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Monday, 30 January 2012

The Migration Movement Update!

The bulk of the herds are spread out between Kusini and the Hidden Valley, with more of them seen towards the Serengeti Side. However, rain in the Ndutu Area has meant that they have changed direction again and heading back to NCAA. There is a lot of cat activity due to the fact that the calving season has started early this year and clients are getting some excellent sightings.

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Client Feedback

Hi Bruce,
We arrived back form Zanzibar Tuesday. Just wanted to say we had a really wonderful trip. The ground team were great and everything went very smoothly. My worries re. weather were unfounded, no problem. Our favourite part by far was the 3 day safari. The staff made us very welcome and spoilt us totally.
Our driver/guide was very knowledgable. I did regret we were outside of the park as the state of the roads after previous rain caused the journey to take much longer to and from the park and I felt the lack of animals around our actual camp.
So, we are already planning our next safari. 4-5 days plus 7 days beach, perhaps during the dry season and definatly located within a reserve. It,s just deciding location. Any ideas welcome.
Thanks for your patience and help,
Sheila Kirchin

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Sierra Leone creates new national park twice the size of the Isle of Wight

It may be the world's seventh poorest country, but Sierra Leone is making great steps to help conserve its internationally important tropical forests.

It is creating the Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP), locking up an estimated 13.6 million tonnes of carbon and protecting one of West Africa's most threatened and wildlife-rich habitats.

The RSPB has been involved with Gola Forest since 1990, which is home to hundreds of bird species, chimpanzees and the world's most important population of pygmy hippo.

'This is a bold and progressive move'
Tim Stowe, the RSPB's international director, said: ‘The contribution that Sierra Leone is making is bold and progressive. In a far-sighted act, this developing West African country - which is on the front line of climate change - has decided to help the world by locking up a vast carbon store as well as protecting its unique and globally-important wildlife. We hope that other nations value this contribution and build upon it.'

If Gola Forest were razed to the ground, the release of carbon would be equal to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by nearly 14 million cars in a year.

First initiated in 1989, a partnership agreement between the Forestry Division of the Government of Sierra Leone, the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the RSPB was reached in 1990 to develop a new management plan, maintain the forest boundaries and to run an environmental education programme. These partners have worked under the banner of the Gola Forest Programme since then, and the work at Gola is an important component of the RSPB's wide tropical forests programme.

The Gola Rainforest National Park covers over 71,000 hectares (just under twice the size of the Isle of Wight ) and has long been threatened by commercial logging and small-scale mining. The long-term governance of natural resources was long argued to be at the heart of the decade-long civil conflict that raged in the 1990s. The creation of the national park should subdue ongoing threats from logging and mining.

Gola forest is a global biodiversity hotspot and recent surveys have revealed 327 species of bird, including eight facing global extinction, such as the Gola malimbe, a striking black and yellow, starling-sized relative of sparrows. The unique biodiversity value of Gola can be measured in other ways too, as it also holds 518 butterfly species - approximately half of the total of Sierra Leone - including three which are new to science.

An estimated 300 chimpanzees, significant populations of monkeys and 44 larger mammal species, such as duikers - small antelopes - live in the forest, as well as the secretive pygmy hippo, which is only found in this part of Africa and is in danger of extinction.

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Monday, 23 January 2012

Camp's Closed in Kruger

Following major floods in South Africa's Kruger National Park, several camps have been damaged and have been closed, and some roads are at least temporarily closed.

For more information, please see the SANParks website.

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Big cats are returning to Malawi thanks to...

Big cats are returning to Malawi thanks to an inspiring reintroduction programme.

The 70,000 hectare Majete Wildlife reserve has been a conservation success story since African Parks assumed management in 2003, with more than 2,550 head of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, sable and black rhino, introduced to the park over eight years in a project that has, so far, cost more than $2.4 million.

The plan to gradually introduce big cats back into the park started in October 2011 with the introduction of two leopards relocated from the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Six more of these magnificent cats will be introduced to Majete as part of this programme - in pairs. The introduction of leopard is the penultimate step in the Majete restocking programme, which will culminate in the reintroduction of lions in 2012.

'To ensure every species flourishes, we have to get the timing right'
Until the launch of this project only one viable population of leopard existed in Malawi within the Nyika National Park. These leopards are the first to be introduced to Malawi across international borders, and the first leopards to make their home in Majete for nearly two decades.

Dorian Tilbury, field operations manager, African Parks Majete said: ‘Our mission is to restore, restock and rehabilitate Majete to the condition it was in before human impact. A vital component of the natural system, leopards have been the first big cat to be introduced because they have less of an impact on prey species than lion, which is the other indigenous predator to be re-introduced to Majete.

