An Aerial Reconnaissance flight over the Kafue Flats, Zambia

Mimosa pigra (mimosa) is an invasive shrub that is fast invading the wetland grasslands of the Kafue Flats, a vast wetland complex in central Zambia, negatively affecting the habitat for thousands of Wattled Cranes and large herds of Kafue Lechwe. The ICF/EWT Partnership has received a generous grant from the Segre Foundation to remove over 90% of the infestation of this invasive species from the Kafue Flats over the next 3 years. This is an ambitious project that not only will restore the floodplain grasslands of the Kafue Flats for cranes and lechwes, but will benefit the local communities by way of gainful employment opportunities they will receive over the next 3 years or more during the course of the project.
Thus, we have targeted to start the invasive removal project in July this year once we have complied with Zambian regulations of undertaking such a huge project. But in order to plan our next course of action – i.e. to set our control strategy, a detailed map showing the distribution of Mimosa is highly needed. We partnered with the Kafue River Trust – to map the Mimosa across the entire Kafue Flats so that we have a baseline from which we can compare at the end of the project. To do this, we needed to carry out ground truthing work where we collected location data of a sample Mimosa infested area in Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks and then use this to map the Mimosa infestation across the entire Kafue Flats. Since the Kafue Flats are currently flooded, it was impossible to do this from the ground and so we had to do this from the air.
On the 18th of May 2017, we conducted a reconnaissance flight covering the Blue Lagoon and Lochinvar National Parks and parts of the Kafue Flats Game Management Area. Not only were we to look for Mimosa infested areas, we also set out to spot large herds of Kafue Lechwe and flocks of Wattled Cranes and other interesting landscape features. One of the key objectives of conducting the flight was also to have a visual impression of the how much mimosa has expanded compared to previous years.
From the aerial survey, it was evident that the extent of Mimosa in Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks has expanded compared to previous observations. The worse is the marked increase of Mimosa infestation in the Blue Lagoon National Park. In 2009, it was reported that the Mimosa infestation at Blue Lagoon occupied an area of less than a hectare in the floodplain grasslands around the Shamikobo area in the Park. Our flight over that same area suggests that the Mimosa has expanded and is occupying an area far more than 2ha (see photo 1). In the Lochinvar National park, the areas that were previously controlled in 2007 – 2009 have largely been reinvaded but other areas still remain free of Mimosa and have largely been restored (See photo 2). New areas that were free of Mimosa are now being overtaken too.
We further searched for Wattled Cranes and flew over an area we flew in 2015 where we saw a flock of over 400 Wattled Cranes. Unfortunately, the cranes were not present there or anywhere near that area. What was highly noticeable was that the water level was much higher during this current survey than in 2015. It is therefore highly likely that the cranes are located in a much shallower area on the Kafue Flats or possibly migrated to other wetlands in Zambia where the conditions are favourable for them. But we saw 3 pairs of cranes (See photo 3) – possibly beginning to nest – on the edges of the floodplain and a small flock of about 40 individuals.
Large herds of the Kafue Lechwe (See photo 4) were also seen. Kafue Lechwe is a semi aquatic antelope that is endemic to the Kafue Flats and is often found in association with wattled cranes here. As with the cranes, the habitat for the lechwe is also impacted by the mimosa.
Overall, the aerial reconnaissance flight was a huge success. Once the data is compiled and analyses done, we will have a map that gives us the current extents of the mimosa and one that we will use to set the strategy for our control project. Furthermore, this map will be our baseline on which we can base how effective our control intervention on the Kafue Flats would have been.

 

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Mimosa infestation in Blue Lagoon National park

 

 

 

 

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Mimosa infestation in Blue Lagoon National park

 

 

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 A pair of Wattled Cranes on the edge of the floodplain in Lochinvar National Park

 

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Large Herd of Kafue Lechwe in Lochinvar National Park. Note also that this is a typical floodplain grassland without mimosa infestation

 

 

Article by Griffin Shanungu

Posted in African Crane Conservation Programme | 1 Comment

Mpumalanga MEC approves the Declaration of the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment

A major milestone for the conservation of South Africa’s water resources and threatened Highveld grass- and wetlands was reached on 7 April 2017, when the MEC for Mpumalanga’s Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA), Mr Vusi Shongwe, declared the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment near Dullstroom. South Africa’s grasslands and wetlands are poorly represented in formal protected areas and this declaration will now add 14,305 hectares of important grassland and wetland habitat to the network of protected areas within the province. This momentous achievement was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and their NGO partners, the Endangered Wildlife Trust /International Crane Foundation Partnership (ICF/EWT) and BirdLife South Africa.

