Go green for frogs this February!

LDFF (2)

Leap Day for Frogs, coordinated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, is South Africa’s flagship campaign for raising awareness about and celebrating frogs. This year we’re calling on all schools, businesses or organisations with a passion for conservation, to get involved and make a difference. Take part in this year’s Leap Day for Frogs on 28 February, or during that week, by dressing in green and donating R10 per learner/person towards the conservation and protection of some of South Africa’s most endangered frog species…and have some fun in the process!

Schools or organisations with the most participants stand to win an extra special frog walk with our amphibian specialist. Other prizes include an LED headlamp to help in the search for froggy friends, and a hamper from outdoor specialists, Trappers. Those wishing to participate can register here and can share their fabulous photos of the event afterwards on the Leap Day for Frogs Facebook page.

These small creatures have been around since long before the dinosaurs came and went, but are now disappearing across the planet, including in South Africa. Leap Day for Frogs provides the perfect platform to have some fun in the quest to bring the plight of frogs to the public across the country.

There are 125 frog species in South Africa, of which approximately one third are threatened as a result of loss of habitat, increasing levels of pollution in freshwater systems, disease and climate change. The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme is working hard to secure populations of some of South Africa’s most threatened amphibian species, including the Critically Endangered Amathole Toad, the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog, and the Endangered Kloof Frog. This we do by protecting their key habitats, cleaning up wetlands, educating people on the role of frogs in the ecosystem and undertaking research on poorly understood species. This makes Leap Day for Frogs a very special day on the environmental calendar.

For more information please visit http://www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za/

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Contacts

Dr Jeanne Tarrant

Manager: Threatened Amphibian Programme

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 83 254 9563

jeannet@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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Putting our money where our mouth is! Announcing the first EWT owned and managed nature reserve

SPA

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Africa’s conservation leader, is proud to announce the transfer of the Medike Nature Reserve in Limpopo, into the EWT’s name, as its first ever land purchase. Medike comprises some 1,400 ha of priority and unique mountain habitat in the Soutpansberg Mountains, and was bought through the generosity of the Roberts Family Trust in Australia. This is the first step in a long-term project to realise the dream of establishing the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA), which will ultimately span in excess of 23,000 ha and will connect the existing Happy Rest Nature Reserve in the east and Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve in the west.

This special place is South Africa’s most northern mountain range, and is home to thousands of species of insects, plants, birds and mammals, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. The EWT has identified this region as being in urgent need of protection due to the high number of threatened species, its extraordinary variety of important and unique habitat types, its crucial role in water production, and its value as a centre of cultural heritage for many communities. Despite the significance of the region, the Soutpansberg Mountains currently receive little conservation support, with less than one percent of the area being formally conserved in nature reserves.

By embarking on this journey to protect the area, and purchasing this special tract of land in the western Soutpansberg’s Sand River Gorge, the EWT is about to change all that. Medike Nature Reserve will serve as the catalyst for an ambitious project that will bring in neighbouring properties into the larger Soutpansberg Protected Area, which will safeguard the future of hundreds of threatened species and support the development of sustainable livelihoods in the western Soutpansberg Mountains. “In essence, we will work with existing landowners and local communities to make this one large protected area with the aim of saving species and habitats, providing critical ecosystem services, such as clean water, and developing climate change resilience,” says Oldrich van Schalkwyk, the EWT SPA Manager.

Environmental threats in the area include illegal killing of wildlife, such as Leopards, for the local bush meat and skin industry, and pangolins, for export trade; illegal and unsustainable harvesting of medicinal plants, as well as the uncontrolled collection of firewood; ongoing illegal sand mining in the Sand River; and illegal clearing of indigenous forest, among others. Many of these threats stem from a lack of socio-economic development in the area, and the EWT’s far-reaching vision for this region will result not only in the conservation of its unique biodiversity and the sustained integrity of its water resources, but in sustainable livelihood options for the local communities too. Much of the work will revolve around addressing human-wildlife conflict, and supporting the local communities to farm in an environmentally friendly manner. The EWT will also promote the establishment of a long-lasting conservation-based green economy, linked to innovative local micro-enterprises.

