Back in the Crane World to Continue Exploring the World of Cranes

I am now part of the African Crane Conservation Programme team once again after a period of five and a half years and I will fulfil the role as the Highveld Grassland field officer. It is a great feeling to be working with such a great team with the goal to conserve cranes and assist communities. My main area of focus is Mpumalanga (in areas such as Chrissiesmeer and Dullstroom) and the northern section of the Free State (Harrismith and Memel areas) and KwaZulu-Natal (Newcastle area). My new role began with a workshop at the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s head office in September and I was able to meet Dr Unjinee Poonan who has recently started with the ACCP. This workshop gave me the opportunity to get up to speed with the amazing work that ACCP has been doing over the last few years.
My first field trip was in Wakkerstroom where Glenn Ramke, who has retired from ACCP, and I could show Claire Mirande, from the International Crane Foundation, and her husband Ray some areas in Wakkerstroom. Fortunately, we were able to see Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes in areas where they occur in Wakkerstroom.
Dr Unjinee Poonan and I met up with Steven Segang in Chrissiesmeer to discuss the community work in the area and Steven showed us some examples of the fantastic work that he is doing with these communities in Chrissiesmeer and outlying areas such as Lothair. We also managed to see a flock of Grey Crowned Cranes and Blue Cranes during our field trip!

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Dr Unjinee Poonan, Steven Segang and Bradley Gibbons near Chrissiesmeer during the field visit 

Article by Bradley Gibbons

 

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A Census of the Blue Cranes of the Western Cape

Blue Cranes, typically a grassland species, began to increase in the Western Cape in the 1960s, as agriculture expanded, creating artificial grasslands. Blue Cranes in the Western Cape are almost entirely reliant on agricultural fields. These fields, namely planted pastures and cereal crop fields, provide plenty for cranes to forage on. Not to mention the livestock feed troughs that cranes frequent for grain. This high food availability has allowed the Western Cape Blue Cranes to become the largest and most stable population in the country. But being close to human activities means these cranes have high mortality rates. Cranes may be electrocuted on powerlines and collide with wind turbines, their nests may be disturbed by agricultural activities, they may be exposed to chemicals such as pesticides and when farmers experience damage to their crops by cranes or other birds, they may use methods such as poison to mitigate their losses. Given this challenging landscape, the Blue Cranes of the Western Cape need to be closely monitored to ascertain what the population trends are, whether these are sustainable in the long term and how resilient the population will be to changes such as climate change and changes to the landscape. The Blue Crane population of the Western Cape is considered one of the strongholds for the species. Since the Blue Crane is near endemic to South Africa and are considered Vulnerable to extinction according to the global IUCN Redlist, it is vital to monitor their populations closely.

We embarked on two flights, one across the Swartland (north of Cape Town) and one across the Overberg (east of Cape Town) to survey Blue Cranes. Aerial surveys allow for a quick and efficient census of the area. Over the past few weeks we have been very blessed with good rain in the Western Cape, but this meant that finding a good day for the census became a bit of a challenge. When a clear few days were forecast Mark jumped at the opportunity and we chose Saturday the 28th of July and Tuesday the 11th of September to fly. On both days we met early at the Stellenbosch Flying Club, and on take-off marveled at the beautifully clear skies, perfect conditions for surveying Blue Cranes! Blue Cranes, being large and distinctive birds, are easily spotted from the air. Peter Ryan, from the University of Cape Town, designed routes to maximize coverage of the areas.

Blue Cranes have colonized the Swartland more recently than the Overberg, and the population is comparatively smaller. Mark Rule flew Prof Peter Ryan (UCT), Morgan Trimble and Vonica Perold (UCT) from Stellenbosch to survey these cranes. Peter and Morgan took photographs at each sighting, while Vonica recorded the GPS coordinates and other variables. The track went from Stellenbosch and turned around at Piketberg, returning to Stellenbosch mid-afternoon. In total there were 8 crane sightings in flocks of between 2 and 94 birds, spread across fallow fields, early stage crop, open crop and around livestock feeding troughs. In total we counted 200 birds.