These organisations have a long history of working together in the area, dating back to 1994, and began the Mpumalanga Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, which aims to secure privately owned land within formal protected areas, in 2010. Biodiversity Stewardship has been a critical factor in enabling cost effective protected area expansion. It ensures that land stays available for agricultural production while offering landowners a way to contribute to national biodiversity conservation targets in a sustainable way. MTPA Head of Protected Areas Expansion, Brian Morris, commented that the future of biodiversity conservation is in the hands of private, communal and corporate landowners and the MTPA has walked a long road with the landowners of the Greater Lakenvlei area to secure the site under formal legal protection. He is very hopeful that, in the future, the leadership in the provincial conservation agency and the Provincial Government will continue to support the declaration of more land for conservation.

The Greater Lakenvlei area is critical to biodiversity as it harbours all three of South Africa’s crane species—including South Africa’s National Bird, the Blue Crane, and South Africa’s Critically Endangered Wattled Crane—as well as other threatened species such as White-winged Flufftail. Lakenvlei is also a peatland, which is a wetland with a particularly high organic matter content that is good at storing and purifying water, as well as sequestering and storing carbon in a pristine state, critical to preventing additional impacts on climate change. Furthermore, the Lakenvlei wetlands provide crucial ecosystem services, including the ability to trap nitrates, regulate stream flow, maintain biodiversity, flood attenuation, and to prevent erosion due to good vegetation cover.

The Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment falls within the well-known Dullstroom tourism hub that provides a large number of local tourism-related jobs connected to the scenic beauty and outdoor activities in the area. This declaration will enable the continued development of sustainable tourism opportunities within the area.

“We are excited about this conservation milestone, especially in the light of the development pressures this area faces. The ICF/EWT Partnership would like to extend its appreciation to our partners and to the MEC for his visionary commitment to biodiversity conservation and securing sustainable tourism areas in Mpumalanga,” says Ursula Franke, Senior Field Officer for the ICF/EWT Partnership’s African Crane Conservation Programme. “The objectives of the GLPE are to demonstrate the mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation into the agriculture and tourism sector by securing the conservation of the area and by promoting agricultural and other land use practices that are compatible with biodiversity conservation. The ultimate objective is to ensure ongoing grassland conservation whilst livelihoods from livestock farming and tourism are maintained.”

CEO of BirdLife South Africa, Mark Anderson, says: “This declaration is a vital achievement in protecting this important grassland area which hosts many threatened bird species, and is also important for water management, tourism and agriculture.” Daniel Marnewick, the manager of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme (IBA) at BirdLife South Africa adds that “this declaration will protect the Steenkampsberg IBA through improved management and by minimising threats to this sensitive grassland and wetland habitat, such as from mining which could negatively impact on the water, natural habitats and thereby the bird species found in this system.” Marnewick further indicates that this declaration is another victory for biodiversity stewardship in the country, which empowers local landowners to become stewards of the natural diversity found on their land.

The Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment is an area of immense beauty and home to a wide variety of special plants and animals. The protection of the area also secures and enhances water and food production—our country’s lifeblood. The landowners’ commitment to Biodiversity Stewardship is especially praiseworthy. With assistance from MTPA and partners, the sustainable management of this special area will largely be in their hands

 

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Wattled Crane family and a resident Grey Crowned Crane at Lakenvlei in 2014 (credit: Jody de Bruyn)

 

 

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Wattled Crane family at Lakenvlei in 2009

 

 

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Lakenvlei in winter with the Wattled Crane family and a flock of Grey Crowned Cranes in the background.

