main funding for this project.

For the first half of 2014 the Tsavo Trust’s Super Cub, registration 5Y ACE, flew a total of 271 hours over the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) that covered 19,637 miles (as per the Interim Report submitted in June 2014). The second half of 2014 added a further 244 hours of reconnaissance flight and 18,845 miles were covered at an average speed of 75 miles per hour.

The total for the year equates to 515 hours of flight and 38,482 miles covered of which IEF has kindly provided Avgas costs for 112 hours that covered 8,400 miles of reconnaissance (9.3 hours per month) over Tsavo in 2014. This aerial coverage is in support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the governing wildlife agency in Kenya and the elephants of Tsavo. As well as regular aerial reconnaissance flights over Tsavo in collaboration with KWS, the Tsavo Trust’s Super Cub aircraft and Chief Conservation Officer, Richard Moller also took part in the Tsavo-Mkomazi Aerial Count for Elephants and Other Large Mammals that took place between 3rd and 10th February 2014, where just over 11,000 elephants were counted within the Tsavo Ecosystem.

Unfortunately poaching pressure on Tsavo’s elephants, during early 2014 was an enormous challenge to the authorities that manage this huge Protected Area along with their conservation partners. Numbers of fresh elephant carcasses found in the first half of 2014 was high. It was encouraging to note that in the second half, elephant poaching declined significantly as a result of greater efforts by KWS and their partners in stepping up security within the Tsavo’s. For example, in May 2014 alone, 23 elephant carcasses were found, but in contrast, between June and end of December 2014 a total of only 20 elephant carcasses were found by the Tsavo Trust’s aerial observations. This clearly shows some positive outcomes in the second half of 2014. Tsavo Trust aims to continue supporting KWS efforts to maintain this positive trend, despite increasing pressure on Kenya’s elephant populations as elephant numbers across the continent continue to decline.

Without consistent aerial coverage over the vast and largely road-less expanse of Tsavo, an accurate picture of the situation on the ground could not be achieved.

Read the Complete Final Project Report Here