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Monday, 18 June 2012

NEW: Rhino Tracking Experience - Liwonde National Park

We are thrilled to announce the launch of an exciting new activity - the Rhino Tracking Experience - for guests of Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge in Liwonde National Park. The Experience comprises an introduction to the plight of the black rhino, a three-hour guided walk into rhino territory, conducted by armed Rhino Protection Team (RPT) scouts and Wilderness Safaris guides, and ends with a delicious bush breakfast or dinner. In this way, guests have the unique opportunity of tracking black rhino and seeing them on foot, whilst also getting involved in the practicalities of monitoring - all the while contributing to rhino conservation in Malawi.

In the late 1980s, the last black rhinoceros disappeared from Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve in the Lower Shire Valley of Malawi. In the early 1990s, Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and South Africa National Parks (SANParks) joined forces to create the Liwonde Wildlife Project, an initiative aimed at introducing six endangered species, including the black rhino, into a breeding sanctuary in Liwonde National Park. Young animals would then later be moved to other protected areas in Malawi. In 1993, the first breeding pair of black rhino was airlifted to Liwonde from South Africa; currently, thanks to the success of the sanctuary and subsequent translocations, both Liwonde and Majete Wildlife Reserve have the beginnings of stable populations. It has been one of Africa's most successful breeding programmes and has been achieved by the dedication and expertise of a number of people and organisations, including the J&B Circle (now Endangered Species of Malawi Circle), DNPW, SANParks, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wilderness Safaris. 

The Rhino Tracking Experience is being run by Wilderness Safaris in a joint venture with DNPW and the IFAW. The rhino conservation programme is run and funded by both these parties who have assigned the Rhino Protection Team (RPT) to monitor and protect the black rhino in Liwonde. The next two years will see a crucial new course for the project where the sanctuary fence is gradually dismantled and the park itself becomes the "sanctuary." By participating in this activity, guests will be contributing directly to the funding of the rhino conservation programme as 90% of the activity fee will be allocated to it.  

The Experience is intended to be a rewarding, exciting and educational one for our guests and therefore is limited to two guests of 18 years and above. 

Wilderness Safaris Malawi MD, Chris Badger, stated, "Liwonde's black rhino breeding programme can lay claim to being one of the most successful in Africa. However, the continued threat of poaching remains very real and this new activity will raise funds and awareness, which we hope will contribute to the long-term survival and sustainability of Malawi's black rhino population."
Please call: 0044(0) 1227 753181 if you are interested in this or follow the links for: Safaris to Africa and Zanzibar Holidays

Ethiopia bans Skype

Operators should be aware that a new law in Ethiopia has criminalised the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype.  The law was passed May 24th. Katia Moskvitch BBC News Technology reporter filed a report on June 15th warning  that users face up to 15 years in jail if they use Skype or similar internet call services.

Ambroise Pierre from the Reporters Without Borders, Africa service, told BBC News."There's already a very strict control over written press, and last year several journalists were arrested, and now the government is tackling communications over the internet. More and more people in Ethiopia are turning to new technologies, and some are even able to bypass censorship, which explains why the government is trying to use effective methods to control internet communications."

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Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sad News: Two rhinos killed on Tanzania’s Serengeti.

In April of this year, the carcases of a female rhino and her calf were found in Serengeti National Park. The rhinos had been killed for their horns several weeks earlier by poachers, and their bodies were discovered by rangers while out on regular patrols. The recent killing reduces the current rhino population in the Moru region of the Serengeti from 31 to 29 individuals.

4 arrests - 32 staff suspended.
Upon finding the bodies, the park authorities launched an investigation with the police and have since arrested four suspects. To date, no trophies have been recovered. While TANAPA reacted swiftly on the ground, they did not make the information about the recent rhino killings known. The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism found out over a month later when the news was reported by an MP from the Serengeti District, and immediately suspended four of  TANAPA's most senior staff and 28 rangers, pending further investigations.

While it is unclear whether or not there was any involvement in the recent killing by park staff, it is clear that much more needs to be done in order to protect the rhinos and elephants in the face of growing pressure and increasing demands from Asian markets. The Frankfurt Zoological Society has been pushing for the implementation of the Serengeti Security Plan that was approved by the Rhino Technical Committee last year, but TANAPA have yet to fully engage. Until this is done, FZS believes the rhinos will remain at risk.

 Please follow the link for more info on Photographic Safaris or call: 0044 (0)1227 753181

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lion vs. Crocodile

Location: Mombo Camp, Chief’s Island, Botswana
Date: 8 June 2012
Observers: Matthew Copham and Pia Dierickx
Photographs: Pia Dierickx

As a safari guide in the Okavango Delta, I was on a game drive with photographer Pia Dierickx when we came across a pride of 18 lions heading purposefully towards vultures on a carcass on the far side of a shallow channel. Lions in this aquatic landscape regularly swim or wade through water, but do so carefully: a small crocodile could be food but a large one could be dangerous – and both species know it.

On this occasion, two of the lionesses walked straight into the channel, their eyes on the vultures. The first did not see the lurking crocodile and although the second did, she continued after her companion. Swiftly the crocodile moved into the deeper water ahead of the second lioness and sprang the trap. Although over in a second, the action was captured by Pia’s camera…

In the end, the reptile was sent swimming into the deepest part of the channel while the lion was sent scuffling away on dry ground with a battered face and bruised ego.

by Matthew Copham

If you would like to learn more about safaris to Botswana please follow the link or call: 01227 783181

Friday, 8 June 2012

Unusual plant discovered in Karoo

A rare root plant discovered in the Eastern Cape’s Samara Game Reserve appears to be the first of its kind in the world to be identified.
Respected botanist professor Jan Vlok came across the plant during a visit to the Graaff-Reinet park at the weekend. The plant resembles a root parasite found in the Eastern Cape but bears striking difference to it, leading scientists to believe he might have stumbled upon a hitherto undiscovered plant species.