The Overberg flight was much busier in comparison! Mark Rule (pilot), Vonica Perold, Roelf Daling and Christie Craig flew from Stellenbosch to Mossel Bay and back. On the first trip we counted 728 Blue Cranes, most of which were using the fallow fields or feeding near livestock troughs. The largest flock we counted was 106 cranes! These large flocks are more common over the winter, in the spring they will begin to pair up and defend a territory for the breeding season. On the trip back to Stellenbosch we saw fewer cranes, a total of 503 birds, some of which were taking the opportunity to drink at farm dams in the midday heat. Overall we had 127 crane sightings, amounting to a total of 1231 Blue Cranes.

These data will prove immensely useful for research and monitoring of this population going forward. Over the next three years, a PhD study (led by Christie Craig in association with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the FitzPatrick Institute and the International Crane Foundation, supported by the Leiden Conservation Fund) will investigate the safety of the Western Cape Blue Crane population. This census data will be used in this research to investigate and predict how safe and resilient our National Bird is to changes in this challenging agricultural landscape.

A big thank you to Mark for flying us for these surveys and to the Bateleurs for supporting these flights!

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Mark and Prof Peter Ryan searching for Blue Cranes during the Swartland flight.

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The Swartland survey team: From left to right – Morgan, Vonica, Mark and Peter

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Much excitement as the team heads out towards the Overberg (fore left: Roelf Daling, fore right: Mark Rule, Back: Christie Craig) 

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Vonica Perold taking the lead on data collection for the Overberg Blue Crane Census

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Renewable energy infrastructure, like wind farms can pose a threat to birds and bats in agricultural landscapes, research is ongoing to investigate how these turbines can be optimally designed and placed to minimize fatalities (Photograph taken near Caledon by Roelf Daling)

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A flock of Blue Cranes taking a drink at a farm dam near Malgas (Photo by Roelf Daling)

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Flocks of Blue Cranes were often sighted in landscapes like these fallow fields, pastures, or early growth crops (Photograph taken near Heidelberg by Roelf Daling)

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A happy team at Stellenbosch Flying Club after a successful mission across the Overberg (From left to right – Roelf, Mark, Vonica, Christie) (Photograph by Roelf Daling)

Article written by   Christie Craig and and Vonica Perold

 

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Youth tackle hot topics on World Rhino Day

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) recognises the critical role that young people have to play in conservation, as the guardians of our future. With this in mind, the EWT will be running its annual speech and poster contest for schools on World Rhino Day, 22 September 2018.

South Africa’s rhinos are in crisis and the EWT believes that the youth can play a key role in helping to save them. This annual event, made possible by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund, invites Grade 10 learners from schools in areas that are high risk for poaching activities to prepare speeches and posters on a topic relevant to the rhino crisis. Now in its fourth year, the contest was initially held in Mpumalanga in 2015 and has subsequently taken place in the Waterberg region in Limpopo each year. This year, participants have three options to choose from:

  • Preparing a speech on the topic: “You are chosen to attend the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. You have been requested to give a speech to the CITES member countries on the value of rhino to you as a South African youth. What will you tell them? In your speech please tell us why rhinos are important to you and explain what CITES is and why you feel the international community should help South Africa save them from poaching.”
  • Preparing a speech on the topic: “The Endangered Wildlife Trust Wildlife in Trade Programme has a project called ‘Kopanang’, meaning come together. This project aims to bring communities and nature reserves together – how would you achieve this goal? In your speech please set out the importance of wildlife, why wildlife crimes must be stopped, and what activities you will do or would like to do to help under this project.”
  • Designing a poster on the topic: “What rhinos mean to you/why you love rhinos.”

Twenty schools from the area are participating.

Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School where the contest is hosted, says: “The contest has a huge impact on the participants, as it deals with the perception amongst local communities that biodiversity does not deliver tangible socio-economic benefits, particularly to the poor. It is through this competition that communities see social upliftment and empowerment of the younger generation to attain critical thinking skills and get involved in solving real issues like rhino poaching. The incentives are greatly appreciated by all participants since our province is one of the poorest provinces in the country, often with limited resources for teaching and learning. These opportunities close the gap of lack of proper uniforms, lack of study aid and lack of access to technological equipment.”

While the contest offers valuable prizes in the form of laptops for the winning speakers, enhancing their educational opportunities, the real prize is the engagement around these critical conservation topics. The participants go on to become ambassadors for rhinos in their local communities, speaking out against poaching, and acting as eyes and ears on the ground.

