KWS receives Ksh.17 million Aircraft from American donor
Date Published: 01 Feb, 2010
The Lindberg Foundation Chairman, Mr. Larry Williams and the KWS Board of Trustees chairman, Hon. David Mwiraria unveil the new two seater aircraft at the KWS Hangar at Wilson Airport, Nairobi
Wildlife management and anti-poaching operations received a major boost last week when the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) received a new aircraft worth Sh17 million from an American conservation organisation, the Lindbergh Foundation, and vintage aircraft owner and businessman Dr. Rich Sugden.
The Lindberg Foundation Chairman, Mr Larry Williams and Dr. Sugden handed over the new two-seater aircraft to the KWS Board of Trustees chairman, Hon. David Mwiraria, at the KWS Hangar at Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The function was attended by the Israeli Ambassador to Kenya, HE Jacob Keidar, who pledged his government’s support to KWS in the form of training of pilots, provision of a forensic and genetic laboratory and varied security training and equipment.
Hon. Mwiraria, who experienced the first ride in the aircraft in a demonstration flight by Captain Antony Kiroken, said the KWS Airwing, which was formed at the peak of poaching in 1990, has been effective in controlling illegal killings of wild animals. He noted that KWS aircraft conduct patrols against poachers, monitor animal movements, help in conducting wildlife censuses as well as management of problem animals. The aeroplanes are also involved in search and rescue operations in rough terrains and remote parts of the country.
Mr Williams said the foundation was set up in 1977 to honour Charles Lindberg, the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic continuously for 33 hours on May 20, 1927, aged 25, for his contribution to striking a balance between technology and the environment.
The KWS Director, Mr. Julius Kipng’etich, said the wildlife agency was in the process of modernising its force and was benchmarking with the Israeli naval forces. He added that the aircraft donation would help provide aerial patrols to protect some endangered wild animals which are struggling to survive, citing lions whose national population had dwindled to 2000. Mr Kipng’etich said KWS needs two more husky planes and the whole country would then be covered.
The KWS-Lindberg Foundation partnership began in August 2008 with the involvement of the acclaimed aerobatic pilot and environmentalist Patty Wagstaff while training KWS pilots to safely protect wildlife from poachers. The Lindbergh Husky left the factory in Wyoming, on October 31, 2009, arriving in Lawrence, Kansas, on November 1, 2009 to be packaged for export before completing the first leg of a journey halfway around the globe to the KWS Hangar at Wilson Airport.
The donation comes at an opportune time, when KWS is implementing a force modernisation process. The Husky comes with double-barrelled unique firsts in the KWS 13-aircraft fleet. It is equipped with a forward vision EVS-100 infrared camera and display, a thermal-imaging system that will allow pilots to “see” at night, or during low-visibility operations as well as weather radar. These key features of the Husky will help to stop illegal poaching of animals while keeping KWS pilots safe when carrying out their jobs.
With 59 parks and reserves spread over a country of 584,896 sq km, the KWS Airwing was created in 1990 to provide air support services to wildlife management. Its fleet of 13 light aircraft and three larger aircraft, including a Bell 206 helicopter, provides a diverse range of services in support of wildlife management and protection activities and other national emergency operations.
A team of experts, sponsored by the Lindberg Foundation, had earlier spent one week in Kilaguni Lodge in Tsavo West National Park providing specialised training to KWS pilots. This included very low flying techniques and aerobatics, all critical to the aerial support function of the Airwing.