Last year TKF Training received an international request from Uganda for help with trees that were blocking road at the hands of elephants! The proud owner of TKF responded and here is Tim’s account of the trip and training provided:
“I recently received a strange request on the lines of ‘ We have a problem with elephants pushing trees over blocking tracks and rides and need to train some volunteers with chainsaws to clear the routes”
Slightly surprised and somewhat amused, because I have friends that revel in setting me up, I asked a few searching questions.
It transpired that it was a genuine request from the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF). The UCF are a charity that was set up some twenty years ago to support the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to recover and manage protected areas, promoting regional recovery and reducing poaching and wildlife crime.
The UCF work with park-adjacent communities to promote wildlife compatible livelihoods and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
One of the searching questions I asked was “what chainsaws do you currently use?’ The answer was “I don’t know, I will go to the armoury and have a look.” I received a photograph of an old Husqvarna that had been confiscated from a poacher with a caption “We might need a couple of new ones”
Having worked with Echo Power Tools for a number of years I was convinced that a medium ranged chainsaw capable of operating in fairly extreme conditions would suffice and recommended the Echo CS501SX.
Vaccinations,Visa and flights all sorted I landed in Entebbe and was taken to Kampala where I met Michael Keigwin MBE the founder of the UCF, taken to the rugby club for some barbecued pork and a beer.
The next day I was met by Derek Lubangakene from the UCF and Sam the driver and embarked on a four hour drive across Uganda to Murchison Falls National Park and then a two hour journey through the park to the UWA Headquarters close to the river Nile.
The following day I met four young men that were to be my first chainsaw maintenance and cross-cutting group. I have to say that they were smart, keen and very enthusiastic.
The chainsaws were unpacked, checked and set up. I had asked for a few spares and received extra bars, chains, air filters, sprockets and clutch drums.
Having completed the maintenance, starting procedures and operational checks we travelled to the site (in the bush). The journey was not your everyday journey to work, it included a ferry across the Nile, encountering Baboons, Warthogs, Ugandan Bucks, Buffaloes, Elephants, Giraffes and of course Lions.
You would think that cross-cutting would be straight forward however, with the danger of so many predators the risk assessment dictated that we have an armed UWA Ranger guarding our work site.
Whilst demonstrating a couple of step cuts on a fallen tree a snake appeared on the stem approximately 90cm from my right shoulder and head, the snake went back under the bark and reappeared further down the stem I said to the boys “Is that venomous?” To which they replied in unison, “yes” . We all then began a traditional African dance. I can’t wait for the tree felling course!”