The EWT has a long track record of tackling rhino poaching, and first established a targeted Rhino Conservation Project in 2010. The EWT has taken a multi-faceted approach with multiple interventions along the rhino poaching chain. These approaches include the provision of detection and anti-poaching dogs to key locations, such as airports and reserves; community engagement and awareness raising; patrol optimisation technology to improve detection and enforcement; capacity building through training for law enforcement officials, rangers, and other stakeholders; and policy engagement.

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About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

 

Contacts

Ashleigh Dore

Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

ashleighd@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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Rescuing of a White-backed Vulture in Kruger National Park

While working in Kruger National Park our Vultures for Africa Porgramme Manager, Andre Botha, found a White-backed Vulture dangerously entangled in a dead tree. Here is his account of what happened:

“On Tuesday morning while busy with fieldwork in the Kruger National Park, I was contacted by the State Veterinarians and Veterinary Wildlife Section of SANParks about a vulture that was found hanging in a tree near Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. I drove out to the site expecting to find a dead vulture suspended from a tree that needed to be recovered and perhaps assessed for the reason of its death. When I arrived at the scene, staff from SANParks were already there, but warned me to first stay in my vehicle as there were two male lion at a giraffe carcass not more than 70m from the tree which the vulture was suspended from. Once it was determined to be safe, I was able to assess the situation and was surprised to find that the adult vulture was still alive, but hanging upside down suspended by one leg to which a rope was tied. It was this rope that had become entangled with the branch it was sitting on and which now posed a serious threat to the bird if we were not able to remove it safely from the tree.”
 
“Fortunately, the bird seemed to still be in good condition, but the operation to recover it from the tree was a daunting task as the dead Tamboti Spirostachys Africana  that it was entangled in was rather fragile and simply climbing the tree to reach the bird was not possible. The location of the bird was such that trying to break the branch it was hanging from was also risky as the bird may have been injured should it be dislodged from its precarious position if it had fallen into the branches below. With the arrival of the State Veterinarian, Dr Louis van Schalkwyk and other colleagues from his office, we discussed options to try and get the bird safely out of the tree. I remembered that one of our ladders previously used to access Southern Ground Hornbill nests in Kruger was in use at the Skukuza airport and we requested that this be brought to the scene to see if we could climb up to the bird to possibly remove it. Airport staff kindly brought the ladder to us, but when they arrived, only one half of the ladder was loaded on their vehicle and it would not have been sufficient to get us high enough as the bird was suspended about 20m above the ground. Louis then had an idea to go to the construction site of the new hotel at Skukuza to see if they perhaps had a crane that we could use to lift a person, probably me (!), up to the bird to attempt to free it. Minutes after he left to investigate this possibility, and while we were standing below the tree in growing anxiety about the welfare of the bird in the rising temperature, a stiff breeze started to stir the leaves and branches of the trees and this movement of air seemed to invigorate the bird who started flapping its wings to again attempt to escape from its precarious position.”
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This effort was rewarded with the branch snapping and the bird then drifting down to the ground with rather weak wing-beats, but away from the dead branches which could have possibly caused injury. We were on hand seconds after it landed safely on the ground and were able to catch it to assess its condition and for possible treatment. Upon closer investigation, we found that the rope attached to its leg was expertly tied onto the bird, probably by someone who had trapped the bird and kept it in captivity tethered by the rope to the ground. Baling string that was also found tied to the other leg of the bird. It is not clear how long the bird may have been kept captive, but it escaped and eventually made its way to the giraffe carcass in the Kruger Park where it became entangled in the tree. Although not common, live vultures are known to be trapped and kept illegally by some people as they believe that being in possession of such a bird brings good luck, a rather different interpretation of the more widely known belief-use practice of using vulture parts for purposes of clairvoyance and improved chances of success at betting, etc.
 
