Wild Dogs return to Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, after decades of absence

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With only around 6,600 Wild Dogs left in Africa, this incredible animal is one of the continent’s most at-risk carnivores, and is listed by the IUCN as Endangered. Urgent action is required to save them, and a key conservation strategy is the reintroduction of packs into viable habitats where they once occurred. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, and Gorongosa National Park are thrilled to announce one of the most exciting Wild Dog reintroductions yet, as part of their efforts to save this highly threatened species. Wild Dogs will soon roam free in Gorongosa for the first time in decades. This historic transboundary event will take place on 16 April 2018.

In a move to reverse the trends of Wild Dog populations in southern Africa, a partnership has been established between the EWT and Gorongosa National Park in order to secure the reintroduction of the park’s first pack of Wild Dogs. This is a landmark occasion, as Wild Dogs have never been reintroduced to any park, protected area, game reserve or other space in Mozambique.

Wild Dogs have disappeared from much of their former range in Mozambique, and Gorongosa lost all of their Wild Dogs as a result of the 1977–1992 civil war. However, Gorongosa is today Mozambique’s flagship natural area and lies at the heart of the work being undertaken by the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation to bring back to life a vast and diverse natural ecosystem over a 25-year period.  Wildlife is now thriving in the park, with numbers of species and animals having made a strong comeback. With the abundance of herbivores, the natural next step is the return of large carnivores.

Wild Dogs from South Africa’s EWT-managed metapopulation will form the founder pack for this recovery project. The metapopulation, comprising the various individual populations of Wild Dogs within a selection of managed national parks and reserves, currently numbers 250 individuals in 28 packs. This population has increased over the last 20 years and has ensured the increase in Wild Dog range in South Africa by 25% and numbers by 100%, thus allowing the translocation of a founder pack into neighbouring Mozambique.

Male Wild Dogs from uMkhuze Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) that naturally dispersed from their pack in late 2016, and free-roaming female Wild Dogs from the region are earmarked for this reintroduction. The EWT, along with local partners Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), the KZN state veterinary department, WildlifeACT, Maremani Game Reserve, LEDET, and the Bateleurs, have caught the two unrelated groups of Wild Dogs and brought them together to bond in a boma at Phongola Nature Reserve in KZN in South Africa. Once the Wild Dogs have been sedated prior to departure, the pack will be fitted with GPS collars and VHF collars to allow for close monitoring once released. All individuals will also be vaccinated against canine distemper and rabies before leaving for Mozambique, as infectious diseases are a big threat to Wild Dogs. This new pack will be flown from the Phongola boma to Gorongosa by the Bateleurs, to ensure a quick and stress-free journey. The EWT and Bateleurs have previously transported 29 Wild Dogs with 100% success and safety rate.

The bonded pack will be held in the newly constructed boma in Gorongosa for six to eight weeks before being released. This is to allow the males and females to become accustomed to one another and become habituated to the area, all the while being monitored by the Gorongosa project’s carnivore conservation team. The EWT will work closely with the Gorongosa team to train a new generation of Mozambican vets and ecologists in Wild Dog recovery and management.

Gorongosa National Park has been described as one of the most diverse parks on Earth, covering a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares. In recent years, the Gorongosa Project, with the support of Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC), has ensured the protection of a recovering population of Lions in this system, successfully reduced key threats, and seen the park become recognised as one of National Geographic’s ‘Last Wild Places.’ It is fitting that, by returning Wild Dogs to Gorongosa, one of the most threatened mammals in southern Africa is about to take a bold step towards restoring their native range in the region.

This work is made possible by EWT funders, Richard Bosman and Land Rover Centurion, and Gorongosa Project funders, Gorongosa National Park, the Oak Foundation, and ZooBoise.
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About the Gorongosa Project
Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration stories. In 2008, a 20-year Public-Private Partnership was established for the joint management of GNP between the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation (Gorongosa Project), a US non-profit organization. In 2016, the Government of Mozambique approved the extension for another 25 years of joint management.

By adopting a 21st Century conservation model of balancing the needs of wildlife and people, we are protecting and saving this beautiful wilderness, returning it to its rightful place as one of Africa’s greatest parks.

For more general information, visit http://www.gorongosa.org

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world.

The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion.

A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za

Contacts

David Marneweck
Manager: Carnivore Conservation Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
Email: DavidM@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
Email: BelindaG@ewt.org.za

Paola Bouley
Associate Director: Carnivore Conservation
Gorongosa National Park
Tel: +258 87 855 4935
Email:Paola@Gorongosa.net

Vasco Galante
Director of Communications
Gorongosa National Park
Tel: +258 82 2970010
Email: vasco@gorongosa.net

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Millstream – supporting crane conservation on the Highveld for 27 years

MILLSTREAM

Millstream Farm is a premier trout fly-fishing resort on the Mpumalanga Highveld near the well-known tourism destination of Dullstroom. Its scenic beauty is enhanced by an abundance of bird life, wild flowers and game. These can be enjoyed on nature walks or from horseback with staff who are passionate about nature conservation and the plight of threatened species in the area. This includes all three of South Africa’s crane species which call the Steenkampsberg home.

Cranes have a magical ability to instil awe in humans and have been doing so for centuries. Around the world their spectacular dances and haunting calls have made them important symbols: of joy and the celebration of life to the Greeks and Romans, of happiness and eternal youth across Asia, longevity in Japan, and of royalty in South Africa. It is an ironic commentary on modern civilisation that all 15 crane species are threatened, including our iconic national bird, the Blue Crane. To save our cranes we need to save their wetland and grassland habitats.

