Category Archives: Protection

2013: The year so far…

Hi everyone. As we gear up to begin a new project in the amazing Ruaha ecosystem of southern Tanzania – where East Africa’s 2nd largest elephant population is under increasing poaching pressure – here is a brief round-up of our year so far…

olifants

In January, UEP Director Dr. Trevor Jones attended a two-day meeting in Dar es Salaam on the elephant poaching crisis in Tanzania, organised by TEPS (Tanzania Elephant Protection Society) and officiated by Mr. James Lembeli MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee Of Land, Natural Resources And Environment. We subsequently took a lead role in editing the report to the Parliamentary Committee, and Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, recommending solutions to the crisis.

mzinga maua

In February, our human-elephant co-existence project with farmers in the Udzungwa Mountains received a boost with the arrival of international Raleigh volunteers, who (among other jobs) helped the farmers and UEP team to re-build roofs for the 50 beehives that currently make up the beehive fence – and planted flowers under every hive. The Njokomoni Farmers Group have been harvesting honey and it is selling well, with the profits going back into our collaborative efforts to reduce the crop-raiding.

Abbas_Mtandika

In March, our MSc student, Lukinga Thabit, completed his fieldwork on the important elephant corridor linking Ruaha and Udzungwa Mountains National Parks. Lukinga is writing up now at the University of Dar es Salaam, and his results will help guide our plans to conserve this critical genetic connectivity for Southern Tanzania’s elephants.

Elephant Poaching_Bunge 23rd April 2013.v4

In April, Trevor visited Parliament in Dodoma, as part of a task force invited by Mr. Lembeli MP to address the Parliamentary Committee on the elephant poaching crisis. Our message seemed to shock as well as inform MPs, and was carried into the next week’s main chamber session on the annual Environment budget, resulting in pledges for major action from the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. Examples of the news stories that reported on these debates and announcements can be found here and here.

honey jar_prototype

May was devoted mostly to meetings and fundraising, with the UEP field team again running the Annual Iringa Marathon. Deals were struck with some tourist lodges and camps to sell the increasingly popular “Njokomoni elephant-friendly honey“, ensuring a better price for the farmers.

NatGeo putting microphone on Ponjoli in between chili-oil and beehive fences

In June, in collaboration with the Njokomoni Farmers Group and again with the help of Raleigh volunteers, we completed the creation of a community tourism trail (complete with bridges and vantage points) that tours the fascinating environment at the interface between the forest edge of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and the farms that are being affected by elephants. The idea is to develop community-based tourism to provide some extra income for the farmers, and raise awareness of the local challenges we all face to enhance human-wildlife coexistence in the area.

paulo & jo_CTSamir_med

Throughout July and August, Yale University student Jo Smit worked with our team in Mang’ula, including on our three years of camera-trapping data looking at elephants leaving the forest and entering the farms. We have some very interesting and surprising results emerging from this monitoring, which are of great relevance to management of the problem – and we will be posting more on this very soon. In November and December, we will be hosting two more students from Holland who will be helping us analyse the effectiveness of the beehive and chilli-oil fences that are around the farms…

USFWS

And in September, we have been preparing for our new project in Ruaha, which begins in October and is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund. We will post more about this project too soon (with more regular updates on our Facebook page). We are happy to be extending into the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, where elephants need all the help they can get…

All the best , the UEP team

Aerial support helping elephant protection efforts in the Udzungwa Mountains

A view from the plane

We are in the midst of an elephant poaching crisis, and even in the remotest parts  of the Udzungwa Mountains, elephants are not insulated from the threat that emanates from China and her neighbours. Last month, three elephants were killed up in the mountains, and their tusks hacked off. The anti-poaching and intelligence wardens and rangers of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park are an effective force, but like everyone on the frontline in elephant country, they have their work cut out to protect these magnificent beasts from the greed and ignorance of the ivory traders.

Pilot David Moyer briefing his passengers: L to R, Arafat Mtui (UEMC), Joel Masaki (Asst Protection Warden), Pius Mzimbe (Protection Warden), Ponjoli Joram (Ecologist)

With help from the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund, we are providing some aerial support to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Apart from one day with a helicopter earlier this year,  the Park has had no assistance from the air as they try to cover this challenging area of mountains and remote plateaus. So we asked local conservationist and pilot David Moyer, who is based nearby in Iringa and knows Udzungwa like the back of his hand, to do some flights and be on call with his small Cessna plane. While some of the mountainsides are cloaked in sublime closed-canopy rainforest, other extensive areas are drier and more open meaning that much useful information can be gleaned from the air. On a flight last week with both protection wardens and the park ecologist, a previously unknown elephant carcass was spotted, and some extensive fires set by poachers were discovered, prompting a rapid ground response.

Taking off

Flights until now have made use of the Illovo Sugar Company’s airstrip in the northern Kilombero Valley. Park wardens are now looking into the possibility of creating some small airstrips within the Park, including in remote areas, which would help respond more rapidly to reports of poachers, fires and other threats up in the mountains.

