Newsletter December 2013
ALERT's latest news
a responsible development approach to lion conservation AFRICA NEEDS LIONS December 2013 The Dambwa Prideâ€Ś September saw the continued integration of Rusha and Zulu’s cubs into the Dambwa pride and on the 2nd September Zulu was overwhelmingly flavour of the afternoon. His cubs delighted in crowding th him, rubbing against him and only leaving him when Rusha offered herself up to them for a suckling session. But a few days later on the 4 the cubs had been safely stored away somewhere, and the adults were flying solo. It was a sweltering afternoon that initially saw very little action. It was Temi’s self-grooming session, which progressed into grooming Loma, which served as the trigger that slowly stirred the pride. After a great deal of peering into the distance from Rusha, Temi took control and led the pride on a move towards waterpan 3. En-route Zulu effortlessly leapt into the branches of a tree and began scanning to the West. Satisfied that all was well in that direction he now seemed keen to come back down to earth and catch up with his girls. Having confidently and gracefully ascended, he didn’t seem quite so sure-footed about the descent and his dismount was far from ‘a perfect 10’. The morning of the 11th found all 10 members of the pride in the East of the site, on the border of Sahara. The pride was finishing off the remains of a carcass, and that included the three RS cubs. Whilst we can’t be sure this was their first encounter with meat it was certainly the first time we’d seen them eating solids. They huddled in a small circle next to Rusha as they picked off scraps of th meat from various bones. Despite the relentless heat of the early summer months the pride stayed surprisingly active over this time. The following afternoon (12 ) the pride was once more minus the cubs, and sprawled in various states of repose between waterpan 3 and the northern boundary. Kwandi headed a move towards pan 3, but the pride only stopped for a brief refreshment before continuing East, with Zulu trailing far behind but gamely plodding along. On reaching Bwizu, the pride fanned out and settled back down, but minutes later Rusha was up on her feet again and heading back West. After 15 minutes or so she’d reached Kariba, where she called once, and then once more. The calls elicited the response she’d been looking for and her cubs came barrelling out of a collection of bushes about 50m away. Having rounded up the excitable trio, she herded them off in the direction of the pride for the evening. th Early morning on the 18 and the lions were taking advantage of the cooler hours with a bit of play before heading to pan 3. But as they came to rest, Temi and Rusha kept heading East. They didn’t get far however before they were stopped in their tracks when the rest of the pride could be heard roaring. While Temi made a U-turn and headed back to join them, Rusha carried on. Disappearing into the Northern boundary for several minutes she eventually reappeared with RS1, RS2 and RS3 scampering along behind her. As they bounded down the road after her they’d stop every couple of dozen metres to stalk, chase and clamber all over one another. On reaching pan 3, only Temi and Zulu were still present and Rusha was soon overwhelmed by demands for milk. After several more days with the pride, Rusha – perhaps wisely – chose to keep the cubs separate on the afternoon of the 20th. With the scorching temperatures fraying tempers amongst the adults, Rusha and her young spent the day alone at Pan 3. Hot, bothered and irritable RS1 took out her frustrations on Rusha; biting and scratching her. But Rusha knew how to placate her unhappy daughter and rolled over to allow her to suckle. A welcome respite on the morning of the 25th came in the form of some slightly cooler weather. Rusha was initially alone with her cubs in Puku Dambo, but it wasn’t long before we heard the rest of the pride calling from the direction of Grand Canyon and sure enough the rest of the pride arrived on the scene. The cooler temperatures meant the cubs were at their most athletic and Zulu was once more at the centre of their attentions. For several minutes he patiently sat still whilst the cubs climbed all over him, bit, scratched and generally made a nuisance of themselves. Only once did the daddy cool veneer crack resulting in a warning nip towards RS3. th By the 27 of September Dambwa was really cooking – in more ways than one. The relentless heat and humidity continued unabated, but now Zulu was paying a much keener interest in Leya th than was usual. Whilst at this point she wasn’t accepting his advances, it was clearly only a matter of time and by the 29 Zulu’s luck was in and the pair began mating. The other important piece of information gleaned that day was that Kela was missing from the pride. Having mated with Zulu in June, she was right in the middle of her possible due dates, leading to the conclusion that in all likelihood she was denning. Whilst it would take time to confirm this, that morning the RS cubs continued in their pursuit to win over the rest of the pride. The L