The Roberts family fell in love with this magical mountain when they visited it 2014 and their generosity has allowed the EWT to secure the Medike Nature Reserve and catalyse a bigger conservation vision for the area. The proposed SPA will result in protected area expansion, water security, socio-economic development, ‘green’ job creation and threatened species conservation in the western Soutpansberg. This vision has subsequently leveraged further support from major donors including Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, allowing this dream to approach reality.

Said Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO: “The purchase of Medike signals a new era for the EWT, as we embark on one of the most exciting projects in our history: that of a private landowner and conservator, as well as driver of community stewardship and socio-economic development as a both neighbour and a supporting partner. We remain forever grateful to our investors in conservation, the Roberts Family Trust, as well as Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, for taking this vision forward. We also thank Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr for their enormous support in all the work of the EWT.”

The SPA will act as a demonstration project for the expansion of this work throughout the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and other Man and Biosphere Reserves across the country and continent. We welcome contributions and partnerships from other NGOs and corporates to grow this dream and to establish this unique area as a conservation icon.

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Contacts:

 

Yolan Friedmann
CEO
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Phone: +27 87 0210 398
Email: yolanf@ewt.org.za

Dr Ian Little
Senior Manager: Habitats
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Phone: +27 21 799 8460
Email: ianl@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Phone: +27 87 0210 398 ext. 110
Email: belindag@ewt.org.za

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Safeguarding our Sungazers into 2018

Catherine Hughes, Manager, Threatened Grasslands Species Programme

CatherineH@ewt.org.za

In the April 2017 issue of the EWT’s Conservation Matters, we featured an article by one of our overseas collaborators, Fraser Gilchrist, who is based in Scotland and is a representative of the European Studbook Foundation. Fraser has a keen interest in reptiles, and Sungazers (Smaug giganteus) in particular. In February last year, Fraser paid a visit to the beautiful Highveld Grasslands of Mpumalanga and Free State with our Senior Field Officer, Bradley Gibbons.

sungazerwork

The Sungazer, which only occurs in South Africa’s grasslands, faces ongoing threats from various types of land transformation, including mining and agriculture. The EWT works closely with a number of landowners in the Highveld Grasslands (our “Sungazer custodians”) to ensure that pristine areas are kept intact, as these are very important Sungazer habitat, and that appropriate grazing and veld-burning techniques are used to ensure grassland health to the benefit of these lizards and other species.

In 2016, Fraser generously provided a donation of 12 environmental data loggers to record temperature and humidity readings at disused Sungazer burrows, above and below ground, every two hours for a full year. On a follow up visit in 2017, we had some challenges with finding the loggers, but were able to retrieve some valuable data. Our findings are still very preliminary, but on plotting the data, a lot of variation is evident between minimum and maximum temperatures above ground, but little variation in the temperatures below ground. This shows how effectively the Sungazers’ burrows provide a stable climate compared to the highly variant temperatures at the surface, which makes sense given the cold Highveld winters and hot summers! The aim of this research is to better understand the climate conditions of Sungazers’ burrows, so that we can assess the potential impacts of climate change on the distribution and survival of this species.

sungazer2

The project continues into 2018, and we hope to update you as more information becomes available. In the meantime, the EWT team has almost finalised the Sungazer Biodiversity Management Plan under the guidance of the Department of Environmental Affairs and with the participation of many key stakeholders. We also acknowledge our private landowner partners who are exceptionally proud of their Sungazer populations, and will play a vital role in the species’ survival.