 

 

Article by Ursula Franke

Posted in African Crane Conservation Programme | 1 Comment

Endangered Wildlife Trust Response to the Department of Environmental Affairs Announcement of a Captive Lion Bone Export Quota of 800 Carcasses

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Yesterday (28 June 2017), the Minster of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, announced her decision on the proposed setting of a quota for the export of lion bones from captive bred lions. A quota of 800 skeletons (with or without skull) of captive bred lions has been set and international trade is restricted to trade in complete skeletons only, with no individual pieces to be exported. Lion bones are used as a substitute for tiger bones in Chinese Traditional Medicine because China has heavily restricted the use of tiger products.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) notes that the trade in South African captive lion bones has been taking place for many years, with trade peaking from 2007, and that the setting of a quota was a directive from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016. However, we have serious concerns about the practice of farming lions for their bones, and the formal setting of a quota, for the following reasons:

  • There are potential negative impacts on the conservation of lions in the wild across their range through increased poaching of wild lions for their parts.
  • The commercial captive breeding of lions does not contribute to the sustainable, responsible use of South Africa’s wildlife resources.
  • There are welfare issues around captive animals and challenges around policing and prosecution of welfare offences.
  • There appear to be links between lion bone and other wildlife crime networks (e.g. in many of the recent rhino horn busts, lion bone has also been found and links have been made between rhino horn traders and captive lion owners).
  • There is a lack of evidence to support any clear community benefit from the captive lion industry. Social development is an important pillar of sustainability and the human aspects of the lion bone industry – in terms of direct benefit, upliftment and human welfare and safety – have not been addressed.
  • Lion bone trade has the potential to damage “Brand South Africa”. The global public pressure that was experienced following the release of the documentary “Blood Lions™” will likely be increased as a result of this quota. This has the potential to damage the good reputation that South Africa has as a tourism destination and a sustainable use and conservation leader.
  • The captive breeding of wild animals for their parts is contrary to modern global trends and opinion e.g. through international pressure, tigers have stopped being captive bred for their parts.
  • There is an increasing trend toward captive or intensive utilisation of wildlife. Wildlife is increasingly being treated as a commodity, rather than supporting sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in the wild. While this is currently mostly limited to lions and rhinos, we are concerned that this may catalyse further non-conservation uses of wildlife resources.
  • DEA appears to support strongly the captive breeding and farming of wildlife when their mandate is biodiversity conservation.
  • A full public participatory process was not undertaken in setting this quota: there was no public input into the support of the captive lion trade at CITES, only eight working days were allowed for comment on the quota proposal, instead of 30. In addition, we have had no feedback on our formal submission regarding the setting of the quota.
  • The EWT provided extensive comments and recommendations to DEA on both the practice of captive bone trade and on the proposed research project. We have had no feedback from the department on any of our concerns to date, and the statement made by the Minister does not address these either. Thus our concerns around the trade, setting and management of the quota and the proposed research project stand.

The EWT supports the conservation of wild lions, in their natural habitat, where they contribute to biodiversity conservation as keystone and flagship species, and where their health and welfare are not compromised. We maintain that economic activities related to lions should directly benefit the species in the wild, uphold the principles of sustainable conservation, uphold welfare best practice and promote Brand South Africa. There is no evidence that the practice of lion bone farming, or the related export quota, does any of the above.

 

Contacts:

 

 

Dr Kelly Marnewick
Senior Trade Officer
Wildlife in Trade Programme
kellym@ewt.org.za
082 477 4470
011 372 3600

Belinda Glenn
Communication & Brand Manager
belindag@ewt.org.za
072 616 1787
011 372 3600

David Marneweck
Manager
Carnivore Conservation Programme
davidm@ewt.org.za
082 448 1721
011 372 3600

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Coalition launches High Court proceedings to stop devastating coal mine planned for Mpumalanga water hotspot

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A coalition of eight civil society and community organisations has launched proceedings in the Pretoria High Court against Indian owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd. The coalition is asking the High Court to stop the mining company from commencing with any mining or related activities inside the Mabola Protected Environment outside Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga without a confirmed environmental authorisation and local planning approval.

The application is set down for hearing in the High Court in Pretoria on 27 June 2017.

The coalition consists of groundWork, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Birdlife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) and the Bench Marks Foundation, and is represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights.

The area in which Atha-Africa wants to build an underground coal mine is a declared protected environment. This strategic water source area has been identified as incredibly important and strategic to protect in the interest of all South Africans.

The strategic water source area is composed mostly of wetlands, pans and grassland, and is a source of four major rivers – the Tugela, the Vaal, the Usutu and the Pongola – that provide water to a huge number of downstream water users. These users will all be affected if the sources of those rivers are compromised.

