Climate Change Action Plan for Nandi County Set to boost conservation of Grey Crowned Cranes and wetlands in the county

Nandi County Government is set to be among the 1st counties to develop a climate change action plan in Kenya. Wetlands ecosystems have not been spared from negative impacts of climate change. One such ecosystem is Kingwal wetland located in Nandi County of Western Kenya, an important breeding and feeding habitat for Grey Crowned Crane. Kingwal wetland is among four project sites of the Kenya Crane and Wetlands Conservation Project implemented under the ICF/EWT/CANCO partnership. The other project sites are Kipsaina, Sio Siteko, and Lake OL Bolossat.

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Project sites: Kenya Crane and wetlands conservation project

Prolonged droughts and flooding are among climate change related impacts adversely impacting Kingwal wetland and survival of Grey Crowned Cranes. Prolonged droughts has seen the wetland being used as dry season grazing reserve, contributing to opening up of the wetland due to heavy presence of livestock. Besides degradation of the wetland, heavy presence of livestock, and at times dogs that accompany herders disturb breeding and feeding cranes. Flooding on the other hand has resulted to crane nests being washed away.
Developed over a five month period (February to June 2018) with ICF/EWT/CANCO contribution, through Green Belt Movement, a local partner, the vision of Nandi County Climate Change Action plan is “A prosperous County that is resilient to climate change, with a low carbon economy contributing to sustainable development of Kenya”. Its goal is to “Strengthen Nandi County’s adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change, and promote sustainable development as a mitigation strategy for the wellbeing of human and ecological systems”. The action plan has the following strategic objectives;
• Increase food security through sustainable production systems that guarantees ecosystems integrity.
• Mainstream climate change adaptation in the environment sector for resilient ecological and human systems.
• Enhance water security for climate change resilience
• Invest in a resilient energy system through an energy generation mix for sustainable development
• Support realization of Climate resilient infrastructure
• Promote public awareness, innovation and development of appropriate technologies and capacity that promote climate resilient development
• Promote Sustainable financing for climate change action through resource mobilization
• Enhance governance and coordination of climate change adaptation and mitigation
• Strengthen adaptive capacity of vulnerable groups* (women, orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly, and persons with disability) through adoption of a rights based approach.
The Climate Change Act 2016, and the National Adaptation plan of Kenya 2015-2030, among others, require County Governments to integrate and mainstream climate change actions, interventions and duties into County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs), budgeting and implementation structures for realizing equitable sustainable development.

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 Kenya Country Coordinator (Rudolf Makhanu) presenting the CC Action plan during validation meeting held on 18th June 2018, Kapsabet, Nandi County

The action plan, which mainstreams adoption of ecosystem based adaptation approach, provides a good starting point for collective stakeholder action to conserve fragile ecosystems such as wetlands and threatened biodiversity such as Grey Crowned Crane and Sitatunga antelope. It serves as a vehicle for ensuring coordinated delivery of obligations required of the Nandi County and its stakeholders, the priority being to build climate resilience in as low carbon a manner as possible to ensure Nandi County and the country at large contributes to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Having sailed through the critical stage of stakeholder validation, held on 18th June 2018, the action plan is now set to be tabled for discussion in the county assembly for final endorsement.

 

 

Article by Rudolf Makhanu

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Figure 2: Kenya Country Coordinator (Rudolf Makhanu) presenting the CC Action plan
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Endangered Wildlife Trust wins prestigious ‘Science Oscar’

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), champion of conservation in Africa, is extremely proud to announce that team member, Wendy Collinson, was the recipient of the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher at last night’s National Science and Technology (NSTF) awards.

The NSTF-South32 Awards gala dinner took place in Gauteng on 28 June 2018, to celebrate the most outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET), and innovation. This is the 20th anniversary celebration of the awards, which are the largest SET and innovation awards in South Africa, and were the first of their kind in the country. They are known as the ‘Science Oscars’ and this year were presented by the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who is the event’s patron.

