By Dr Norman Monks - Director Research and Conservation (ALERT)
Covid -19 has affected us all. We are grateful to those who have donated towards helping ALERT continue and recover from the pandemic, despite their own difficult circumstances. Whilst the response to our appeal was not great, the donation received nevertheless went a long way to helping us continue our work in two National Parks in Zimbabwe (Chizarira and Victoria Falls National Parks) and in the surrounding communities. We have been able to make regular trips to the Chizarira National Park which is very isolated and which does not carry any danger of COVID-19 contamination.
At Chizarira National Park (which is 1,910km2) in extent, our researchers and research assistants have been busy mapping out vulnerable tree plots and carrying out measurements so that we have base-line data before a plan is put in place by the Park Authorities to bring in more elephants. The existing elephant population in the park which is at an ecological balance with the vegetation, has not decimated a preferred tree species Brachystegia boehmii (common name “Prince of Wales Feathers), and there is a healthy regrowth of this species. This may change once the population is increased. Getting base-line data is important so that ALERT and the Park Authorities can measure the effects of the planned introduction. We have continued to monitor the movements of the elephants we collared in the Victoria Falls and Chizarira National Parks.
The researchers have also been carrying out wildlife spoor (footprint identification) counts to get some measure of the wildlife species and numbers occurring in the park. This is done by have an observer sitting securely on the front bumper of the research land cruiser who located the prints and a recorder who writes down the details. Photographs are taken of any print that is not immediately recognized for future positive identification. Interestingly prints of wild dog (painted dog), were identified. This identification places wild dogs in the park which is a rare occurrence.
Bird records are also being kept and the rare Ross’s Turaco was seen and recorded during this exercise. An article has been sent to the Honeyguide magazine for inclusion in their National Reports.
Our school conservation classes in the surrounding local communities has been put on hold due to Covid-19 but we have a new syllabus and a team eager to start again once schools are fully operational.
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