Towards this cause, Millstream initiated the foundation of the Highlands Crane Group in 1991. It was registered as a project under the EWT and the first field worker started work in the area in mid-1994. In 1995, several people dedicated to crane conservation formed the South African Crane Working Group under the EWT banner, including the Highlands Crane Group as part of the larger national programme.

In the 1990s, cranes and their habitat were under threat from certain farming practices, in particular the use of poisons, and the impact of wetlands being turned into dams for the burgeoning trout-fishing industry. Interacting with local farmers to build awareness of the plight of the cranes created a heightened sensitisation to their conservation. This lead to actions such as better poison use and the marking of power lines to improve their visibility to birds in order to avoid collisions and associated mortalities. This ensured that the Steenkampsberg continued to be a provincial stronghold for all three our crane species.

During the past decade the threat of large-scale habitat loss due to mining put years of conservation success in the area at risk.  Through the good long-term relationships built with local land owners, the EWT, in partnership with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and BirdLife South Africa, worked together to declare the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment (GLPE) in 2017. This area is situated between Belfast and Dullstroom and includes the beautiful Lakenvlei wetland complex. The Protected Environment status allows the current land-uses – mainly livestock farming and tourism – to continue hand-in-hand with sustainable conservation practices while limiting the possibility of mining in the area. It is hoped that the GLPE will be expanded in the future to include a larger area, including Millstream Farm.

Millstream has funded crane conservation efforts on the Steenkampsberg from the inception of the project through to the present – an incredible commitment. They also have a pair of captive Grey Crowned Cranes, which is a highlight with visitors and supports crane conservation awareness. This year we are excited to work more closely with them by assisting the Millstream conservation officer with a new environmental awareness outreach project to township schools in Dullstroom and with the establishment of a vegetable garden for workers living on the farm. Much has been achieved over the past 27 years, may we continue to together conserve the Highland cranes and their habitat.

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Rhino Revolution: Searching for new solutions

The rhino does not belong to us. It belongs to no one. All that we own is the responsibility of ensuring that it persists and that future books on the rhino are written about its expanded range and not its declining future.

– Yolan Friedmann (Endangered Wildlife Trust)

RHINO REVOLUTION COV

Please join the EWT and Jacana Media for a fascinating evening as we launch an incredible new book, written by EWT founder, Clive Walker, and his son Anton. This not-to-be-missed event will see Clive in conversation with Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO, about this wonderful book, and his adventures in conservation.

While the belief continues to persist that the enemy lies elsewhere, in Southeast Asia, how is South Africa going to sustain the cost of securing rhino? The Walkers believe that the problem actually lies in South Africa’s own backyard. This book discusses corruption and the criminal justice system, the need for more community engagement and the costs of protection. It also looks at how far we have come since the rhino wars in the 1980s and the rhino trade debate.

We have to shift from the negative to an element of the positive. People are tired of seeing dead and dying rhino. There is some optimism due to the excellent work being undertaken by the state and the private sector at many levels in security, tourism, community involvement and environmental education, as well as NGO support.

Rhino Revolution testifies to the many people doing just that. The rhino war in South Africa has entered its 10th year, and last year saw 662 rhino killed in Kruger alone – and over 1,000 in total for South Africa. Clive and Anton Walker, authors of the bestselling Rhino Keepers (2012), have once again come up with a fresh, new look at the ongoing rhino crisis. With magnificent photographs and afterwords by John Hanks and Yolan Friedmann.

Copies of the book will be on sale on the evening, and Clive will be available to sign books after the talk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clive Walker entered the battle for the rhino with the founding of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in 1973. He co-founded the Rhino and Elephant Foundation and the African Rhino Owners Association, and served on the IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group for close on 14 years. He served as a member of the South African Parks Board from 2000 to 2006.

Anton Walker, Clive’s son, grew up largely at Lapalala Wilderness, the reserve that was to become an important rhino sanctuary and a world-class environmental school in the bush. Anton joined the permanent staff of the reserve in 1996 and was the general manager of the 45 000-hectare sanctuary until October 2017. He has since taken up the position of director and curator of the Waterberg Living Museum in the Waterberg of Limpopo. His knowledge of both species of rhino is extensive in all areas of management, capture, monitoring, field operations and aerial surveys. His special interest lies in the fossil record of the rhino.

Afterword

Yolan Friedmann

The upsurge of rhino poaching across all range states since 2007 has become something of a modern conservation crisis on a number of levels. Naturally, for the rhino and for the long-term survival of this icon of the African wilderness, the loss of over 25% of the combined population of black and white rhino in just a decade signals a serious crisis and places a question mark on their ability to survive. But in many ways, the crisis runs deeper than that. Just as conservationists sprang into action when the trends in rhino poaching appeared to be changing at alarming rates, so began a rapid shift and, in many cases, a rapidly expanding divide in the landscape of conservation action, ideologies, interventions, perspectives, opinions, special interests and priority setting. Over the past decade, the rhino crisis has catapulted governments, civil society, wildlife owners, NGOs, biologists and politicians into a series of confrontations with one another and, I would suggest, with ourselves, with less than favourable or constructive outcomes.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has been actively working for the conservation of endangered species since its establishment by Clive Walker, Neville Anderson and James Clarke in 1973. For over 44 years, we have been at the forefront of addressing the threats to the conservation of the African wildlife that is heritage and home to us all. The role of the EWT as mediator, initiator and convenor has taught the Trust to understand and navigate its way around ‘human nature’ in order to arrive at a positive outcome. In recent times, the fate of the rhino, and a host of other species that are being equally decimated by rampant illegal trade and escalating greed, has suggested that ‘human nature’ will be the final test of all humanity – and not just the obstacle around which some of us must work.