Fraser can be contacted on info@saveoursungazers.com and manages the website www.saveoursungazers.com

Bradley can be contacted on bradleyg@ewt.org.za

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Youthful crane conservation ambassadors win trip to Akagera National Park

Adalbert Aine-omucunguzi, East African Regional Manage, African Crane Conservation Programme

aldaberta@ewt.org.za

Grey Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum) have declined by up to 80% over the last 25 years, and this is particularly evident across their stronghold in East Africa. One of the key objectives of the African Crane Conservation Programme is the stabilisation of the East African Grey Crowned Crane at key sites. One of these key sites in Rwanda is the Rugezi Marsh. Our programme in Rwanda is working towards securing and improving the ecological integrity of the marsh, and other key wetlands of importance where Grey Crowned Cranes live. This is done through various interventions, including public awareness, which has a school component. In September 2017, competitions were organised for students in participating schools to showcase Grey Crowned Crane conservation interventions that work well. The theme of the competition was “Conserving Grey Crowned Cranes through wetland protection” and the prize for the winners was a fully funded trip to Akagera National Park. Nine schools participated in the competition and GS Nkanga Secondary School emerged as the winners.

cranestudent

On the much anticipated day of the trip, the excited students, clad in t­ shirts with pictures of Grey Crowned Cranes, and their teachers boarded a bus at 6am and headed for Akagera, singing songs about crane conservation. This was only the beginning of a fantastic excursion. The students were amazed by all that they saw in the park, including released Grey Crowned Cranes, rhinos, buffalos, elephants, zebras, and various reptiles. They exchanged different ideas with experts in conservation and of course came out determined to encourage other students to contribute to the conservation of Endangered Grey Crowned Cranes. These students are now ambassadors of Grey Crowned Crane conservation both at school and in communities.

This work is done in partnership with the International Crane Foundation.

Students using binocular

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Strengthening partnerships to combat poaching with dogs

Catherine Hughes, Manager, Threatened Grassland Species Programme

catherineh@ewt.org.za

Even though it has traditional cultural roots, the hunting of animals without a permit and using domestic dogs remains illegal. Over recent years, there has also been a shift from hunting with dogs for subsistence purposes to hunting for sport. In this case, hunters place bets on the dogs’ hunting success, and many wildlife species are harmed or killed, as are livestock. There may also be damage to property and security threats to private landowners and communities.

The EWT’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme (TGSP) is concerned with the effects that this practice is having on our grassland species, including the Oribi (Ourebia ourebi), which is now Endangered in South Africa due to habitat loss and these illegal hunting activities. As has been shown by the annual Oribi census run by the Oribi Working Group and administered by the EWT, Oribi numbers have declined significantly in the last ten years.

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In 2017, the EWT built on existing individual relationships with SACAN, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the KZN Hunting, Shooting and Conservation Association (KZNHSCA) and Project Rhino KZN, and has now partnered more formally with these organisations to combat poaching of wildlife in KZN, with an emphasis on poaching with dogs. We plan to provide a coordinated response system for reporting incidents; responding to any threat posed by these activities and continued conservation action and research around these issues.

If an incident of poaching with dogs is witnessed anywhere, it should be logged with SACAN on 086 167 2226, who will coordinate the appropriate response from the relevant parties. The EWT has also developed an incident register for poaching with dogs, which we will use to identify trends to inform conservation action. The reporting template is available from the EWT, and any incidents of poaching with dogs should be reported to poachingwithdogs@ewt.org.za. Any information is valued. Although these efforts are KZN-focused for now, we would like to combat poaching with dogs in all provinces experiencing this problem, so landowners and other stakeholders are encouraged to use the email address from other parts of South Africa too.

The collective team also coordinates various community outreach programmes in areas that are experiencing high levels of wildlife crime, and looks for opportunities to encourage alternative recreation and subsistence activities that do not target threatened wildlife.

Suitable training and presentations relating to community outreach, the legislation and procedures in terms of wildlife crime and anti-poaching prevention measures are available. For more information, please contact, Samson Phakathi, EWT Senior Field Officer, on 082 805 4806, or the above email address.

This work is made possible by NCT Forestry Co-operative Limited.

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Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Steven Segang, Highveld Community Projects Officer, African Crane Conservation Programme

stevens@ewt.org.za

World Wetlands Day, marked annually on 2 February, is an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. A great deal of our work at the EWT involves the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we celebrate World Wetlands Day accordingly.