L to R: Trevor Jones (UEP), David Moyer (Pilot), Ponjoli Joram (Park Ecologist), Joel Masaki (Asst. Protection Warden)

 

Tanzanian National Elephant Management Plan launched

TEMP front cover

Click on this image to download the whole document (7MB)

The Udzungwa Elephant Project are proud to have been involved in the epic collaborative effort to bring this important document into being. I worked for a year and a half alongside TAWIRI and WCS staff in Arusha, and around the country collecting data on the major elephant populations, to assess the current status of Tanzania’s elephants. We also surveyed officials from all 108 districts of Tanzania to understand patterns and trends in human-elephant conflict. Workshops around the country gathered input and opinions from stakeholders, and finally 70 experts represented Tanzania in a gruelling 3-day workshop to finalise all the objectives, targets and actions required to conserve and protect the country’s amazing elephant populations and habitats over the next five years and beyond. Lots more hard work now lies ahead to ensure that the Plan does not just gather dust on shelves.

Everyone reached agreement on nine national ‘strategic objectives’, representing the most important challenges facing elephant conservation in Tanzania, and the Udzungwa Elephant Project has adopted the top three (plus of course number 6!) as the main focus of our work:

1. Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC)

2. Elephant Corridors

3. Law Enforcement

4. Benefits/Sustainable Utilisation

5. Management of Ivory Stockpiles

6. Research and Monitoring

7. Elephant Health and Welfare

8. Cross-border Cooperation

9. Elephant Information Management

The Plan is ambitious, but we have to strive as best we can towards the targets that are laid out under each objective. Please download and give it a read, and if you can help in any small way towards Tanzania’s noble vision to “be a world leader in elephant conservation”, then do not hesitate!

QGIS Training for Park staff

QGIS training

This week we have been training Protection and Ecology staff of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park in use of QGIS, in collaboration with the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre and GIS fundi Nick McWilliam (of Map Action and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). Quantum GIS (QGIS) is open source, completely free, high quality GIS software and therefore a great option for Tanzanian Protected Area managers and researchers to manage their spatial data, and make the maps that they need for their work. Special thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Fund for supporting this training.

USFWS

Mikumi road

In early January, when driving through Mikumi National Park along the Dar to Mbeya Highway, we saw two elephant cow-calf groups crossing the road mid-morning. Traffic was busy as usual and we had to wave at the lorry behind us to slow down and stop instead of pass us when we saw that the elephants were wanting to cross. We also noticed that the park has put up signs that say “no animal viewing” which means that people can no longer stop along the road to look at animals without risking a fine. While this may be good for the park (in terms of tourist dollars) and will hopefully encourage people to visit Mikumi rather than just drive through it, it also means that people aren’t slowing down when they DO see animals. And the speed bumps are in need of repair.

In recent months, there have been reports of increased poaching in Mikumi. There have also been sightings of large elephant herds with animals crowded close together – an indication of poaching pressure. Researchers at Mikumi’s Animal Behaviour Research Unit (ABRU) report almost daily problems with poachers which at times, keep them from going into the field. The Mikumi highway certainly makes the park more accessible and Mikumi elephants more vulnerable to poaching. Perhaps the no-stopping regulation along the road will make any stopped vehicle look suspicious to rangers – which could be a good thing. As long as people still stop for wildlife crossing.

Click on image for larger view.

Onwards and Upwards: New Year MIKE Workshop

Hi all, and Happy New Year; we hope you’ve had a relaxing break. After a showing of BBC’s Frozen Planet and some dancing on Saturday night, we have been straight back into it, facilitating a training workshop yesterday for the 30+ rangers of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park who were around for the new year.  For those of you not familiar with MIKE – Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants – it is a CITES-managed, Africa and Asia-wide programme for monitoring trends in elephant populations and illegal killing. There are 51 MIKE sites across 28 countries in Africa. Of the four designated MIKE sites in Tanzania, the Udzungwa Mountains are part of the largest site, the ‘Selous-Mikumi-Udzungwa ecosystem’ (the others being Tarangire, Ruaha-Rungwa and Katavi-Rukwa).

At the request of the Protection Department of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the Udzungwa Elephant Project is helping with training so that the Udzungwa sector of the site can fully participate in contributing all the different types of MIKE data to the central database. All of these data are assessed to look at which populations are suffering the most serious declines, and to try to identify the most important factors driving the killing of elephants. While it has become clear over the last three years that elephants are facing a new crisis of poaching for their tusks across much of Africa, the quantity and quality of data being contributed to the database from around the continent provide a major challenge for the MIKE programme.

Udzungwa Park rangers, MIKE training workshop, Mang'ula, 2nd January 2012

Udzungwa Park rangers, MIKE training workshop, Mang'ula, 2nd January 2012

Yesterday’s workshop was specifically for the rangers, to introduce MIKE and ensure data are collected correctly in the field when on patrol using standard MIKE field forms. We used an example provided by Save The Elephants from Laikipia-Samburu. Feedback was good, including from senior wardens, and we are continuing to work closely with both the Park Protection Wardens and the rangers, to help with protection of elephants in whatever ways we can. Next on the agenda will be a GPS workshop for the rangers who need an introduction or re-fresher in the use of GPS hand-held units.

Many thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Program for supporting this work, and to the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre for hosting this first of a series of workshops.

USFWS