Zakouma, Chad: In anticipation of the fast approaching dry season, which will result in the opening of the park for tourism, preparations began on Tinga Camp, and both Camp Nomade and Tinga Camp game viewers have been fully prepared for use by incoming guests. In addition, a meeting was convened with law enforcement leadership to modify our enforcement strategy to better protect the park during this seasonal change. October also marked the official handover from Field Operations Manager Darren Potgieter to Jérôme Hugonot, and from Tourism Liaison Officer Imogen Potgieter to Lynie Pispisano. We are deeply grateful for the years Darren and Imogen gave to Zakouma and they will be missed. On the conservation front, the reintroduction of black rhinos to Zakouma has seen some progress following discussions held between the respective Ministers of Environment for the governments of South Africa and Chad at CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg in September. A detailed reintroduction action plan was prepared and presented to the Chadian government and a Memorandum of Understanding is being drafted.
Chinko, CAR: As the rainy season draws to a close the first migratory birds, several storks, new groups of eland and more elephant tracks, have all been observed in the project area. The basic field ranger course is now underway and operations have focused on preparing the project area for the dry season, when it becomes accessible and the nomads arrive. While there have been no conflicts so far, we are closely monitoring the presence of a group of Seleka rebels who have recently based themselves in the town of Bakouma.
Akagera, Rwanda: The AMC Board Meeting was held in Kigali on the 18th November. The park continued to prepare for the reintroduction of black rhino, which is tentatively scheduled to begin late 2016 or early 2017, and the historic move has already received some local coverage on Radio Izuba. The prolonged dry conditions have resulted in local herdsmen allowing their cattle to wander freely at night, which unfortunately has resulted in an increased incidence of human-wildlife conflict. However, park staff have continued in their extensive community outreach programme, which this month led to 7,000 trees being planted at two different schools and progress in developing revenue-generating projects.
Garamba, DRC: The 22 elephant collars and two giraffe harnesses operated normally and gave regular readings which were verified by aerial monitoring. A young male chimpanzee was confiscated from a village in the Azande region and placed in the care of Garamba National Park, from where he was subsequently transferred to the Centre de Rehabilitation des Primates de Lwiro (CRPL) where he will be cared for. Stakeholder engagement and local enterprise development has continued to be a priority in building a local constituency for conservation. We continue to provide financial assistance to promote business opportunities for the community and hold regular meetings to build the relationship with traditional authorities. Under the revised law enforcement strategy, ranger training has progressed well with the completion of the first basic field ranger (BFR) course. We have also completed the first round of mentoring of rangers, the training of advanced rangers, and the Mambas; and the second BFR course is now underway. In addition, new law enforcement vehicles arrived and are being utilised. A board meeting was held in Nagero to approve the park’s budget and business plan, and to elect members to the board.
Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia: The rehabilitation enclosure at Chikuni was upgraded, and we received a second confiscated shoebill chick in October. The Park continues to support an orphaned hyaena cub with supplementary feedings, but the shy and nocturnal cub seems to be gaining his independence. The important Lumbatwa wildlife corridor is in the process of being cleared of human settlement to allow for the important migration of game species. With support from Senior Chief Kopa local people are being voluntarily resettled elsewhere on the heels of a sensitisation programme undertaken to engage them on the process.
Liuwa Plain, Zambia: Following September’s successful translocation of the single male lion from Kafue National Park, the re-introduced lion has bonded remarkably well with the Liuwa male, and plans are in place to release them both from the boma in late November. While lion movements continue to be tracked, Lady Liuwa’s condition has sadly started to deteriorate, and she is now spending the majority of her time alone. After a difficult period of drought in Liuwa, relief finally arrived with downpours ushering in the long-awaited wet season, and with it the first wonderful sightings of wildebeest calves. The park hosted a delegation of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, who came to Liuwa to experience firsthand a park managed by African Parks.
Liwonde, Malawi: In anticipation of the upcoming reintroduction of six cheetahs to Liwonde which is being carried out, preparations are proceeding well. A suitable site has been identified for their release bomas and satellite collars have been purchased. Reducing human-wildlife conflict, especially with elephants and breaking through fences, remains a top prioirty. The helicopter and drones are being utilised to locate herds in the afternoons and help direct fenceline attendants to areas of concern to prevent conflict situations, with vehicle patrols providing additional support along the boundary. Security has been dramatically improved following the implementation of new controls on public footpaths in the park, whereby all people are now escorted between the gates, which are open three times a day. The park continued to receive extensive international media coverage following the release of African Parks’ footage of the ‘500 Elephants Initiative’ and Prince Harry that took place in July and August this year.
Nkhotakota, Malawi: Despite the drought gripping the region, water is still widely available in the park and in the sanctuary, and the recently relocated wildlife are in good health. The translocated elephants continue to be monitored by ground and air surveillance, and all but two collars have been located, which are suspected to have been damaged since there have not been any breakouts from the sanctuary. Unfortunately, 35% of the sanctuary area has been burnt by deliberately lit fires, which the park is actively addressing both in the field and by engaging with the Traditional Authority. With education being a priority for local communities surrounding the park, a scholarship programme was initiated for orphaned and vulnerable children, which has resulted in paying school fees for 42 students to support them in continuing their secondary school education.
Odzala-Kokoua, Congo: The original group of gorillas undergoing habituation was tracked for 25 days in October and a new juvenile was regularly observed in the group. The second group of gorillas identified in September for habituation in the same area has elicited remarkable sightings with eye contact being made with several individuals at a distance of between 10 and 15 meters, and already eight different individuals have been observed with two juveniles below the age of four. As primary health care is a scarce resource in the region, the mobile health clinic provides a valuable service and this month the clinic visited nine villages, administering treatment to 56 local people. A breakthrough was achieved through law enforcement when two former staff members who were implicated in illegal activities were sentenced to four and five years in prison.
Majete, Malawi: The park hosted a delegation from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority who have been conducting a fact-finding trip to learn about the African Parks management model. Camera traps continue to be triggered, and in the Pende area captured leopards that appear to be the offspring of the park’s reintroduced leopards. Through rigorous routine monitoring patrols all rhinos were sighted in October, and the new calf belonging to Cassius appears to be a young female. Meanwhile, several fires ignited in the Changata hills area and in the southern section of Majete hills block. Majete’s community outreach remains a flagship model for successful community conservation, and this month included a visiting group of 285 people from the surrounding community to participate in an environmental education programme and in game drives around the reserve.