Wendy scooped the prestigious award for her work in establishing and running the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project, which aims to reduce the negative impacts of transport infrastructure on wildlife, and ultimately improve driver safety through a reduction in wildlife-vehicle-collisions (WVCs). Wendy is overseeing numerous research projects that examine the impacts of roads in South Africa, in order to develop solutions to reduce roadkill. Most of her projects involve collaborations with stakeholders in the transport sector, as well as academia, regarding the design of future developments. This body of knowledge is informing the development and planning decisions around future road design, which will lessen the impact of roads on South African fauna and flora. “It is an honour to be nominated, it is an outstanding achievement to reach the finals, and an exceptional milestone and celebration of excellence to win one of these awards”, said Wendy.

The EWT was also recognised as a finalist in the NSTF-GreenMatter Award category, for its outstanding contribution to the Groen Sebenza Initiative, an innovative project aimed at developing skills and bridging the gap between education and job opportunities in the biodiversity sector which was initiated by the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2013.

 

With numerous research projects across the African continent, the EWT strives to undertake high-quality scientific studies and frequently publishes scientific papers in international peer-reviewed journals. “Through our partnerships with academic institutions, we ensure that our scientific understanding is innovative and contributes towards finding solutions to some of the challenges we face in conservation. Through initiatives like Groen Sebenza, we safeguard our conservation champions of the future and provide opportunities to expand their knowledge, and learn from the best”, concluded Wendy.

The core supporters of the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project are Bridgestone SA, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concessionaire, De Beers Group of Companies, Ford Wildlife Foundation, N3 Toll Concession and TRAC N4, dedicated to minimising the negative interactions between wildlife and transport infrastructure.

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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

Wendy Collinson

Project Executant: Wildlife and Roads Project

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 73 596 1673

wendyc@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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Building capacity and team work: East Africa team together in Rwanda

ICF/EWT East Africa team participated in a training on Conservation Agreements in Musanze Rwanda. It was held at Dianna Fossey Gorilla Fund Center, and facilitated by Conservation International. Attended by over 25 participants drawn from government and civil society organizations, the 2018 training aimed at achieving the following objectives;
1. Introduce the conservation agreements model to new participants while widening and deepening the model understanding for participants trained in 2017
2. Offer a platform for organizations already using the conservation agreements and other community based conservation approaches to share their experiences and challenges, and to further co-create opportunities and solutions
The 1st day focused on introducing the conservation agreements model to new participants. The second day was dedicated to sharing experiences on community engagement.

The team made field visits to project sites in Rwanda to familiarize and review project progress. Of the areas visited included Rugezi Marsh, where fodder, piggery and bee keeping livelihood projects that are under Conservation Agreement model. We also visited Akanyaru wetland, and witnessed the on-going peat to power project, that threatens the continued existence of the wetland and associated biodiversity. We also visited Nyabarongo wetland and participated in Omuganda (community service program), where we interacted with a school crane conservation club. The team also held an internal session to update each other on the status of the projects, reviewed results chains for the conservation agreement and crane custodianship strategies as well as developed a results chain for awareness creation

 

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Jimmy helping move bricks for a new house being built as part of Omuganda (Community self help)

 

Article by Rudolf Makhanu, Kenya Country Coordinator

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New report finds inadequate protection for the well-being of South African wildlife

Fair Game

25 June 2018

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In a joint report published today, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) set out findings of a review of the regulation of the welfare of wild animals in South Africa.

The report, entitled Fair Game? Improving the Regulation of the Well-being of South African Wildlife finds that there are major gaps in both legislation and the implementation of those laws, leaving the well-being of wild animals without adequate protection. The organisations recommend the clarification of the legal mandate for wildlife welfare, and the updating of legislation. They also call for greater investment in compliance monitoring and enforcement, and a standardised and transparent permitting system for activities involving and affecting wildlife.

Historically, our regulatory system has distinguished between animal welfare on one hand, and biodiversity conservation on the other – and regulate those separately in different laws.  This means that conservation laws applicable to wild animals under the physical control of humans, whether held temporarily or permanently – are often unsuited to addressing the issue of welfare of those wild animals. Welfare laws, on the other hand, do not necessarily consider conservation objectives. To make matters worse, both sectors suffer from very limited resources for compliance and enforcement. In practice, the current legal regime ultimately provides little protection for wild animals.

