Chinko, CAR: The crash landing of the ULM aircraft, which was reported in last month’s update, has unfortunately hampered operations including the park’s ability to resupply ranger teams in the field, as ground travel and river crossings have been made more difficult by rains. However, the month has borne witness to an interesting change in game density and behaviour, with increased concentrations of antelope and buffalo. The collared elands’ range appears to have expanded significantly in response to reduced poaching in the region, and on one occasion rangers discovered a congregation of approximately 200 eland. Camera trap images taken from salt licks have additionally revealed healthy pockets of eland, roan, hartebeest and buffalo visiting the salt licks.
Akagera, Rwanda: Last month we reported that Shema, the eldest lioness of the seven lions that were reintroduced to the park in 2015, had given birth to three lion cubs. In exactly a year since their reintroduction to the country, confirmation of four new cubs gives us further cause for celebration. These latest additions mean a doubling of the lion population in the park and prospects of further births are good. Following the reintroduction of charismatic wildlife, a temporary bush camp, Karenge, has been constructed in the north of the park. Furthermore Ruzizi Tented Lodge achieved the 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence! While crop-raiding animals are an ongoing source of problems for local people, our relationship with the surrounding communities continues to strengthen. This is reflected in efforts to return another four hyaenas to the park, our support in channeling water to a dry dam in Mucucu, and in ongoing skills training and educational park visits.
Zakouma, Chad: May’s replenishing rains (92.5mm, compared with 7mm in 2015) have imbued the park with a flush of new green growth to accompany the onset of Tiang calving, which has delivered new calves. Elephant collars are functioning well, indicating that the elephant are still in their winter range, however, they and other wildlife are beginning to disperse Westwards. With the goal of empowering local communities and increasing support from the park’s constituency, construction of Kiéké Primary School was completed, block-making for the next primary school has commenced, and another 444 local people visited the park as part of its outreach program. The park has continued to attract good tourism, including a visit from members of the Ministry of Tourism and the Chad Tourism Organisation. We anticipate that with the integration of completed infrastructural upgrades, including the two Forward Operating Bases with radio masts, an airstrip, horse stables, accommodation for rangers and road improvements, law-enforcement capacity will be further enhanced.
Garamba, DRC: Following last month’s harrowing incident, a further 20 elephants poached in May, and repeated shoot-outs with ivory poachers from South Sudan and the LRA, African Parks convened a Garamba ‘Think Tank’ with various stakeholders in Johannesburg to reassess all aspects of the park’s law enforcement strategy. The two-day session resulted in the revision of our current strategy to expand and strengthen every facet of our Law Enforcement operations to adequately address the threats facing Garamba National Park. This strategy is now being fleshed out but involves personnel, equipment, logistics, intelligence, arms and ammunition, training, canine units, infrastructure and the mobilization of communities and the international community. We believe that through capacitating a more extensive intelligence-gathering network, and through the empowerment of local communities, we will be able to tackle this challenge with greater effectiveness.
Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia: Bangweulu is an important area for avian diversity and has reported some exciting bird sightings this month. Notably, at least five different shoebills over the Lukulu Delta, and six Hamerkop birds, which are rare in the Bangweulu basin, were seen feeding on the plain. The park has long been challenged by illegal harvesting of game and fish, upon which local people depend for their protein, however, educational campaigns, fishing regulations and law-enforcement measures are resulting in marked increases in the park’s biological productivity. A total of thirteen mosquito net traps (which are illegally used to fish and catch everything in their fine mesh) were confiscated by the park, and the community Fisheries Committee held two fisheries sensitization trips to educate school children on sustainable utilization. Multiple meetings were held with WWF staff and monitoring teams to introduce them to Bangweulu Wetlands team members, align reporting systems and to ensure effective coordination. With a view to fully rehabilitating the Lumbatwa Wildlife Corridor, an important area of land for the migration of game, plans have been finalized and endorsed by Senior Chief Kopa for the construction of a bridge across the Lwitikila River to attract settlers out of the corridor.
Liuwa, Zambia: In spite of harsh drought conditions which have diminished water reserves and caused antelope to remain dispersed, predators have rallied under effective law enforcement and ongoing community collaboration. One cheetah has given birth to four cubs, which are estimated to be two months of age while her sister’s young continue to thrive, contributing to the Liuwa’s recovering population of cheetahs. All re-introduced species have been monitored and continue to be in good health, and the Crane Foundation completed a Wattled Crane nesting survey. The species ( which inhabits Liuwa’s protected wetlands) is listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN red list due to its habitat-sensitive nature and the wide-spread destruction and degradation of its habitat.
Liwonde, Malawi: The park is bustling with preparations ahead of the July elephant translocation, with a 27-meter concrete drift constructed over the Likwenu River and 35 kilometers of roads graded to facilitate the transportation of the heavy loads. Infrastructural development in the park serves as an important additional source of revenue for the communities, now employing a total of 66 permanent workers and 184 temporary workers. In a wildlife highlight, 60 White-backed Vultures and four Lappet-faced Vultures were spotted in two separate sightings at Chinguni. Given the dire threats facing vultures across the continent, and the steep decline in their numbers, this sighting is particularly special, and more so because Lappet-faced Vultures have not been seen in the area for many years!
Nkhotakota, Malawi: The park is undergoing extensive activity for the welcoming of literally thousands of animals, from the first 250 elephants from Liwonde to over a thousand head of other species starting in July. Kester Vickery, from Conservation Solutions which is undertaking the translocation, visited the park to assess the preparations for the animal off-loading area, and to survey the route to be used by the trucks moving animals between the reserves. An additional assessment was conducted by Dr. Chimera, Director of Veterinary Services in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Health, who examined the appropriateness of the sanctuary and the game-proof fence as a holding area for all incoming game. Excellent progress with the perimeter fence has been made with 15 kilometers completed this month. In a continuing effort to sensitise local communities to fence regulations, an additional community outreach programme was conducted. The park’s radio programme which was reviewed and found to be successful in engaging local communities, will be an important platform for us to communicate messages about the translocation. Community collaboration will be increasingly integral to the park’s success as we move forward with its restoration as an important national wildlife conservation area.
Odzala-Kokoua, Congo: The park is implementing necessary infrastructural upgrades, among them being staff and guest accommodation, and road and river clearing. Through significant job creation, now employing over 400 people in total, these evolving projects produce both long-term and short-term benefits for the community. A total of 212 animal carcasses (165 antelopes, 38 monkeys and nine other animals) were confiscated.
Majete, Malawi: In terms of park infrastructure, construction of the new swimming pool at Thawale is now complete, which will help increase tourism appeal for the lodge. In addition, a newly erected leadership camp is hosting its first students this month. In preparation for the upcoming antelope translocations, roads have been extensively assessed, and our translocation experts have undertaken the initial planning of activities and responsibilities. All rhinos were sighted during the month, as well as leopard on several occasions- including one unknown female with a cub. Majete continues to collaborate well with communities through multiple platforms including environmental education and wildlife clubs, new ideas for income-generating activities, seven well-attended village sensitisation meetings and various healthcare awareness activities