Click on the photos to find out more about our activities in 2015
Monitoring and Research: In August we began monitoring of elephants in partnership with the Udzungwa Mountains National Park Ecology Department. STEP’s Paulo and Jose with will walk 24 km of transects every month recording and measuring recent elephant dung in order to understand elephant distribution and density, basic elephant demography (by measuring dung to age elephants), and to understand the effects of threats such as deforestation and poaching
Monitoring and Research: As part of the TAWIRI Ruaha-Rungwa elephant re-census STEP collaborated on a large camera-trapping survey in remote parts of this huge ecosystem, the results of which will be published in the forthcoming official census report.
The team! In clockwise direction: Kepha, Athumani, Shubert, Josephine, Nanginyi, Lameck, Kennedy, Trevor, BK, Jenipha, Anne, Charles, Jose, Paulo. Special thanks are due, for all his support this year, to STEP Honorary Chair, Mr. Arafat Mtui. Thanks also to our Scientific Advisor, Dr. Katarzyna Nowak; mapper David Lloyd-Jones; to Michael and Amina; to our volunteers Emmanuel Stephens, Abas Kiobya and Rehema John; field assistants and drivers Maneno and Serafino; and for support and friendship in Udzungwa from Richard Laizzer and the staff of UEMC.
Monitoring and Research: Beginning in February, our field team has been carrying out systematic monthly transects to understand elephant distribution and demography in the Ruaha ecosystem. Our transects take us to the most remote parts of the Park, so we act as additional eyes and ears on the ground. Pictured here is F082-01 (also known as Amma), one of the >1000 elephants we have individually identfied in our Ruaha elephant ID database. This database is allowing us to get to know different families and learn about seasonal movements and behaviour, and how these may be affected by poaching.
In February, we held the “STEP Up for Elephants” fundraiser with special guest Jane Goodall in Dar es Salaam to raise money for STEP’s aerial program and human-elephant coexistence projects. Many thanks to Yasmine Haji and the elephant lovers committee who made it happen!
Human-elephant coexistence: in July and August, the dedicated team of Jenipha, Kennedy, and Kepha travelled by bus, motorbike and on foot through 33 villages bordering Ruaha National Park to interview village leaders and farmers about human-elephant conflict (HEC). The data they collected will help us identify hotspots of elephant crop-raiding and other sources of conflict, and decide where best we can offer help in the future – especially with beehive fence projects that can reduce raiding and provide alternative incomes to poaching. This survey was a formative experience for the team, whose conversations with people inspired reflection on the ethics of conservation and socio-economic issues facing rural Tanzania and the best path to long-term coexistence between people and elephants.
Elephant protection: we support aerial and foot patrols in Rungwa Game Reserve, which has been particularly hard hit by the elephant poaching crisis. Left: Rungwa rangers. Right: Rungwa Game Reserve Manager Said Kabanda and STEP Director Trevor Jones give GPS training to rangers.
Training and Consultation: In July, Josephine, Lameck and BK travelled to Kenya for training and consultation with two long-term elephant research and conservation projects. They first visited the world’s longest-running elephant study – the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) – where they spent three days in the field ageing elephants with Norah Njiraini, one of the project’s long-term research assistants. The team also learned from AERP’s Resident Scientist, Dr. Vicki Fishlock, how the project manages its forty-years’ worth of data, in particular its large ID database of elephants, and how they keep track of individual elephant’s lives from birth to death. The team then travelled to Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya to visit the research camp of Save the Elephants (STE). As well as learning about STE’s long-term elephant monitoring program, we were introduced to their use of collaring technology to understand the movements of elephants in the arid landscapes of northern Kenya. Amboseli and Samburu are excellent examples of what long-term monitoring of elephants can achieve in terms of furthering our understanding of these magnificent animals, and securing a future for elephants in East Africa’s stunning landscapes. Many thanks to everyone in Amboseli and Samburu for sharing their knowledge with us!
Citizen science: in June we began an exciting collaboration with Ruaha Carnivore Project and guides from eight tourist camps in Ruaha on a program to collect elephant sightings data from game drives. Guides are now sharing their elephant sightings data and photos with us, helping us add new elephants to our Ruaha ID database and increase our sightings of known individuals. Top left: Lameck provides training to students at Mkuyu Guide school in how to sex, age, and identify elephants. Bottom left: Josephine provides training to guides at Ruaha River Lodge. Right: A magnificent bull spotted by guide Tomas of Mdonya Old River Camp). — with Josephine Smit and Lameck Mkuburo.
Advocacy for elephants: In early 2015, Trevor spoke at a protest organized by March for Elephants UK. STEP continues to support all campaigns for an immediate and permanent end to the global ivory trade, the destruction of ivory stockpiles, and for serious commitment and political will to catch the major traders who are profiting from the elephant poaching crisis.
Elephant protection: Our aerial program resumed in the dry season, with STEP’s pilot team Charles and Anne Nagy carrying out monitoring and surveillance flights in Ruaha National Park in our Shadow microlight (known as ‘Skubie’). In September, the pilot team flew as part of the TAWIRI (Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute) 2015 re-census of the Ruaha-Rungwa elephant population, flying reconnaissance transects to verify presence/absence of live elephants and carcasses throughout the ecosystem.
In December, STEP’s Director Trevor Jones and Field Manager Josephine Smit presented at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) scientific conference about our research on elephant demography in Ruaha and crop raiding by elephants in Udzungwa
Human-elephant coexistence: STEP continues to work with Njokomoni Farmers Group, a farmers cooperative that manages a beehive fence in Udzungwa. The beehive fence deters crop-raiding elephants, and provides income to the farmers group through honey sales. One big success for the group this year was entering into partnership with honey enterprise Jasmine Bee (www.jasminebee.net), who are the main buyer of Njokomoni honey and have provided farmers with access to high-end markets in Dar es Salaam and Moshi.