Clive and Anton Walker have described in great detail and with extensive evidence the numerous tenets to the complexity of today’s ‘rhino crisis’. It is clear that the crisis faced by the rhino today cannot be solved with the solutions of yesterday. The 21st century presents criminal networks with high-tech weaponry that kills in larger numbers, sophisticated forms of communication, efficient transport systems to move product quickly, and more effective ways of corrupting people into networks. It has presented consumers with changing uses for wildlife products and new markets to promote the access to, and use of, wildlife as symbols of increasing wealth. With millions of disenfranchised communities living around, and often within, the parks that are supposed to protect our wildlife, poaching kingpins have no shortage of desperate human beings willing to do their killing and thus kick-start a chain of wildlife trafficking that spans continents and societies. It is into this murky underworld of not only the criminal actions, but also of the underlying human nature that drives them, that the rhino and their wildlife counterparts, such as lions, tigers, bears, elephants and pangolins, have found that their future has now plunged.

Confronting this murky underbelly of humanity forms just one aspect of the modern conservation crisis. On the opposite end of the scale, where the ‘good guys’ are found working on solutions, exists another crisis for humanity. One that is characterised by divisive ideologies, aggressive infighting, ego wars and conflicting agendas. The trouble with the issues faced by those working on this end of the scale is that there exists little to no common objective and no unified force. Instead, our conflicting ideologies, objectives and ambitions serve to divide us and divert attention away from the real enemy, which is in itself a lot more unified and cohesive in its intentions.

No clearer example of this exists in the debate around whether or not the legal trade in rhino horn is the panacea to the rhino poaching crisis. Pitting the individuals and entities that do not believe that a legal trade in rhino horn is currently the solution to this highly complex situation, against those who do or those who stand to benefit from the trade in rhino horn, against each other under the premise that the former group is ‘anti-sustainable use’ or an ‘ill-informed animal rights group’ has become one of the greatest stumbling blocks, I believe, to finding solutions to ensure that free living rhino survive. The argument has devolved to low levels with those who express a concern for legalising the trade within the context of rampant corruption, highly organised trading networks and insufficient protection for free living rhino, being accused of working alongside poachers to drive the rhino to extinction and pocketing ‘millions’ of dollars in funding to drive fancy cars. Despite this rhetoric, no evidence has yet been presented of any NGO that has allegedly benefitted from or been incentivised to drive rhino to extinction, and I have yet to hear of anyone from the NGO sector who has been alleged to be involved in any rhino poaching or illegal trade activities.

To the contrary, many NGOs have stepped in to fill the void created by radically slashed budgets in our provincial and national reserves, and have provided basic items such as: gloves and razor blades for tissue sampling; diesel and fuel to support more regular patrols; food, uniforms and radios to assist rangers in their day-to-day field work; high-tech support in the form of training and deploying sniffer and tracking dogs; and the provision of microchips, satellite phones, drones and handheld devices for improved data collection. The EWT alone has trained nearly 2 000 members of the police, SARS and the various provincial conservation and law enforcement agencies on various aspects of wildlife crime, environmental law and trafficking methodologies. Enormous amounts of funding have been spent on supporting the communities, who live on the borders of our parks, to become more resilient to the appeal of poaching as an income generator by the provision of alternative livelihoods, education and training, job creation and skills development.

In the years following South Africa’s transition to a democratic government, shifting government priorities saw provincial conservation budgets being slashed, posts in conservation departments being left vacant or frozen and poor to no attention being paid to adequately training and resourcing those at the frontline of conservation. Political interference and union intervention in the running of some of the provincial agencies resulted in key skills being lost and insufficient knowledge remaining in those in leadership positions of how to deal with the impending crisis of wildlife poaching and trafficking. As a result, many provincial reserves were slowly eroded with fences being cut, roads not maintained, irregular patrols being carried out, poor to little implementation of management plans, and a focus on the ‘bums in beds’ component of the reserve instead of its contribution to biodiversity and endangered species conservation.

Essentially, South Africa was caught with its pants down when the rhino poaching crisis hit our shores: we had poorly managed, poorly resourced and poorly governed conservation departments and reserves; and, as a result, we failed to act swiftly, appropriately and with vigour. It is against this backdrop that the NGO movement, the private sector and civil society in general, had to step up and play a significant role in ramping up our defence against the onslaught of wildlife crime. Private wildlife owners, NGOs, corporate South Africa and civilians have all stepped up and become critical players in the race to save the rhino. For the most part, this has been done with enormous amounts of goodwill, collaboration and a desire to ensure that South African wildlife persists in a free and wild state. We are all partners in this struggle and we are all important. The divisive nature of the discourse in some sectors can therefore only suggest that not everyone envisages the same outcome for our wildlife and that the development of a collective vision is perhaps the first priority.

Further evidence of an urgent need for a new collective vision for wildlife in South Africa is the push by a small private-sector community, and some in government, towards the intensive farming and mass production of wildlife for body parts and with no demonstrable conservation benefit whatsoever. This, they counter, is simply an extension of the concept of ‘sustainable use’ which is being redefined as ‘use that never ends’, as opposed to a more valid interpretation of this term, which is to use natural resources in such a way that they contribute to the sustained ecological functioning of the ecosystem in which they are found. With no strict conditions set for the utilisation of wildlife resources, which would for example ensure that they are utilised only in such a way that they contribute to the ecological integrity and functioning of viable ecosystems, it is all too simple to equate them to cattle or sheep, feedlot them for mass production and sell off their body parts under the premise that this is sustainable use. I would argue that this is not what was envisioned in the Convention on Biological Diversity and in the South African Constitution.