“The bird was taken to the State Veterinary facilities in Skukuza where we were able to assess its condition and we were able to determine that it was tired, but in fairly good condition despite its ordeal. We administered fluids to re-hydrate the bird and decided to keep it overnight under observation. It was placed in a holding cage and offered a juicy piece of impala liver to see if it would eat.”
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“When we opened the cage yesterday morning, we found that the liver was consumed and that the bird was quite sprightly and ready for release. As a token of gratitude, it also took a small chunk out of my arm when I captured it and later emptied its bowels on At Dekker, State Veterinary technician at Skukuza who was holding the bird at the time! We decided that the best site for the release of the bird was the Skukuza golf course and drove there with the bird. This also provided an opportunity to do a brief bit of education to a group of about 40 children from the Skukuza Nursery School before the bird was released on one of the fairways. After an initial hesitant effort to fly away and running about 70 metres from the point of release, the bird spent about 2 minutes on the ground with wings spread open. It then began beating its wings more purposefully and took to the skies after a short run. The children all spontaneously broke into applause when the bird took off and it disappeared from view a short while later.”
 
“A good outcome and an excellent example of how teamwork and a rapid response, once the bird was found, helped to save a critically endangered bird from an unpleasant and unfortunate end.”
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About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

 

Contacts

Andre Botha

Programme Manager: Vultures for Africa

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 82 962 5725

andreb@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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Sibusiso Vilane puts his hand up for Rhino Peak Challenge 2018

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World-renowned adventurer, Sibusiso Vilane, has committed to continuing his fight for endangered species when he takes part in the 2018 edition of the Rhino Peak Challenge on 22 September – World Rhino Day. He will be representing the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) while taking on this fantastic challenge.

Sibusiso’s list of achievements includes summiting Mount Everest twice, summiting all seven of the world’s highest peaks and walking to the South Pole unassisted. The upcoming Rhino Peak Challenge will pale in significance to his previous feats; however, he understands the importance of an event like this.

“At the moment I am not working towards anything so I am not in the best shape but I am prepared to go out there and suffer as much pain as our rhino population is at the moment,” he said. “We all need to rise up to this challenge in whatever way we can to be the voice of our endangered species. Their conservation is our sole responsibility, I believe.”

Organisers of the event have hoped that Sibusiso would take part in the past but due to his busy schedule, it hasn’t been possible. The intervention of EWT CEO, Yolan Friedmann, allowed Sibusiso to be confirmed for this year. He explains, “I was running my ninth Comrades Marathon this year when an old friend, Yolan, reminded me about the Rhino Peak Challenge and before I knew it she had recruited me as I said I had nothing planned for those dates!”

Sibusiso Vilane

 

As an ex-game ranger, Sibusiso has been at the forefront of conservation in South Africa and understands the importance of events and awareness drives like the Rhino Peak Challenge. He keeps conservation of all animals close to his heart. “Not just rhino conservation, but all wildlife matters to me and I believe that we have a responsibility to make sure that they are protected and conserved. I cannot stand and watch from the sideline while the rhino is being wiped off the planet. It would be a shame if that happened and I had not done anything to support initiatives which seek to protect our rhinos,” he added.

Sibusiso’s large following and profile is something that he continues to use in order to promote awareness for the plight of endangered species in South Africa. He feels that it is his duty to pass on the word of conservation.

Despite having a constantly busy schedule, he is currently taking some time away from his exciting adventures to focus on a goal that might be slightly easier to achieve than scaling Mount Everest.

Anyone interested in making a pledge to support Sibusiso Vilane, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, can visit www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za
The EWT is proud and grateful to be one of the beneficiaries of the Rhino Peak Challenge, and to have an esteemed athlete such as Sibusiso representing the organisation in the event.

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

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

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

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

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Sustainable Conservation

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Mike Cadman lion captivity

Among the many issues and perspectives that serve to fragment the conservation sector, rather than unite it, perhaps the greatest is the concept of ‘Sustainable Use,’ and where one positions yourself or your organisation along this rather long and winding spectrum. From the one extreme, which says that humans cannot use any element of our natural world for their benefit at all, to the other end, which claims that full exploitation of nature and all its components is a human right no matter the form this use may take, or its impacts on nature going forward.

Thankfully, most conservation organisations in South Africa sit somewhere far from the edges of these extreme views, and this helps to maintain a balance on most platforms. The EWT firmly believes in the use of nature to the benefit of ALL species, humans included, so essentially we stand FOR the concept of Sustainable Use. The trouble is not with the principle, but rather, in our view, how it is being adapted to suit the needs of a small but increasingly influential pool of ‘special interest’ groups that stand to benefit from use that is sustainable only insofar as it can be sustained, and not for the persistence of a healthy environment for all other creatures.