‘To ensure all species flourish we had to get the timing right. Leopards and lions often conflict with each other and if lions were brought in first it would have been more difficult for the leopards to establish themselves. Lions also eat more and it was necessary to allow the prey species numbers build up a little more before we introduced lions to ensure their survival.'

Kelly White, managing director of the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium said: ‘The work African Parks is doing at Majete is set to have a phenomenal impact on tourism in Malawi, particularly for the safari industry.'

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Monday, 9 January 2012

Welcome news: New railway line will not affect the Serengeti

The Tanzanian Minister of Transport, Mr. Omar Nundu, has again stated that the proposed new railway line will not affect the Serengeti.

This is encouraging. We applaud Minister Nundu and the government of Tanzania for this wise decision to route the railway well to the south of the park.

The geography of the Serengeti, in fact, does offer a much greater challenge for a railway, as it involves traversing a steep escarpment. Big questions still hang over the economic viability of this port-railway system from Uganda. But should a railway prove feasible and be built around the southern end of the park, it would greatly relieve pressure for a Serengeti highway in the future.

This would be a victory for the Tanzanian people and a win-win for human development and conservation, something that we all have wanted from the outset.

We'll keep you posted.

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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sad News: Elephant numbers down by 42% in 3 years

The number of elephants in two wildlife sanctuaries in Tanzania has fallen by nearly 42 percent in just three years, a census showed on Tuesday, as poachers increasingly killed the animals for their tusks.

The census at the Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park revealed elephant numbers had plunged to 43,552 in 2009 from 74,900 in 2006.

The census was carried out by the east African country's wildlife authority, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, as part of a government plan to conserve wildlife. The rapid fall has prompted President Jakaya Kikwete to order an immediate investigation.

Conservationists estimate Tanzania has a total elephant population of between 110,000 and 140,000, making it one of the largest sanctuaries in Africa, but in recent years, Tanzania and neighboring Kenya have suffered a steep rise in poaching as criminals killed elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns for sale in Asia.

TRAFFIC, a conservation group that tracks trends in wildlife trading, said in a statement last week that 2011 had been a record year for ivory seizure. It pointed to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks for use in jewelry and ornaments.

Kikwete also ordered the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute to investigate the disappearance of the rare Roosevelt's sable antelope from national parks, and to look for ways of re-introducing the animal in at least in one of the parks, the statement said.

The last Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2007 agreed to a nine-year moratorium on any further trade in ivory, after some 105 tons of elephant ivory had been sold from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to China and Japan.

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Monday, 2 January 2012

It's a Girl

Abu Camp, located in Botswana’s pristine Okavango Delta, is proud to announce that Shireni, one of the Camp’s leading elephants, gave birth to her third surviving calf, a healthy female, at 22:05 on the 17th December. Measuring approximately 90cm at the shoulder and weighing about 110kg, the new-born stood on her own feet, wobbling, within 20 minutes. The elephant handlers have named her Warona, the SeTswana name meaning ‘For Us’.

Reaching up to her mother, Warona suckled properly for the first time at 07.00 the next morning, 10 hours after the birth, and now takes short naps of 5-10 minutes. Closely watched over by her doting big brother, Abu Junior, the new-born calf is already showing signs of playfulness. Both Warona and Shireni are doing well, along with the other elephants that form the Abu herd. This new member brings the number of the Abu herd to seven elephants.

Shireni was brought to Abu Camp as part of the original ‘Brat Pack Girls’ of young elephants saved from a culling operation in the ‘Sirheni’ area of Kruger National Park. The father is believed to be a wild bull or Mthondo, one of several elephants successfully reintroduced from the Abu herd into the elephant paradise of the Okavango Delta. Earlier this year, the Camp released Gika and her eight-year-old calf Naya together; they are adapting well to their natural home, roaming and mingling with wild elephants and another previously released elephant, Nandipa, who now has two calves of her own. A total of nine elephants have been released from the Abu herd, under the full support of the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Abu Camp takes its name from the Arabic word meaning ‘all things to do with elephants’. The birth of Warona ends off a thrilling 2011, which saw the opening of the newly refurbished camp, together with exciting new initiatives within Abu Camp’s elephant programme. The elephant experience is being supervised by San Diego Zoo Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Dr. Mike Chase, together with the support of Wild Horizons, a company with a strong history in high quality elephant interaction activities.

The elephant programme is complemented by the reputation of Wilderness Safaris, Africa’s leading ecotourism operator that now manages the camp through its brand, the Wilderness Collection. The cornerstone of this new initiative involves Elephants Without Borders establishing a field research station in the Abu Concession. This happy moment overlaps with an ambitious new programme which is devoted to the highest standards in elephant welfare, scientific research and meaningful guest experiences.

Warona will provide hours of fascination and enjoyment to visitors of Abu Camp, allowing them the rare opportunity to interact with a family group of elephants in one of Africa’s best wilderness areas: the Okavango Delta.

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