Poachers turn to snaring elephants

Wednesday July 31 2013

A herd of elephants graze in the Amboseli National Park, with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. One elephant has died of snare wounds, an indication that poachers are changing tack in their attacks on animals in Tsavo conservancy.

A herd of elephants graze in the Amboseli National Park, with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. One elephant has died of snare wounds, an indication that poachers are changing tack in their attacks on animals in Tsavo conservancy. 

By MATHIAS RINGA [email protected]

One elephant has died of snare wounds, an indication that poachers are changing tack in their attacks on animals in Tsavo conservancy.

The death brought to five the number of elephants killed in the conservancy over the last three months. Four others were shot with poisoned arrows.

Rangers found the dead elephant in the Taita-Taveta ranches after it was caught by a snare, said Mr Robert O’Brein, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) assistant director in charge of Tsavo Conservancy.

A KWS team on patrol in the vast ranches later recovered the animal’s tusks. Mr O’Brein said rangers had found thousands of snares in the vast conservancy and feared for the safety of Tsavo elephants.

Hiring villagers

The snares were capable of catching both large and small animals, he said.

“We discovered thousands of traps laid by poachers in the ranch,” he said.

Poachers put the snares on trees and on paths the elephants use to reach grazing areas and water points. Some poachers have also been hiring villagers to kill the animals using poisoned arrows.

Last month, the police conducted a mop-up of firearms in the area. Some of the weapons were used by poachers to kill elephants. Mr O’Brein said KWS had teamed up with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to remove the snares from the conservancy.

The trust has vast experience in de-snaring.

With the support of the public, KWS has arrested six poachers who were found with poisoned arrows and snares.

“Villagers are now cooperating with us and they have helped us arrest six suspects,” Mr O’Brein said. “A wildlife NGO is also helping us by disabling the traps.”

He said the notorious areas include Sagala, Kasigau, Mackinon, Kilibasi, Maungu, Kuranze, Bachuma, Dakota and Yatta Plateau in Ukambani.