The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP) is very active in the wetlands of Mpumalanga, which is a province with an abundance of grasslands. Mpumalanga’s grasslands are bisected by thousands of wetlands and the ecosystem services they provide include their ability to improve water quality and contribute to the maintenance of base flows in rivers. They also provide critical habitats to a number of threatened species of animals and plants in the province, including our three species of cranes.

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Mpumalanga is the first province in the country (and second in the world) to officially declare a Provincial Grassland Week to be held annually during the last week of February. As most of Mpumalanga’s wetlands occur in its grasslands, and because of the fact that grasslands and wetlands share certain characteristics and dependencies, it was decided that Mpumalanga will celebrate Grassland Week annually in combination with Wetlands Day, branded as Mpumalanga’s Twin Treasures (MTT). Grasslands and wetlands are two of the province’s greatest treasures. When healthy grasslands and wetlands join forces, they are responsible for essential biodiversity and some of the most important ecosystem services, such as drought and flood mitigation, contributing to climate stability, groundwater replenishment, and water purification. These are vital for the environment, man and economic development.

The first MTT was commemorated in 2014 and each year there is a theme attached to the celebration. This year’s theme is “Ecosystems for Life,” which focuses on grasslands and wetlands and the services they provide to humankind and living organisms. It was also emphasised that as this year is dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, the messages should be aligned with his commitment to improving human life. The celebrations will be held at Delmas this year, on 8 February and the EWT looks forward to participating. Plans for school Wetlands Day celebrations are also in place, and an excursion will be undertaken with Kwachibikulu Primary in February. In line with the theme, activities will include MiniSASS and food chain examples, to demonstrate to learners how we are all connected in life and the importance of having a balance in an ecosystem.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Threatened Amphibian Programme will join the ACCP in hosting a stand focused on biodiversity and wetlands at the Greater Edendale Mall World Wetlands Day event on 2 February.

Thanks to Liberty NPO, SAEON, the KZN Wetlands Forum, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs, and the International Crane Foundation for making this work possible.

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A WORD FROM THE CEO

ChitterChatter – February 2018

At the end of 2017, as is tradition in the EWT, the ~95 staff members of the EWT convened for our annual Conservation Week, this time in the homely little town of Parys. The week is an opportunity for our team, which is normally spread across the vastness of our beautiful country and several of our neighbours, to share stories, knowledge and experiences; socialise and team build; and strategise for the year ahead. A favourite on the EWT calendar, the 2017 Week did not disappoint and great memories were made for everyone. Memories were also shared, and some of the most special moments of 2017 were captured by our numerous intrepid photographers and film-makers and compiled into a heart-warming, hilarious and inspirational video by Ian Little – a slightly sanitised version of which is available for our members and partners to enjoy watching here.

The nature of the EWT’s work is to be in the field, making a difference where it matters the most. As a result, video footage of spectacular landscapes and exhilarating wildlife often makes for jealous office staff, whose offices do not vaguely resemble pristine beaches, rolling hills or Big Five reserves. However, the tiny gems of wildlife that still exist in our urban environments are not be overlooked or cast aside. In Johannesburg, we are surrounded by millions of trees that are home to thousands of birds, insects, reptiles and small mammals. If you just open your eyes and ears, you will be astounded to see who shares out city with us!

I had a wonderful family move into the tree outside my office window in November. A Hadeda Ibis couple built their (very rickety and unsafe looking) nest in the highest branches (my office is on the top floor) of a Water Pear (Syzygium guineese) tree and in time, had produced three large, speckled eggs. During the December break, either one or all of the eggs hatched, and if the latter, something happened to two of the chicks. Because when I returned in January, I was greeted by the clicking sound of one very hungry, fluffy young Hadeda balancing precariously on an increasingly insecure collection of sticks held together by bird poo and not much else. Throughout the month, the parents of this gangly creature took turns to watch over it or collect its food. Despite gale force winds, hailstorms and torrential rains, the little fluffball held on for dear life and it was with trepidation that I arrived at work every day to gingerly peer out of my window and see if he was still alive. By gingerly, I mean creeping up to the window, as, practically from birth, it was clear that mom and pop Hadeda had instilled in their chick a mortal terror of human beings and a hissing, fluffing of wings and an open beak to scare me was what greeted me if they even vaguely saw my shadow appear. This made me sad.