Atha-Africa was granted a mining right by the Minister of Mineral Resources in 2015, shortly after the declaration of the protected area by the Mpumalanga MEC. Since then, Atha has received licences and approvals from the Mpumalanga environment department, the Department of Water & Sanitation, and the Minister of Environmental Affairs. All these approvals have been challenged by the coalition through internal appeals, and a High Court judicial review of the original mining right granted. A further judicial review application of the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ decision to approve mining in a protected area will be issued shortly.

The coalition believes it has good prospects of success in all these proceedings, and that the approvals will be set aside by the courts in due course. If necessary, the coalition will take this matter to the Constitutional Court.

The two approvals at issue in the interdict proceedings issued this week are:

  1. the environmental authorisation issued by the Mpumalanga environment department in 2016 under the National Environmental Management Act. This authorisation has been appealed by the coalition, but the Mpumalanga MEC has not yet decided the appeal. Until such decision has been made, the authorisation is suspended by law, and Atha cannot commence mining.
  2. approval for change of land use from conservation and/or agricultural purposes to mining, which is a legal requirement under the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act No. 16 of 2013. Atha has not yet received the necessary approval for this change of land use from the local municipality.

Before launching court proceedings to stop the mine, the coalition repeatedly asked Atha-Africa to provide an undertaking that it will not proceed without these approvals. It has refused to do so. This left the coalition with no option but to approach the High Court.

If Atha were allowed to commence mining now, and the approvals are thereafter set aside, the damage caused would be irreversible.

Contacts

Catherine Horsfield
Head: Mining Programme
Centre for Environmental Rights
Tel: +27 21 447 1647
chorsfield@cer.org.za.

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

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Endangered Wildlife Trust statement on the Knysna fires

 

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was truly devastated to hear of the fires that have wreaked havoc on huge areas of the Garden Route, and particularly Knysna. The loss of life, property and habitat is tragic, and our thoughts are with all those affected, as well as those who are working to stabilise the situation.

The extreme nature of these fires and the extent of the damage was in no small way exacerbated by the extensive and uncontrolled spread of alien plant species such as pine and wattle trees. The threat posed by alien invasive plants in the area was identified many years ago. An article written by Richard Cowling, Brian van Wilgen, Tineke Kraaij, and Jonathan Britton, titled How no-man’s-land is now everyone’s problem, and published in the September 2009 edition of Veld&Flora, was almost prophetic in the concerns it raised regarding the potential for abnormally intense fires to ravage the area, due to the replacement of indigenous fynbos with alien plant species such as pine trees. The authors developed various scenarios for the Garden Route and, based on the existence of uncontrolled alien spread, and periods of lower rainfall, they predicted that “… fires would rage with abnormal intensity, seriously threatening homes, crops, plantations and people. The high-intensity fires would damage the soil, resulting in erosion and silting up of dams, further exacerbating water problems.”

The intense fires fuelled by alien vegetation also have a far more damaging impact on the soil than typical fynbos fires would have, resulting in extreme erosion. This eroded soil and other debris now threatens to end up in the area’s water sources, with a potentially devastating effect on water quality and the ecosystems in those rivers and estuaries. This brings home the importance of investment in ecosystem services, alien vegetation removal and catchment rehabilitation. The National Department of Environmental Affairs Natural Resource Management Programme, as well as provincial agencies, such as CapeNature, need to continue and ramp up the valuable work they do on this front to get a handle on the invasions that threaten, not just our water resources but lives and habitats too. Civil society needs to get behind these agencies and work together to make sure this scale of disaster does not happen again.

The EWT has previously been involved with developing the Knysna estuary management plan some ten years ago and had started discussions with the members of the Knysna Basin Project and the Estuary Management Forum in May this year around re-engaging to provide implementation support for aspects of the estuary management plan. In a few short weeks, everything has now changed and we are re-assessing how we can work with the Forum and the local communities to support both short-term protection of the estuary from siltation and runoff as well as long-term catchment management through restoration and re-indigenisation.

We are working with various partners to document the extent of the damage to the natural environment, particularly as a result of sediment and debris that may now end up in the estuary, and the potential impact on key habitats, such as the Eelgrass, and species, such as the Knysna Seahorse. Our aim is to have a team in the field in the coming week to start supporting local authorities to alleviate some of these impacts through debris clearing and silt trap ecosystem restoration work around the estuary.