In 1992, the World Bank stated that their interpretation of the term Sustainable Development was “… development that lasts”. With no reference to the environment being the entity that should in fact last, which is more to the heart of what the Rio Convention (at which the term gained global traction) undoubtedly meant. Ironically, nearly 30 years later, we see some sectors of society interpreting the term Sustainable Use in much the same way. And you argue with them at your peril, for the very first thing they like to quote is the South African Constitution which allegedly enshrines the right of all people to use natural resources in any way that they like. The trouble is, it doesn’t.

THIS is what the Constitution of South Africa, in Section 24 actually says:
Section 24 – Everyone has the right –
a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
b) To have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –
i. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
ii. promote conservation; and
iii. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
What’s so fantastic about this Constitution of ours is that it not only affords humans the right to a clean and healthy environment, but that this applies to future generations: those not even born yet! This right, it states, will be realised through conservation (first and foremost) and then the “ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources”. It is quite clear that the application of sustainability (or persistence if you will) is in relation to the environment and not its use. Simply put, the environment must be sustainable, not just our use thereof.

Therefore, seeing as the Endangered Wildlife Trust so firmly believes in the power of this true environmental right and the ability of our natural resources to sustainably and equitably transform and uplift human lives, we are driving a process to re-examine the narrative around sustainable use (as it is currently being interpreted). A better interpretation of the Constitutional Right, we would argue, would be to truncate section 24(b)iii to be simply SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION in which “ecologically sustainable” is positioned appropriately alongside environmental use.

In short, the EWT:
1. Holds that sustainable use as is sometimes applied in South Africa is currently NOT in line with the spirit or even the language, of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa;
2. Has become increasingly concerned with the narrow and misguided approach to sustainable use currently being taken in some quarters, leading to industry-scale abuses based on the use of a single entity with no value to the broader ecological or social systems; and instead
3. Supports and promotes sustainable conservation as follows:

Sustainable conservation embodies the true spirit of the environmental rights of all people in South Africa – ensuring that the point of departure in any decision, policy or system is that the environment (as a complete and holistic system) is protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

Sustainable conservation exists when the conservation of biodiversity, with all its various wildlife components existing naturally in a functioning ecosystem, becomes the driving factor. Ecological sustainability requires functioning systems and balance and we hold that this underpins the environmental right in our Constitution.

To achieve sustainable conservation, various forms of both consumptive and non-consumptive use can and should be employed as a means of sustaining the system, and ensuring equitable benefit sharing for those who contribute to, are impacted on, or who co-exist as part of these systems. The use of nature in a balanced, holistic and equitable manner is indeed the way in which humans realise their environmental right. This would be to the benefit of the “Everyone” to which our Constitution refers, including those generations not yet born. Above all, the conservation of our natural world remains central to any use thereof, for without these systems, there is no future.

Yolan Friedmann

EWT CEO

www.ewt.org.za

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Endangered Wildlife Trust wins prestigious award for Endangered Species Conservation

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is extremely proud to announce that the EWT Vultures for Africa Programme Manager, Andre Botha, was recognised with a special award for Endangered Species Conservation at the prestigious Rhino Conservation Awards on Friday, 24 August 2018.

While the Rhino Conservation Awards were founded in 2011 to recognise significant role players in rhino conservation, the Special Award for Endangered Species Conservation was included to honour a person, team or entity working full-time in the field to combat poaching of other Endangered species.

Andre was nominated for his extensive work in the field of vulture conservation, having championed this cause through his work with the EWT since 2004. His passion has always been for vultures, and his work has resulted in bringing the importance of vulture conservation to the international stage. Andre’s achievements to fight the poisoning and persecution of Africa’s vultures have been considerable at a time when these birds are under heightened pressures across the continent.