South Africa has, in recent years, seen a proliferation of facilities that involve the captive management of wildlife for commercial purposes. The legislation that governs the welfare of these wild animals has not kept pace with the rapid changes in the wildlife industry. As a result, the welfare of many species of wildlife has often become compromised. Welfare standards that may be suited to domestic animals cannot be considered suitable to the full spectrum of species of wildlife.

Media reports of the practical state of welfare protection for wild animals in South Africa demonstrate the need for urgent reform in laws and practices. For example, an incident in 2014 involving the death of a giraffe while being transported in an open-air truck on a national highway drew great public concern when the driver drove under a bridge that was not tall enough for the giraffe to safely pass under. No prosecutions for this grave incident have been reported to date.

More recent examples include dozens of neglected and starving captive lions on a Limpopo farm and a lion “abattoir” in the Free State housing over 200 lions awaiting slaughter for lion bone exports, currently in limbo as both the Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) say that the welfare situation is not their responsibility.

In addition to this, the increase in reported incidents of captive carnivore attacks on people, many resulting in fatalities, are not being legally addressed. Each of these incidents, a small fraction of those going on country-wide, represents a failure of the system in protecting the animals.

Whilst regulations may exist for the captive management of some selected species, and laws may be in place to regulate the numbers being traded, the welfare of captive wildlife, and the mandate of the authorities to monitor compliance, is currently insufficiently protected.

The joint report was prompted by growing concern amongst civil society and NGOs, including the EWT and the CER, about the absence of welfare considerations in conservation laws and practices, and the fact that existing welfare laws do not adequately cater for wild animals, which are increasingly the subjects of breeding farms and other forms of intensive management.

CER Wildlife Attorney Aadila Agjee says that: The combination of government agencies regulating wildlife and welfare, outdated and at times inadequate laws, inconsistent application and enforcement of those laws – and the strong focus on the commercial exploitation of wildlife – make clear that the welfare of wild animals is not currently a priority in South Africa. A set mandate, adequate budget for staffing, training and resources, updating of laws and practices, and consistency in the treatment of the wild animals to prioritise their well-being are critical.”

The report examines the legal and practical regulation of the welfare of wild animals in South Africa with a view to constructive engagement with the national and provincial departments charged with implementing both conservation and welfare laws,[1] and other relevant stakeholders, with the aim of reform.

“In order constructively to address the gaps and shortcomings in the legal framework that governs the well-being of wild animals, the EWT and the CER embarked on a process of identifying where and how the laws should be changed. Broad consultation with a large number of stakeholders in the commercial wildlife industry, welfare sector and government has strengthened the findings and recommendations. The report thus provides a positive platform from which the relevant government authorities can now address the dire need for vastly improved welfare governance for our wildlife,” said Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO.

Importantly, the report also places the issue of wildlife welfare in a Constitutional context.[2]  The report argues that the improvement of welfare laws, as recently confirmed by the courts, and their consistent implementation, compliance, monitoring and enforcement is an urgent Constitutional imperative.

The report concludes by providing legal and practical recommendations for the improvement and proper regulation, compliance with and enforcement of good minimum welfare standards for wild animals under the control of humans.  These recommendations serve as a catalyst to open discussions with and tender assistance to the relevant government and legislative bodies for the improvement of wildlife welfare laws and practices.

Download the full report

Download the executive summary

[1] These include the national Departments of Environmental Affairs, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries; provincial environment departments and conservation agencies, and provincial agriculture departments.

[2] Section 24 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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Contacts

Aadila Agjee

Attorney

Centre for Environmental Rights

Tel: +27 10 442 6830

Email: Aagjee@cer.org.za

 

Annette Gibbs

Communications Manager

Centre for Environmental Rights

Tel: +27 21 447 1647

Email: Agibbs@cer.org.za

 

Yolan Friedmann

CEO

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

Email: YolanF@ewt.org.za

 

Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert

Head of Conservation

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

Email: HarrietD@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

Email: BelindaG@ewt.org.za

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Release of two Blue Cranes: A chance at a future

 

In December last year, University of Cape Town student, Megan Murgatroyd – who had assisted us with the captures of Blue Cranes for our tracking project in the Western Cape – was called to assist with the identification of two young birds confiscated in a small town, called Calvinia. The two birds were identified as Blue Cranes and Megan offered to take care of the birds until a more suitable facility was located.  For the next three months Megan ensured the birds were well taken care of while preventing imprinting.  The birds were then moved to a sanctuary in the Western Cape, but unfortunately the regular presence of people were making the birds habituated.  It was for this reason, we worked together with the Overberg Crane Group and the provincial conservation authority, CapeNature, to release the birds in the Overberg close to wild Blue Crane flocks. 