sisters of Loma and Leya had previously shown some intolerance towards the cubs, although never aggression, but that morning Loma had no say in the matter, and while her sister was busy mating with Zulu she was mobbed repeatedly by the trio. Heading into October, Kela remained elusive and the pride remained quiet as the lions sought shade for several days. By the 10 of October, Kela’s signal still remained in the same area and we’d still had no sighting of her. Early the next morning however, the pride was in Kariba and had been joined by their missing sister, who was engaging in a bout of play with RS1. As it began to get a bit too heavy-handed (on Kela’s part) Rusha called her daughter back over to her. As the young cub waddled over Kela followed too. It was at this point that we could see Kela’s body in full and confirm that she had been suckling cubs. She remained with the pride for around an hour, enjoying engaging in a little social activity before heading back in the direction of her suspected den site. Over the rest of October, Kela continued to make brief appearances from time to time, and around the 15 it appeared that she had moved her den site further South. Around the end of the th month she began spending increasing amounts of time with the pride; which is a similar pattern to what we saw with Rusha. But on the 28 it seemed that Kela was re-entering oestrous and Zulu was certainly paying her plenty of attention. The following day the pair were mating frequently and continued to do so for several days. Whilst it isn’t entirely unheard of for females with young cubs to mate, this is typically in response to an incoming male takeover in an effort to protect existing cubs. As Zulu is the only mature male in the site, this shouldn’t be a concern of Kela’s. While we continued to monitor Kela closely over the following weeks over time it was eventually undeniable that she had either lost or abandoned her cubs. It was also around this time that the pride began to spend a lot more time in discreet sub-groupings. Rusha began spending a bit more time than previously observed with just her cubs, or with the cubs and Temi. Meanwhile, if Temi wasn’t with the R family she seemed to be enjoying some solo time out east. Of course, Zulu was keeping Kela company while the rest of the females did their best to stay clear of the over-protective male. st Having spent several days in the Acacia boundary with a carcass, the R family reappeared in suitably gruesome fashion on the 31 October. With the cubs’ faces still mucky from their recent feast, mum had brought them out to pan 3 for a bit of fresh air and daylight! But the happy scene was soon shattered by the distress cries of a zebra coming from the East. Rusha was off like a shot, leaving her cubs scattered to the wind. She sped through the Eastern side of Puku Dambo and crossed into Bwizu, honing in on the source of the noise; a sub-adult zebra with Leya around its throat. As fierce a hunter as Leya has always been, her sister Loma couldn’t be more different and she sat a few metres away as her sister wrestled to overcome their prey. Thankfully, the largest lioness in the pride was on-hand to help out and Rusha offered her considerable weight to help overwhelm the animal. But the zebra wasn’t giving up without a fight. When Loma did dare to get up and offer a hand she was rewarded with a bite to the right cheek by the stricken zebra. Unfortunately for the zebra, the lions bit harder and within minutes Leya and Rusha had finished the job. th th As soon as the deed was done, Rusha headed back West, and it was once more left to Leya to haul the carcass into cover which took the exhausted lioness a further 10 minutes (all watched over by Loma, of course). Spent of her last ounce of energy, Leya allowed Loma to begin feeding while she recovered her breath at which point Rusha returned with three bug-eyed cubs. Despite RS3’s attempts to sneak in past the Ls the youngsters had to wait until their aunts had finished their initial feeding. But then it was game on and Rusha waited patiently to one side as the cubs gorged themselves before she fed herself. The 1st November brought some refreshingly cool weather with it, and the afternoon found Rusha and the cubs guarding the remains of the previous day’s kill. RS1 set the tone for the afternoon by ambushing Rusha, and was rewarded for her stealth with a light reprimand from her mother. But the cool weather, and extra energy from the recent feed was just too much for the cubs to contain. Then, when their stern aunts Leya, Loma and Kwandi appeared later in the afternoon, the youngster couldn’t rein in their enthusiasm and made a comprehensive nuisance of themselves. The following afternoon was a blessing and a menace. After a week or two of scattered sub-groups the whole pride was together in Sahara. The pay-off however was that the majority of them were hidden away in bushes. A favourite spot in Sahara is that of an oval of trees approximately 50m in circumference, with a large clearing in the middle that in the rainy season even sports its own natural water pan. On sort of half display that