Wildlife news from Zimbabwe



ELEPHANTS

Zambezi Valley elephants – horrific decline in numbers

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While the world’s media focuses its attention on illegal hunting activities in Zimbabwe, centred on Cecil the lion, The Zambezi Society wishes to highlight a wildlife crisis of even greater proportion – the plight of Zimbabwe’s elephants in the Zambezi Valley:-

There has been a 75% decline in the numbers of elephants in the Zambezi Valley south of Lake Kariba (Sebungwe area) since 2001 – from 14,000 to 3,500. A 40% decrease has been recorded in the middle Zambezi Valley complex (which includes Mana Pools) – from 18,000 to 11,500.

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These statistics derive from a national air survey conducted by experts as part of the Africa-wide Great Elephant Census, which surveyed all major elephant populations in Africa in 2014.

Kenyan-based Save the Elephants recently highlighted a huge escalation in the demand and price of elephant tusks in China since 2002. China’s legal ivory trade, it believes, is acting as a smokescreen for horrific escalation of illegal activities which are driving the unsustainable killing of Africa’s elephants.

A recent census in Tanzania revealed a catastrophic 60% loss of that country’s elephants in just five years (109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014). Mozambique has lost around 50% in the same period from 20,000 to 10,300. In Africa (and Zimbabwe is no exception), state wildlife authorities are unable to provide sufficient policing and protection of wildlife areas. The costs of protection are high, but government funds allocated for the purpose are negligible. This gap is exploited by corruption. Rangers on the ground, in general, are highly experienced but poorly paid.

Your support is critically needed to assist with this critical human resource and will strengthen their motivation, resolve and performance.

Poisoned Elephants in Kariba news from Kariba Animal Welfare Trust in conjunction with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management.

There was a suspected poisoning of 2 Elephants weekend of the 20th Sept. The samples taken from the first 2 Elephants for analysis were sent through to AWARE Trust Veterinarians and MAPP, who were traveling to Harare, kindly took them through. AWARE trust collected the samples and they were taken to the University of Zimbabwe for testing. The testing was confirmed positive for cyanide on both Elephants. The orange removed with stomach content from the 1st Elephant found at the dumps also tested positive for cyanide. Parks and Wildlife have the relative information and a copy of the Analysis of the tissue samples from UZ. The following Sunday 27/9 Parks & KAWFT received a report of a 3rd Ele down near the dump site. This boy had been dead a few days already. No samples were taken from him due to the length of time the Elephant had been dead as the carcass had swollen to double the size due to the heat.

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The relative Law Authorities have picked up a number of people for questioning regarding the finding of cyanide and are working hard to establish who was involved in these savage and despicable killings. We will advise updates as the Law Authorities continue and complete their investigation. Many thanks to Aware trust for assisting with the urgency of these samples and for covering the testing costs, MAPP for their great assistance and work as well as Bumi who assisted with the Authorities on a search.

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September on the whole, has not been a good month for Elephant in this area due to Human/Wildlife conflict and Nature. Sunday morning reports were received by Parks and Wildlife Authorities & KAWFT that there was an Elephant down but alive on Baobab Extension road.Within a few minutes of being on site, Residents came over the hill from the Dump site to advise Parks that there was another dead Elephant down by the Dump. (Parks Authorities removed samples of the relative insides which were taken by KAWFT and these will be delivered to AWARE Trust Veterinarians who will then take the samples to the relative authority to check for possible poisoning from something eaten at the dumpsite.)

The Ele on the Baobab Ext road came from the dump area to where he was found Sunday morning. (This Ele was given water and splashed to cool down. On closer inspection a number of gouges were seen, suspected and confirmed later to be tusk gouges from fighting. The areas the 2 main gouges were ominous with one being very deep. The Elephant was put down by Parks Authorities and samples of the relative insides were taken and these will be delivered to AWARE Trust Veterinarians who will then take the samples to the relative authority to check for possible poisoning.)

It does not look like this Elephant had taken in poisoning but this has to be checked. One of these Baobab Boys was fighting earlier in the week and it is possible the other incurred these tusk wounds then. Another sad loss of 2 real Gentlemen that frequent this area. The boys are sometimes together in a herd or split up in their relative “hang out” groups. Below some photos taken this week of all the boys together on the Cutty Sark road. No hassling of traffic that respected their right of way REMEMBER: When Driving or walking, Animals always have the right of way !!!!

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals – Mahatma Ghandi

LIONS and the CECIL saga

 Image: Brent Stapelkamp


Cecil and Jericho (standing) Image: Brent Stapelkamp

Although born at different times and with completely different lineage, Cecil and Jericho would have shared many common aspects in their very early weeks and months of life. Both would have been kept hidden to protect them for the first six or so weeks after birth, blind, helpless and totally dependent on their mothers for food and warmth. They would have been brought out of hiding and timorously introduced to the pride, would have known hunger, would have had to squabble, snarl and fight with other youngsters in the pride for the scraps of a kill.

