After our team helped to extinguish the deadly fires on Mt. Kenya National Park last month, part of the team left for Naivasha for a de-snaring and outreach mission. The Naivasha area in the Great Rift Valley is one of the most hard-hit bushmeat trade hotspots in Kenya and our teams take every opportunity to pitch camp here.
After the usual catching up with our hosts; the Senior Warden Hell’s Gate National Park Nelly Palmeris, Karen Ndiema the Warden in charge of Naivasha station and the other Kenya Wildlife Service officials in the region, it was time to begin our outreach mission concentrating on the schools in the bushmeat hotspots.
“With a Kenya Wildlife Service vet now based in the Naivasha region, we couldn’t be happier! We don’t have to wait any longer for a vet from either our Headquarters or the Mara to come to the aid of our injured animals, instead, our interventions are now based on real time” were some of the Senior Warden’s most reassuring words. Unlike our previous rescues, we knew that we wouldn’t need to wait too long for the vets help.
During one of our patrols we spotted a zebra which was dragging a long copper snare around her neck. Thankfully the snare had not eaten too much into the zebra’s skin although it had already started taking its toll on the poor animal. Within exactly 33 minutes, the vet had joined us and we were all trying to capture the snared zebra which appeared to nearly outrun our two Land Rovers. Ndambiri the KWS vet, who we must say hardly ever misses his target while darting the animals, had the zebra comfortably on the ground and after removing the snare, the zebra was swiftly back with the rest. We then got back to our regular patrols – lifting tens of snares in just a few hours.
Four hours later and about fifteen kilometers away we spotted an adult buffalo with a huge snare around her neck and a young calf in tow. Unlike the zebra’s wounds, the buffalo had already suffered life-threatening injuries from the snare. The vet was again able to re-join us quickly. Treating what is easily the most dangerous animal in Africa is not for the fainthearted! Even the bravest of our team members betrayed a little tension and more caution than usual. Our driver was particularly alert and was ready to drive to safety.
As we attempted to have the buffalo darted, it seemed like everyone had stories to tell on experiences with buffalos. It took the buffalo a while to go down and once on the ground the vet led us in removing the deadly snare which had almost cost the buffalo’s life and almost certainly the calf’s life too. The wounds were cleaned and antibiotics given. As we all held the buffalo to the ground to allow the vet to attend to the injuries, it was clear that everybody was on very high alert; tense but determined to give the poor animal a second chance. And sure enough the buffalo was on all fours and reunited with the calf and the other herd members. These are always the moments we shed tears of joy!
“With the support of Animal Rights Reserved Mobile Vet unit in collaboration with KWS the wildlife welfare in the area has received a major boost.We have saved many animals since we settled here in Naivasha early this month (March 2012).” Assured Dr. Ndambiri, the vet in charge of the new team as they work to ease the pain of the long suffering animals.
The rest of the week was busy, particularly after more schools got wind of our now very popular outreach missions. We had to double our efforts in sharing our conservation message with the ever attentive children and teachers. Soon it was again time to bring down our tents having given our contribution to the welfare of our wildlife; a job I would not trade in for anything.
Victor Mutumah- Born Free Kenya