Vultures are amongst the most extinction-prone species in the world, and Andre has dedicated his career to saving these special birds from the many threats they face. His achievements include implementing the first wing-tagging programme focused on southern African vultures in 2006, initiating International Vulture Awareness Day in 2009, which is now a global event and celebrated in 17 countries;  establishing the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Vulture Specialist Group, and Co-chairing this group since its inception to date. Andre also developed the EWT’s Poisoning Intervention Training programme, which has been presented to more than 1,400 law enforcement staff, rangers, veterinarians and community members in six countries in southern and east Africa. He acts as over-arching coordinator for the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan for African-Eurasian Vulture, which was formally adopted by all 128 range countries at the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals Convention of the Parties 12 in Manilla, Philippines in October 2017.

In a reflection of his continual dedication to his work, Andre was in the field when the awards were presented at a gala dinner in Johannesburg on Friday night. Upon hearing that he had won, Andre said: “I am indeed honoured by the award which, in essence, is recognition by my peers (fellow rangers and conservationists) for the work that I have been involved in over the last 15 years. It certainly does serve as further motivation for me to not only continue working towards the conservation of Old World vultures and their habitats, but to also create a greater appreciation among humanity for these birds that are providing a critically important service to the benefit of other species, especially humans and the livestock that they depend on.”

Endangered species need champions to highlight their plight and garner support, and vultures have a true champion in Andre.

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

 

Contacts

Andre Botha

Programme Manager: Vultures for Africa

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 82 962 5725

andreb@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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Local rockers pledge to keep our carnivores Wild ‘n Free – will you?

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In the build up to World Lion Day on 10 August, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), a champion of conservation in Africa, has launched an exciting new project, entitled Wild ‘n Free. Through this initiative, the EWT is calling on all South Africans to be the voice for the voiceless and join the fight against keeping carnivores in captivity for petting, walking-with, photo-tourism, captive hunting and the trade in their body parts. Members of the public unwittingly play an enormous role in an industry that thrives off keeping carnivores like Lions, Cheetah, Leopards and African Wild Dogs behind bars, often for nefarious reasons. Local artists WONDERboom, who were recently announced as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses’ South African tour, are among the first to show their support for this campaign, and are calling on others to do the same. If you stop the visits, you stop the exploitation.

In recent years, South Africa has seen a rapid increase in so-called predator or wildlife parks, which are most often part of the industrial scale production of carnivores for commercial purposes. This is particularly prominent for Lions and Cheetahs. Wild ‘n Free aims to keep carnivores where they belong – in the wild – by promoting the value and role of wild carnivores in natural free-living conditions.

A Wild ‘n Free environment is one in which large carnivores are not reliant on humans for their daily needs, are free to use open space and hunt prey naturally, and can carry out natural social behaviours like mating, holding territories and interacting with competitors. This ensures that they are functional components of a natural system. By keeping our carnivores Wild ‘n Free, we are also conserving larger tracts of land and hundreds of other species of plants and animals, keeping food webs intact. Wild carnivores are the icons of Africa, and attract millions of tourists and their foreign revenue and associated benefits to our country every year. South Africa is the only country in Africa that has a thriving industry of commercial carnivore production, which has tainted our image as a global conservation leader and ecotourism destination. There is no conservation value to be derived from this industry and it is up to all South Africans and visitors to our beautiful country to instead, stand up for our Wild ‘n Free natural heritage.

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We’re calling on everyone to take the Wild ‘n Free pledge: “I pledge to keep all carnivores Wild ‘n Free by not petting, walking, feeding or taking selfies with them. I vow to become an ambassador for wild carnivores and to honour their right to live a natural life. I encourage others to do the same.” Pledge cards can be downloaded and shared to social media to show support for this campaign. As WONDERboom’s lead singer, Cito, explains, “The more we find out the truth behind these commercial wildlife parks and canned hunting facilities, the more we should stand together, in solidarity, and boycott them. Any international visitor will tell you how blessed South Africa is to have the wildlife we have, in its natural habitat. I pledge to not support any of these facilities and I publicly condemn such businesses. We have the choice and power to make a difference in SA’s wildlife welfare.”

The project is focusing on three key themes:

Wild ‘n Free Space

This theme addresses the need for carnivores to have safe space to meet their biological needs. Under this theme, we actively find new space for wild carnivores through reintroduction projects that directly improve their conservation status. As a result of these interventions, there are currently 351 more Cheetahs on 1.15 million ha of Wild ‘n Free space and 227 more Wild Dogs on 584,000 ha of Wild ‘n Free space in South Africa. These reintroductions are expanding to other countries like Malawi and Mozambique, ensuring that Wild ‘n Free space is not confined by political or geographic boundaries.