 

This idea was complicated by the fact that the Western Cape, including the Overberg region, is in the grips of one of the worst droughts in living memory.  Thus making the availability of roost sites a concern.  However, after some searching a suitable release site with wild Blue Cranes and nearby roost sites was found.   

 

The release took place on a sunny Sunday and the two youngsters enjoyed about 20 minutes of stretching, jumping and dancing together, before they both took flight and joined a nearby wild flock of Blue Cranes.  The release couldn’t have gone better and a chance at a future in the wild is definitely what we gave them. 

 

Many thanks to Megan Murgatroyd of the University of Cape Town and Keir Lynch of the Overberg Crane Group/Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust for their efforts. 

 

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Article by Tanya Smith, ICF/EWT Partnership Regional Manager: Southern Africa

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Rewards of Wattled Crane research and monitoring starting to be revealed

Monitoring of Wattled Cranes in South Africa over the past 30 years has started to show the fruit of its labor. Monitoring systems were implemented due to the extremely low numbers of the species which are primarily found outside of protected areas in wetlands on farmland. In the 1980’s a ringing program for the species was established and annual aerial surveys were conducted to enable breeding nest sites to be monitored. Stewardship schemes and raising awareness were also used as mechanisms to halt the decline of the species.
A steady increase in the population has been observed with the 2001 aerial survey’s sighting 183 individuals while 314 individuals sighted in 2017. The success of the project has to this point secured nest sites and counteracted negative effects on survival. Even with these proactive measures, survival of Wattled Cranes chicks to approximately 12 weeks is low (~39% in recent studies) with the major cause being predation. Survival of Wattled Cranes past 12 weeks in the Midlands area in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is 84%. The mitigation of negative anthropomorphic effects appears to be working relatively well for this species.
The Wattled Crane breeding individuals accounts for only approximately 40% of the population. The remaining individuals consist of non-breeding birds. These are birds that are sexually immature or single birds and commonly form ‘floater flocks’, as they are more nomadic then their breeding counter parts who remain on nesting territories throughout the year. This part of the population is the source of future breeding birds within the population and conservation of them is vital for securing long-term survival of the population. Consequently, understanding the movements of the floater flocks is important to ensure that single birds are recruited to become breeding birds. This has required fitting transmitters on some of these individuals to monitor their movements and habitat use. This information on the floater flock will better direct conservation efforts for this portion of the Wattled Crane population.
A collaboration between Endangered Wildlife Trust, KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation and the University of KwaZulu-Natal has secured funding for the Wattled Crane transmitters (six transmitters to be place on adults and six transmitters to be placed on chicks before they can fly). To date one transmitter that have been placed have been attached to an adult Wattled Crane, the first time this work has been carried out in South Africa. This work is not for the faint hearted as the shy and elusive species requires many hours of observations to enable their capture and transmitter fitment.
Initial results from this work shows Wattled Crane seasonal local migration from the Midlands, KZN, to the Cedarville area, KZN, in November and then returning to the Midlands in March/April. This migration takes just 2 days with an overnight stop. Five transmitters have been placed on wild chicks. Two transmitters were attached in 2016 and three fitted in 2017 and with three of the five birds having made the seasonal move between the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and the Southern Drakensberg region of Cedarville at least once. The information gained from these tracked birds will enable us to establish the important roosting and foraging sites for the species directing focused conservation efforts for the species.
Thanks are given to those that made this work possible; National Research Foundation, Openhiemier Memorial Trust, Kathleen Hastie Memorial Trust, Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust and the Hlatikulu Conservancy.