They would have known the freezing cold of Hwange winter nights and the breathless, blistering October daytime heat. They would have played and tussled with similar aged siblings, all the while learning vital skills needed in later years. They would have known the fright and confusion of dispersal males, driven from the pride at 3 or so years of age so as not to compete with the dominant male, nature’s way of dispersing the gene pool. They would have learned to become competent hunters in their own right in order to survive.

Cecil was first noticed by HLR in the dry winter season of 2008 with another lion thought to be his brother. The pair was first sighted at a pan in the southern area of Hwange called Mangisihole which when translated from the local dialect means “white man’s pan”. They were thus named Cecil and Leander after two early explorers of the land. Then estimated to be about 5 years old, Cecil and Leander were rather nervous, lacking confidence and seeking out hunting grounds to try and establish a pride of their own. In time they became braver and moved into a main study area of HLR, where Cecil was caught and collared for the first time. The Mangisihole Boys, as they became known, took over a pride at Ngweshla, and started a new generation of little lions.

Click here to read more about the history of Cecil and Jerico

The Demise

from Trevor lane of Bhjane Trust

There seems to be a lot of confusion on the Bronkhorst “Cecil the Lion” court case. As I see it, the situation is :

1) Hunting a lion – not illegal provided there is a quota for the specific area and a Parks permit has been issued for the specific hunt.
2) baiting on a Park boundary – not illegal
3) shooting at night with a spotlight on private land – not illegal, but ethics questioned
4) Shooting a collared lion – not illegal (often difficult to see the collar)
5) Shooting with a cross bow – not illegal under certain conditions – a game scout is required by law to be present when conducting such a hunt

However :

1) The big question revolves around the permit to hunt a lion. The Gwayi area has a limited number of permits to hunt lion, which had already been allocated. Under no circumstances can more lion then on issued quota be hunted. It appears Bronkhorst’s permit to hunt a lion was for an area called Umgusa, which is a couple of hundred kilometers away. As I understand it, Bronkhorst claims he was given permission, presumably by Parks, to “transfer” this lion permit to the Gwayi area. However, again as I understand it, this is denied by Parks who state he was not given permission or a quota to hunt a lion on Antionette.

2) As I understand it, he did not have a game ranger present with him when Cecil was initially shot, which renders the hunt illegal as a bow was used.

3) A point here was the collar was deliberately destroyed (and they are very tough!) which very much points to the hunters trying to cover up an illegal activity. I very much doubt this is the first lion illegally hunted here, but what tripped them up was that it was a satellite collar, and not the old type GPS collar, which has to be “read” by a receiver when within range of the collar, so previous lions just disappeared without a trace by simply destroying the collar.

My take on the whole hunt is that it was totally illegal and that the lion would have been claimed as shot in Umgusa had they not been caught. Of note though, I do not think the dentist did anything wrong – he booked a hunt as a standard procedure, presumably in good faith, and paid his money. I would doubt if he knew of all the shenanigans going on behind the scenes with the operator – Bronkhorst would not have told him he did not have a permit for the area, etc. I doubt if at any time he knew his operator was acting outside the law, and I think he has been unfairly vilified.
Read more by downloading the latest Bhejane Trust Newsletter located here

RHINOS

Bubye Valley Conservancy

As many rhino populations in Africa dwindle due to relentless persecution by armed gangs of poachers, rhino population strong-holds such as the Bubye Valley Conservancy are coming under increasing pressure.
We’ve now lost 22 rhinos so far in 2015 – compared with only 7 in 2014, and 5 in 2013…

As horrific as this photograph is, it is important that people see the reality of poaching.

As horrific as this photograph is, it is important that people see the reality of poaching.

This is not being done by hungry people who are just trying to feed their families – it is being done by brutal organized crime killers who switch from killing rhinos to killing elephants to human trafficking and carjacking.

They have had a massive recent increase in rhino poaching and the situation is getting worse daily and they desperately need urgent help to combat the problem.
The Bubye Valley Conservancy lost 5 rhino during 2013, 7 last year and so far 18 this year. (Umfolosi in South Africa lost 8 in one day recently !) Etosha (Namibia) have lost 36 this year.

The Bubye Valley Conservancy alone spends in excess of 300K annually on the protection of rhino.

Giving Generously towards the Wildlife

Friends of Hwange
We are always grateful for donations large and small that caring people all over the world are kind enough to make. Without these contributions, conservation work cannot be done, and many animals would die.

Last week Hazel Rushton, an ex-Zimbabwean now living in the UK, contacted us. Her partner, Leigh Swingler, recently celebrated his 50th birthday. Hazel and Leigh set up a website – www.leighs50th.co.uk – and suggested family and friends donate cash in lieu of gifts into this fund. The overwhelming response realized 1650 pounds (USD 2541), which Hazel and Leigh have sent to Friends of Hwange Trust.

This amount will provide a drink for more than 40 thousand elephants, numerous smaller animals and countless birds. What a wonderful gesture. Leigh, Hazel and your family and friends, many many thanks from FOH and the wildlife of Hwange.

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