Oct 18, 2021

An update on the elephant research in Chizarira

This important project which is to ensure the long-term conservation of elephants in Chizarira National Park(1,910km2 in extent) has four key objectives: First to ascertain what the population structure is (how many animals, what ages and sexes, the average size of a herd; secondly plot out the  movements of the elephant population; thirdly to establish possible wildlife corridors between Protected areas; and fourthly to look at possible human-wildlife conflicts and come up with ways to prevent these conflicts.

In order to achieve these objectives we collar elephants with a GPS Satellite collar that also has a VHF function which allows us to track the elephant on foot.  The GPS/satellite function allows us to download movement data from a satellite so that we have an accurate movement pattern of collared herds.  When we go out on foot to find the elephants we collect population data when we see the herd, and also look at interactions between herds. 

With 5 elephants now collared, information on this vulnerable species is growing and we are steadily obtaining the information vital to conserving the species.  The information is given to the Park management so that they can work from an informed perspective to conserve the elephant population in the park.

All of the collared animals (i.e. the herd) have left the park at various times (most just short sojourns), but one bull in particular has left the park and visited two Protected Areas, giving us a glimpse into possible corridors utilized by wildlife through peasant farming land between safe areas.  This bull has travelled over 450kms since it was collared on 26th April 2021 reaching the southern banks of Lake Kariba.  Monitoring continues.

A further cow was collared on the 4th September 2021.  She was in a herd of about 30 animals (in thick scrub so the count was no confirmed).  When the herd was seen, the team climbed a well treed termitaria (ant hill) to observe them.  Three of the team then crept up on foot to a cow and she was darted.  After 5 minutes she was unconscious and we were able to quietly approach her and place a sheet over her head to protect her eyes and to prevent visual stimulation which could cause here to wake up.  Because of the way she fell, fitting the collar was a mission and at one stage I was lying under her neck trying to secure the two ends of the collar.  All went well and after giving the reversal drug she was soon on her feet and joining the herd.

This project will go a long way to ensuring that the elephant are protected, and because there are now some population parameters in place we will be able to detect if there is illegal killing.

Sep 10, 2021

Update on human-wildlfe conflict mitigation

ALERT has two major sites in Zimbabwe where we are carrying out human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects: one near Victoria Falls in an area known as Matetsi, and the other in the Communal lands north of Chizarira National Park. In both areas the villagers live a subsistence lifestyle and livestock plays a large role in the financial status of the communities.  Cattle and goats are looked at as potential funds for school fees, extra food, clothes etc., so killing of livestock by predators (lions and spotted hyaena primarily) are a major setback and in many cases is followed by retaliatory action which often results in the death of the predator.

Recently an extra predator-proof livestock holding pen was been set up in the Mucheni Ward just outside of the northern boundary of Chizarira National Park, whilst the flashing light system around holding kraals is being maintained in the Matetsi area. Both methods work well and has meant that the villagers see tangible efforts to mitigate potential predator problems.

Whilst it may be difficult for people in the west to appreciate just how local people here suffer by living alongside Protected Areas, with wildlife, we are very aware that by helping combat wildlife-human instances, we assist both the community and the wildlife. Thank you for your support.

Aug 16, 2021

Community guardians around Chizarira National Park

 

Dear Sponsors,

We will be putting this project on hold since incoming funding was low and insufficient for us to do justice to this important program.  We thank all who have so unselfishly donated funds to this project and for identifying with our needs.

A Community guardian is the interlink between the community and wildlife authorities.  This person collects data on human-wildlife conflict, checks out incidents, reports these incidents to us (ALERT) and we then try and mitigate wildlife predation incidents in such a way that the wildlife and the community is protected.  The guardian will talk with affected communities, find out why there have been incidences of stock killings by carnivores and make recommendations.  Frequently we find that villagers do not have adequate livestock-holding facilities, or do not put their livestock in pens at night, and if this is the case we give advice and material assistance if the villager is willing.

In the case of livestock predation by lions or spotted hyaena, ALERT erects predator-proof livestock holding pens in the conflict “hot-spots” or helps villagers build sturdier predator-proof traditional-style pens.

The Community guardian’s role is important but this person needs consistent support in order to maintain respect and credibility with the community in which he/she works.  At present, due to low funding and our own financial difficulties due to Covid, we will put this project on hold.

A total of $522.55 was raised out of a target of $6,600 for this project.  The funds so far raised has been used to buy a bicycle, a GPS, tape measure (to measure predator footprints), stationary, clipboards, cell phone airtime etc.  We will resurrect this project when finances improve but will continue to keep it viable by regularly meeting with the local government authority in charge of the village areas and the Chief of the area.

Finally we would like you to know that through your donations and support we were able to produce a working document entitled “Human-wildlife conflict in the Chizarira National Park buffer Communities: Status report and mitigation strategies”. The data for this document was obtained with the help of a Community Guardian and put together by the ALERT team.  Just recently the document was presented to all stakeholders in the area at a Rural District Council meeting.  Our mitigation strategies as recommended by us in the document are now being implemented. 

 

You can be proud and assured that your support has made a difference.


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