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As Mother Nature is all-powerful, the survival skills of this little chick were remarkable and reminded me again of how natural resilience exists in so many species whilst human beings appear to be far needier and less happy with a bed of sticks and a diet of grubs.

I learned a lot from my own “field experience” that I too can share, so it is not just my staff working with Wild Dogs or cranes that have cool stories. Lessons from the Hadeda family:

  1. The bond between a mother and her child, of almost any animal, is unique, powerful, all prevailing and should garner respect from all humans. It is not just humans who will die for their young, and whose sole purpose is to protect, teach and develop their offspring. We should respect that a LOT more in our fellow species.
  2. Wild animals naturally distrust and fear humans. With good reason no doubt. We should not simply accept that as our right as apex predators, and we should never exploit that fear. Instead, we should learn to be more humble about the fact that we are the MOST feared species on earth. By everyone.
  3. Life is about a few simple rules. Food and water, shelter, parental love and protection, learning, and growing. If we don’t grow, we die. Interpret that in a number of ways.
  4. Take only that which you need. And live lightly. Despite Hadedas sometimes reusing old nests, my neighbour’s home finally succumbed to the ravages of a Gauteng thunderstorm and there is now almost no sign at all that any life even existed on those branches. Fortunately, fluffball was sitting further along the branches at the time and seemed to have moved out by then.
  5. Focus on what we have and what can do in the future. I will never know what happened to the other two eggs/chicks, or if the Hadeda parents lamented their loss, but I am guessing that the full time job it was to raise one healthy, strong and demanding youngster was all that they could manage and more than kept their days busy. Darwinian theories aside, we need to trust in the future that we are building and not stay hung up on the past.
  6. Above all, look around you. See life through the eyes of others; appreciate other animals’ risks, threats, fears, needs, aspirations and their role in building a colourful and thriving world. Give more than you take.

The photo that I managed to get is particularly bad as I was creeping in the dark around the back end of my window, but it’s a tribute to the little squawker that is probably yelling outside your window right now and may be annoying you as only a Hadeda can. But I love that sound now. For the little bit of field that was brought into my top story office, no matter how less glamourous than a Cheetah he may have been. Nature is all around us, aren’t we blessed! And he may even make into the next edition of the EWT’s Conservation Week video tribute at the of this year!

Thank you for all your emails and comments received on these newsletters, please keep them coming.

Yolan

yolanf@ewt.org.za

 

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust responds to the latest report on rhino poaching figures

rhinopoached

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) appreciates the recent statement by Minister Edna Molewa on the latest rhino poaching figures, and is pleased to note the reported decline in rhinos illegally killed, from 1,054 in 2016 to 1,028 in 2017. We applaud all those who have worked tirelessly to protect our rhinos. However, we remain concerned about the very high poaching rate and what this means for the future of rhinos in South Africa. The EWT is committed to continuing to work with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and other stakeholders to save our rhinos from the scourge of poaching.

Noteworthy is the reference in the Minister’s report to the collaboration between the various Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster departments. There has been an increase in arrests, from 417 in 2016 to 445 in 2017, inside and adjacent to the Kruger National Park, and we would trust that the Minister will elaborate in time as to whether this is as a result of increased enforcement capacity and intelligence-driven operations, or a sign of increasing incursions into the park. It would also be useful to establish how many of the 220 weapons that were seized were used in other crimes in South Africa, and whether ballistics will be carried out to determine this.

It is disheartening to note the number of officials implicated in rhino-related crimes, but it is promising that corrupt officials are being identified and action is being taken. The arrests of 16 level three to four (courier/local buyers and exporters) criminal syndicates is record-breaking and a critical step in the right direction towards dismantling these highly organised criminals. The EWT applauds the National Prosecuting Authority on the many successful cases that have been prosecuted during 2017, with generally good sentencing outcomes.

