Tag Archives: conservation

First time to see lions

Hi folks,

I have some friends with me at the moment from Guruve Ltd – ethical promoters of African art.  Having been to Africa for 12 years, Tim hasn’t ever seen a lion! So, as you know, I am running a lion project here as well as the wild dog project, and have a few collars left to go on, so we gave it a go with Tim & Emma to see if we would be lucky.

Rosemary & Tim with the bait

We set up a bait in the very south west corner of Chishakwe Ranch – where the wild dog project is based.  We had a great scout, Witness, with us, who had seen lion tracks in the area the day before, not far from a lovely little dam.  So we set everything up and started calling….

Setting up the bait

After about 1 and a half hours we had had no response other than a peacefully browsing herd of eles in the background, but just then, in answer to a lion roar that I had been playing over the loud speakers, the bush erupted in a roaring duet from either side of the car! That woke everyone up!

The first group of lions that came in looked like 3 adult females but we couldnt see them very well as they stayed well in the background, showing no interest in the bait.

After another half an hour or so of trying to bring them in, we were just discussing whether to pack up for the night when we saw one of the females (or possibly a new female) come out of the bushes with a young adult male with her.  Although she was still wary, the presence of the male emboldened her and after a while she came up and started feeding on the bait.  Tim and Emma were both hugely excited – finally a proper sighting of a wild African lion – albeit an eerily red one in the red-filtered spotlight!

lion at the bait

But we don’t do things by halves here (:)) so after a few minutes of watching the lioness I darted her so that we could collar her.  The dart hit well and she went to sleep not far from the bait, which was great.  The collaring went well and we were pleased to note she was a very healthy lioness who appeared to be quite heavily pregnant.

sleeping lion

The reason we are collaring these lions is for part of a conservation-research project; to try and determine the impact of different hunting strategies on lion demographics and behavior, and also to try and reduce some of the human-lion conflict occurring on our boundary areas.

So, Chishakwe is clearly the pace to be for some excitement – and Tim and Emma were thrilled with experience!

Tim helping Rosemary with the lionBack soon,

Rosemary

Leopard collaring

Hi folks,

I had the privilege recently to help a colleague of mine – Dusty Joubert – collar a leopard for part of the leopard conservation project he is working on. It was a beautiful adult female leopard, in great condition.

Here are a few photos

The leopard in the trap

The leopard in the trap

The immobilised leopard - what a beautiful cat!

The immobilised leopard - what a beautiful cat!

Rosemary with the immobilised leopard

Rosemary with the immobilised leopard

Back soon,

Rosemary

Education and wild dogs

Hello,

Helen here. I have been out visiting several primary schools which border onto the conservancy talking to teachers about the environmental education project. Although it is now the winter holidays, at each school I visited, several teachers met me to chat further. Many of the teachers had heard about the wild dogs and knew that they were endangered here in Zimbabwe. They were very keen to visit the conservancy themselves and see the wildlife here as well as hopefully see wild dogs, maybe at a den. It is great that the local schools and communities are so interested and enthusiastic in learning more about what goes on here.

 

Teachers from local primary school

Teachers from local primary school

Smiling school children

Smiling school children

The  school term starting in September is full of national exams so we shall hopefully start the programme properly next year with a teacher training workshop on environmental education here on Chishakwe. We are looking to initiate a long term programme of education and school visits which will benefit the people living close to the conservancy as well as wildlife such as the wild dog and rhino which live in Save Valley.

Helen

Conservation Education Programme

Hi everyone,

I thought it might be time to introduce myself. I’m Helen and I’m here with the Lowveld Wild Dog Project helping to establish a conservation education programme, in collaboration with Chishakwe Ranch and the Lowveld Rhino Trust.

Helen looking for tracks and signs at a water hole

Helen looking for tracks and signs at a water hole

We are mainly concentrating on educating people about the importance of maintaining biodiversity.  Chishakwe Ranch has been working in schools bordering the Save Valley Conservancy for several years now, and we will be parterning with them to expand their fantastic education efforts and to focus a bit on wild dogs, as there seems to be so many misconceptions about these beautiful creatures.

I have recently been to visit one of these schools with the Chishakwe managers, where I helped to judge a food-web poster project. The children were very excited and enthusiastic about leaning more about their surroundings and the natural world. The students who created the ten best posters will be coing to visit the conservancy in September for the day, and they will get to see wildlife up-close rather than just on paper.

