Africa‘s antelope in danger – June 2001
Africa has 73 of the world’s 86 Antelope species. Sadly, its smallest antelopes – the duikers and dwarf antelopes – are being used in cooking pots throughout the continent on a grand scale. Like many of Africa’s animals their prolific numbers have dwindled, predominantly due to poaching. Because of an ever-increasing hungry population some of these delicate creatures are now listed as endangered. There are 17 species of duiker in Africa, the blue duiker is the smallest weighing around 10lb and the largest, the yellow backed duiker, reaches weights of 176lb.
Dwarf antelopes number 13 species with the smallest, the Royal antelope reaching just 4lb when fully grown. A recent international Symposium an ‘Duiker and dwarf antelope’ held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, hopes to bring the plight of these fragile animals into the limelight. With approximately 60% of bush meat found in West African markets coming from the continents smallest grazers, things are not looking good fer these little creatures.
Botswana’s camels up for grabs – June 2001
Most country’s police patrol their patch in a variety of flash cars or on trusty bicycles. Things are a bit different in Botswana for up until recently the local bobbies have been using camels. Sadly for the extremely dim yet strangely cuddly beasts their services became redundant in 1999. An attempt to sell the animals to private companies was stopped by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry who tool over the ownership of the barmy beasts.
The Ministry has called in the services of Kenya consultants who are expected to make recommendations on how the camels can be utilised within the tourism industry. They are hoping to distribute them to community-based tourist organisations with the the Kgalagadi district under the proviso that they will not be sold for five years.
So when you next visit Botswana, forget the elephant and horse riding in the delta – get yourself down to the Kalahari Desert for an unforgettable ride on one of Africa’s most bizarre desert animals.
Botswana stops hunting lions – May 2001
The majority of Africa’s visitors come to see its amazing diversity of wildlife and most participate in some form of photographic safari. The other side of the safari industry however pulls in considerably more revenue for various cash strapped governments. Although many consider it gruesome and cruel, hunting is big business.
In February this year Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks changed the issuing and pricing of its hunting licenses, which sent shock waves through its hunting industry. The price of a buffalo license increased from 400 to 5,000 Pula (approximately £55) and if you want to kill an elephant this year the price has doubled to 20,000 Pula (approximately £2,670).
While the 53 lion licenses have been withdrawn altogether, which won’t please the rich foreign hunters, but has kept the photographic side of the industry very happy indeed.
Chiluba bans hunting in Zambia – March 2001
Having seen his countries wildlife decline due to excessive poaching and unlicensed hunting, the forward thinking, environmentally friendly Zambian president Frederick Chiluba has decided to ban hunting for a year.
On January 26, Chiluba said in and address to parliament, “I am left with no option but to ban with immediate effect any further hunting concessions. This ban…is intended to enable animals to regenerate after the wanton destruction we have witnessed in the past.” The Zambian Wildlife Authority will also have the chance to reorganise and rationalise the National Parks system. Will his forward thinking ideas reach ether poached out countries? Let’s hope so.
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage chimps go back home – April 2001
Well, almost. In Northern Zambia, past the town of Chingola you leave the tarmac, drive for three hours on an appalling dirt road and reach the Siddles farm. In 1983, when David and Sheila were in their mid 50’s they decided to retire from cattle ranching and live out their years pottering around their farm. Then Pal arrived. He was severely dehydrated, had a broken jaw and deep cuts all over his face but with much loving care Pal was nursed back to health. He now lives happily with 75 other chimpanzees in the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world.
The Siddles never planned to start up ‘Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage’ it just happened. As more and more chimps arrived the orphanage got bigger and bigger. So far 17 chimps have been born, but with 6000 chimps a year disappearing to poachers, illegal traders and the cooking pot, the births are just a speck in the continued existence of the species. Just when Chimfunshi’s inhabitants thought it couldn’t get any better, 40 of them were moved to a 500 hectare enclosure full of indigenous bush and grassland. How special is that feeling when you know you have not only saved the life of an abused animal, but have returned it to near perfect conditions where it can live out its days in its natural habitat.
Sinki and Kambo, pet chimpanzees that were kept in a private home in the Congo city of Lubumbashi, were transferred to Chimfunshi on January 14, the ﬁrst newcomers to the sanctuary in 2001.
Hwange game count dawn – March 2001
Every year a dedicated bunch of people congregate at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe to take part in a 24 hour game census. Escaping from offices and cities to return to the wild is as important to some as the count. In 2000, 73 teams including British, South Africans and Australians packed cars with camping supplies and headed off with clipboard in hand.
The excessive rains of 1999-2000 meant that many animals were still taking advantage of the water in the south of the park and not all of them were at the water holes where the game counts take place. Consequently the 2000 game count total of 18,145 was substantially less than that of 1999, which came to 43,919. Only 25% of the water holes were visited but 44 species were counted. Masuma dam attracted 19 species with Ngamo dam bringing in 1139 animals, 924 of them buffalo.