The EWT is making an urgent plea for local government, the private sector, members of the public and communities to join hands and ensure that the restoration of the indigenous ground cover, removal of alien vegetation and improved management of the catchment in the Garden Route is urgently prioritised over the short and long term in order to secure the socio-economic development and sustainability of this region and to make sure that this never happens again.

 

Contacts

Bridget Jonker

Source to Sea Programme Manager

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

bridgetc@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Communication and Brand Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

 

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Ford Wildlife Foundation Supports Cranes and Wetlands Conservation with New Ford Ranger

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The Ford Wildlife Foundation (FWF) handed over a new Ford Ranger bakkie to the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to support its Cranes, Wetlands and Communities Project. The handover forms part of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s (FMCSA) commitment to the conservation and preservation of the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of two decades of work by the EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme, the EWT’s Cranes, Wetlands and Communities Project has been running for the past seven years to halt the decline of all three of South Africa’s crane species – including the Vulnerable Blue Crane, the Endangered Grey Crowned Crane, and the Critically Endangered Wattled Crane.

Due to their dependence on wetlands for their survival, the project uses cranes as flagships for the protection and restoration of key wetlands and grasslands within strategically selected catchments in the Drakensberg and Highveld regions. The expansion of these protected areas and ecosystems is important for both people and cranes alike – these are our water factories to support our everyday lives, economic development and support biodiversity. In addition, the project works with communities in each of the focus areas to ensure people become part of the long-term solution in conserving natural resources and biodiversity.

The EWT project is already turning the tide on the decline of crane populations in South Africa. By focusing on the core areas important for cranes and using cranes as flagships for habitat protection, the project has protected over 100 000 hectares of land in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. That is an area five times the size of Table Mountain National Park.  As a result, all three species of cranes are increasing in number, with the Grey Crowned Crane population in KwaZulu-Natal increasing by 44% over the past decade alone.

How the Ford Ranger Will Support the Cranes, Wetlands and Communities Project
The project consists of a team of eight that is dedicated to the conservation of some incredibly unique and valuable parts of South Africa. “Team members have to travel large distances from rural Eastern Cape in the south to the Lakes District – Chrissiesmeer in Mpumalanga, working daily with farmers and rural communities, schools and municipalities. With only four vehicles available – two of which are soon to be decommissioned – the support of a new Ford Ranger from Ford Wildlife Foundation will be invaluable to the project’s operations,” says Tanya Smith, Southern Africa Regional Manager, African Crane Conservation Programme.

The locally-built Ford Ranger, which is one of South Africa’s top-selling vehicles overall and in the light commercial segment, will be used to enable the project to go further and make a real impact – particularly in the remote locations often associated with conservation and environmental projects.

Ford Wildlife Foundation Dedication to Conservation
For the past 25 years, FMCSA has supported more than 150 conservation projects and invested over R30 million to help maintain wildlife and ecosystems in South Africa. In September 2014, FMCSA officially established the Ford Wildlife Foundation to continue that support.

The Ford Wildlife Foundation is unique as it does not provide a cash donation to the conservation projects it supports, instead Ford’s partner organisations are equipped with Ford Rangers. The vehicles are provided to help project operations, such as transporting animals between different locations, vets to sick or poached animals, or environmental experts to educate others on the importance of conservation.

With the support of Ford’s extensive dealer network, the vehicles operating in all Ford Wildlife Foundation projects are monitored and serviced by Ford to ensure they operate at peak efficiency.

 

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Contacts
Tanya Smith
African Crane Conservation Programme Southern Africa Regional Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
tanyas@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

Cecily McLane
Ford Wildlife Foundation
cecilym@meropa.co.za

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Wildlife ranchers work with the EWT to give African Wild Dogs a chance to roam free

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Through the help of concerned wildlife ranchers, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) was recently able to successfully relocate three Endangered female African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) from an area of potential high carnivore conflict in Limpopo to a safe area within the Waterberg region.

With the increase in the price of game animals over the last decade, conflict between carnivores and farmers over the killing of game is a reality in the region. There have been many cases where Endangered species such as Wild Dogs and Cheetahs have been directly persecuted through the use of poisons, gin traps, and organised hunts, and some have even been deliberately driven over on our roads. However, it is very encouraging that some landowners’ attitudes are changing for the benefit of Endangered species conservation and that they are aware of the legislation that protects these animals.

