DRIVING CHANGE: PROTECTING THE PROTECTED

24 August 2016
Start

South Africa currently has a serious problem with regards to road-related fatalities, and this epidemic is relevant to wildlife too. Insurance claims suggest that approximately R82.5 million is paid each year against collisions with wild animals, though the costs to wildlife of these collisions are never calculated. So what are the consequences for animals? The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is tackling this question and working to find solutions to the problems associated with wildlife and transport infrastructure.

shutterstock_43493521

Perhaps the most obvious concern is the direct and negative consequences of vehicle-wildlife collisions, more commonly known as ‘roadkill’. Reports via social media platforms from members of the public show a high level of public disquiet and emotional concern about the rate of road deaths in parks, including issues related to speeding and careless driving, and the conservation impacts and wildlife welfare risks such driving poses. To take a closer look into the problem the EWT launched a new project in 2014 aimed specifically at wildlife and road issues in nature reserves and parks.

In 2014, Pilanesberg National Park was the first reserve to support the initiative, where many wildlife species including leopard and zebra have been killed on the roads. Following this, research continued in Addo Elephant National Park in 2015. The research team set out to monitor driver behaviour through placing a fake snake on the road, and recording how many times it was ‘hit’ and the speed at which the vehicle was travelling. We found that approximately 50% of drivers hit the fake snake. “From our survey, it seems that observation levels of the driver, rather than the speed of the vehicle, is the key factor in causing roadkill,” explains Wendy Collinson, the Project Executant of the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project.

Armed with a better understanding of the reasons why roadkill may be happening in national parks, the research team have returned to Pilanesberg National Park to undertake follow-up work. “A driver awareness campaign is to be launched in parks to make drivers more aware of animals on the roads themselves,” Collinson commented. “We plan to test a number of awareness-measures with visitors to the park and to assess which method works best. This will guide us on future decisions in other parks that will improve the quality of the experience of park visitors and safeguard the animals in these protected areas,” she concluded.

The EWT is also excited to announce that the project has expanded to Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park through a joint collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, as well as Table Mountain National Park, where preliminary roadkill surveys have begun. “We are also eagerly awaiting the start of some surveys to begin in Kruger National Park, with support from the University of Mpumalanga and SANParks,” stated Collinson. “There is an urgent need to better quantify and understand the impacts of roads on wildlife in protected areas and to develop and test methods to manage these. Ultimately, through understanding the causes of roadkill, this project will guide further research, specifically for recommended roadkill-reduction measures in other protected areas in South Africa.”

The project is novel, unique and innovative in its design since it also uses volunteers or citizen scientists to assist with data collection. Citizen scientists are becoming more recognised by wildlife researchers as a support to expert data collection. To galvanise public participation to this process, the EWT has taken to the internet to get people to report wildlife fatalities. The EWT has a Smartphone app, Road Watch, which allows data to be quickly and accurately captured, assisting people to easily submit their information. Other social media platforms include Facebook and LinkedIn.

The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project in Protected Areas is supported by Bridgestone SA, Copenhagen Zoo and Mikros Traffic Monitoring. Collaborations include: Mpumalanga University, University of KZN, North West Parks and Tourism Board, South African National Parks and Africa:Live.

End.

Wendy Collinson
Project executant: Wildlife & Roads Project
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
wendyc@ewt.org.za

Constant Hoogstad
Manager: Wildlife & Energy Programme & Wildlife & Roads Project
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
constanth@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
belindag@ewt.org.za

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The Business Case for Biodiversity

By Shelley Lizzio, Manager: National Biodiversity and Business Network and Michael Adams, National Biodiversity and Business Network
ShellyL@ewt.org.za
MichaelA@ewt.org.za

Biodiversity is the foundation of our existence and the prerequisite for doing business. Surprisingly few business realise that around 40% of the global economy is based on biological products or processes. Indeed, businesses, whether they realise it or not, profit directly or indirectly from the variety of ecosystems, species and genetic biodiversity in the extraction and production of raw materials, and in the distribution and marketing of products. The global loss of biodiversity, along with climate change, represents one of the greatest business challenges of our time.

Each year, our planet’s complex land and water systems — a ‘natural living infrastructure’— produce an estimated $72 trillion worth of ‘free’ goods and services essential to a well-functioning global economy. That’s more than four times the size of the US economy. Because these benefits aren’t bartered and sold in the marketplace, their value is exceedingly hard to monetise on corporate or government financial statements. As a result, this value has largely been left unaccounted for in business decisions and market transactions. This is starting to change.
Businesses that seek to remain competitive in today’s market would do well to take cognisance of risks surrounding their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity as well as the opportunities available to businesses that seek to sustainably utilise services and products that stem from our planets biodiversity.