Although it is reassuring that rhino horn contraband is being detected at ports of exit, there remains the concern that there may be much more rhino horn contraband that is not detected and is leaving our borders. The evidence suggests that many smugglers are still prepared to take the risk at OR Tambo International Airport, and benchmarking against the measures in place at other international airports is in order.

Given the very nature of wildlife trafficking, it is encouraging to see progress is being made on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mozambique, and to see that a new MoU is in place with Zimbabwe. However, the EWT believes that more transnational operations and investigations, particularly with South East Asian countries, are necessary – only then can we start apprehending level one and two criminal syndicates, which will almost certainly interrupt the illegal trade of rhino horn.

We gratefully acknowledge the Minister’s recognition of the success of a project that, through a strategic partnership between the EWT and the DEA, and funded through the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement United States Department as well the Global Environmental Facility, saw 1,273 rangers trained. They are now registered as Grade Five Environmental Management Inspectors. This was a nationwide project, led by the EWT, which covered South African National Parks as well as provincial protected areas, and was made up of 78 training courses.

The joint partnership patrol optimisation project, in the same partnership led by the EWT and funded by the same donors, was equally successful, as reported by the Minister. This was initiated in January 2016, through a collaboration with the all-female Black Mamba anti-poaching unit and subsequently expanded to another five state protected areas across Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State and Eastern Cape provinces. Through the patrol optimisation project, we have distributed 70 smart phones to be used for data collection using situational awareness technology developed by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). We have also assisted one state protected area with the procurement of a digital radio system that links into the CSIR system.

The EWT is both proud and humbled to have contributed to the many strides made against rhino poaching in the past year. However, there is still much work to be done, and we remain committed to working closely with our partners and other role-players to overcome this major threat to one of Africa’s most iconic species.

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Contacts:

Adam Pires

Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

adamp@ewt.org.za

 

Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert

Head of Conservation

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

harrietd@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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Buffer zone rehabilitation at Rugezi marsh

Most threats to nature and wildlife sustainability are anthropogenic mainly resulting from drastic increase in population size. This implies increased pressure on land use which leads to the reduction and modification of natural areas, resulting in the extinction or threat of extinction to wildlife species and natural areas which serve as their habitats. Grey Crowned Cranes, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum are found in Eastern and Southern Africa. They have faced a dramatic decline over the past decades, due to loss or deterioration of their habitats, illegal removal of birds and eggs from the wild for food.
ICF/EWT/KCCEM is working towards securing and improving the ecological integrity of Rugezi marsh. Apart from aesthetic, Rugezi marshland is utilitarian nationally and internationally due to its inflow and outflow regulatory functions, and drainage for hydro-electric generation. It is also a habitat of various avifauna, a typical example being that it harbors around 108 Grey Crowned Cranes which are classified under endangered by IUCN red list. This is why the project was initiated in Rwanda with zeal to conserve Grey Crowned Cranes and their habitats.

 

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Grey Crowned Crane in Rugezi marshland

The Rwanda Crane and wetland project working under ICF/EWT/KCCEM partnership has been working closely with communities around Rugezi marshland and other key wetlands in Rwanda. The project has stimulated the communities with the spirit of ownership and love for their natural resources through crane conservation. This is demonstrated through different initiatives that the community undertake like protecting crane’s nests and reporting breeding sites for further follow-up, reporting poachers, sensitizing their fellows to contribute in conservation and rehabilitating buffer zones to allow nature to keep its function of providing ecosystem services.
On October 17, 2017 local leaders and communities gathered to plant trees to restore the buffer zone of Rugezi marshland, a wetland of great importance with its status of protection as Ramsar site. The aim is to re-establish green space in the buffer zone that had become a ground due to anthropogenic pressure. After this noble activity of planting trees in filling up the gaps within the buffer zone of Rugezi marshland, the project coordinator and the team use the opportunity to reach out/send a conservation message. And this provides a suitable room to interact and discuss conservation issues with the community.