One of the winners of the food-web poster project

One of the winners of the food-web poster project

At the moment there are many ideas for this education programme including a bush school and an education centre. During my time here I hope to help with the implementation of some of these ideas and establish a mutually beneficial relationship between local communities and the conservancy.

Helen

Petition to get wild dogs listed on CITES

Hi folks,

It’s very easy to get tied up with a single issue when dealing with something like this rabies outbreak, but we are still working at all levels of wild dog conservation whilst this is going on.

Some of you may remember a post a while ago, highlighting the threat to wild dogs from trafficking.  This is where wild dogs are taken illegally from the wild, bred in captivity and then sent to zoos and breeding centers in China, Korea etc, where they are (usually) kept in absolutely horrific circumstances.  See this link for the undercover video of this story, made thanks to the efforts of Painted Dog Conservation Project in Hwange.

Wild dogs are currently not listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), due to a mis-perception that there is not trade in the species.  However, we are hoping to get this situation changed at the next CITES meeting, and PDC has a petition out to help us achieve this.  Please help us by signing the petition at www.painteddogsoncites.org.

Thank you for your support

Rosemary

Wild Dog Antics

Hi folks,

I found the Mapari pack yesterday, for once in a very open area, so managed to get some great views of them.  I spent a long time with them, both in the morning and in the evening just before they went hunting.  A couple of the adults were getting very frisky and I wonder if this will be the next alpha pair (the previous alpha female was killed in a snare). Such a privilege to watch this kind of behaviour…

African wild dogs playing

African wild dogs playing - pre-mating behaviour??

Then in the evening, the pups were the playful ones – two of them spent about 5 minutes holding onto each others tails and going round and round in circles – it was so funny I actually cried laughing!

 African wild dog pups playing before going hunting

African wild dogs playing

The Mapari pack still has all six adults but only 8 pups now: unfortunately 2 are missing – Dudu and Trinity.  Pups of that age shouldn’t leave the pack for any reason, so unfortunately I suspect they have been killed, but you never know and if I’ve learnt anything by working with wild dogs it’s that you can never predict anything!  I’ll let you know if we see either of them again, but in the meantime, we have the 6 adults and Loopy, Biscuit, Milo, Roxy, Macbeth, Simba, Twinspot and Mishmash.

Back soon,

Rosemary

Donation

Just a very quick thank you to Ludovic who very generously donated U$55 to the project.  Thank you so much Ludovic – we appreciate your support enormously.  And a second thank you to all those who donated in November and December to help our snared pup.  It’s good to know people care. 

Rosemary  

The re-discovery of Mina!

Hi folks,

Internet been down for a while, so forgive the long gap between posts.  It’s been an interesting week catching up with the wild dogs and other matters in the conservancy… I’m very sad to report that Squeaker the baby warthog didn’t make it.  He seemed to be well on the way to recovery and was scooting round the lawn with youthful abandon, but then suddenly got sick again and didn’t pull through.  Sad though it is, at least he died being cared for and with company, rather than a slow, lingering death from dehydration stuck in the mud.

As for the wild dogs, unfortunately we still haven’t managed to locate the Maera pack which is the pack with the snared pup.  We have spent many hours of many days searching for them, but with no luck.  They move such vast distances at the moment – due to the widespread availability of water and the abundance of impala and wildebeest calves, so I’m sure they are just eluding us! 

We did however find the Mavericks pack recently – the sole remaining pack in the south of the conservancy and discovered something very interesting. The two males in the pack (two brothers) have been joined by a new female…. none other than Mina, the secretive alpha female of the Nyarushanga pack!!  Mina was last seen at the Nyarushanga den in the very north of the conservancy in August last year.  The pack didn’t leave the den until October, and it was presumed Mina was still with them, although we never saw her again.  Unfortunately we never managed to collar that pack before they left the den, and have since lost track of them.  Imagine our surprise therefore when one of them showed up 60km south with a completely different pack!  It was like seeing an old friend again – I recognised her straight away because she has very distinct white markings.

mina-the-secretive-wild-dog.JPG 

Anyhow, it’s good news for those dogs, because the other individuals were all related so there was no chance of breeding (and indeed they did not den in 2008).  Hopefully this year they will den, and Mina will have some more pups to augment the rapidly dwindling population in the south. 

Back soon,

Rosemary

Squeaker – the baby warthog

Hi folks,

Sorry for keeping you all in suspense over the fate of the baby warthog…!  Fortunately, this story is one that has a happy ending, so keep reading.

This is a photo showing ‘Squeaker’ when we first found him… You can see from the first picture how hard he was to spot…

Baby warthog stuck in the mud - very hard to see!