The EWT’s National Biodiversity and Business Network (NBBN), founded in 2013, is at the forefront of this emerging business imperative. The NBBN is a South African-based network of businesses, industries and related stakeholders, including government, NGOs and academic institutions. The aim of the NBBN is to facilitate engagement amongst its members and to support the mainstreaming of biodiversity into business agendas and operations. The NBBN seeks to create public and corporate awareness about biodiversity and its importance, as well as to help companies identify and manage their own impacts on nature. The initiative encourages companies to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services in all environmental and sustainability management systems and practices.

Over the past two years, the NBBN, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs, conducted a preliminary baseline assessment of the current approaches and practices of South African businesses to the mainstreaming of biodiversity. The results of this assessment have recently been published in a report entitled: Overview of current approaches and practices of South African businesses to the mainstreaming of biodiversity: a preliminary baseline assessment. To download a full copy of the report please visit https://www.ewt.org.za/BUSINESSDEVELOPMENT/events.html

Report Cover

Report Cover

A number of key findings are described in the report. Less than 40% of the companies that were reviewed demonstrated a good understanding of biodiversity and related ecosystem services (these are services we receive from nature such as the production of oxygen).
A similarly low percentage of companies showed an adequate understanding of the economic and social importance of biodiversity, or of the business risks and opportunities around natural capital. Most of the businesses that were reviewed did not consider biodiversity as a part of their core business, with more than 60% of companies displayed an ‘ad-hoc’ corporate approach to biodiversity, with no vision, strategy, specific objectives or targets regarding biodiversity.
In order for businesses to take on board the concepts of biodiversity and natural capital the business case for mainstreaming biodiversity into business needs to be consolidated and clearly articulated. To this end, the NBBN is continually looking to address these and other recommendations and research in collaboration with business, the NGO sector and the South African government.

It is imperative that companies realise that the consequences of biodiversity loss will not just affect those companies with direct reliance on natural resources but will also affect the supply chains and growth objectives of most industry sectors in the developed and developing world.

Biodiversity is our ‘natural capital’ with immense economic significance for South Africa, and therefore, by investing in this capital we are investing in South Africa and its future. Without a strong commitment from the business sector, achieving the global targets set for human well‐being and biodiversity conservation becomes all the more difficult.
The NBBN is supported by and partners with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Nedbank Limited, Hatch Goba, De Beers, Transnet, Pam Golding Properties, Pick n Pay and Woolworths.

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Let’s Do it Ourselves!

By Bridget Corrigan, Manager: EWT Source to Sea Programme
BridgetC@ewt.org.za

The Marico Catchment Conservation Project is a fantastic example of how much can be achieved when there is community involvement and buy-in. A local community focus group has named the project A Re Itireleng (‘let’s do it ourselves’) and are committed to leading the way when it comes to enhancing sustainable water management and green economy for the benefit of people and the environment in the Marico River Catchment. What’s more, the project team is set to undertake their first full-scale integrated People Health Environment (PHE) programme, highlighting the importance that is placed on the connection between community and environment.

This project is being undertaken in an area of great conservation significance, which is currently being impacted by climate change and where the community members have, themselves identified the need for greater family planning provision. By supporting rural communities to enter into the green economy and thereby reduce dependency and demands on the overstretched water resource of the Marico River, it will foster improved water resource management and stakeholder cooperation within the catchment. By establishing a number of ‘Living Farms’ in a particularly vulnerable area (arid climate, erratic rainfall, and erosion problems) we will assist the emerging farmers to protect and sustainably manage their ecological capital. Healthy and diverse ecosystems provide essential agricultural services, such as the increased provision and purification of water; protection against extreme events; pollination, grazing and increased soil fertility. Because we take an integrated approach to catchment conservation, we are contributing towards many of the newly developed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an under-resourced region that is particularly vulnerable to climate change and poverty.

