Poaching in Tsavo
As poaching reached epidemic proportions in Kenya in the 1980s, Tsavo was very much on the frontline – not surprising given the park’s size and terrain. In a few short years, the elephant population dropped from 45,000 to just 5000, and rhinos were almost wiped out entirely; at the height of the crisis, an estimated 5000 elephants were being killed every year. Populations are slowly recovering to a high of 12,500 elephants in early 2011, but less than 100 rhinos remain, down from about 9000 in 1969.
Sadly, there has been a recent upsurge in poaching once again – a census in early 2014 found just 11,000 elephants, 1500 less than three years earlier. The northern half of Tsavo East (off-limits to travellers) is of particular concern, as well as many areas bordering the two Tsavo parks; the area around Maktau Gate at the southern edge of Tsavo West has been particularly hard hit.
As a result of all of this, if you’re used to the human-habituated elephants of Amboseli, who’ll scarcely move when approached in a vehicle, Tsavo’s elephants may come as a surprise – they’re skittish and prone to sudden retreats or even charges. Rhinos, too, can be difficult to see, and not just because they’re nocturnal.
The Ngulia Flyway
Ngulia Safari Lodge may be past its prime when it comes to its accommodation offering, but this means little to the tens of thousands of European and Asian Palearctic migrant bird species that fly through here on their way south from September to December. The combination of a floodlit waterhole, clifftop location and the fact that there are no other settlements for miles around attracts birds and birdwatchers alike. Best of all, you can join in the capture, tagging and release of species which has been taking place here since 1969, usually in November or early December. Highlights might include the thrush nightingale, river warbler, march warblers and a number of nightjar species. Most Kenyan safari companies can help make the arrangements, or you can contact the lodge directly.