afternoon in the clearing was Rusha and her mini-RSs. As is becoming the norm, while the adults sleep the hours away the cubs have much better things to do, like jump all over one another, and their mother. Finally giving up on any hope of a nap Rusha engaged with her cubs in small bouts of play or sat patiently whilst they bit and clawed her, occasionally emitting soft calls to them, which would earn her a greeting or a nuzzle. Her patience and natural aptitude in raising her first litter is something that has been a constant source of enjoyment to watch over the months. But that patience is now coming to an end. While the cubs are becoming increasingly present at kills, by four-and-a half months old Rusha was starting to show a greater intolerance towards them sucking. At first, her denials of milk only surfaced when all three tried to suckle at once, whereas just one or two at a time would usually be accepted. RS1 learnt this game better than her siblings. She would sit quietly to one side while her brother and sister fought for space, and consequently annoyed Rusha to the point that she’d roll over and deny them access. Once RS2 and RS3 had given up any hope of more milk she’d creep over and latch on for some impressive 30-40 minutes suckling sessions. As the smallest cub, perhaps she’s making up for lost time! But by mid-November and now five-and-a half months old, Rusha would rarely let even one cub at a time suckle for more than a few minutes. Much to the cubs’ disgust, the weaning process had begun. th To recompense for this loss the cubs were at another kill early on the morning of the 8 November with their mother, Leya and Loma in South Kariba. Spirits were once more high, and the cubs had clearly fed well already as Rusha led them away from the kill site North towards Water Pan 3. But they didn’t get far before Rusha spotted a herd of zebra. Despite the full bellies the instinct to respond to the stimulus is hard-wired, and Rusha lowered to a crouch, and began her advance. Like a Grade-A student, RS3 found a small incline and watched as her mother approach the zebra. Meanwhile RS1 and RS2 scampered incessantly around her feet until they had successfully alerted the zebra to their presence. th On the afternoon of the 11 Temi was causing havoc in Tsavo. The lone lioness appeared literally from nowhere, but walking straight towards a herd of grazing zebra. The gusting winds and grey skies lent a suitably eerie backdrop, as she remained unflinching in her advance. As the zebra kept grazing, Temi shortened the distance between herself and them from 300m to 100m, just as the zebra moved off to find more fresh green shoots. Temi suddenly reappeared, “jogging” in wide right flank. It was clear a noisy vehicle trying to get a view of what was going on wasn’t going to help either party, so we left to observe another group of lions – but at the end of the afternoon the cat-and-mouse game between Temi and the zebra was still playing out. That other group of lions turned out to be Rusha and her cubs, who were at Pan 2. It seemed as though she might be searching for the rest of the pride (earlier that afternoon we’d seen Kela at the pan, and Rusha was now circling the area nose to ground, possibly trying to pick up the scent of which direction her pride mate had gone). But the cubs were having none of it, and while Rusha seemed to be desperate for a little bit of adult company, the cubs flung themselves at her legs, haunches and face – over and over again. The morning of the 13 found Leya in bellowing form, as she decided it was time that the rest of Dambwa woke up. As the sun rose, Kela and Kwandi sat a short distance away as their sister roared in all directions. It didn’t take long before a reply came from the West; unsurprisingly Loma soon appeared walking towards the group, with a dishevelled looking Zulu trailing behind. The 14th saw the pride join Temi in the East of the site on a kill she’d made the previous day. With stomachs more than full, the lions were resting a few hundred metres away from the remains around a natural waterpan that had started to form from the few showers that signalled the incoming rainy season. The cubs were in fine form, sticks were a source of great fascination which they carried around proudly. But the best thing of all was a collared dove who had been foolish enough to dare to come and drink. The young male, RS2, led the stalk around the water leading his sisters to within a metre before their avian friend decided to fly away. The morning of the 22 November found Kela alone at pan 3, stomach bulging and face dirty. It was immediately obvious she’d fed recently and a search further East revealed the rest of the pride just off the main junction of the Lusaka Road with Pan 2 picking over the last remnants of what a few hours ago had been a zebra. Leya, Kwandi, Rusha and her daughters all fed, while RS2 was already fit to bursting and hauled himself up on the anthill to try and digest his big belly. Having crammed every last ounce she could in, Leya then led the pride (except the RS family) on a short jaunt to pan 2. Pretty soon, Kela joined