UN-SDGs

This approach allows us to work towards not only improved catchment and water management practices that ensure the greatest degree of water security and resource protection under changing climatic conditions, but also the development of an informed and engaged catchment community where the youth are included in integrated water resource management, and an active citizen science network, collecting data on river condition and flows at WESSA EcoSchools in the catchment. This will feed into a local monitoring programme, in partnership with provincial conservation agencies. A robust and innovative green economy supports women and youth to develop sustainable micro-enterprises and diversify the livelihood opportunities, and provides economic stability and market support for small-scale producers in this catchment by facilitating the market and supply-chain links through a cross-sectoral approach. The integrated approach also provides for improved community education on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy and greater access to family planning services, thereby increasing women’s agency and reducing the demand on natural resources over the long term.

Tour guide sharing knowledge on the process of managing worms to produce silk

Tour guide sharing knowledge on the process of managing worms to produce silk

The development of a local green economy is one of the key objectives that we are working on in the hopes that access to sustainable jobs and business opportunities will prevent communities from supporting unsustainable economic activities, such as mining in the area. To this end we have partnered with businesswomen, Mickaela Fay in a social enterprise silk production start-up. We are going to be working with the African Pride Nature Conservation Association (a group of young motivated people from Reboile, Marico) in setting up small-scale silk worm farms. We are currently developing the business plan and sourcing the materials and equipment for a pilot. We visited the African Silk Farm just outside Graskop in May 2016 (the only other South African producer) to find out more about the operations and management of such an enterprise. If this social enterprise proves to be viable, we will upscale and expand, thereby increasing the number of business and job opportunities available to the people in this community.

Emerging farmer focus group meeting in Koffiekraal

Emerging farmer focus group meeting in Koffiekraal

We would like to thank UNDP New World, Foundation for Human Rights and Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Charitable Foundation for their support.
donorsS2S

Posted in SOURCE TO SEA PROGRAMME | 1 Comment

Creating Cohesion

By Kerryn Morrison, ICF/EWT Senior Manager: Africa
KerrynM@ewt.org.za

When team members are scattered across several countries in Africa, it’s easy for a sense of cohesion to be lost. Yet in order to implement the ambitious strategy of the African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the Endangered Wildlife Trust and International Crane Foundation, a cohesive and committed team is exactly what’s needed. The obvious solution was to bring everyone together, but could that be achieved across geographical barriers?

ACCP team

The team is currently spread across several countries in Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia – with a lot of our interactions happening virtually. Although a reality for an African wide programme, a foundation was required for the establishment of a real sense of team work and collaboration within the ACCP. This is imperative to ensure that the vision of securing Africa’s four resident crane species in the wild, including the Blue, Black Crowned, Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes, is realised. We therefore brought together 16 of our ACCP team for a two-week workshop of team building, lesson sharing, development of project impact monitoring and training. Although our Rwandan team of four were unable to join us due to South African policies which currently do not allow Rwandans into the country, our Rwanda Country Coordinator joined us via VoIP for some of our key sessions. During our first week, we were joined by Dr. Harriet Davies-Mostert (EWT’s Head of Conservation) and Dr. Tim Jackson (EWT’s Senior Technical Editor), and by Cobus Theron (EWT’s Drylands Conservation Programme Manager) and Nicky McLeod (Environmental Rural Solutions, one of our partners).

The first week was held at St Bernard’s Peak in the Southern Drakensberg where we spent time exploring project development and the theory of change to ensure that our projects had the conservation impact we desired. We then delved deeper into our monitoring systems, developing the foundation for a standardised monitoring framework for our crane, ecosystem goods and services and socio-economic monitoring processes. With time spent in the field, in small group discussions and in discussions with the whole group, we co-created monitoring frameworks, shared lessons, and obtained an improved understanding of the project sites we have across Africa.

For the second week, the team headed up to the EWT headquarters in Johannesburg for their annual Development Week. Here, the team were exposed to key threats to cranes, such as powerlines, poisoning and mining, and to a host of other topics relevant to our work, as well as to training that could contribute to our effectiveness, such as GIS training and basic photography skills.
The two weeks together were invaluable and have forged friendships and the foundation we required to move forward as a dedicated, passionate and inspired team. Everyone committed to at least one personal goal that arose out of the workshop and to a goal that would help develop the team.

This work is made possible by the support of the Dohmen Family Foundation, Whitley Fund for Nature, Dennis Geiler, Joe Branch, EU, Nedbank Green Trust and Rand Merchant Bank.
Crane conservation in action!