Kenya’s rhino population – June 2001
The prehistoric, notoriously aggressive and partiality blind black rhino has been the target of poachers fer decades. The 65,000 animals that roamed Africa in 1970 had fallen to just 2700 in 1994. One of their main roaming grounds is Kenya, which has seen its black rhino numbers drop from 20,000 in 1970 to a shocking 500 in 1994.
The decimation by poachers is so shocking that the Kenya wildlife Service has started a campaign to rebuild their diminishing populations. They are aiming to have a growth rate of 5% per year – a very ambitious ﬁgure. US Aid has provided 15 computers, digital cameras, night vision glasses, transmitters and 8 million Kenyan Shillings (£75,000) to help with their campaign. With wildlife based tourism providing 20% of Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings and 8% of the countries jobs it is a country that understands the need for animal preservation.
Plight of Tanzania’s baboons – April 2001
Recent research by the British Union for the Abolition of vivisection (BUAB) indicates that some of Tanzania’s animals are bringing more attention to themselves then just the click of the tourist cameras. An endangered baboon is at the centre of a cruel and illegal trade where they end up in animal testing laboratories in the northern hemisphere.
CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) lists African primates as ‘Appendix II’ animals. Basically this means that they are in danger of becoming extinct if the trade in them is not strictly regulated. One such endangered primate is the olive baboon. It normally roams freely through the African bush, but is now frequently turning up in the laboratories of Russia and Yugoslavia and with primate dealers in the USA.
After being cruelly caught in bamboo traps they are transferred to holding cages. These sociable animals eventually find themselves in solitary conﬁnement in small, cramped cells and being shipped out of Africa to live a life of despair and agony in a foreign land. Tanzanian villagers get paid £8 per captured baboon (none for the ones that die before getting to the market) which is a lot of money to a starving man, yet the baboons fetch as much as £800 on the international market.
Safari marathon – running with rhino – April 2001
Up in the beautiful and harsh highlands of Kenya, there’s a charity that aims to combine community development and conservation. The projects of the ‘Tusk Trust’ have created a number of very successful community run nature reserves. But as we all know, conservation and game management don‘t come cheap so the trust has designed an ingenious fund raising scheme.
Last year, the Lewa Downs Conservancy area and Tusk Trust organised Kenya‘s ﬁrst ‘Safari Marathon’. Maasai warriors in traditional dress raced along side people dressed in the newest and trendiest jogging apparel. The course is not the kindest an the knees with numerous hills and dusty pot holed roads but the participants loved it and managed to raise £50,000 fer the charity. This year the route will be cleared a little better in advance to ensure that there are slightly fewer elephant and buffalo blocking the way!
This year’s safari marathon is on the 1st of July so get those runners out and get training.
Southern Africa’s ‘Peace Parks‘ – idealistic dreams or practical realities? – April 2001
‘The Scramble for Africa’ is the title of a book that chronologically describes the bizarre way various European countries colonised Africa. Its title couldn‘t be more apt. Rivers, mountain ranges and other natural phenomenon were considered perfect country borders and there was little or no consideration of tribal lands or animal migratory routes.
A couple of centuries later and southern African governments are joining together in order to open their borders to cater for their nomadic wildlife. The idea of the Peace Parks Foundation is to ‘promote Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in Southern Africa’. It is a unique and ambitious conservation program that sees the recreation of ancient wildlife migration paths, the uniting of ecological and cultural territories and the sustainable development of rural areas.
But is it practical? The Kgalagali TFCA is a vast conservation area bordering the south western corner of Botswana and South Africa. Both countries are very stable with similar conservation and game management policies. Its political environment is far removed from the countries involved in the most recent Peace Park. Positioned in the north east corner of South Africa, it combines the efficiently organized and well maintained Kruger NP with Zimbabwe‘s Gonarezhou and Mozambique’s Banhine and Zinave parks, the latter of which have felt the effects of poaching and lack of funds.
Wild dogs free to roam – April 2001
Rumour has it that there are only 4,000 wild dogs left in the wild. Also known as the ‘painted hunting dog’ or ‘Cape hunting dog’ these delicate, intricately patterned and misunderstood animals are often killed by humans as they are considered to be vermin. With ever decreasing natural habitats and high pup mortality things are not looking good for the species.
But the Green Trust’s ongoing wild dog programme has just released two pregnant females and their mates into the Umfolozi Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa. The dogs are wearing radio collars in order for the trust to accumulate yet more information on this highly endangered species. This small pack could number in excess of 20 when the two mums give birth this year. The Green Trust in managed by the WWF for Nature South Africa and funded by Nedbank.