them from pan 3 and it was soon lights out. With barely enough time to digest that meal, three days later on the 25 we discovered the pride in two groups; Rusha in Kariba and everyone else in the East in Chisamu. With the barest amount of activity from the Chisamu group we chose to see if Rusha had found her cubs, who she had been calling to in the Northern boundary just as we had left her. On returning to Kariba we discovered she had indeed retrieved them, and not only that she had brought them to a fresh zebra carcass that she had likely killed earlier that day. As is increasingly the case, even with fresh food nearby the cubs’ attention was more fixed on mum than anything else. And as ever, Rusha patiently sat and allowed herself to be pummelled for most of the afternoon before the cubs finally lost interest and turned their attention to the kill. A search was launched on the afternoon of the 27 as Rusha seemed to have misplaced her three little bundles of joy. Either that or more likely they’d taken it upon themselves to explore unsupervised. Rusha clearly seemed of the opinion that her cubs should have been in Chisamu. With Temi at her side she walked in continued circles, calling for her cubs to come. But there was no reply. At the end of the afternoon the pair settled on the borders of Sahara and Chisamu none-the-wiser after their extensive search. The search must have continued after dark as by the following day all 10 members of the pride were together in Sahara. The cubs were still determined to get some milk from Rusha, but she was adamant; the bar is closed. The following morning Kela, Kwandi, Leya, Loma and Temi were in Tsavo, whilst the Rs and Zulu remained hidden away for the day. It was a quiet morning with the five, until just before midday when a herd of zebra began crossing the area. By all accounts the herd was totally unaware that the lions were so close by and the continued ambling through. The lead zebra went ahead of the others and passed by the lions to within 10m, before suddenly bolting; presumably having seen the wide-eyed threats meters from it. Incredibly though, the rest of the herd followed in its tracks rather than taking a different route and they passed one by one. By all accounts they didn’t see the lions. But as the herd passed, Leya and Kwandi launched a chase just as the last one drew level. The zebra caught a lucky break that day, and despite coming within inches of the predators they all lived to tell the tale. That day. On the morning of the 8th December the first lions seen were Rusha’s cubs; apparently by themselves. As they waddled across Tsavo, an urgent looking Rusha appeared several hundred metres behind them and marched after them. Two calls from Rusha stopped the cubs in their tracks. Making a U-turn they galloped back towards her. Ushering them back to the rest of the pride everyone settled down for the morning. A few hours later however things seemed suspiciously quiet, and Rusha realised that her offspring were once more gone. Scanning the area, she called twice but got no reply and no cubs came scampering back from wherever they were hiding. So hauling herself up, she headed out into Tsavo and called again. She continued South across the area, calling at frequent intervals and after a couple of hundred metres Kwandi was intrigued enough by all the noise to come and assist. For close to 40 minutes Rusha searched the area, repeatedly calling (Kwandi gave up after a mere five minutes) before disappearing into the Northern boundary where she continued to call. How much of a telling-off the cubs got for their latest disappearing act is unknown as the next we saw of the lions was the following afternoon. Rusha had just brought her offspring to a kill that had been made minutes earlier by Kela, Kwandi and Leya. As the trio responsible for the meal huffed and puffed and tried to catch their breath to one side everyone else got stuck in. The following morning, with every last scrap of meat cleaned from the bones, the pride had relocated to the nearby Pan 3. As over the morning one by one the pride left, Kela was left minding Rusha’s cubs. When a herd of puku approached the group, RS3 was practically clawing to get a good look at them. Unfortunately Kela proved far from the perfect baby-sitter, and with her stomach still full from the recent zebra feed she wasn’t interested in giving the young cub any lessons in hunting. th th nd th Annual Game Count Mana Pools National Park is UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds a special place in many visitors’ hearts. Unfortunately the area is under threat, but there are many working towards a secure future. A team from ALERT travelled to the wilds of Mana Pools National Park in September to join the Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) group for the annual game count. Every year some 200+ volunteers meet at Nyampei Camp along the banks of the Zambezi River. Splitting into teams, they venture out along transects divided over the 45km² floodplain. The aim of these 2-6km long transects is to count all mammals and birds sighted to provide WEZ with yearly