Operational Updates

Zakouma, Chad: With the addition of the 22 newborn elephant calves we counted since the March aerial survey which resulted in identifying 483 elephants, Zakouma’s elephant population has now surpassed 500 individuals marking a significant milestone in our efforts to protect the country’s only stabilising population of elephants. As part of our ongoing efforts to protect Zakouma’s wildlife, we convened a meeting with patrol leaders, radio operators and heads of law enforcement to update the anti-poaching strategy and enhance our law enforcement capacity. The revised strategy reflects improvements made by the efficacy of the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), additional roads and airstrips, and target training for the Mamba teams. The informant networks are also showing signs of effectiveness, with recent information received from an informer on illegal bushmeat hunting in the south of Zakouma leading to the arrest of four people and the confiscation of three firearms.

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Aerial image of calf at Zakouma Copyright: Darren Potgieter

Akagera, Rwanda: Time has been spent preparing for the 2016 African Parks Annual Management Conference which was hosted September 5th – 9th in Karenge Bush Camp in Akagera. Efforts are underway to secure a suitable founder population of black rhino for the exciting translocation of approximately 20 rhinos, tentatively scheduled for the end of 2016 or early 2017. This would mark the historic restoration of bringing back rhino to Rwanda, the last of which was seen in 2014. In preparation for their arrival, the rhino boma was completed, eight rangers visited Kenyan National Parks for rhino management training, and four rangers underwent rhino tracking exercises in Zimbabwe for a month.

Chinko, CAR: The park hosted an important visit by the regional Mbororo leaders last month, helping to build important local support for the park. We have been busy preparing the training camp for our upcoming ranger training course and a list of candidates has been determined. Protecting our own staff is an ongoing commitment whether that is through outfitting them with the needed gear, training for law enforcement, and even just basic health education. In August we provided HIV testing for employees, on the heels of monthly personal health and hygiene education. Counselling and assistance with treatment has and will be provided for those who test positive while education focusing on prevention of transmission continues.

Garamba, DRC: Following renewed armed conflict in South Sudan, the South Sudanese Government Forces pushed former vice-president Riek Machar’s rebel force into Garamba, where approximately 850 people were encamped over August. Garamba’s law enforcement and community coordination staff accompanied the UN and local authorities to assess the situation and immediate needs, and assisted in transporting donations of food and clothing to the refugees. While the DRC Government and the UN started relocating the refugees, the park remained alert to the risk posed to resident wildlife by the large encampment. As of September 12th it was reported that the majority had been rescued, and evacuated. Meanwhile, all 22 functioning elephant collars showed normal movements, and the two giraffe collars provided regular readings. Three mobile clinics were established on the western border of Azande to provide free medical consultation and medication at cost to communities, benefitting a total of 243 people.

Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia: The Field Operations Manager (FOM), Dave Robertson, was transferred to the FOM position at Nkhotakota in Malawi, and Joel Hancock has been appointed as the replacement FOM, and will be taking up his position at Bangweulu towards the end of September. Prior to the reintroduction of 600 head of game slated for 2017, park management is working with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to finalise the veterinary disease survey, and a preliminary report is being developed.

Liuwa, Zambia: Efforts are underway to translocate a male lion from Kafue to Liuwa to help increase the genetic diversity of Liuwa’s small but growing local lion population. A young male has already been identified and collared and the boma at Matamanene was completed in preparation for his arrival. A recent study on Liuwa’s prospering spotted hyaena population was published online and in Biological Conservation. Led by DNPW Senior Ecologist and Zambian Carnivore Program Liuwa Project Founder Jassiel M’soka, the study indicated that the park’s low levels of human-wildlife conflict, abundant prey animals, and small recovering lion population provide favourable conditions for the park’s dominant carnivores, which were found to have significantly high survival rates.

A hyaena at Liuwa Plain National Park Copyright: Burrard-Lucas

A hyaena at Liuwa Plain National Park Copyright: Burrard-Lucas

Odzala-Kokoua, Congo: Snaring in the park remains a key threat and a challenge we are working to overcome with improved law enforcement capacity. We removed 1,592 snares in August and 8,251 in total so far this year. Tragically, a young male gorilla from a group being habituated was snared outside the park boundary, and succumbed to his injuries after 10 days of intensive medical treatment. An additional group of between 12 and 14 gorillas is now being monitored at the newly discovered eastern bai, which may prove suitable as a second site for the gorilla habituation project. In duplication of the 2012 survey, the 2016 Wildlife Transect Survey commenced and 10 transects were completed, with four in the south, four in the north, two in the centre, and the remainder to continue in to November.

Liwonde, Malawi: August concluded with the final captures and translocation of a total of 261 elephants to Nkhotakota, in addition to the relocation of a black rhino bull, Namagogodo, which was moved to Majete to help with increasing genetic diversity there. A full aerial census was subsequently carried out to assess the park’s wildlife, and findings revealed robust populations including among the results 1,086 buffalo, 1,887 hippo, 578 elephant, 4,477 waterbuck, 515 sable and 2,107 impala, with notable sightings of 76 ground hornbills, roan and hartebeest and the welcomed addition of a black rhino calf of approximately six weeks of age.

Nkhotakota, Malawi: Nkhotakota received the final tranche of elephants and game from Liwonde and Majete. Despite some initial territoriality over the sanctuary fence between resident and newly translocated elephant bulls and some damage to the sanctuary fence caused by waterbuck, things appear to have settled down as the new animals become familiar with their surroundings. Efforts are now underway to continue the fencing southwards to cover the southern section of the park before June of next year as part of a phased approach to fence the entire reserve. Tragically there was a human-wildlife conflict incident on August 13th that resulted in the death of three people and the bull elephant that broke through the fence in Nkhotakota and wandered more than 40 kilometres from the boundary. Our Park Manager Samuel Kamoto met with family members of the deceased, and we remain vigilant in our conflict mitigation efforts and continue to do everything we can to prevent these situations from occurring.

Majete, Malawi: A black rhino bull, Namagogodo, was translocated from Liwonde to increase genetic diversity in Majete and he has since been seen with three other rhinos; and 400 impala were received from Liwonde and released. In wonderful news for the park’s lions, after not being sighted for several weeks, Shire’s daughter Elizabeth reappeared with a new cub in tow; and radio collars were replaced on three lions Chimwala, Sapitwa and Shire to aid in their continued monitoring and protection

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