The argument for mass producing wildlife resources in intensive breeding operations has been justified by some as a means to supply Asian markets, control prices and regulate trade flows, protect wild sources, displace demand and in some cases, even ‘flood’ markets to drive down demand. As none of these theories have been proven to stem the illicit flows of contraband, they are not sound enough reasons to enter into an age of ‘wildlife production’ with its own set of highly unfavourable consequences. For one, it is well documented that a trade in captive-bred wildlife parts does not displace the market for wild bred and caught counterparts – it often just creates a new market. For another, the flows of legally acquired wildlife products present severe challenges for already besieged law-enforcement authorities and a confused public, as product availability is all too often assumed to imply product legality, and checks and balances are not robust enough to prevent this confusion for the man on the street. Furthermore, in a highly corrupt society, and a world where organised-crime forces are not likely to simply drop a product due to the fact that there may now be a legal supply available, one cannot assume that traders, suppliers and consumers of the ‘real, wild thing’ will now simply stop their use.

An additional threat is the significant risk and damage to South Africa’s reputation as a place of wild beauty, the ‘wild’ African experience and a tourism sector that has been built on stories of ground-breaking national park establishment, global conservation success and a sense of place. The advent of canned lion hunting has been a stain on South Africa’s aspirations to present itself as a destination that offers a ‘true’ wildlife experience to a wider diversity of tourists or big-game hunters, than the small handful that seek to kill a captive lion for the joy of seeing it die.

All that the mass production of farmed wildlife products has demonstrated is that a parallel industry is created for those who desire to consume, shoot or trade in wildlife products. This cannot be what the drafters of the term ‘sustainable utilisation’ meant when they recognised that humanity’s ability to derive a benefit from a resource would ensure its ecological survival. This is why, in recent times, the EWT has embarked on an effort to promote the use of the term ‘sustainable conservation’ in order to remind us that utilisation must support the continued conservation of that resource and not simply its continued use. It is our hope that if we return to the ideology that utilisation of our natural resources should benefit the greater good and the conservation of those ecosystems and habitats that support us all, we may again become unified in our outlook on humanity and our own pathway towards survival.

But herein lies the challenge. How do we achieve a unified conservation voice out of a set of ideologies and commercial objectives that differ so vastly and are in fact often at odds with one another? How do we begin to engage in dialogue that is constructive in its outcome and less divisive in its impact? These may be philosophical questions that fall outside the scope of conservationists and biologists, but for them the solutions are critical. We cannot afford to argue, attack, insult, manoeuvre, plot and scheme under the guise of having a common conservation objective, which is arguably not the case at worst and confusing at best, when the enemy is quite clear on its distinct objective, and is far more organised and efficient in its way of achieving it.

We are living in a world in which rampant crime, greed, the rights of the individual to wealth, health, consumption, ownership and power by far outweigh the rights of others, present or future, to equity, sustainability and, in some cases, to life. The proliferation of wildlife crime in recent decades extends to far more than rhino and elephant – it includes species such as cycads for the collector, reptiles for the pet trade, and a variety of species of animal and plants for medical and consumptive use that is far too extensive to list here. This is not new. What has however changed in recent years and is driving this pattern to crisis levels and tipping points for many species is the following: the integration of these commodities into transnational crime networks as highly tradeable products; the increase in consumer buying power; escalating corruption locally and globally; greater consumer access through social media and the ‘dark web’; declining and inadequate support for conservation agencies; and the premise that the conservation of wild things in wild places is no longer a government priority. Underpinning this all is the mass commodification of wildlife for short-term gain and hence, I would suggest, this can never be the solution.

The rhino has been an icon of African wildlife for centuries and, in recent decades, it has become the icon of African conservation. I would now like to suggest that we escalate the rhino to the status of an icon for the future of humanity, as we face the truth about ourselves as a species that is able and willing to surrogate millennia of evolutionary biology and the aspirations of every wild and free species for the gains of artificial wealth, dubious health benefits, market control, power and ego. The fate of the rhino will become the fate of every other species that man determines has a value for consumers, traders, owners, buyers, thrill chasers and trophy seekers.

The rhino does not belong to us. It belongs to no one. All that we own is the responsibility of ensuring that it persists and that future books on the rhino are written about its expanded range and not its declining future.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Presented by Clive Walker, in conversation with Yolan Friedmann

RSVP: 6 April 2018

Please note: Dinner reservations need to be booked and paid for in advance by the RSVP deadline.

18:00 for 18:30 (please note the slightly earlier start than usual, to allow for book signings)
Dinner to be served at 20:30
Dress Code – Smart Casual {no shorts, t-shirts or slops}
Country Club Johannesburg, Auckland Park
1 Napier Road, Auckland Park

THE COUNTRY CLUB MEMBERS
CCJ Members RSVP to Cathy Robertson on 011 710 6421 or cathyr@ccj.co.za
Charges will be made to your Club Account
CCJ Members – Talk only R80 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R265 pp

EWT MEMBERS & NON-MEMBERS
RSVP to joelt@ewt.org.za or 011 372 3600 – Extension: 112
EWT Members:  Talk Only R80 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R265 pp
Non-Members:  Talk Only R105 pp ~or~ Talk + Dinner R290 pp
DINNER – R185 pp

PROOF OF PAYMENT : EWT MEMBERS & NON-MEMBERS
In order to confirm your booking, please email proof of payment to joelt@ewt.org.za or
fax 011 608 4682

Payments may be made to the following account:
Endangered Wildlife Trust
First National Bank, Rosebank
Acc. No. 50371564219
Branch Code. 25 33 05
REF: Name + EWT Talk

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Going green for frogs!

Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Manager, Threatened Amphibian Programme

JeanneT@ewt.org.za

This year saw the fourth consecutive ‘Leap Day for Frogs’ taking place. This national awareness campaign aims to point the spotlight, or headlamp, at frogs and highlight their plight of being the most threatened animals on Earth, but also celebrate the amazing diversity of these interesting creatures. The campaign is coordinated by the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme, with the aim of getting as many schools, organisations and individuals across the country doing something to recognise frogs and their importance. See here for more details. This year, participants were encouraged to “Go Green for Frogs” by dressing in green at school or work. Overall, we had 5,000 participants, across five provinces, from 25 different organisations/schools/companies or individuals. Events ranged from school groups dressing in green, to presentations, to the creations of entire ‘frogging forums’! Part of the celebrations included a competition, and the lucky winners were:

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  1. Ithuba Wild Coast Community College Primary School – most participants, and winners of a talk from our frog lady, Dr Jeanne Tarrant.
  2. Hannah Zunckel – the best photograph submitted with our origami frog, Freddy, and winner of a headlamp.
  3. Sharlene Van Der Slikke from KZN Coastal Frogging Forum – best individual effort, and winner of a Trappers hamper.

The EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme was involved in six events, including our regular joint venture with Kloof Conservancy. On Saturday, 24 February, 220 people gathered at Tanglewood Private Nature Reserve in Kloof, to take part in Leap Day for Frogs, 2018. The Tanglewood event was organised in collaboration with Kloof Conservancy as part of Leap Day for Frogs and as part of the Conservancy’s Back-to-Nature events.  The afternoon started with various activity tables for children to learn about frog biology, including the life-cycle, breeding (children got to play with ‘frog eggs’ and blow foam nests), experience live frogs and snakes, as part of the food chain, as well as learn about how frogs are sensitive to pollution and other threats. Everyone enjoyed picnicking around the dam, followed by a short talk by Dr Jeanne Tarrant, and then a walk through the forest and around some of the dams to search for frogs by torch light. Once again, lots of fun was had by all, and it is super to see so many of the public supporting such events.

Thanks and appreciation go to Caryl Combrink and her family for once again allowing us to use their wonderful venue – a truly amazing gem of grassland and forest habitat tucked away behind the industrial setting of Pinetown. The EWT would especially like to thank Paolo Candotti and his team at Kloof Conservancy for partnering with us for the fifth year running and for donating all proceeds from the event to the EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme. Struik Nature is thanked for once again donating generous prizes of Apps of both the Complete Guide to Southern African Frogs and the children’s Young Explorer Frog App to lucky draw winners.

We would like to thank all of our participants this year, including SAAMBR, SAEON, Wilderness Safaris and the many schools that took part and made donations to the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme.

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Corruption fuels wildlife crime

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, is deeply disturbed at the recent allegations of political involvement in the illegal trade in wildlife, at the highest possible levels in southern Africa.

It is not new to hear about government authorities being involved in crime. In recent years, we have witnessed people employed to be the guardians of our wildlife through their positions as wildlife rangers, permit officials and policemen, arrested, and in some cases convicted, for poaching and wildlife trafficking. In 2016, none other than our State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, was reported to have close ties to a rhino horn trafficker in the country. It is however, gravely concerning when the allegations of government participation in wildlife crime extend to the highest offices in the land.

On Sunday, 25 March 2018, it was reported that former South African President Jacob Zuma is being investigated by the Hawks for allegedly accepting a R1 million cash bribe from a Western Cape abalone dealer in exchange for keeping Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Senzeni Zokwana in his Cabinet during the reshuffle after the 2016 local elections. Earlier this month, nine fisheries department officials were arrested on suspicion of being part of a syndicate involved in the illegal poaching and trade of abalone. Investigations in both instances are ongoing, but point to alleged political involvement at the highest level in this illicit trade. Abalone is the world’s most valuable shellfish, and poaching of wild abalone is rampant. This activity threatens to drive the species to extinction.

These allegations against former President Jacob Zuma come hot on the heels of claims against Zimbabwe’s former First Lady, Grace Mugabe, who is under investigation by police in that country, where she is said to have headed up a smuggling network which illegally exported tonnes of elephant ivory. She was named as the alleged mastermind of the operation by two suspected poachers who were arrested attempting to sell tusks. It has also been suggested that she utilised the country’s stockpiles of ivory as ‘gifts’ for unnamed officials in the Far East. These allegations are also still under investigation, and no charges have yet been laid.

The illegal trade in wildlife is a lucrative business, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It is also one of the gravest threats to many wildlife species, and one that conservation NGOs such as the EWT are tirelessly fighting to address. This can, however, become a losing battle if corruption and involvement by government officials continue to play a role. The EWT calls for stringent investigations into these cases and, should the allegations against former President Zuma and former First Lady Mugabe be found to be true, the sternest judgement should be meted out. The leadership in any country is beholden to uphold all the laws of the land, starting with the Constitution; and their responsibility extends to those that have no voice and who need our greatest protection. When government authorities breach this compact, the impact is severe and consequences should be dire.

 

End

 

Contacts

Dr Kelly Marnewick

Wildlife in Trade Programme: Senior Trade Officer

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

kellym@ewt.org.za

 

Ashleigh Dore

Wildlife in Trade Programme: Programme Coordinator

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

ashleighd@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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Cash before conservation: New report probes the South African captive Lion industry

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, has been calling for radical change in the captive African Lion industry in South Africa since before 2009. Our key concerns include: the welfare of the animals; the safety of visitors; a lack of transparency by the facilities; and the potential impacts on wild Lion populations (EWT Position Statement). Today, our concerns are echoed in new report entitled Cash Before Conservation: An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for Hunting and Bone Trade, published by the Born Free Foundation (report).

