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Jul 16, 2020

ELEPHANT RESEARCH UPDATE, CHIZARIRA NATIONAL PARK

Chizarira National Park (1,910km²) is found in the Sebungwe district (15,529km²) of Zimbabwe and encompasses various National Parks (Chizarira, Hwange, Matusadona), Safari Areas (Matetsi, Chirisa and Chete), and surrounding Communal Lands.  The total elephant population in Sebungwe is 3,407; a 75% reduction of the population over a number of years (Figures from the Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan 2015-2020).

Initially, ALERT’s research on elephants in Chizarira will be to obtain base-line data on the population so that future elephant demographics can be compared to reliable data.

For this research, elephants are darted and fitted with satellite collars allowing the ALERT research team to track them remotely and on foot.  Information such as movements (daily and seasonal), herd numbers and sex composition are important in understanding a population.

Collaring elephants is no easy feat and takes days of tracking them on foot in order to find and identify appropriate individuals to collar to achieve the results needed. Recently the ALERT team spent over 5 days tracking elephants in the hopes of collaring two more individuals to increase the data set. Unfortunately, although many signs of elephants were observed, we were not able to locate an appropriate elephant to collar this time. The female that was collared in August last year (2019) is giving good data on movements within the park and also shows forays that they make into the Communal lands (see map).  It is this kind of data that will help the National Park Authority to better manage this decreasing elephant population in the future.

Hopefully we will have more positive news in the next progress report so keep in touch.


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May 20, 2020

Update on human-wildlfe conflict mitigation

Meeting with affected villagers
Meeting with affected villagers

Communities surrounding the larger unfenced Zimbabwean National Parks are frequently affected by lions and spotted hyena that come from the park and kill livestock in the villages.  Some villagers will take retaliatory action and poison or set snares to kill the predator killing livestock.

ALERT recently received reports of lions killing cattle in the Binga area in the north of Zimbabwe.  Because ALERT is carrying out research on lions and elephants in Chizarira National Park (2,000km2) nearby the affected area, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and the Binga Rural District Council (RDC) contacted us to help mitigate the situation.  Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, a small meeting was called by ALERT, ZPWMA and RDC with the affected Community.

Our ALERT researcher and an attachment, spoke at the meeting and called upon villagers to take responsibility for their livestock.  Good husbandry and the building of proper predator-proof holding pens and ensuring that livestock is safely inside at night, goes a long way to ensuring that predators do not kill the livestock.  Most holding pens are constructed of flimsy poles that are low and with large spaces between uprights so that predator see the livestock and can easily enter. In some cases the cattle are not put in pens at night.

After the meeting ALERT donated a US$750 mobile enclosure that is made of opaque plastic sheeting.  This enclosure is erected on an old field site near a homestead.  The confined cattle cannot be seen by predators as they perceive the facility as a solid obstacle.  We have had great success with this type of holding pen with no livestock losses when confined at night. Added to this protection is the fact that the confined cattle produce natural nutrients that are trampled into the soil and just before the next rainy season, the holding pen is taken down and crops planted in the nutrient rich soils. Crops grown in this site produce much higher yields than with artificial fertilizes - and it is all organic. 

This is an excellent mitigation method where villagers see that their livestock are protected AND they do not have to purchase costly and often harmful fertilizers to get bumper, healthy organically-grown crops.

ALERT is still using the flashing light method on locally built pens and this has also been very successful in deterring predators at night. We are still raising funds for this mitigation method since it is far cheaper than the mobile pens. Research is being carried out on best mitigation methods, but our main purpose is to help the impoverished Communities that face wildlife threats daily. By so doing we also ensure that there is no reason to kill the predators that come from the parks for an easy meal.

Holding pen site preparation
Holding pen site preparation
Holding pen construction, inside view
Holding pen construction, inside view
Completed holding pen and posing!
Completed holding pen and posing!
May 19, 2020

Final update on plan to redevelop Maunga school

Seedling planting and care
Seedling planting and care

 

Whilst we consider this project important to the teachers and children at Maunga School in Livingstone Zambia, the support response has been very poor.  This is through no fault of anyone - we understand that people are overextended in terms of finance to support projects.

It is therefore with reluctance that we will temporarily terminate fund-raising for this project via GlobalGiving.  ALERT will continue to make donations where it can to keep up morale at the school and also to keep the flame burning.  We know that better times will come.

What have we done to date?  It does not sound like much but we gave out vegetable seed and fruit seedlings to the school (using the limited raised funds), with the intention of helping the school become more self-sufficient through the sale of produce.  Despite the immediate fund-raising being terminated for now, the school will benefit from the sale of produce in time.  We will keep supporting the school through visits and considering any urgent requests. As mentioned, it is important to keep up morale especially when an impoverished Community depends so much on the interest and help of others.

Thank you so much to those who were able to support this program. Here are a few photos of the schoolchildren and teachers planting seedlings.  The school is near a stream so we are sure that the fruit trees will be well attended to.  What is also important is that the children can identify with the importance of tree planting and how, by planting a seed or a seedling, they will help make a difference in their, and others’ lives.  

 
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