The International Crane Foundation, the EWT’s partners on the African Crane Conservation Programme, recently created a virtual showcase of their exhibits. Please click on the link below to view the Blue Crane exhibit in 360 Virtual Reality! Use your cursor to move the image up down and all around. There will be more images coming soon!
https://www.google.com/maps/@43.5477799,-89.7563991,3a,75y,262.44h,82.6t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-gl3lIbk7XuY%2FV3-8PcgwsoI%2FAAAAAAAAAPY%2FWoy82zZwBKQTZNr9qfIbgsoHBHSo6fw2ACLIB!2e4!3e11!6s%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2F-gl3lIbk7XuY%2FV3-8PcgwsoI%2FAAAAAAAAAPY%2FWoy82zZwBKQTZNr9qfIbgsoHBHSo6fw2ACLIB%2Fw203-h101-n-k-no%2F!7i5376!8i2688!6m1!1e1?hl=en

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Putting African Road Ecology on the Map

By Wendy Collinson, Manager: EWT Wildlife and Roads Project
WendyC@ewt.org.za

Eight African road ecologists are off to France later this year to attend the fifth Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE), an international conference on ecology and transportation. IENE is a network of experts working with various aspects of transportation, infrastructure and ecology. The network was initiated in 1996 to provide an independent, international and interdisciplinary arena for the exchange and development of expert knowledge, and with the aim to promote a safe and ecologically sustainable pan-European transport infrastructure.
The EWT first attended the conference in 2014, the first time Africa has been represented, and where we were the proud recipients of the prestigious IENE Personal Achievement Award. This was to recognise our achievements in communication, awareness raising and new projects for mitigating the impacts of roads on wildlife in South Africa. It was a huge honour to receive the award and to be recognised by so many leading experts in the field.

Our attendance at the 2016 IENE conference will see a flood of presentations from African road ecology experts organised into a ‘special Africa session’. This will be the first time that so many representatives from Africa have attended an international conference on this subject and it was made possible with the support of the French Foreign Ministry, the French Embassy in Tanzania, the French Embassy in South Africa, the Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité and the IENE Programme Committee.

We will be presenting on our work conducted in South Africa and Tanzania highlighting three of our roadkill mitigation projects; using low-level fences to reduce roadkill in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area for amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, and in Noordhoek, Cape Town for the Endangered Western Leopard Toad, with the third project that uses bridges over roads to reduce samango monkey roadkill in the Soutpansberg. Two other presentations will showcase our five-year project that undertakes an assessment of roadkill in protected areas. We will also be presenting our findings of roadkill data gathered through citizen science, and the value of data in making decisions for conserving biodiversity on roads. Driver behaviour and attitudes towards animals on roads is poorly understood and research undertaken in Tanzania will be one of the first studies to present this, whilst the positive benefits of roadkill will also be discussed and how it can assist in identifying parasites.

This will be the first time that so many voices from Africa will be heard at one forum dealing with matters of road ecology and it is hoped that there will be opportunities for collaboration with other international experts in this field. We hope to learn more about roadkill–reduction methods that have been successfully trialled in other countries so that we may adapt and apply them here. We also hope to share some of our good practices that are ‘leading the way’ in promoting human-vehicle-safety in South Africa as well as conserving wildlife through a reduction in wildlife-vehicle-collisions.

The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project is supported by Bridgestone SA, N3 Toll Concession, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concession, De Beers Group Services and Mikros Traffic Monitoring. Collaborations with the listed projects include: Rhodes University, University of the Free State, University of Limpopo, University of Venda, North West Parks and Tourism Board, South African National Parks, Lajuma Research Centre, Toad NUTS Volunteer Group, and Centre for Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania.

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Making the Leap towards Sustainable Change

By Cherise Acker, Field Operations Officer: EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme
CheriseA@ewt.org.za

The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) envisions pristine wetlands filled with leaping frogs as a result of effective habitat and species conservation efforts.. Saving wetlands involves working with their wetland neighbours, people. Wetland neighbours that can talk back and often even fight back! Threatening our precious vision of a picturesque wetland chorused with a string of chirping Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs surrounded by urban settlements. So, can people and nature live in harmony?

Societies themselves are like living systems. They are dynamic, changing to the beat of the political, economic and environmental tones which dictate their survival. The TAP realises that understanding how society interacts with its environment is central to the success of urban wetland conservation.

TAP Intern, Jiba Magwaza, facilitating social surveys with one of the alien clearing teams in Durban

TAP Intern, Jiba Magwaza, facilitating social surveys with one of the alien clearing teams in Durban

The TAP adopts employment strategies that are creating green economies through alien plant clearing programmes and green skill capacity development within the greater Durban area. Through this, bridges (both figurative and literal) are gradually being built between frogs, their habitats and their human neighbours, highlighting the benefits of urban conservation. To appreciate the strength of this economic and environmental relationship, a socio-economic study has been initiated to understand how green economies contribute to social change within a community. The study uses a questionnaire approach to collect information from our six Natural Resource Management teams (approximately 60 people), which is collected on a bimonthly basis. Data will be compared to observe work satisfaction change patterns over time.