This kind of promising change in attitude was highlighted when, on Sunday 28 May 2017, the EWT received a report of three Wild Dogs on a wildlife ranch between Thabazimbi and Dwaalboom in Limpopo. The farm owner, Piet du Toit, did not want the Wild Dogs on his property, however he also did not wish to persecute the animals and wanted to relocate them to a safe area. He contacted the local vet, Dr Louis Greef, who was willing to dart the Wild Dogs, and in turn contacted the EWT for assistance in relocating the carnivores. The EWT keeps a database of all Wild Dog sightings outside of protected areas in South Africa and a single male Wild Dog had been reported at Lindani near Melkrivier a few days previously. The decision was therefore taken to move these three female Wild Dogs to Lindani in the hope that the solitary animal would join up with them, giving them all a greater chance of survival. The owners of Lindani, Peg and Sam van Coller, were more than happy for the dogs to be released on the property, and the necessary permits were obtained from Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET).

Initial attempts to dart the dogs were unsuccessful, and the next sighting was just before sunset, resulting in the need for a new plan, which involved darting the animals from a helicopter the next day. Derek van der Merwe, Conflict Mitigation Field Officer of the EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme, veterinarian, Dr Sune Ferriera, and farm managers Andries Hills and Wim Anholds assisted in the capture of the three Wild Dogs and they were safely transported and released on Lindani on 29 May by the EWT. The Wild Dogs were seen on Lindani the following morning, and again on 4 June, and are doing well, seeming unperturbed by the move.

With less than 500 Wild Dogs left in South Africa, the safe relocation of three females is significant, and gives hope, specifically to the population in the Waterberg region. The small, free-roaming population of Wild Dogs in the Waterberg is estimated at between only five and 15 in number, and is genetically valuable. This makes this group of Wild Dogs critically important in a species that is on the verge of extinction, and makes the introduction of these three females even more exciting. The EWT thanks community members and partners such as Piet du Toit, Wim Anholds, Andries Hills, LEDET, Dr Louis Greef, Dr Sune Ferriera, and Lindani landowners, Peg and Sam van Coller, for their involvement in our efforts to protect Wild Dogs and offer them a chance to flourish.

The public is also invited to help us save these iconic animals in areas where there may be a risk of conflict with humans, by sending information and photographs of sightings to Derek van der Merwe at DerekV@ewt.org.za. Derek can also be contacted if you would like to know more about conflict mitigation measures that benefit both farmers and carnivores.

The EWT’s Wild Dog work is supported by Investec Properties, Jaguar-Land Rover South Africa, Land Rover Centurion, Vaughan de la Harpe, GCCL2 – Richard Bosman, Painted Wolf Wines, South African National Parks Honourary Rangers, Elizabeth Wakemen Henderson Fund and IQ Business.

Contacts

Derek van der Merwe

Carnivore Conservation Programme Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Officer

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

derekv@ewt.org.za

 

David Marneweck

Carnivore Conservation Programme Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

davidm@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Communication and Brand Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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WARM UP THIS WINTER AT THE SIXTH ANNUAL CHRISSIESMEER CRANE FESTIVAL!

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Be sure to join the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) this winter from 23 – 25 June 2017 at the annual Chrissiesmeer Crane Festival, held in a uniquely beautiful part of the Mpumalanga Highveld which is only about 2 hours away Johannesburg.

The festival will cater for all, with a variety of activities from field trips to see Endangered cranes, children’s games, local traditional dancing, timeless music, and a variety of stalls. In celebration of the area’s Scottish ancestry, one of the festival’s highlights is the colourful Scottish fireplace concert with a warm atmosphere, good music, and delicious cuisine.

Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s Lakes District, the little village of Chrissiesmeer in Mpumalanga derives its name from the adjacent Lake Chrissie, the largest natural freshwater lake in South Africa. There are also approximately 300 lakes and pans located within a radius of 20 kilometres around Lake Chrissie. Three different types of pans occur here, creating excellent habitat for a wide variety of species, in particular birds. It is this uniqueness and value from a water and biodiversity perspective that makes the Chrissiesmeer area so important to protect for future generations.

The EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme has been working with the farming and rural communities in this area to protect and sustainably manage its natural resources for the past five years. The area, covering more than 60 000 ha, was declared a Protected Environment in 2014, and is home to two of our three threatened crane species. This includes our National Bird the Blue Crane, as well as a magnificent flock of Grey Crowned Cranes. Birding tours to see these beautiful birds are a major highlight of the festival.

The objective of the festival is to increase environmental awareness among visitors, local communities and the public of the importance of Chrissiesmeer’s biodiversity and the conservation of this crucial crane habitat. The festival also seeks to boost the tourism potential of the area by promoting Chrissiesmeer as a great destination for birders and nature lovers, photographers, anglers and cyclists, to name a few.

The event is hosted by U and Me Creative in partnership with the EWT. For more information on the Chrissiesmeer Crane Festival please contact Charmain at cranefestival@gmail.com or visit the Facebook page “Chrissiesmeer Crane Festival”.

Contact:

Ursula Franke
Highveld Regional Coordinator
African Crane Conservation Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 83 332 8859
ursulaf@ewt.org.za
Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398 (ext. 110)
belindag@ewt.org.za

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Cheetahs Return to Malawi for First Time after 20-Year Absence

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Cheetahs were translocated from South Africa to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, returning the threatened species to the country

 A small founder population of Cheetahs has been successfully relocated to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, restoring the severely threatened species at least twenty-years after its extinction in the country. Led by African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the translocation of four Cheetahs to Liwonde on May 17th formed a national milestone as the first big cats made their return to the flourishing park.

Although it has been about 20 years since Cheetahs were last seen in Malawi, it has been close to a century since Cheetahs were documented in Liwonde National Park. Lions and Leopards were also historically common, but disappeared in recent years due to rampant poaching. Decades of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and poaching severely reduced the nation’s predator populations, entirely eradicating Cheetahs, a species threatened with extinction in Africa. “Large predators like Cheetahs play pivotal roles in African ecosystems, but they are in troubling decline across the continent,” said Liwonde National Park Manager Craig Reid. “Malawi has made progressive commitments to conserve wildlife. The reintroduction of the Cheetah is historic for the country and a new era for the park, where the return of large predators holds great optimism for the restoration of the natural system and the conservation of this highly vulnerable species.” This will also open up opportunities for other highly threatened carnivores to be restored to Malawi at a later stage.

On May 17th, African Parks and the EWT oversaw the successful translocation of these four Cheetahs, which made the journey by plane from South Africa and arrived safely in Liwonde National Park, thanks to the support provided by Ulendo Airlink and Robin Pope Safaris for the transportation. They were released into specially-built bomas to allow for close supervision during a period of adjustment, until being released into the wider park. The animals are all in good health and are expected to do well in Liwonde, where habitat and prey conditions are optimal and measures are in place to ensure their ongoing conservation and protection.

These Cheetahs were carefully sourced by the EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which was established in 2011 with the aim of creating safe spaces for Cheetahs in South Africa and managing the existing population in a number of reserves to ensure genetic diversity. The project now operates in 55 reserves, and in 2016, began investigating opportunities for reintroduction outside of South Africa. This partnership was deemed ideal, as African Parks has secured safe spaces for a myriad of species in the reserves it manages. For this introduction, it was essential to select Cheetahs that are predator savvy, as Lion, Leopard and Spotted Hyena are responsible for almost 50% of Cheetah deaths in fenced reserves. Cheetahs are the first large predator to be reintroduced into Liwonde, giving them at least six months to settle in before other large predators are reintroduced into the park. Ensuring that the chosen Cheetahs were not related was also imperative, to prevent genetic issues in the future. Phinda and Welgevonden Private Game Reserves kindly made a male Cheetah available, while Mountain Zebra National Park and Amakhala Private Game Reserve kindly made a female Cheetah available for this reintroduction into Malawi. These are considered to be some of the top Cheetah reserves in South Africa, all having contributed substantially to Cheetah conservation efforts in the country. The EWT will assist with ongoing monitoring and management of these special animals.