The report finds that:

  • Trade in captive Lion parts has been linked to the trafficking of other wildlife products with prominent Lion breeders being linked to rhino poaching syndicates. The most prominent of these is Thai national Chumlong Lemtonghtai, who worked for one of the largest international wildlife smuggling syndicates, The Xaysavang Company, and who was found guilty of permit fraud related to the pseudo-hunting of rhinos. The Xaysavang Company has been linked to rhino horn and ivory smuggling.
  • The captive Lion industry has received support from key members of national and provincial government, including the current Minister of Environmental Affairs when she fulfilled various senior roles in the North West Province government – the hub of captive Lion hunting. Under her leadership, the captive Lion industry grew in the province and was promoted as an acceptable form of wildlife utlisation.
  • There is an increasing resistance to captive Lion hunting in the formal hunting industry, with international and national hunting organisations taking stands against the practice. When the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) decided to support captive hunting in November 2017, the association was ousted from the larger hunting industry with sponsors withdrawing and the Operators and Professional Hunting Associations of Africa (OPHAA), the Namibia Professional Hunting Association, the Boone and Crocket Club in the USA, and the Nordic Hunting Club all severing ties with PHASA. Despite this, the industry continues to promote itself and receive government support.
  • There is an association between Lion breeding and the emerging trade in donkey skins to Asia. Donkeys are often used to feed captive Lions and their skins are now being exported to Asia for use in skin care products. Government officials in the North West Province are promoting the trade to create jobs while other African countries are working to shut down the trade and welfare organisations express concern around the wellbeing of the donkeys.

South Africa has approximately 8,000 Lions in captivity that are kept for various commercial purposes including: cub petting, “walking-with” initiatives, photographic tourism, and for hunting and their bones. Between 2003 and 2013, nearly 7,500 lion trophies left the country, the vast majority of which were from canned hunts. More recently, captive Lions have been used to supply the demand for Lion bones in Asia. In early 2017, the South African government announced a quota of 800 Lion skeletons that will be allowed for export. The EWT recognises the critical importance of unlocking opportunities for job creation and poverty alleviation in South Africa and we believe that the wildlife economy has great potential to do this. We do, however, remain concerned that the principles of ecological sustainability have been obscured by the increasing commodification of our wildlife resources. We are further concerned about the links between legal Lion bone trade and notorious smuggling syndicates.

The South African captive Lion industry has been under the international spotlight and many reputable conservation and hunting organisations have distanced themselves from the industry and its practices. South Africa has a world-class conservation reputation and the captive breeding of Lions for hunting and their bones is detracting from this.

We call on the South African government to act urgently to put an end to this practice, to protect South Africa’s reputation and Lions. We also call on our government to stop legitimising a practice that is merely intensive breeding of animals for commercial gain and has no positive impact on conservation.

These facilities need to be closed down to protect the staff and visitors who are frequently injured – and even killed ­ through interactions with Lions that have lost their fear of humans. Just last month a lady was killed by a captive Lion at a facility outside Johannesburg. We call on members of the public not to visit captive operations and to find ways of enjoying and appreciating Lions where they belong – in the wild.

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Contact

Dr Kelly Marnewick
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Wildlife in Trade Programme
Senior Trade Officer
kellym@ewt.org.za
Tel: + 27 82 477 770

Ashleigh Dore
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Wildlife in Trade Programme
Programme Coordinator
ashleighd@ewt.org.za

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A remarkable observation

On the second week of this month January, I had plans to visit one of the communities in Lothair and I knew that I have to at least make a detour and pass at one of the Grey Crowned Cranes I used to monitor. As it is still time for breeding and bearing in mind late rains from last year, I had a feeling of seeing at least a pair around if not breeding.
When I approach the site like usual I drove slowly not to scare birds away as this small reed wetland not only accommodates cranes but also some water birds like Spoonbills, Egyptian geese, herons and Ibises among others. The site is also very close to the road and which makes it even interesting for the cranes not to be bothered by the passing vehicles and people. Up on arrival I saw them walking on the edge of the wetland not showing any signs of moving away and with my experience I knew that I am up for a surprise even though I did not see chicks at that moment. Just for the record, this pair also hatched two chicks last year which shows how suitable the site to them.
Remember I was actually on my way to meet community of Lothair and check how their vegetable garden was doing. I decided to leave, as I could not see chicks as they were hiding on the vegetation. As I was with the community my mind was elsewhere as I knew there is something to go back for. When arriving at the site I had my camera ready and there they were walking and this time with three chicks I thought. I was left speechless when I saw the fourth one as I thought they were only three. I told myself that my day was complete as this was something amazing I have ever seen since I monitored this pair in 2014. As I left the site, I just had one wish for the four chicks to reach fledging stage without anything happening and I am hopeful that with the planned aerial survey we will get more success in this year breeding season.

