Our Masters student from the University of Dar es Salaam, Lukinga Thabit, has been busy in the field researching the status and viability of the threatened Mtandika corridor between Udzungwa and Ruaha, an important route for elephants and other wildlife. On a recent break to do some data entry, he posted an update on how the fieldwork is going – together with an appeal for help to complete his studies. He’s finding out some interesting stuff – including some unexpected associations between elephants and goats! You can read his short progress report over on our Masters studies page.
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.
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)
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!
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.
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
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.