Furthermore, we are looking at how individual team members’ attitudes towards and knowledge about the natural environment change over time through exposure to working within wetland systems and basic environmental education. This study is based on a rating scale questionnaire and is redone on a six month basis.
However, individual change does not translate to permanent societal change within a community. The conditions required for that change depend on economic and political stability that is conducive towards sustainable change. The TAP’s NRM project is facing many challenges on this front, from budget limitations to wetland loss and degradation by land invasions fuelled by protests in the run up to upcoming municipal elections and political agendas.

Wetland plant stock for Isipingo rehabilitation

Wetland plant stock for Isipingo rehabilitation

It is for this reason that we are working with various local and national government structures, including eThekwini Municipality and the Department of Environmental Affairs, as well as traditional community stakeholders to build strong partnerships based on healthy and mutually beneficial relationships to affect sustainable change. Some of these relationships include working with community gardeners towards sustainable livelihoods that do not promote habitat loss and we hope to initiate community recycling systems in the near future.
Lastly, we are working with the teams on alternative livelihoods (firewood, wood chipping and recycling initiatives) to ensure that even once the TAP’s NRM Project comes to an end, the green economy is entrenched within the community. Through these strategies, we hope that these wetland neighbours overlook picturesque and functional wetlands and look forward to hearing the chirp of the Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs as the evening sets.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank the Department of Environmental Affairs, Rand Merchant Bank and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for their support as well as project partners, eThekwini Municipality and the KZN Conservancies.

Posted in THREATENED AMPHIBIAN PROGRAMME | Leave a comment

Celebrating Five Years of Cheetah Conservation…and the recipe for future success

By Vincent van der Merwe, Cheetah Metapopulation coordinator: EWT Carnivore Conservation Programme
VincentV@ewt.org.za

Cheetah once occurred in large and connected populations that stretched all the way from South Africa up to Egypt and westwards to Senegal. Today, these populations have become severely fragmented into 29 subpopulations, with only one population estimated to number more than 1000 individuals. This is in large part due to the rapid growth of the human population – in Africa, this population has increased from approximately 100 million people in 1850 to 1.2 billion today and will continue to grow over the coming years, while during the same period, the resident range of the Cheetah decreased by 89%. Continued substantial growth of the human population will mean further habitat loss for Cheetah, further fragmentation of existing habitat, further loss of prey, more retaliatory killings due to livestock predation and more illegal trade in Cheetah as they are sought for pets by the ever expanding elite in the developing world.
This outlook may seem depressing, but all hope is not lost. Since 1965, conservation efforts in South Africa have resulted in the reintroduction of wild Cheetah into 53 smaller, fenced reserves across the country. Despite major economic development and human population growth in South Africa, our wild Cheetah population has increased from approximately 400 individuals in 1965 to over 1200 today. South Africa is the only country, worldwide, that has seen considerable growth in Cheetah numbers. So what exactly have we done differently?
We have embraced ‘fortress conservation’ whereby humans are fenced out of wildlife areas and wildlife is fenced in to reduce chances of escape into human dominated landscapes, thereby reducing the risks of human-wildlife conflict. The tourism industry has also boomed in South Africa and these tourists want to see large, charismatic carnivores. Today, wild Cheetahs are highly sought after in South Africa, to the extent that reserves are willing to pay for them. These ecotourism-based reserves are now more profitable than livestock farming, and more than 11, 130 km² of safe habitat has been created for Cheetah out of former livestock farming areas. The combined size of these 53 newly established reserves is more than half the surface area of Kruger National Park, and they currently support a population of 332 Cheetahs.