 

 

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Tanya Smith (ICF/EWT Partnership), Matthew Becker (ICF/EWT Partnership) and Lara Jordan (UKZN/EWT) attaching a transmitter to Wattled Crane chick to monitor its movements and habitat use

 

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Close up of the ring mounted tracker fitted

 

Article by Lara Jordan, PhD Candidate University of KwaZulu-Natal and supported by ICF/EWT Partnership

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Celebrating World Fish Migration Day

JP le Roux, Aquatic Conservationist, Source to Sea Programme

jeanpierrel@ewt.org.za

World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) is a one-day global celebration to create awareness around the importance of open rivers and migratory fish and in 2018 it was celebrated on 21 April, with the theme of Connecting fish, rivers and people.

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This day is significant because many fish need to migrate to reproduce, feed and complete their life cycles. Migratory fish make up a crucial link in the food chain and play an important role in healthy and productive river systems. They are also an important source of food and livelihoods for many people. Unfortunately, many migratory fish species face threats such as dams, weirs and sluices, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent their migration.

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The EWT’s Source to Sea Programme took part in a special event in Groot Marico to mark this day, organised by Iggdrasil Scientific Services. The event was focused on barriers to fish migration, both natural and manmade. They travelled around Marico looking at barriers that limit the movement of the endemic Marico Barb as well as the impact of Largemouth Bass on indigenous fish communities. They found that in some cases the barriers limit the dispersal of invasive fish, which in turn limits their effect on the endemic fish population. One of the biggest threats to the Marico Barb was identified as the introduction of invasive fish in the upper part of the catchment, which will need an education and outreach programme to be mitigated.

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Thanks to Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Charitable Foundation for their support of this work.

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Changing perspectives

Jiba Magwaza, Junior Field Officer, Threatened Amphibian Programme

jibam@ewt.org.za

Winter is almost upon us, and it is time for our frogs to hibernate. While most amphibians hibernate during this season, some of our amazing frogs are still calling and active in field. The Striped Stream Frog and the Common River Frog are two species of frogs that remain active all year round and can be heard calling throughout the cooler months. These two special frogs are much more tolerant of the cold and can breed in all seasons. The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) has also continued to work on exciting projects into autumn. We have been engaging local schools in Isipingo, Durban, to gauge knowledge on wetland habitats and overcome fears about frogs.

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The work is the result of a project that we have recently started thanks to funding from Tiger Brands to promote sustainable livelihoods in the area through wetland-friendly vegetable gardens, and the development of Small-to-Medium-to-Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). During April, we engaged with 450 learners from Thamela Primary and Igagasi High School with our “Frogs in the Classroom” approach. During our primary school engagement, the grade 5 classes were asked to draw a picture of a wetland and all animals and plants that they think occur in or use wetlands. We then visited the primary school to educate learners about the function and importance of wetlands. We also showed them a live Guttural Toad and used it to talk about a frog’s life cycle and their importance as bio-indicators. On our third visit, we asked the learners to draw a new picture of a wetland to gauge whether their understanding of wetlands had increased in response to our environmental education lessons.

Our high school engagement was a little different. During the first visit, we asked learners to complete a survey, comprised of about twenty questions, to understand attitudes to and knowledge about frogs and wetlands. In our second visit, we educated them about the importance and functions of wetlands and frogs as part of biodiversity. In our third visit, we asked learners to complete the attitude survey again to gauge whether any change in their attitude towards the environment had taken place in response to our engagement. We are currently in the process of analysing the data and hope we do get results showing a positive attitude towards the environment. We are also developing environmental programmes and enviro-clubs for these schools, and aim to work with them throughout the year.

Thank you to Tiger Brands for making this work possible.

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The newest member of the Wild Dog metapopulation family

Cole du Plessis, KZN Regional Co-ordinator, Carnivore Conservation Programmecoled@ewt.org.za

Maremani Nature Reserve, which lies at the northern tip of Limpopo and borders Zimbabwe, has recently become the latest reserve to join the Wild Dog Metapopulation, offering safe space to the most Endangered carnivore in South Africa. The reserve has plentiful game and 40,000 hectares of safe space where the Wild Dogs can thrive in an area made up of tropical savannah.

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Although Maremani Nature Reserve has only just received their first pack of Wild Dogs, they had already been supporting a group of four male Wild Dogs that had been threatened with persecution in northern KwaZulu-Natal and had nowhere else to go. Rieker Botha, manager of Maremani Nature Reserve, was kind enough to convert his elephant boma into a Wild Dog boma and offer these four important males refuge.

