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AUGUST 2020 NEWSLETTER
Bushlife Conservancy thanks our donors and supporters for their commitment to the mission...
Protect and save African wildlife for future generations in the Mana Pools and Zambezi Valley areas of Zimbabwe.
No elephants have been poached in Mana Pools so far in 2020! Thank you to the brave and dedicated rangers and BSU teams on the ground, and to our worldwide supporters who make this work possible.

We Exceeded our Covid-19 Impact Fundraising Goal!

Thank you, BC donors! You were very generous during our COVID-19 Impact appeal. While we are still tallying the totals, to date we have more than exceeded Bob and Mara Perkins’ $20,000 gift in matching funds, during this brief campaign. Mara, an active BC volunteer and board member, along with all board members and volunteers, take great pride in the stewardship of your donations.  Reports shared in this newsletter, demonstrate how your funds are being used effectively and efficiently in Mana Pools and the lower Zambezi Valley. BC work includes anti-poaching and investigations, ranger and community support, animal collaring and tracking, and habitat protection and research.

You are outstanding conservationists by supporting BC and taking action for wildlife and the people in this UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mana Pools and the Lower Zambezi Valley. You are valued and appreciated, and we could not accomplish our mission without you!

Tusker Ranger Fund Update

Welcome to our new Tusker Ranger Fund members:
Jim & Eileen 

These are funds crucial to the support of anti-poaching patrols in Mana Pools National Park – food, fuel, and salary for the drivers of the National Park Rangers.  A donation to TRF is $100 per month and can be made on our website https://bushlife-conservancy.org/donate/.

   
Thank you to our TRF members for your ongoing support!
Notice to our founding TRF members: We will be reaching out to you over the next few months since our website can now accommodate ongoing monthly donations.  We hope you will continue your support as a member of the TRF team, since it is key to funding our anti-poaching patrols. Many thanks in advance.

Wildlife Conservation Collaring, Mid Zambezi Valley

Update From Nkululeko “Freedom” Hlongwane, Bushlife Support Unit Trust Manager

The slowly unfolding scenery of the Zambezi Valley is a vista of different terrain, from jagged mountains peaks to thick riverine woodland, with dense confusion of overcrowded trees and creepers, to open rolling grasslands dotted with impala, zebra, waterbuck, and elephants. 

Radio tracking and satellite monitoring are widely used in wildlife conservation research. These activities have expanded hugely in the past decades, with the development of small-scale transmitting devices and satellite technology. These are being applied to an enormous range of species, both big and small. 

The fitting of radio collars or transponders requires a qualified individual. It involves handling dangerous drugs, putting the animal to sleep, sometimes working at night, and also making sure the animal is back on its feet before hyenas or lions can kill it. The goal is to be able to locate specific animals at any given time, understand the habitat they are occupying, what they are doing, how many there are, which species share their habitat, how much food source is available to sustain the population, as well as other variables. This may be done on the ground, from an aircraft, or increasingly today, by uploading GPS data to satellites and then downloading it. 

During early summer 2020, Bushlife Support Unit and ZimParks Scientific Services were busy working on large carnivore collaring, as well as the collaring of iconic bull elephants in Mana Pools. The aim of this project is to try and answer some scientific questions based on the monitoring of these animals.

Tracking and locating these animals was not easy. One of the big elephant bulls in Mana Pools was seen after a three-day search. He disappeared again before sedating him, so we had to track him on foot. The spoor was located, it was huge. He walked on a clean slate of undisturbed soil, enabling easy tracking and revealing the full story. We followed his tracks from Mopane woodland down through riverine thicket. As the tracking got underway, the sun clawed its way over the treetops. This bull joined other elephants on the way.  Their paths took us down a riverbed where the big foot seemed to amble with a relaxed gait. His track had small scuff and spray of sand in front, as he lifted his foot to plod through the deep sand. The wind was variable, but seemed to be in our favour, gently brushing our faces as we swirled and eddied, with the head tracker constantly checking through the thicket. A fresh pile of dung and urine confirmed the elephants’ comfort. The spoor led on through tangled bushveld open country, dotted with mopane.  We followed for the next hour without a sighting.

Under the blindfold, none other than our poster boy, Tusker. Here he is, getting his collar replaced after taking the collaring team for a walkabout. Thank you, Freedom, for these photos and update.

Their course, though still relaxed, turned slightly to the north, and noticeably the wind brushed our cheeks, no longer head on. We all knew this change of wind would increase the risk of our scent being carried to them, but with little alternative and no idea of their final destination, we continued.
 
As the day grew warmer and the sun approached its zenith, the spoor had definitely taken on a more deliberate pattern. The herd were becoming more erratic in the way they walked, zigzagging over the landscape, detouring into thickets close to their path, knowing that by this mid-day they would need a drink. Mid-day was marked by the shortened shadows, we had been on the spoor for over two hours and covered a meandering four to five kilometres.
 
Luckily we had the drone with us (a gift from BC donors), and we flew the drone to see if we could locate any elephants.  Checking along the river nothing was seen. The pilot decided to fly due west.  Bingo! The elephant was spotted, feeding on a branch with another young male next to him. 

Three iconic bulls (Fred, Boswell and Tusker) were originally collared in 2017 but recently lost their collars. They were GPS collared again with blood samples taken for DNA tests. In addition, three lions, three hyenas, and a female leopard were collared.

View Mr. Tusker getting his new collar here!

Elephant Collaring Video Series - Final Episode of 2019

This is the final in a series of short videos on the 2019 collaring of elephants in Mana Pools.  The Zimbabwe National Parks’ elephant collaring program for tracking and research, which also is a tool for our anti-poaching efforts, was made possible through BC donor support. 