However, the fenced approach is not without its limitations. When wildlife managers fence wildlife in, the onus is on them to manage that wildlife responsibly. After observing disturbing levels of inbreeding in several fenced reserves in South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust launched the Cheetah Metapopulation Project in 2011. The overarching idea behind metapopulation management is that one population on one fenced reserve is not genetically viable in the long term, however, 53 small populations are viable if managed as a single population. The Cheetah Metapopulation Project has now been operational for five years. During this period, Cheetah have been reintroduced into 12 new metapopulation reserves. Cheetah numbers are up from 241 to 332 and 112 Cheetah have been relocated between metapopulation reserves to prevent inbreeding. Recent genetic studies have indicated that metapopulation Cheetahs are now genetically healthier than free ranging Cheetahs in South Africa. The establishment of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project has proven that it is possible to find safe space for carnivores in human dominated landscapes. Although wide open spaces for wildlife are a thing of the past, there are still numerous smaller fragments of natural habitat that are suitable for the reintroduction of carnivores. Fencing these fragments prevents human – carnivore conflict, allows for wildlife to proliferate and encourages tourism. It is time that this model is exported into the rest of Africa. For the first time since the establishment of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project, surplus Cheetah from reserves in South Africa will be used for reintroduction efforts in Malawi, Swaziland and Mozambique. This work is made possible through the support of the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, Species Survival Plan, Scovill Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, St Louis Zoo, Woolworths and Relate.

Cheetah Metapopulation donors

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Meet Mwitu……

Hi, my name is Mwitu! In case the beautiful ears and gorgeous coat weren’t a giveaway, I’m a Wild Dog and I’m from the Kruger National Park in South Africa, where most other Wild Dogs in SA live – local really is lekker! I recently turned a year old and I decided to do something completely different…I’m a little bit quirky like that. You see, usually in Wild Dog families, the females leave the pack after reaching maturity, and us guys tend to stick around. Not that we’re layabouts, but we like our comfort zones, our man dens, all that good stuff. But I wanted a bit of adventure and to find a way to do something meaningful with my life. You get it, right? I wanted to make a difference (and have some fun at the same time of course)!
Where to start though? It can be scary out there, with threats like cars that can knock you flying and horrible sicknesses like rabies that can lay you out seemingly around every corner, with less and less space and more and more development everywhere we look. And those are just a few of the things that make life risky for me and my family, and lots of other species out there too. Wild Dogs operate best as part of a pack, so I knew I wanted to be a part of something special. Imagine how stoked I was when I saw the ad for Endangered Wildlife Trust spokesperson…I mean, technically, I’m not a person, but let’s not sweat the small stuff, I always say. And the EWT is an organisation worth being part of because they don’t just talk about conservation, they get out there and do it!

mwitu

So here I am, the official EWT spokesp…I mean, spokesdog. Obviously I’m perfect for the job, being the socialite that I am, and since I’m used to travelling great distances as part of my pack, getting around to all your mailboxes and computer screens will be a breeze for me! This way, I get to help more than just my Wild Dog family, I get to share the work that the EWT does with all the other species and habitats that need saving too…because at the end of the day, we may each be as unique as the pattern on my coat, but we’re all connected too.
Fact File
Name: Mwitu (meaning wild in Swahili)
Age: One year old
Birthplace: Kruger National Park, South Africa
Family details: Seven brothers, two sisters, lots of cousins….but fewer than 450 family members left in South Africa
Spouse: Not yet!
Hobbies/interests: Long walks at dusk, playing catch with zebras, watching the Springboks and the Lions, stand-up comedy. Passionate about conservation and having a good chat!

Competition
To welcome Mwitu to the EWT pack, we’d like to reward one lucky reader with an Mwitu branded T-shirt! Answer the simple question below to stand a chance to win:
• When did the first Wild Dog census take place in the Kruger National Park?
Send your answer to BelindaG@ewt.org.za by 19 August 2016. One lucky winner will be chosen at random from the successful entrants.
This competition is not open to staff of the EWT. The winner will be chosen at random from all correct answers received by 19 August. The winner will be announced by email on 26 August 2016.

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EWTalk – July 2016

EWTalk – July 2016

A WORD FROM OUR CEO

It is quite extraordinary when I recount how much has happened, locally and globally, since my last piece was written three months ago. On the domestic front, we have received a firm position from the South African government that they will not be proposing a lifting of the ban on the international trade in rhino horn at the upcoming CITES conference to be held in September this year; and the film Blood Lions raised the lid once again on the torrid practices that occur inside of South Africa’s shameful lion breeding and canned lion hunting industries. Further afield, and possibly in response to this exposé and other pressures on the future of the lion, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the African Lion on the US Endangered species list, effectively prohibiting or seriously limiting all trophy imports. In the first four months of this year the number of rhino poached in South Africa stood at 363, down from the 404 in the same period in 2015, with 206 arrests; and whilst alleged rhino poachers have been arrested, we have also seen poachers arrested with pangolins indicating a heightened awareness among law enforcement officers of the tragic plight of this species. Worryingly, the number of wildlife poisoning incidences is on a rapid increase both at home as well as up to east Africa, but the good news is that African governments are engaging NGOs such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust to train and capacitate their staff to manage wildlife crime scenes, contain the damage and investigate the sources.