information on populations. What is so unique about Mana Pools is that transects are carried out on foot and so one can truly find themselves immersed in one of Africa’s last true wildernesses. ALERT’s representatives arrived on the th th 13 September with work beginning early on the 14 . The first morning’s sightings were dominated by visuals of elephants lolling their way to the river. The keen eyes of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) scouts joining the team spotted a sub-adult lioness trotting through some thick jesse bush. With the scouts leading the way the team followed for a better visual. Three subadults were spotted – a female and two males, presumably spending the morning away from their natal Mucheni pride, which had been spotted on another nearby transect earlier. That night the team set up a camera trap in hopes of catching a glimpse of the camp’s nocturnal visitors. When morning came the footage was reviewed revealing stills of a shadowy hyena and a curious elephant cow. After the second day’s morning count, word soon spread through camp that a buffalo kill had been located c. 1km from camp and was being guarded by two adult male lions. The coalition are thought to be the ruling males of the Mucheni pride, but with no sign of any lionesses it appeared the two boys had thrown the ‘lazy male lion’ rulebook out of the window and sourced dinner themselves! As night fell the team decided to try and strategically place their camera trap where the lions just might pass by the camp. The following morning revealed the two lions casually making their way past camp, presumably back to their pride. Thirty eight different lions were located over the 48-hour count, all different ages and genders suggesting there is a healthy and growing population on the floodplain. It is crucial efforts like the annual game count continue to ensure wildlife populations are monitored closely and therefore conserved effectively. ALERT would like to thank WEZ for inviting us once again to assist with the count, and look forwards to next year. Painting the town Green Litter is ugly, harmful to plants, degrades natural areas and poses a serious threat to wildlife. A collaborative effort between Lion Encounter, African Impact, government organisations and members of the public is underway to keep Livingstone tidy. The mission to clean up Livingstone and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park started back in November. A taskforce comprising ALERT, Lion Encounter Zambia, African Impact and 30 local school children set to work in the National Park. Each day, those based at Lion Encounter have the privilege of working in the beautiful environs of the Park, which runs along the banks of the Zambezi River. But along the main road through the Park, piles of litter are constantly dumped at the side of the road, or thrown out of moving cars. This not only creates an eyesore, but poses a serious threat to the Park’s wildlife. The MOT NP is home to a seasonal elephant population, sable, hartebeest, white rhino, zebra, giraffe and an array of other species – as well as the mighty Victoria Falls. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area attracts thousands of visitors every month. Unfortunately, its status has done little to deter visitors and residents alike from dumping waste in the area. Armed with gloves and rubbish bags, four teams set out along the main road. By the end of the afternoon the teams had covered 7km², filling over 80 bags with plastic bottles, aluminium cans, plastic bags, food trays, cigarette butts, beer bottles, shredded tyre rubber, car parts and more. After a job well done, the dedicated pickers were then treated to refreshments by the Zambezi River. The litter pick was such a success that plans are underway to make it a monthly activity in conjunction with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA). December saw attentions turn to the town of Livingstone itself. Lion Encounter and African Impact staff and volunteers were this time joined by children from the Linda Community School and Natebe Primary School, as well as staff from Livingstone City Council’s Waste Management Unit. The day started out at the Civic Centre with a lesson about litter prepared by volunteer Shelley, followed by a road safety talk from African Impact’s Vicky Poland. With the group ready, litter was collected from both sides of the Mosi-Oa-Tunya Road (the main arterial road through the town) before heading on to Nakatindi Road (which leads away from the town and residential areas towards the National Park). The city council aided the effort by providing a refuse collection tractor and wheelie bins – which helped make the work a little easier in the morning’s climbing temperatures. A big thumbs up to everyone who participated in these events! Fundraising news Victoria Falls volunteer, Lucy Argyle, overcame a bucket full of nerves when she took part in a 10,000ft skydive to raise funds for ALERT. It was during the safety briefing that the enormity of what she was about to undergo hit Lucy: “The worst part of it was when the instructor described the