“Collaring for Conservation – Episode 3 – Mrs. Tusker & Denis the Menace.  Mrs. Tusker, like Lisa from our video last month, is one of the first female elephants collared in Mana Pools.  Denis the Menace received foot care and it has healed completely now. The video is narrated by Head Veterinarian of Zimbabwe National Parks, Dr. Tapiwanyashe Hanyire. 
 
We hope you have enjoyed the series, sponsored by Bruce and Lisa Lawler.  We know you are proud of the conservation work you make possible through support of Bushlife Conservancy.

Bushlife Support Unit Trust Manager Update

Tusker Ranger Patrols from Nkululeko “Freedom” Hlongwane,
BSUT Manager

The hot season is just about upon us again, and for different people it means different things. For anti-poaching rangers in the field it means sweating, walking long hours in the field and getting bothered by mopane stingless bees - getting in your nostrils, eyes and ears. It is that time of year where Zambezi Valley temperatures can range between 36 to 50 degrees Celsius.
For wild animals, it means changing their feeding habits by being more active in cooler times of the day, that is early morning and late afternoon.  They are also trying to survive on dwindling water sources and feeding on dry vegetation.
 
We continue to support ZimParks in all aspects of operations, ranging from provision of camping equipment, deployment of our vehicles for patrols, food rations, ecological assessments, and community projects.

PUPPY LOVE - VIOLET'S PUPS

Violet’s second litter of wild dog puppies are doing well, and these photos are simply wonderful with an awesome soundtrack/Youtube video which was produced by our very own conservation manager, Freedom.

Happy World Wild Dog Day!

HUMAN/WILDLIFE CONFLICT - UPDATE

You may remember from our July newsletter, our BSU Operations Manager, Freedom Hlongwane, reported a leopard was killing goats and other livestock in the village community of Hotel in the Hurungwe District of Northern Zimbabwe, at the edge of the Zambezi Escarpment outside of Mana Pools. Due to local resource constraints and lack of trained personnel, ZimParks and Bushlife were asked to intervene and trap the leopard and relocate it to the National Park. 
 
From Freedom on August 21, 2020:
“A leopard that was terrorizing the Nyamakate village and eating goats has been caught after a long stake out.  She has been moved to Mana Pools and is now fitted with a satellite collar so her movements may be monitored.  It has been demonstrated that once wildlife develop a habit of eating livestock, they will return to that location.  It will be interesting to find out how she settles in Mana.  We hope to get a better scientific understanding of leopard habits and habitat, such as what kind of animals she will start eating through this monitoring process. (There are no domestic goats in the park, but we do have Zambezi goats, which most of you know as impala.)

The community is very pleased and thankful for such help, and they are looking forward to continued support.  BSU would like to extend our thank you to everyone involved in supporting this successful relocation.

To provide some realistic motivation to the villagers to conserve wildlife, we have recently compensated community members for losses incurred. A lion or leopard in a cattle kraal can easily wipe out a person’s life savings in minutes, and these animals eat only a small portion before moving on.  The person who attempts to protect their livelihood may well pay with their life, leaving their family with no food or provider. Currently, three species of animals, (lions, leopards, and elephants) have changed people’s attitudes towards wildlife conservation. These animals are flagship species in developed nations and are a symbol of what is imperative to preserve and protect. 

ANTI-POACHING UPDATE

We are currently involved in various projects running in and outside of the park. In the park, anti-poaching is still ongoing with so far zero elephants poached in Mana Pools in 2020, thanks to our boots on the ground teams – they are doing a great job!
 
Outside of the park, operations addressing human/carnivore conflict are ongoing, with recent reports of a pride of lions killing livestock in Nyamakate Hotel Village. This report comes in after we have been following a leopard that has killed 68 goats this year, and lions that have killed three cows plus a donkey, bringing it to a total to 72 animals lost in seven months. (As noted in Freedom’s earlier article, the leopard has been captured, collared and relocated back to Mana Pools.)

Our anti-poaching bases have received new tents.

On the other hand, smiles explain it all. Bushlife Support Unit’s team of drivers are all looking smart in their new uniforms. These are the men with the vehicles who transport the park rangers on the anti-poaching patrols.
 
Mana Pools and its floodplain have a wide variety of game. Our BSU teams are reporting major game concentration with exciting and entertaining game species, ranging from the majestic elephants, elands, impalas, kudus, buffalos, to the secretive nyalas and bushbucks.  They all add an element to the really wild, panoramic show which is Africa.

We are assisting ZimParks with a second project in Mana Pools: an assessment of vegetation damage by elephants in different areas of the park. This comes following a survey which was conducted many years back in the early 1970’s, when elephant numbers were still very low. It has been noted that species with different ecological constraints are likely to react differently to the presence and abundance of a potential keystone species such as elephant. The research questions to be addressed by this study include the effect of elephants on vegetation structure. Elephant induced vegetation changes occur mainly in wooded environments. They are likely to affect essential browsers and woodland grazers.

Photos by Freedom Hlongwane

Elephants hold the potential to influence habitat selection by all herbivores. Many studies have shown that herbivores face trade-offs when selecting a foraging site, and the most important element seems to be between energy gain and predation risk. However, through vegetation changes, elephants influence habitat structure and consequently may influence the trade-offs that herbivores face between foraging efficiency and anti-predation behavior.

Donations of any size are always appreciated!

DONATE

Nick Murray, President    Beth Brock, Treasurer   Ed Callen, Secretary

Board Members:  Alison Nolting, Mara Perkins  
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