African Parks assumed management of Liwonde National Park in partnership with the DNPW in 2015, and since then has completely overhauled law enforcement to secure the park, making significant progress in revitalising habitat and wildlife populations through the reduction of poaching and mitigating human-wildlife conflict. The reintroduction of the Cheetah forms part of the collective vision of African Parks and the Malawian government to restore the country’s parks, rehabilitate wildlife populations, and increase tourism, creating highly-valued assets for the country and its people. Managing and restoring key species also positions Liwonde as a globally significant wildlife tourism destination, with benefits flowing to local communities.

Eradicated from 90 percent of their historical range in Africa, Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with as few as 6,700 estimated to remain in the wild. “Reintroduction to safe and fenced protected areas is one way to protect the future of the species on the continent,” said EWT Cheetah Metapopulation Coordinator Vincent van der Merwe. “This collaborative undertaking represents a highly valuable opportunity for both the park and Cheetah conservation in light of the need for urgent action to address their decline.” Since assuming management of Liwonde, African Parks has constructed a reliable perimeter fence, removed thousands of snare traps, significantly reduced poaching, and is working with local communities to ensure the long-term success of conservation in the area.

The reintroduction of Cheetahs to Liwonde National Park is another extraordinary story of progressive and optimistic wildlife conservation in Malawi. On the heels of the historic “500 Elephants” initiative which will see 500 elephants being moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve (all three parks are managed by African Parks with DNPW), the Cheetah’s homecoming marks the historic return of the threatened species to the nation at least 20 years after its local extinction. This opens a hopeful new chapter for large predator conservation in the park. Liwonde has welcomed back its first big cat, a profound milestone for the ongoing restoration of this valuable protected area.

Click here to download images of the Cheetah translocation

About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries covering six million hectares: Malawi, Zambia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad. Visit www.african-parks.org and www.500elephants.org to learn more. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

About The Endangered Wildlife Trust: The EWT is a credible, impactful player in regional conservation, committed to identifying the key factors threatening biodiversity and developing innovative methodologies and best practice to reduce these and promote harmonious co-existence and sustainable living for both people and wildlife. Read more about the EWT’s work at: www.ewt.org.za or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Contacts

Vincent van der Merwe
Cheetah Metapopulation Project Coordinator
Endangered Wildlife Trust
vincentv@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

Fran Read
African Parks
Media Assistant
Tel: +27 823837558
franr@african-parks.org

 

 

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Empowering communities through frog and wetland conservation

Cherise Acker Jiba Magwaza

Conservation without the inclusion of people does not always work. In order to address the issue of South Africa being environmentally sound, education and training is vital because not everyone is aware of the fact that our ecosystems are threatened. As a Community Development student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and an intern of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), I have come to realise that increasing beneficiary consultation during project planning or beneficiary involvement in the management of project implementation or operation also increases project efficiency. One of the TAP projects that can attest to the latter is the vegetable garden project at Isipingo in KwaZulu-Natal. This project includes four local gardeners that used to plant their vegetables in a threatened wetland, which partly disturbed its wellbeing. With proper engagement and through a conservation agreement drawn up with the gardeners, they have since moved out of the wetland and now plant on the edge where their activities pose no threat its wellbeing. Of course, this was not an easy task but it is amazing how community projects can run smoothly if stakeholders are properly engaged and are made part of the project, as this empowers them.

Isipingo - garden border

Another exciting project that that seeks to develop the communities with which we work with is the National Resource Management (NRM) project. Here we look at empowering our hardworking alien vegetation clearing teams through toolbox talks. Toolbox talks are used to engage alien vegetation clearing workers in Durban on issues of the environment and getting them to change their attitudes towards nature, but focusing on frogs and wetlands. I have seen how excited these toolbox talks make the teams to work with nature and to get more involved, rather than just clearing alien plants and going home. Teams are now able to do monitoring of any species they come across, be it fauna or flora, which is important because we need to know what other species are found around our working areas. Workers’ attitude surveys help us understand how the teams feel about the project; that is if they are happy or not and if they have any challenges. The surveys are done using an individual questionnaire that is confidential to make sure that everyone shares their experiences without any fear. It is heart-warming to see that teams now understand the reason behind their work and how it is important not only to them but to the whole ecosystem. A lesson that I have learnt working in these projects is that community development does not always have to take the form of monetary benefits, but one can also develop a community by sharing knowledge and education.

This work is made possible by Rand Merchant Bank, Rufford Foundation and Disney Conservation Fund.

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