part where you are hanging out of the plane waiting to jump,” she recalled. Initial fears aside, once Lucy was actually outside the aircraft she began to enjoy the experience. “I don’t think a fear of heights applies when you’re that high up, because your brain just doesn’t comprehend it,” she explained. “It was probably scarier coming in to land; it felt like being on a really good rollercoaster!” Meanwhile, Laura Marie Gibson’s attempt at skydiving originally had to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions; and her rescheduled attempt almost went the same way. But the September clouds began to break and the jumpers were summoned for their 15 minute roll call. This meant that Laura was introduced to her instructor and given a jumpsuit and harness to wear. As she was the only tandem jumper in a group of solo skydivers, Laura’s instructor explained that she would be taken up to a height of 15,000ft, instead of 10,000ft. This would necessitate a standing exit rather than the usual seated one. Naturally, Laura was quite nervous on the journey up, but when it came to exiting the plane, she was concentrating hard on getting into the correct position that the next thing she knew, she was in free-fall with the cameraman recording the moment for posterity. We’d like to send a big thank you to both Lucy and Laura Marie for their daredevil efforts! We would like to extend our gratitude on behalf of ALERT and all the children who benefit to all at the Midlands Children’s Hope Project (Norway) for their donations of over £20,000 during 2013. If you would like to organise a fundraising even on ALERT’s behalf, we would be very grateful. Please contact ALERT’s Development Co-ordinator, Helen Rennie, to discuss your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org To raise much-needed funds for the Gweru branch of the ALERT Education Centre (AEC) Antelope Park’s lion and community volunteers organised and took part in a trivia night back in September. As well as raising money, the event also proved to be a great way for volunteers to get to know a bit more about each other. Healthy competition reigned, as there were prizes and of course the honour of being Antelope Park Trivia Champion at stake. Congratulations to the winners – Team Uchafa – who were each awarded a lion activity of their choice. A special well done to Research Intern, Lorna, the overall Trivia Queen. Lorna generously donated her prize of a personalised photo slideshow of her activity to her team mate, Erika. The AEC costs around $1,250 per month and is funded entirely on donations. The $100 raised by the volunteers covered transport costs for one week, enabling AEC students to be collected from their school and returned again after each class. If you would like to help the AEC continue to offer Conservation Education to the children of Gweru, please make a donation here and state that it is to be used for the ALERT Education Centre. Your support is greatly appreciated. Back in September, Heath Jones, an Antelope Park volunteer, ran the Run Melbourne Half Marathon to support ALERT’s work. During Heath’s first trip to Zimbabwe he visited Antelope Park to take part in a lion walk. At that stage however, Heath was more interested in getting a good photo than in lion conservation. It wasn’t until he got home that Heath began to look into what ALERT was all about and became so interested that he returned to Antelope Park as a volunteer. In turn, he became a strong advocate for ALERT and the Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild program. Deciding to take his support further, he began training in preparation for Run Melbourne. Determined to make it all the way to the end, he trained rigorously for the big event. On the day, his months of preparation along with thoughts of the lions he had worked with during his time in Zimbabwe kept Heath going, particularly around the 17km mark where his legs began to turn to jelly. Heath successfully completed the half-marathon and now hopes to go on to even greater things. “Now that I know I can run a half marathon, my next challenge is running a full marathon!” ALERT would like to thank Heath for his continued support. Stage one news Victoria Falls: On the 6 September, the 2Ts at Lion Encounter Zimbabwe were making their way across the Masuwe River when Thuli’s posture suddenly took on a very predatory stance. Out of the bushes, a male impala came hurtling towards them – with a pack of African wild dogs in hot pursuit! Thuli took on the wild dogs, charging them and breaking their formation, whilst sister Thembile took the reins on the impala. Surrounded by predators, the impala literally had nowhere to run and Thembile swiftly pulled it to the ground. Having chased off the competition, Thuli raced over to help her sister finish off the kill! Antelope Park: Antelope Park’s 2Rs were on an afternoon walk in September and were playfully climbing a favoured tree. But all ideas of play soon went out of the window when they spotted a bachelor herd of impala. Rusizi leapt from the tree and began flanking to the left, while her brother, Ruvubu, took a direct