This closer-up photo shows just how stuck and muddy the little fellow was.

Baby warthog stuck in the mud

I managed to wade into the mud (very nearly getting stuck myself!) and pull him out, and Misheck and I washed the worst of the mud off with some fresh water we had in the car.  Unfortunately his back legs didn’t seem to work at all, but otherwise he seemed to have quite a fighting spirit. 

Having absolutely no idea how to raise a baby warthog, I took him over to some friends who very kindly helped me get some rehydration fluids down him, and then provided me with some powdered baby milk.  I took him home and put him in a dark, cushioned box with a couple of sarongs for him to ‘burrow’ into.  And then fed him with baby milk by pipette once every few hours…. 

Rosemary feeding the baby warthog

The next day I took him to another ranch in the conservancy, to a very kind lady who has a great deal of expereince raising orphaned animals of every kind.  Despite my best attempts at physio (!) his back legs still were not working and he was really very weak. I have to admit that I didn’t hold out too much hope for him, but if anyone could pull him through it would be Anne.  Anne immediately took him under her wing and before I had even finished explaining his presence, she had listened to his chest, daignosed pneumonia and rushed off and fetched antibiotics, aspirin and a proper bottle of milk for him. 

He was touch and go for a while, but now seems to be improving steadily and getting around just fine, despite his dis-functional back legs. I’ll give you an update on him from time to time, but I’m sure he will now enjoy a good life in Anne’s tender care (with other baby warthogs and an orphaned bushbuck for company!).  

Squeaker dozing in the shade

Rescued baby warthog - Squeaker

 

 

Back soon,

Rosemary

Mapari pack back on the radar!

Dear friends,

Third time lucky! After 3 days’ worth of attempts, we were finally successful, yesterday, in installing a collar on a member of the Mapari Pack, a male Wild Dog called Darkie. Since Sandy’s sad death by snaring just over a month ago, we have had very little information about the Mapari Pack, as there has been no radio-collared individual in the pack to help us locate and study them.

Around 1st December, a pack of Wild Dogs was spotted quite close to our research base. They were resting in the shade by a water-hole in the heat of the day, and stayed there long enough for us to receive the message and reach that location. It turned out to be the Mapari Pack, travelling unusually far south, and that and subsequent sightings have been the best views we have had of the pack since the denning season, so we have in the last couple of days been able to build up a database of individual ID photographs for all the pups as well as the adults. It turns out that currently the Mapari Pack comprises a fascinating mixture of adults originating from the Star Pack, ‘Leon’s’ Pack, and the Sango Six-Pack within the last 6 months. This provides us with fascinating information about the mobility of Wild Dogs.

We were blessed to receive the assistance of the Tikki Hywood Trust who were generous enough to volunteer their time to help us with the darting when one of their licensed team members (Ellen Connelly) was down in the conservancy.  Without their generous donation of time and expertise, this darting would have been a lot harder to organise and we may have missed this valuable opportunity.  Trying to find un-collared packs in not easy!!

The Mapari Pack have been quite relaxed around our vehicle as we’ve approached them for darting attempts the last couple of days. We were able to get within the 25 metre darting range and shoot a dart at Darkie, who was in an appropriate position. He moved as soon as he heard the dart gun’s ‘pop!’ and so the dart hit him in the tail rather than the muscle of the back leg. However, somewhat to our surprise, he was staggering a few moments later and the immobilisation drugs soon took full effect, allowing us to install his collar, take hair and tissue and blood samples, and weigh and measure his body and teeth, all the while keeping his eyes covered with a blindfold and spraying him with cool water to prevent overheating.The rest of the pack moved off slowly as we approached the immobilized Darkie:

Immobilisation of an African Wild Dog, Zimbabwe

It was a busy scene with everyone helping as we did what was needed:

Collaring of an African wild dog

When he shook his head to shake off the water-droplets, we knew he was coming round from the ketamine—and in moments he had leapt up and run away, a very fast recovery. For a couple of minutes he was disoriented and looked dizzy, but he was soon able to move in a straight line and he moved around the water-hole looking for the rest of his pack. We left him lying in the shade near where the pack were when we found them.  He was reunited with the rest of his pack in a short time, as we returned to check on the pack a couple of hours later and found them all lying together, with Darkie, in the shade of a big baobab.

This morning Darkie was behaving normally, and with the aid of his new radio-collar, we were able to locate the Mapari Pack and watch him and the others playing and resting in the Msaize River.

Back soon,

Roy & Rosemary