Recently, research has been published demonstrating that a legal trade in elephant ivory was responsible for triggering an increase in black market ivory production and thus the research team at the National Bureau of Economic Research demonstrated that a partial legalisation of a banned good can lead to the increased illegal production of that same good – important findings for the upcoming CITES conference at which around 60 proposals will be deliberated by Parties to amend the lists and trading status of species. These are just some of the newsworthy items perhaps not making it into your newspapers lately, due to dominance of the alarming criminal and political events that have consumed media attention in recent weeks. So a mixed bag of news, but in line with a world in which change does indeed seem to be the only assured component of life.

The EWT has a wide range of projects and activities that respond to as many conservation challenges as possible and a suite of carefully considered, debated and well-researched position statements that inform the greater public of our perspective on some of the activities and changes we observe around us. On our web site you will find, for example, our position on shark cage diving, sport hunting and shale gas mining, to name a few. The tricky part about any position, or opinion for that matter, is that it always pleases some and irks others, but we welcome your feedback and engagement on these, and in fact all important subjects, regardless. In the words of Eminem: “you mean you got enemies? GOOD – that means you actually stood up for something in your life!” Ok… so the EWT doesn’t really have enemies, but we know what he meant. I am proud of the fact that the EWT staff are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and believe me, it makes for many robust and health debates when they all get together! We welcome discussion, information sharing and engagement, and believe firmly in a healthy respect and tolerance for divergent opinions. Perhaps, through increased human tolerance all around, there would be fewer criminal and political tragedies and a reduction in the conflict we humans seem intent on pursuing with our environment and our apparent war with some of our most treasured natural wonders.

Lastly, on the subject of change: I would like to welcome the new editor of EWTalk, and our new Communications Manager Belinda Glenn to the EWT team. You will already notice, I am sure, the energy being infused into our campaigns, social media, web site and various other platforms. We have also had a number of other additions to our now 92-person strong team, and we wish all you a happy and prosperous career as part of the best Conservation Crew around.

The work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust would not be possible without you, our members, and supporters, and we thank you.

Yolan Friedmann
EWT CEO

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust Position Statement on Baited Shark Diving

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) mission is to conserve threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa to the benefit of all people.

This statement represents the EWT’s position on the practice of baited shark diving. As a legal practice that falls within the ambit of a non-consumptive utilisation of sharks, we recognise that the baited shark diving industry contributes to both the country’s economy and the tourism sector. Even so, and despite protection measures, sharks are still vulnerable to consumptive exploitation by humans. This concern is compounded by recent research that shows both extremely low, and declining numbers of Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in South Africa’s waters. Given several contentious issues that cloud the industry, the EWT does not presently support the practice of baited shark diving.

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What is baited shark diving?
Baited shark diving refers to both the activity of a human being lowered into the sea in a protective steel cage, as well as free diving, in the close vicinity of sharks that have been attracted to a site with the use of bait. In South Africa, diving operators traditionally use chum – a mixture of minced tuna and sardines with fish oil that is mixed with seawater – to attract sharks to their boats. Cage dives typically target the Great White Shark as the marine equivalent of the ‘Big Five’ land mammals. In addition, operators may use bait lines and/or drag decoys behind their boat to lure sharks closer or entice them to breach. Cage diving allows tourists to view these sharks underwater and in close proximity from inside a cage. Free diving with baited sharks is aimed at a variety of species other than the Great White Shark, including Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Blacktip Sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus), Zambezi (Bull) Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and Dusky Sharks (Carcharhinus obscurus). During this activity sharks are attracted to the site with the use of a bait ball or drum suspended approximately 10 m below the surface, which drifts with the ocean currents. Divers are expected to drift freely with the current, along with the sharks that have been attracted to the bait ball. It is notable that tourists get to interact much more closely with these sharks during a baited shark dive than they will with any land-based predator on a wildlife drive. The EWT considers several aspects of the baited shark diving industry that, in its current form, make it an unethical and poorly regulated practice:

1. Attracting and feeding sharks can change their behaviour
There are legitimate concerns that attracting sharks with chum alters their natural behaviour. Operators contest this opinion, claiming the sharks would be found in the general area in any case. From the EWT’s perspective, one of the key conservation issues is the frequent conditioning of wild animals to divert them from their natural behaviour to engage directly with humans in response to stimulation (e.g. chumming or feeding). This is a wholly different activity from observing marine life such as sharks by scuba diving or snorkelling underwater with no bait. Through chumming, operators trigger an indiscriminate feeding response in sharks, without providing any nutritional return. Interference like this goes from simply observing to interacting with sharks. A number of studies have revealed that regular baiting of sharks leads to significant increases in residency time, and changes in diel pattern of habitat use within those particular vicinities, thus altering their natural movements and behaviours. While not monitored in South Africa, this trend has been observed for other shark species elsewhere – in Silky Sharks (Carcharhinus falciforms) in the Red Sea, Sicklefin Lemon Sharks (Negaprion acutidens) in the Society Islands, Whitetip Reef Sharks (Triaenodon obesus) in the Coral Sea, and Great White Sharks in Southern Australia. Additionally, in Hawaii, smaller Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) were found to be excluded by larger sharks at provisioning sites. Although the long-term effects associated with alterations in the natural movements and behaviours of sharks are currently inconclusive – and difficult to quantify – some authors suggest that changes in home range size, inter-species aggression and shark community structure may directly impact shark energy expenditure and metabolism.

The EWT accepts that it is more difficult to see sharks in their natural environment than land-based predators and that observing sharks in the ocean can have a positive effect on the general public’s perceptions of sharks. However, baiting land-based predators – such as lions – is also widely condemned as unethical by many conservation bodies. For the same reason we denounce the use of chumming by marine-based operators simply to allow guests to experience a close encounter with a shark. While moderate levels of bait-associated ecotourism may only have a minor effect on the behaviour of Great White Sharks in False Bay (South Africa), the long-term effects of this expanding industry on the overall fitness of sharks remain largely inconclusive. We therefore call for adopting a precautionary approach.

2. Sensational marketing
Sensationalism plagues the baited shark diving industry. Operators often market baited shark diving experiences for their adrenalin rush. This fear-mongering approach towards sharks – while heightening the sense of excitement for paying tourists and increasing demand – does nothing to correct misconceptions and biases about shark behaviour. Rather, operators should use baited shark dives as an opportunity to promote our understanding of and the conservation of sharks – for instance through alerting guests to the millions of sharks fished illegally across the globe every year. Although the industry claims to support and expand shark conservation efforts, it is often not clear how these are actually benefitting the various shark species in South African waters.

3. Inadequate industry regulation
The Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) policy on the cage diving industry – through the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998 – states that Great White Shark cage diving must be managed so that it does not interfere with the normal functioning of these sharks, and does not threaten either the safety of divers or the wellbeing of the sharks. The policy encourages the expansion of the shark cage diving industry in order to promote economic growth. The lack of capacity within the DEA to properly enforce regulations; and the continued issuing of permits in areas where the number of operators is already high, all exacerbate the risk of behavioural conditioning in sharks in response to human interaction and unnatural provisioning.

While the DEA requires permit holders to carry independent observers on cage diving excursions, it also remains unclear as to who these independent observers should be, their qualifications, and under what circumstances they are needed. So while compliance with permit regulations must be ensured, it remains uncertain whether this requirement is being implemented. Additionally, certain terms and conditions laid down in cage diving permits by the DEA are ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. As operators are largely left to self-regulate, this provides unscrupulous operators an opportunity to abuse the permit system by, for example, subjectively deciding what type of behaviour may be considered shark harassment or disturbance. Authorities, on the other hand, rely on operators to ‘do the right thing’ with little or no consequences for non-compliance.

In addition, client expectations, as well as competition within the industry, are exceptionally high. Significant pressure therefore exists for operators to disregard certain operational regulations, as set down by South African legislation, in order to meet these expectations. For instance, as tourists expect good sightings, this exerts pressure on operators to intentionally feed sharks – rather than just chumming – an activity that permit regulations currently prohibit.

In short, it is the EWT’s position that baited shark diving is currently problematic and not entirely conducive to generating a healthy appreciation and respect for this misunderstood and highly threatened taxon. In principle, baited shark diving could provide a viable non-consumptive industry, but given the many regulatory and ethical issues, we call for a precautionary approach to the industry, and strongly recommend that additional research is conducted to determine the conservation effects associated with baited shark diving. Additionally, we recommend a revision of the current policies, regulations and law enforcement associated with this industry with increased capacity for enforcement of these regulations.

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