Operational Updates

Chinko, CAR: Roads are in the process of being opened and a ‘Basic Field Ranger Course’ and refresher ranger training are underway to improve law enforcement capacity ahead of the upcoming dry season, which brings the arrival of nomadic cattle herders. Rebel activity has exerted some pressure on the park surroundings, with a recent brutal rebel attack on a nearby village. Similarly, a large mine has been identified seven kilometres from the Chinko border. In spite of these destabilising elements, our law enforcement presence proved to be a deterrent against further rebel activity in areas under protection of the park. Closer collaboration is being pursued with Invisible Children, AFRICOM and UPDF to expand our effectiveness and improve security and stability around the park. We also saw some notable wildlife activity in the past month, including fresh lion tracks, several of the largest herds of buffalo ever seen in Chinko (numbering between 50-60 animals), at least 11 distinct groups of eland, and indications of at least five groups of elephants, which together reflect the continuing importance of this area for wildlife and species diversity in the region.

Akagera, Rwanda: In the first week of September the park hosted all senior management staff for the African Parks Annual Management Meeting at Karenge Bush Camp – all activities and operations went very smoothly. The four rangers returned from their month spent in Zimbabwe building valuable experience in daily rhino tracking and in rhino management skills, all part of the preparations for the historic reintroduction of black rhino into Akagera planned for December. While tourists enjoy landmark sightings of Shema with her first generation Rwanda-born lion cubs, strides are being made towards securing the full approval of a partnership with Wilderness Safaris for the development of a high-end lodge in the north of the park, which will be an enormous asset to the park’s international tourism appeal.

First generation Rwanda-born lion cubs © Stuart Slabbert

First generation Rwanda-born lion cubs © Stuart Slabbert

Zakouma, Chad: In response to the bushmeat poaching in the Am-Lel area between Am Timan and Zakouma, park law enforcement undertook a joint operation with GNNT (National and Nomadic Guard of Chad), which effectively resulted in the prevention of shooting bushmeat. This will continue to be countered more easily with the addition of a new airstrip to facilitate access to the area, and with upgrades to rangers’ equipment. As we approach the end of the wet season, the first returning herds of tiang were sighted in the north of the park in addition to a crèche of 40 ostrich chicks near Goz Djarat. Preparations have begun for the reopening of the park for tourism, including the Tourism Manager attending the International French Travel Market fair (IFTM) in Paris, English language training for two Camp Nomade staff, maintenance of the game-viewing vehicles, and park and tourism advertisements.

Garamba, DRC: The implementation of the revised law enforcement strategy is progressing well with the establishment of the information system and the first Basic Field Ranger Course completed. All SPLM-IO South Sudanese rebels have been evacuated from the park, reducing the risk of increased human pressure on the park. The new Husky aircraft arrived in September, and the month marked the second in a row in which the park recorded zero elephant poaching incidents.

Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia: The game translocations that were delayed until October this year have now been rescheduled to commence in early 2017 due to seasonal temperatures and the risk that this would pose to the animals. Meanwhile, construction has begun on Shoebill Island Lodge, which will serve as a high-end facility for photographic tourism. Law enforcement apprehended a shoebill poacher who was sentenced to five years in prison. The four- or five- month old rescued bird is now being rehabilitated in Bangweulu, along with Watson, the other confiscated shoebill chick, both of which will be released back to the wild when they are ready. The single chick that has for several weeks been guarded in its nest by local fishermen employed in the Shoebill Guards Programme successfully fledged this month. September also saw the official opening of Muwele Fish Market, a keenly anticipated event presided over by the Principal Fisheries Officer for Muchinga Province as well as other dignitaries by the Muwele community.

Liuwa Plain, Zambia: With assistance from the DNPW and Dr. Ian Parsons, a single male lion was successfully translocated from Kafue National Park to Liuwa. He is now acclimatising to his new environment in a boma that he shares with the existing Liuwa male as they undergo a six- to eight-week period of bonding. The two males appear to be adjusting well to one another, and their progress will be monitored closely in the weeks ahead as well as following their release at the end of November. The new King Lewanika Lodge to be built and managed by Norman Carr Safaris has been progressing well with the installation of floors, roofing and walling, and is scheduled for a soft opening in early 2017. After an extended period of drought, the park welcomed with huge relief its first light rainfall.

dr-ian-parsons-rob-reid-and-eva-meurs-enjoy-one-final-moment-with-the-two-soon-to-be-bonded-males-daan-smit

Dr Ian Parsons, Rob Reid and Eva Meurs enjoy one final moment with the two soon to be bonded males © Daan Smit

Liwonde, Malawi: African Parks is collaborating with WWF-US, UDS and the Lindbergh Foundation, funded by Google, to test drone technology in its effectiveness as a force multiplier in the fight against wildlife crime. The UDS team will be operating the drone deployed in Liwonde, and will be working closely with park management to roll-out the project. While there have been several incidents of fence breakage from elephants, our efforts to mitigate these incidents are seeing some success, including the application of additional electrical loops on boundary fencing, and the use of the aircraft as a deterrent through the identification of common break-out points. Six cheetahs have been identified for translocation from Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa later this year, which marks the start of the undertaking to reintroduce apex predators to the park and restore important ecological interactions to its ecosystem. In an aspirational plan to boost the park’s tourism offering and generate greater park revenue, three new concession agreements for tourism developments have been presented for board approval.

Nkhotakota, Malawi: Thirty-five percent of the sanctuary has been affected by a fire in the north, but did not affect areas in the south where the majority of the game are located. The fire was likely ignited through charcoal production; and firebreaks are now being burnt to avoid further incidents. While the sanctuary fence has been fully completed, and the temporary fence removed, a six kilometer extension is being applied to the north of the sanctuary to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The translocated wildlife continue to thrive with all collared elephants accounted for and no apparent detriment to the habitat within the sanctuary. Support from local communities is particularly encouraging, as their assistance with handing in firearms and snares has contributed towards progress made in law enforcement with field mentors and new scouts overseeing the removal of 500 snares in just two months.

Odzala-Kokoua, Congo: Unfortunately, several staff members have been apprehended and arrested for stealing firearms and a ranger implicated in illegal activities in the park has also been arrested. Due to all eco-monitors being utilised for the wildlife transect survey, monitoring at the baies has been reduced; however, a team working around the newly discovered Mondo baie is seeing groups of 14-17 gorillas regularly. Following the snaring and removal of the young male gorilla for treatment on the 19th of August, his gorilla group “Akongo” split-up and dispersed into the area, which made it extremely difficult to follow any one of them. However, after three weeks the group reunited and is moving together again. A second group has been identified in this area for habituation and the habituation contact is very positive.

Majete, Malawi: The park welcomed the addition of a new lion cub, which is the second generation of lions to be born in the reserve. Its mother, Elizabeth, is the daughter of Shire, who was the first lioness to be reintroduced to the reserve. The cub has been sighted on several occasions and appears to be doing well. The Majete Wildlife Research project recorded a sighting of side-striped jackal in Majete for the first time. This species has been known to have occurred in the Lower Shire area but this is the first recording in Majete of recent times. The park’s scholarship programme has extended scholarships to twenty selected form one students and two university students, for whom first term school fees have been fully paid.

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