However, a single group of males is not sustainable and our goal was to form a new pack. This required what all male Wild Dogs are looking for – females. For a new pack to form, we engaged with one of our partner organisations, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZN Wildlife), which donated four females from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) to assist in starting a new Wild Dog pack.

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The four females were darted by a joint team made up of the EWT, EKZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT. We worked together to fit tracking collars onto the Wild Dogs and take necessary biological samples before loading them into crates and taking them to Mkuze airstrip, where The Bateleurs were ready and waiting to fly them up to Limpopo.

The joint operation first required the males to get ready for their new females. Grant Beverley (EWT), Dr. Shaun Beverley (Limpopo Wildlife Vet) and Dr Zoe Glyphis (Saving the Survivors) had started immobilising the male Wild Dogs in the Maremani boma so that they could bond them with the female Wild Dogs on arrival. The bonding process (physically rubbing the female and males together while still sedated) was effective and the following morning, all the Wild Dogs were together and moving as a new pack in the boma. They will spend the next few weeks in the boma, which will allow the bond between them to grow stronger before being released.

The key to Wild Dog population growth is to expand their range/safe space and introduce founder individuals to catalyse population growth. We extend our thanks to EKZN Wildlife for another Wild Dog donation to the national Wild Dog Metapopulation, and to Rieker Botha and Maremani Nature Reserve for your efforts in Wild Dog conservation.

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We also thank WildlifeACT for logistical support in KZN, Saving the Survivors and Limpopo Wildlife Vets for support at Maremani, The Bateleurs for flying the females to Maremani, and donors that made this work possible, namely Richard Bosman, Land Rover Centurion, Painted Wolf Wines, Peter Orsmond, James Williams, Luke Roberts, Anny Pinto, Biance Wernecke and Lee Mitchell.

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Tackling the problem of snaring

Oldrich van Schalkwyk, Manager, Soutpansberg Protected Areaoldrichvs@ewt.org.za

The EWT’s is committed to protecting wildlife, while at the same time assisting neighbouring communities in minimising livestock losses in the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA). We therefore recently , volunteered the services of the Medike Nature Reserve’s anti-poaching unit to sweep the neighbouring Ndouvhada Communal land for snares. After meticulously covering about 50 hectares outside the reserve’s southern boundary, the SPA rangers removed 56 active snares. Unfortunately, they also found the lost breeding bull of a community cattle farmer, killed by a poacher’s snares, as well as a snared Vervet Monkey. Fortunately, no snares were found during patrols on Medike Nature Reserve during this period.

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The team is also assisting the Primate and Predator Project (PPP) from Durham University, UK, based on Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve, to try and capture a snared female Leopard, whose territory stretches over the neighbouring farms of Ottoshoek and Ottosdal. The snare was most likely picked up on Ottosdal, where a number of snaring cases has been reported by PPP researchers. Four bomas were set up, each with a foot-loop capture system, as this is a more humane way of capturing large predators than the use of box traps. Currently the traps are kept closed until the snared female is sighted via scout cameras at the bomas. This is to avoid capturing non-target animals. This proved to be a good strategy as a male Leopard went into one of the bomas three times on the first night!

Known as Tokoloshe, the snared Leopard is a five-year-old territorial female on the only commercial farm, Ottosdal, on top of the far western Soutpansberg. She was last photographed on 9 May 2018, this time in a remote, almost inaccessible, area of Ottoshoek (east of Ottosdal). She was still wearing the snare but it seemed to have loosened a bit, giving us hope that there is still time to save her. We have placed more trail cameras around the area where she was seen last and if seen again here, will place capture bomas in this remote area. We are also working to get some hounds that can tree her for darting, as an alternative to the bomas. We continue to persevere in hope that she can still be helped. Once caught, the snare will be removed and the Leopard will be given the necessary medical attention to best ensure her survival.

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This work is made possible by Rainforest Trust, who is funding the SPA’s anti-poaching unit, and the Roberts family in Australia, who donated the funds to purchase the EWT’s first protected area in the Soutpansberg, from where the SPA team currently operates.

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