Nov 8, 2020

Elephant research update; Chizarira National Park

ALERT initiated an elephant research project in Chizarira National Park (1,910km2) in 2019 together with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.  The Chizarira National Park ecologist works closely with the ALERT researcher.  Sadly, he was involved in a light aircraft accident whilst on wildlife counts.  One team member was killed, and two injured.  He was apparently not injured but despite two weeks of searching he has not been found.  The plane went down in hilly country in the mid-Zambezi Valley.

Despite this sad news we continue the research that we initiated and last month collared another female elephant.  The operation went well and the female was back on her feet soon after receiving the drug antagonist and rejoined the herd.  At the time of writing we are at Chizarira to try and collar a bull elephant.  Bull elephant wander more widely that the female herds and we are hoping to obtain some valuable data that could indicate connecting wildlife corridors between the Protected Areas around Chizarira.  

We are obtaining interesting movement patterns from the two collared females.  The collar has a built in GPS which transmits a position signal to a satellite.  We then download these points onto an electronic map.

The one collared female with her family group, appears to make short forays into the nearby villages outside of the park.  These visits are not for long: in at night and back into the park before sunrise.  This is undoubtedly a clever tactic that keeps them safe from reprisals from villagers but is nevertheless cause for concern.

We are looking at the possible trigger which initiates movements out of the unfenced park.  Where the elephants left the park to enter the villages, there is a high escarpment (600 meters) which normally acts as a barrier to wildlife.  However elephants use contours in a zig zag fashion to gain access up and down steep gradients.  At the time of writing the park is very dry and hot, and the forays into the villages would normally be to raid maize crops.  However planting has not begun and it could be that the elephant are investigating old traditional wildlife corridors, looking for better forage in other Protected Areas.  It could be that they were disturbed during this investigation.

Thank you for your support of this important project which we continue to carry out despite many challenges.   

Sep 14, 2020

Update: Mitigation of human wildife conflict

Conflict frequently occurs between wildlife and people and when the livelihoods and safety of communities are threatened.  Similarly the lives of wildlife can be threatened when they leave Protected Areas and predate on livestock or, in the case of elephants, destroy crops.

The Communities we are assisting are impoverished and are unable to put in place costly livestock protection measures to protect their cattle, goats and donkeys.  As an NGO African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is reaching out to two communities: one around Victoria Falls and the other around Chizarira National park in the Zambezi Valley.  We are assisting them with measures that will reduce (mitigate) conflict, while at the same time ensuring that they are accountable for the mitigation measures and identify with the help projects.

To date we have used LED lights around livestock pens where livestock is kept at night, and also put in place predator-proof mobile pens where, similarly the livestock is kept at night.  To date no predator attacks have taken place on livestock kept in these facilities but a lot of further assistance is needed.

It would be easier to build large livestock holding pens and pen in livestock from multiple homesteads.  Unfortunately cultural beliefs will not allow one homestead to keep their livestock with livestock of another homestead, which means we have to assist individual homesteads.

While our aim is to support the communities against predation, we are equally committed to protecting the predators that may predate on livestock not kept safe.  If livestock is killed villagers carry out revenge killings often through poisoning whereby whole prides of lion can be killed.  The more protection we can give to villagers, the less chance predators will have of killing cattle or goats and the need for revenge killings is reduced or totally stopped.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions no progress has been made during the period covered by this report, however we have kept in touch with Community leaders and have assured them that we will continue to assist as soon as we can move about freely again.  

Aug 14, 2020

Update on Community Guardians, an ALERT Project

Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls, is an unfenced National Park which has Communities along the boundaries living in areas where traditionally wildlife used to move.  Chizarira National Park on the Zambezi Escarpment is also unfenced and wildlife from the park enters the Communal Lands along traditional wildlife corridors and in so doing frequently kill livestock and destroys crops.

ALERT is keen toThe affected Communities identify with people from within the community more than an outside person and buy into mitigation measures in a The Community guardians will be employed from the Community and will be the interface between the Protected Area Authorities and villagers.  They will report wildlife conflict, prevent retaliatory killings and keep records of all human-wildlife conflict incidents so that we (ALERT) can focus on hot-spot areas to assist in mitigatory measures that help the community and at the same time protect the wildlife.

During the period being reported upon, little progress has been made due to the Covid-19 epidemic, financial constraints and lockdowns.  The human-wildlife conflict problem though has not gone away; in fact it has probably worsened as villagers are affected financially and are forced to deal with conflicts in a way that is often lethal to the wildlife.

ALERT continues to service and erect predator-proof holding pens despite the Covid-19 situation.  Outside of Zambezi National Park livestock holding pens are protected using flashing LED lights, whilst around Chizarira National Park mobile predator-proof pens have been erected.  Instead of the Community guardian ALERT staff, (mainly researchers) are doing the work that the guardian would normally do.  By having Community Guardians employed from the communities, the Community buys in to the protective measures and is able to feel more in control of their situation. 

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