Article by Steven Segang, Highveld Community Field Officer, South Africa

 

Posted in African Crane Conservation Programme | 2 Comments

The Rugezi Marsh bio blitz and community surveys

From 11th December 2017 to 28th January 2018, in addition to Crane monitoring and attending different workshops, the team embarked on projects related to Rainforest Trust Project such as carrying out Rapid biodiversity and socio-economic surveys aimed at assessing the acceptability of enhancing the Protected Area status for Rugezi Marsh, and the feasibility of introducing an Ecosystem-based Management System.
On 11th December 2017 Rwanda country Coordinator, project field assistants and Dr Adalbert Aine-Omucunguzi, the regional manager together with Geographical Information System(GIS) expert Mr Concorde Nsengumuremyi from Kitabi College of Conservation and Environment management went through Rugezi marsh with a purpose of experimenting the pre-test for a successful biodiversity survey on due date. The GIS expert was so helpful and he later on designed a map of Rugezi marsh Cleary showing the transects drawn within and the map was shared amongst the team for the review.
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Dr Adalbert (Regional manager), Kamanzi , Oliver (Field Assistant), Concorde (GIS expert) Cynthia from General Architecture collaborative.
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Map of Rugezi Wetland with the transects for a biodiversity survey.

After the pre-test of the methodology used, different government institutions such as Rwanda Development Board(RDB), Rwanda Environment Authority(REMA) and definitely both Burera and Gicumbi district where the marsh is located were invited to delegate at least one of their technical staff to be part of the Rapid biodiversity and Socio-economic surveys at Rugezi.
On 19th Jan.2018 we conducted at REMA Conference hall under the request from the technical team from Rwanda Environment Management Authority that reviewed our request, a lots were shared through a colourful presentation on the intended project by Dr Adalbert Aine-Omucungizi, Richard Nasasira and Kamanzi, discussions experienced quite number of challenges towards having management of Rugezi marsh and one of their wishes as REMA was to have a clear defined sustainable management plan of Rugezi marsh Rwanda Ramsar site focal point said, They were so supportive and eager to learn more from the findings/outcomes of the study.
On 21st Jan, the team of experts in different aspects: Insects, mammals, Birds, plants, amphibians and reptiles gathered 36 Students 2nd year Wildlife Management class at Kitabi College of Conservation and Environment management (KCCEM) for a workshop that were facilitated by Dr Adalbert, Richard Nasasira, Kamanzi and the team of experts in the above mentioned aspects. Students were so excited and looking forward to exploring more on the field.
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Dr Adalbert Aine-Omucungizi facilitating the workshop at KCCEM

The following day on 22nd Jan, the entire team travelled from KCCEM to Burera district where we were warmly received by the Vice Mayor of the district in charge of welfare and development together with directors, technical staff involved in environmental conservation, Director of district business development who expressed district interest in promoting tourism among others. The colourful welcoming to the team were a result of amazing discussion Kamanzi Jean Pierre (Country Project Coordinator) had had with The Mayor of the district on various projects with the focus of ongoing project aiming at assessing the acceptability of enhancing the Protected Area status for Rugezi Marsh, and the feasibility of introducing an Ecosystem-based Management System under Rainforest Trust Project. District Mayor was so supportive and acknowledging the impact of ICF/EWT/KCCEM partnership projects so far has made more especially in livelihoods improvement context.
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Dr Adalbert, Kamanzi giving Crane Flying T-shirt to Vice Mayor, Burera District
The moments shared with district officials were remarkable, welcoming leaders provided a tremendous hospitality to the team right from the day one to day last of the survey, in fact students had gone with their camping tents and the security was guarantee, we set up 4 groups which camped in 4 different camp sites and all of them none did complain about their basic needs and security because they were provided. The entire team did a tremendous work but more especially students who put much of their efforts pricelessly to achieve the intended goal. Team work was a key to making a rapid biodiversity and socio-economic whereas each group got split into 2 on second day of the survey and each group was given an expert and 2 local persons to ensure the completion of the exercise timely.
For Biodiversity, a number of species were observed and recorded accordingly and the transects of 200 meters each were established and the team managed to make 82 transects irrespective of some barriers experienced.
For socio-economic survey, it was amazing the way the leadership was so helpful like we could only make a team of 3 to 4 interviewers and the local community was encouraged to form a group within sectors for a group discussion. Key informant and 15 households were also interviewed and we are looking forward to having positive results visa-vi our goal.


KCCEM student with a net to collect aquatic species for further identification with the team. The extreme end there is a delegate from REMA in white cape checking the camera of an expert to view different species captured.

Senyanzobe JMV(PhD candidate), Plant Expert through the marsh to identify plant species within
For some cases, while identifying plant experts and students could take pictures and collect specimens to their camping sites for further consultative specie identification in a group.
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In addition to the Grey Crowned Crane, more birds species were found in Rugezi..Grey Helon to mention

Under Socio-economic, Group discussion were carried out successfully and the following image was captured during an amazing chat Rukundo Emmanuel (one of the field assistants), KCCEM Students were having with the community members of Kivuye Sector.

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Throughout the entire period of carrying out both biodiversity and socio-economic surveys Students were secured but also self-secured due to the remarkable discipline they have shown said by Senior Sperterndant of Police Alex Fata who is the district police commander and he mentioned that saving cranes and even other endangered species is relatively compared to saving human lives thus securing God’s creatures.
In line with MacArthur foundation funds mission, KCCEM students were equipped and learned a lots on the field with the help of experts as it was testified by the Students Guild President spoken at the closing event while sharing lunch with ICF/KCCEM staff and district officials.
Apart from the commander of police, students had an opportunity to interact with Dr Adalbert Aine-Omucunguzi who commended the continuity of their hardworking spirit and discipline as paramount, he also mentioned that ACCP is promising full support where possible towards making them future conservation leaders.
Other district officials were also present like district immigration officer, director of district business development unlike the executive council which had gone for some meetings in Kigali, Nevertheless the May delegated district partnership coordinator who was the guest of honor.
Mayor delegate assured the continuity and fair collaboration between the district officials, local leaders and the entire community of burera district and ICF/EWT/KCCEM partnership towards introducing an Ecosystem-based Management System of Rugezi Wetland.
Besides that, as a sign of interest picked by Mayor sent a message on Kamanzi Jean Pierre (Project Coordinator)’s person cell phone acknowledging the fact that ICF/EWT/KCCEM have been good partners of the district and expressing how much people of Burera are great full and excited for the upcoming projects.
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Closing day after sharing lunch with district officials: District police commander in the Uniform, Immigration officer, director of District business development,Munana Daniel, District partnership Coordinator(May delegate) and Dr Adalbert behind ensuring the students animation.