We also work with farmers to implement ways in which livestock production can be done in harmony with carnivores, for example by providing livestock guarding dogs that protect livestock from predation, removing the need for the farmer to shoot carnivores. We have 197 livestock guarding dogs actively guarding livestock and making 500,000 ha of farmland safe and Wild ‘n Free for carnivores. This also makes farming more profitable and ecologically sustainable.

Wild ‘n Free Animals

This theme addresses the need for carnivores to be valued (both aesthetically and financially) in the wild, not in cages. Under this theme, we promote the need for carnivores to be Wild ‘n Free, and are working with the tourism industry to ensure that Wild ‘n Free destinations and activities are promoted. We are very proud of the Waterberg Wild Dog Tourism Project that generates tourism revenue for landowners who live in harmony with Wild Dogs in Limpopo. Find out more about this ground-breaking project and see the pups at the den at www.waterbergwilddogs.com.

Wild ‘n Free Legislation

This theme addresses the need for legislation that promotes wild carnivores and effectively regulates and ensures compliance of captive facilities. Under this theme, we drive legislative reform and promote compliance to current legislation. We contribute to and drive processes to guide effective legislation to regulate captive carnivores more effectively and promote Wild ‘n Free. We are leading discussions to review what is considered sustainable use in light of captive breeding of Lions for the parts.

Dr Kelly Marnewick, Senior Trade Officer and lead on this project, says: “This project will be a success when carnivores are valued by society in a Wild ‘n Free environment, with no commercial demand for captive animals or their body parts. Wild carnivores play an integral role in nature, where they contribute to conservation and are not vulnerable to exploitation. They do not belong behind bars.”

Read the EWT’s full perspective on captive carnivores here

Ends

 

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

 

Contacts

Dr Kelly Marnewick

Senior Trade Officer

Wildlife in Trade Programme

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398 ext 594 or +27 82 477 4470

Email: KellyM@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398 ext 110 or +27 72 616 1787

Email: BelindaG@ewt.org.za

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Flamingo returns from two-year stay in Madagascar

flamingomedia

3 August 2018

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During 2016, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) fitted satellite tracking devices to twelve Lesser Flamingos in order to understand the flight behaviour of these threatened birds. The results were surprising, indicating long distance nocturnal movements that had previously been unrecorded. On 9 June 2016, the EWT recorded the first cross-border movement of an individual Lesser Flamingo to Madagascar1. Kucki, named by Eskom’s Environmental Manager Deidre Herbst, after Kucki Low, the first South African woman to get her commercial pilots license and South Africa’s first female flight instructor in 1970, covered a distance of 1,020km in a single flight! This flight was done in just under 24 hours. While on Madagascar, Kucki moved up and down the coast, all the while making her way up to Mahajanga. During her stay in Madagascar, she even survived the onslaught of cyclone Dineo, which hit the coastline in 2017. Then, on 29 May 2018, Kucki finally made her return to mainland Africa, flying from Madagascar to Mozambique, and landing south of Beira. The flight covered a distance of 927km directly over the Mozambican Channel. Curiously, her arrival to and departure from Madagascar occurred at the exact same point in the mouth of the Mangoky River. Over the past two months, she has been getting to know the Mozambican coastline better and we will continue to monitor her movements. This remarkable journey has raised even more questions around why flamingos undertake these movements and what environmental triggers contribute to the duration and direction of flights.

mapflamingo

The Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) is listed as Near Threatened in both the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and in the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. One of the known threats to Lesser Flamingos is collision with power lines. The EWT, in partnership with Eskom, initiated a project to assess the nocturnal movements of these birds, with the aim of mitigating this threat. While conventional bird flight diverters have proved to be effective for bird species that are active during the day, mortalities of species that fly at night, such as the Lesser Flamingo, were still being found under marked power lines. This suggested that conventional mitigation may not be effective, and more research needs to conducted.

The project is supported by Eskom Research, Testing and Development. To assist in decreasing the number of bird mortalities on power line infrastructure, the EWT is encouraging members of the public to report any mortalities of wildlife related to energy infrastructure to its Wildlife and Energy Programme via email at  wep@ewt.org.za  or telephonically (toll free) at 0860 111 535.

