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The washumbu Massacre: Stop This Wanton Killing of Wildlife
Poachers Strike Rukinga, Leave Five Elephants Dead!
If you happen to take a game-drive through the Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the things you can be sure not to miss is the mesmerizing sight of the African Elephants, majestically grazing in the expansive grassland savanna or resting peacefully under the shades of the Acacia and Commiphora shrubs. And for those who know how hard Wildlife Works has worked to protect the wildlife in Rukinga, a vote of thanks would surely be in order. But despite all the efforts that we put into protecting the wildlife, tragedy sometimes, as happened on Friday 22nd March, does befall us.
The reason why anyone would want to harm the harmless elephants however remains the single troubling and unanswered question in many nature lovers’ minds. Is it really worth to shoot, maim or kill an elephant for the single reason that it possesses something that you covet?
That was the question that pricked everyone’s conscience as the Wildlife Works Head Ranger, Mr. Eric Sagwe, narrated how under the cover of darkness, armed poachers had gained access to Washumbu Ranch on Friday 22nd March and proceeded to shoot, kill and butcher five African Elephants!
The five elephants, which included three males aged between 30-35 years and two females, were discovered on Saturday afternoon after painstaking efforts to track down the poachers.
Eric narrated to us how his team of dedicated Wildlife Works rangers had tried to pursue the poachers form Wednesday evening and how fate seemed to conspire to deny them a chance to catch the criminals before they killed the elephants.
“We spotted suspicious footprints in the ranch on Wednesday at around 2:00 p.m. after which we called officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service to notify them and possibly cooperate with them to track down the poachers,” Eric revealed to us.
KWS deployed its officers who arrived at the ranch at around 6:00 pm by which time darkness was already falling over the wilderness making it hard to track footprints that had been left by the poachers. Tracking was therefore postponed to the following day, Thursday 23rd March, while Eric spent the remaining part of Wednesday evening with the KWS Company Commander laying down the tracking strategies they would use to catch the poachers before they committed the crime.
The hunt for the poachers continued for most of Thursday with the rangers from Wildlife Works and KWS officers covering from as far as Rukinga and Dawida Ranches to Talu and Kasigau Ranches on the other end. At one spot in Kasigau Ranch, the rangers came across a spot where they believed the poachers might have pitched camp for the night with the telltale signs of a small camp fire and preparations of a meal.
The search on Thursday however yielded nothing and by Friday, some of the search teams were becoming convinced that the footprints that had been spotted on Wednesday were a ruse. The search was farther made complicated by rains which had fallen a few hours earlier therefore erasing most of the footprints. It was also hard to distinguish the poachers’ footprints from those of herders who graze their livestock in some of the ranches.
With every clue and track they followed appearing like a wild goose chase, it was no surprise that when the rangers heard a rifle shot ricochet in the depths of the Dawida Ranch on Saturday afternoon, they concentrated all their effort in scanning and covering possible loopholes in the ranch, only to discover they had been tricked! The gun shot that went off at the Dawida Ranch was actually meant to distract and divert them from Washumbu Ranch where the five elephnats had been killed, and where the poachers were possibly making their getaway at that precise moment.
Interviews from communities living around the neighboring ranches revealed that repeated gunshots had been heard for the better part of Friday evening in Washumbu ranch. But were ignored because, according to the interviewed people, they thought KWS rangers were engaging poachers in the park.
A KWS patrol aircraft was then directed to scan Washumbu Ranch where after a few hours of keen patrol, the five carcasses were discovered, almost hurdled together. It became apparent that the poachers had ambushed the group of elephants and proceeded to fell and hack off tusks from five of them.
In addition to hacking out their tusks, the genitalia and bellybuttons from a male and a female elephant had also been chopped off.
Efforts to track down, and bring the poachers to justice have been heightened with the authorities appealing to members of the society to avail any information that may lead to the apprehension of the poachers.
Meanwhile, a somber mood hangs over the whole Wildlife Works fraternity, the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor Communities and the whole world at large for this is not just a Kasigau Corridor loss. It is not a Wildlife Works loss only. It is a loss for the whole universe, for Mother Nature, and for you and I.
We cannot however continue to reminisce and wish back the hands of time. We cannot wish the group of five fallen elephants back to life, and we cannot watch as the Loxodonta africana is driven to extinction by these ruthless merchants. But every one of us can do something to ensure that nothing like this happens again. It all begins with you and I. Think about what you can do. If I was in the Middle-East or anywhere else where game trophies are traded and converted to whatever, I would take a pledge to never again purchase ornaments made from wildlife trophy.