Article by Jean Pierre Kamanzi

Posted in African Crane Conservation Programme | Leave a comment

Win a game drive with our big cat experts this World Wildlife Day!

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‘Keep them wild’ photography competition – win a drive on the wild side with the EWT’s big cat experts

World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on 3 March, and the theme for 2018 is Big cats: predators under threat. To celebrate this, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, is launching a photography competition, and asking the public to help us ‘keep them wild’.

The aim is simple – we want to see your photos of beautiful big cats where they belong, in the wild! Send your photo, featuring any of the big cats found in South Africa (Lions, Leopards, or Cheetahs) to cheetah@ewt.org.za and let us know where it was taken. This could be inside or outside of a protected area, but should not be in a captive facility.

You could win a fabulous game drive with the EWT’s big cat experts, and the chance to learn more about our amazing cats, while seeing them in the wild! Entries close on 3 April 2018, so send those photos in today!

Competition rules:

  • Entries close on 3 April 2018 at midnight, and the winner will be announced on 9 April 2018, via social media and email.
  • The judges’ decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • The prize is for the winning photographer and one guest to join the EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme team members on a game drive in one of the reserves where we work with Cheetahs.
  • The prize does not include travel to the game reserve selected.
  • The prize does not include interaction, such as touching or walking with, any animals.
  • Photographs must be of one of the three species of big cats found in South Africa (Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs). These photographs must be taken in the cats’ natural habitat (inside or outside a protected area). Selfies with cubs or adult cats, or any photographs taken at captive facilities will not qualify.
  • Multiple entries are allowed.
  • Entries are open to anyone aged 12 and above.
  • Entries open to people residing within South Africa.
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Mass poisoning incident affects over 100 Critically Endangered vultures

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, is deeply saddened to report another mass poisoning of vultures in southern Africa. On 25 February 2018, EWT vulture expert, Andre Botha, assisted at a harrowing scene in the Mbashene communal area in southern Mozambique, where the deliberate poisoning of an elephant carcass affected at least 104 Critically Endangered vultures.

This has resulted in the death of at least 80 African White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus) and seven Hooded Vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus), with the likelihood that many more fatalities may be discovered by further sweeps of the surrounding area in the next 48 hours. The small tusks taken from the young dead elephant, as well as the toxic substance used to poison the carcass, have been confiscated by law enforcement officers, and a suspect is in custody. Some of the dead birds found were mutilated, which may suggest harvest for belief-based purposes, but without all the information available at this early stage, it is difficult to speculate as to the motive for this poisoning. What is known, is that vultures in Africa are being poisoned deliberately by poachers to prevent the birds alerting authorities to the poachers’ illegal activities, or for harvesting and sale of body parts for belief-based use.

Fortunately, 17 birds that were immediately treated by the response team have responded positively to treatment thus far, and we continue to hope that they will pull through. Rapid response and appropriate treatment of poisoning victims can make all the difference. We are extremely grateful to the response team, which included the EWT’s Andre Botha and the Incomati Conservancy, which is adjacent to the communal area where the incident took place, particularly owner, Dries Gouws, and area manager, Piet Kok, as well as the responding vet, Dr João Almeida from Sabie Game Park and the State Veterinary Services at Skukuza, for their incredible response to this incident. Without their actions, the outcome could have been far worse.

The EWT’s training programme on the effective intervention of wildlife poisoning incidents, and the development and distribution of Poison Response Kits to participating organisations, in partnership with The Hawk Conservancy Trust and the University of Reading, providing them with the essential equipment to take action when they handle poisoning incidents, is proving vital in situations such as this. This work facilitates a coordinated, quicker and more effective response to incidents, with more efficient clean ups of poisoning sites, directly reducing further poisoning of wildlife.

This terrible incident is yet another stark reminder of the increasing threat poisonings pose to our dwindling vulture populations. Poisoning is the most significant threat to vultures in Africa and Eurasia and, over the last 30 years, has contributed to declines in excess of 80% in some African species. Currently, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists four species of African vulture as Critically Endangered and three species as Endangered. As obligate scavengers, vultures are incredibly vulnerable to poisoning, particularly at carcasses that are laced with these lethal substances. In addition to this, feeding habits that see hundreds of vultures gathering to feast on large carcasses, such as those of elephants, make them even more vulnerable to mass poisoning fatalities.

The EWT has been documenting wildlife poisoning and addressing the conservation threats for over 20 years, and has noted a rapid escalation in the use of poisons in recent years for various reasons. These include the use of poisons to target specific species such as elephants that provide high-value by-products for trade, as well as mammalian carnivores or monkeys that cause damage to domestic livestock or crops. We also note with concern the use of poisons to procure wildlife that may provide a food source such as game birds. We are working hard to tackle the scourge of poisoning, providing support and guidance to law enforcement officials, ensuring that proper investigation and prosecution procedures are followed, and training conservation and agricultural staff to make sure that they are equipped to deal with this terrible threat.

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Contacts

Andre Botha

Manager: Special Projects

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 82 962 5725

andreb@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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