[1] The first media release on this particular Lesser Flamingo can be accessed here.

End

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

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

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

Contacts
Lourens Leeuwner
Wildlife & Energy Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 72 775 5111
lourensl@ewt.org.za

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

 

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Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Increase Captive Lion Bone Export Quota to 1,500

lionbone

17 July 2018

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In 2017, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced an annual export quota of 800 skeletons (with or without the skull) for the international trade in lion bones. This has now been increased to 1,500 skeletons, effective from 7 June 2018.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and partner organisations raised several concerns regarding the quota published in 2017 in our Technical Response to the DEA’s Proposed Captive Lion Bone Export Quota.[1] We note with concern that many of these have yet to be addressed and further:

  • There is still no evidence to show that the regulated trade in lion bones will not drive demand for wild lion projects, or evidence to show that it will alleviate pressure on wild lion populations.
  • Field observations indicate that wild lions in southern Africa, specifically Mozambique, have been under increasing threat for their parts. The Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme has recorded an escalation in the number of wild lions poached on the Mozambican side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, with a marked increase since 2015. They report that 26% of the lion population in this park has been lost due to poaching for their body parts.[2]
  • In the year immediately preceding the quota (June 2016 to May 2017), 13 captive bred lions in South Africa were poached for their body parts. The EWT notes with concern that during the first year of the quota (June 2017 to May 2018) there were 12 poaching incidents, resulting in 31 lions being killed. These preliminary figures suggest that the poaching of captive lions in South Africa has more than doubled since the quota was established.
  • The mandate to regulate welfare of captive carnivores remains confused as both the DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries maintain that the welfare mandate is not their responsibility. We continue to have serious concerns about the welfare of captive lions.[3] For instance, in May 2018, over 70 lions awaiting slaughter at an abattoir on the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm in the Free State were exposed to conditions that resulted in a case of animal cruelty being opened with the South African Police Service by the Bloemfontein Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This case is still under investigation. Unacceptable welfare conditions include lions being held in small crates and being held without food or water.[4] This case clearly illustrates an absence of proper monitoring and compliance with the law by participants in this trade. It is clear that South Africa is unable to ensure the adequate welfare and husbandry of lions bred for their bones.
  • At the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congresses held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 2016, a formal motion was passed to stop the canned hunting and non-conservation based captive breeding of lion and other predators. The international position is clearly against the captive breeding of wild animals for their parts.
  • Finally, we are concerned for the reputational damage to Brand South Africa and the negative impact that lion bone farming and the related captive lion industry is having on South Africa’s world-class conservation reputation.

The EWT is not aware of any formal public participation process or consultation prior to the decision to increase the annual lion bone export quota, and we have no further information on how or why this decision was made.

The EWT supports the sustainable use of natural resources when it directly contributes to species and habitat conservation efforts, and where communities meaningfully and directly benefit. We do not believe that farming lions for their parts is sustainable use but rather economic exploitation to benefit a select few.

The EWT calls for more transparency in decision making and calls on DEA to review this decision after full consultation and public participation has been undertaken. The EWT further calls for the welfare concerns surrounding captive carnivores to be addressed before any further decisions around the lion bone trade are taken.

End

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

 

Contacts

Dr Kelly Marnewick

Senior Trade Officer

Wildlife in Trade Programme

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398 or + 27 82 477 4470

kellym@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398 or +27 72 616 1787

belindag@ewt.org.za

[1]https://www.ewt.org.za/media/2017/SA%20NGO%20Response%20to%20DEA%20Lion%20bone%20Quota%2026%20Jan%202017.pdf

[2] http://www.peaceparks.org/news.php?pid=1793&mid=1813

[3] For more information on these welfare concerns, please read “Fair Game? Improving the well-being of South African wildlife Review of the legal and practical regulation of the welfare of wild animals in South Africa, 2018” accessible at https://cer.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CER-EWT-Regulation-of-Wildlife-Welfare-Report-25-June-2018.pdf. This report that was developed by the EWT and the Centre for Environmental Rights and was funded by the Lewis Foundation

[4] https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion/finger-pointing-by-dea-and-daff-leaves-lions-at-free-state-abattoir-in-limbo-15010739

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