 

 

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Community in marshland planting trees

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The community discussion with leaders and project team after rehabilitation activity

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Richard planting a tree Muvunyi, project coordinator in Rwanda

 

Gladly, the community owns conservation and are committed to keep monitoring any threat to Cranes and keeping the momentum as far as conservation is concerned. The latter is crucial and with the community as pillars, success is a guarantee.

Article by: Hirwa Elise an Intern from University of Rwanda working with Rwanda Coordinator, Richard Muvunyi

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Beekeeping: My Personal Experiences

Thabo Madlala, Southern Drakensberg Crane Conservation Project Eco-Ranger, African Crane Conservation Programme

ThaboM@ewt.org.za

It is my privilege to be one of the pioneer beekeepers who received training in beekeeping through the Healthy Catchment Alliance Programme, a partnership between the EWT, Conservation South Africa and Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa. After being trained in 2016, I designed my first hive. Encouragingly, the bees colonised it after only a month. This was a learning experience for me as it enabled me to gain new knowledge about bees and their foraging habits. In my spare time, I train people on beekeeping and permaculture. I also conduct general environmental education and awareness in my community through my hiking club.

Demonstrating how to wear beekeeping suits during the workshop

Topics covered during the beekeeping training workshop

Earlier in 2017, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Pretoria hosted by the SEED Initiative, a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy. It provides technical and financial support for small-scale businesses that help improve livelihoods and protect the environment. The workshop goal was to improve participants’ skills in business plan development, building on experiences of originators who have been successfully implemented beekeeping projects. The focus of the workshop was on four themes, generally referred to as the 4Ds – Detect, Determine, Discover and Develop. The 4Ds represent the steps followed when starting a beekeeping project. Participants were introduced to all four steps, with practical examples being given. The first step is to Detect, which entails identifying challenges in your area and brainstorm on possible solutions. The second is to Determine, which involves identifying customers are that you are targeting and the benefit you expect. The third, Discover, involves the process of identifying a proven business model and adapting it to suit your local market. The last focus point is Develop, which focuses on adopting a business idea and developing your business prototype. During the workshop, value chain analysis was also covered.

Registration and insurance requirements

To be a beekeeper in South Africa, one needs to register with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO). In terms of Control Measures R858, published on 15 November 2013, all beekeepers and bee removal service providers must register with DAFF annually. SABIO facilitates a special group insurance policy for its members as part of its agreement with Van Der Laan Insurance Brokers. This special insurance policy was specially designed for the beekeeping community because beekeepers may be accused of liability for damages caused by their bees. Our beekeeping group is currently registered with DAFF but still needs to register with SABIO before we expand our business operations.

Tips for enhancing success

In order for beekeeping projects to be successful in communities, there is a need to focus on the initial beekeeper selection process. A lack of passion and understanding of beekeeping has been identified as a major constraint for many of the communal beekeepers in South Africa. Many beekeepers are under the impression that they will make money though keeping a handful of beehives. They then get discouraged when they find out that it calls for commitment and ability to run the project as a full time business. There are documented cases of beekeeping projects that grew and became successful through effective business planning and management. It is important to select people who have a passion for similar business activities such as vegetable gardening or care for the environment. It is critical to ensure there is enough food for the bees during the cold winter months. Placing the hives near winter flowering plants or planting winter flowering plants is beneficial. We are currently planning to plant more rosemary flowers in our area to attract bees.

Our apiary is situated on a fenced piece of land on the outskirts of our community near a eucalyptus plantation. We encountered challenges during the baiting period, with the bees coming and going without colonising the hive permanently. We also had problems with ants during the baiting process, which made the bees abscond the hives. We solved the problems by applying grease around the poles to deter the ants. This resulted in successful colonisation of the hives. We now have five hives, three of which are colonised.

Thabo with his beehives and a Wattled Crane model used for environmental education

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