Vlok told of finding the plant – which he describes now as “peculiar” – with the help of NMMU’s  Professor Graham kerley. “After Graham saw the plant, and I thought it special, we looked around the area for a while, but could find no more plants like that.” Vlok’s personal policy on collecting specimens limits him to taking samples only if there are more of the same plant nearby, so as not to eliminate rare specimens by accident. “Therefore we did not collect any material of the plant as it is clearly very rare.”

Vlok described the specimen as “an unusual root parasite, sporting no green leaves and with a series of rather dainty yellow flowers” which protrude through the ground. “The hidden underground stem of this plant sucks its energy from a Karoo Gold shrub [rhigozum obovatum], and, when climatic conditions are perfect, suddenly produces a mass of flowers above ground,” Vlok said. The as yet unnamed plant is closely related to alectra orobanchioides – common root parasites found in areas around the Eastern Cape, in areas stretching towards North Africa, and in India. “We will need more specimens to investigate the critical scientific characters before it can finally be declared a new species,” he said. Vlok, a botanist with more than 30 years’ experience, has made several discoveries of this sort before, with a number of plants being named after him. Samara manager Marnus Ochse was happy about the discovery. “These finds are the fruits of good, solid conservation. “We put a lot of effort into protecting this land, and that’s what results in discoveries like this one.”

Duncan Reyneke

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Friday, 1 June 2012

New dive site discovered at North Island

Situated about 5 miles from the island on the western side with an average depth of 20.5m and a maximum depth of 24.7m, Black Jacks has been named after the “black jack” fish, commonly known by the locals as “Demon jack” which have been sighted here on our fishing trips.
We discovered the site this week and all of activities got to dive the site and explore further. As we descended into 30m visibility, 28 degrees C water temperature, there were at least 4 large nurse sharks swimming around on the bottom.  Having never seen divers before they promptly made their exit and hung around on the outskirts of the reef until we started to ascend, at which point they came back onto the site.  We had quite a strong current on the site and it will thus need to be kept for the more advanced diver. There is amazing coral on this reef, in large numbers and in excellent health.  The small reef fish life on this site is mind blowing!!!  The site is very similar in shape to “The Spot” with all of the action happening on the main site, where after it slopes down to deeper depths of 24.7m and onto sand.

A little more information on the Black Jack…
The black jack, Caranx lugubris (also known as the black trevally, black kingfish, coal fish and black ulua), is a species of large ocean fish in the jack family Carangidae. The species has a circumtropical distribution, found in oceanic, offshore waters of the tropical zones of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The species is particularly prevalent around offshore islands such as the Caribbean islands in the Atlantic, Hawaii and French Polynesia in the Pacific and the Seychelles and Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Black jack are rare in shallow waters, preferring deep reefs, ledges and seamounts in clear waters. The species is easily distinguished by its black to grey fins and jet black scutes, with the head having a steep profile near the snout. The largest recorded length is 1 m and weight of 17.9 kg. The black jack lives either individually or in small schools, and is known to school with other species. It is a predatory fish, taking a variety of fish, crustaceans and molluscs as prey. Sexual maturity is reached at 34.6 cm in females and 38.2 cm in males, with spawning taking place between February and September in the Caribbean. The early life history of the species is very poorly understood. Black jack are of high importance to many island fisheries, but are rarely encountered in most continental fisheries. The species has a reputation as a game fish, and is variably considered a terrible or excellent food fish, although several cases of ciguatera poisoning have been attributed to the species. The species was initially named Caranx ascensionis by Georges Cuvier, however several issues with the use of this name have seen Felipe Poey’s name Caranx lugubris become the valid scientific name.

We are very excited to add this new site to our collection of amazing dive sites and look forward to exploring here further.

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Kenya to build underwater Museum

Construction on a museum, which will be dedicated to the study of marine life and shipwrecks, is set to begin soon.

Malindi Marine National Park that is located to the south of Malindi town at about 118 km from Mombasa town in Kenya is on the brink of building Africa's first underwater museum, which will be dedicated to studying marine life and shipwrecks.

Designs of the proposed museum, which is expected to be open in 2014, have already begun with the help of US architects and a budget for construction costs is being discussed at government level.
"Apart from studying shipwrecks that happened in the Indian Ocean Coast, we will also be studying the marine life that exists [there]... Construction is set to begin soon and it is expected to be fully operational in the next two years," said Cesar Bita, head of archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.

Kenya will be one of the few countries in the world to have an underwater museum. The US and the United Kingdom have such facilities as well as China, which has the world's largest underwater museum. Egypt is carrying out studies to also construct an underwater museum but it has not advanced its initiative like Kenya.

The museum will be located in the shores near the town of Malindi, a popular tourist destination. "Shipwrecks attract a lot of fish which feed on micro-organisms on the wood (of the ships) and they are also a habitat for the fish and several other aquatic species. We will partner with many organisations in the study of marine life," said Bita. "The marine life that we aim to study is several species of fish, turtles, and even dolphins because there seems to be a relation between feeding and the shipwrecks," Bita added.

For more information on trips to Kenya please contact our Safari Experts or call 01227 753180