approach. As the impala headed into a dry riverbed, Rusizi had already anticipated their next move and was waiting. As the last impala made its way into the depression, she raced towards it and the impala struggled to get away on the unstable terrain. On the impala in a flash, Rusizi wrestled it to the ground. Ruvubu made a beeline for his sister and after a couple of minutes the siblings had successfully made their second kill. By November, the Rs had something a little more substantial in mind. On a morning walk the duo encountered a large herd of zebra and immediately began to stalk towards the herd. Even with the stallion standing his ground and squaring off against the lions, the Rs continued to advance. Rusizi flanked, whilst Ruvubu took up a direct approach, attempting to distract the stallion from his sister’s approach. It didn’t work however, and the stallion repeatedly charged the lions until they grew wary enough to back down. In December, the 2Ds were stalking a herd of impala on an afternoon walk. As the lions approached, the alert impala decided it was time to move on and made a break for it. Dala initially chased, but soon headed back to the brush where the herd had first been spotted. Going out of sight, she reappeared from the bushes a few minutes later with a new-born impala in her mouth. At first everyone thought she had made her first kill, however once she came closer it became clear that this impala had almost certainly been dead when she found it. A good bit of foraging from Dala nonetheless. th Livingstone: The 8SN cohort has been seeing greater opportunities to develop their hunting skills over October and November. As the region waited for the rains to start, and with little surplus water in area, the game in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is forced to come to the banks of the Zambezi River. In turn this gives the young lions a higher prey encounter rate than other seasons. On the 17 October, Nuru and her walking group 2NS were heading along the Zambezi River on a morning walk when Nuru spotted a lone impala. Brother, Ndulu, and sister, Sadiki, were completely oblivious and too busy playing. But Nuru wasn’t letting such a good opportunity pass her by and launched the chase. The hunt came to a definitive conclusion at an area of the river called Kela-Kwandi pool. It was here that Nuru was able to catch the impala, which had an existing injury to one its back legs. This could be seen as a lucky break for Nuru, but lions do predate on weaker animals – whether that be inexperienced young, injured or sick animals or the old or weak. With her proud catch, Nuru had quite a long wait before she was joined by Ndulu and Sadiki. Her siblings still had no idea what was going on and had to led to Nuru and the impala! Nuru isn’t the only lion in Livingstone making waves. On st the 21 October, the-then 18-month old Nkoya of the 2N group made her second kill on an adult male impala along the banks of the Zambezi. As the vegetation is so dense in this part of the National Park the hunt took part mostly out of sight of staff and volunteers. While all the action was obscured by thick riverine foliage, the end result was clear enough; kill number two for Nkoya. th 1 A bad time to be an impala: from top, Thuli and Thembile; Rusizi; Nuru and Nkoya and Namwala A variety of research programs are underway in the Zambezi National Park, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. You can join these projects as a volunteer, click here for details. Read on for the latest news from them Large predator assessment: Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park (ZNP) is home to five large predator species; lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and the African wild dog. However no attempt has previously been made before to determine species population size and distribution within ZNP. To date, our research team and volunteers have surveyed 43% of the Park’s 56,200ha, Using driven transects and a spoor and scat survey, the team have begun to build baseline data on the predator populations. Hyena is the dominant predator species, whilst few signs of cheetah have been observed. Both hyena and cheetah observations have been made in areas lacking signs of other large predators, whilst lion and leopard signs have been discovered together in several areas. Meanwhile, no evidence has been found of wild dogs on transects, however they have been observed in areas close to the Park. Looking forward, once enough baseline data has been collected, the information will help guide and inform species specific studies that will be able to focus on those areas of known occupancy. The ultimate aim of the study is to assist in the creation of conservation management plans for each species within this locale to ensure their long-term viability. Predator deterrent lighting system: In April and June of this year three predator deterrent lighting systems were installed in the Jambezi communal lands area of Zimbabwe and at the African Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM). The aim of installing these units was to monitor and determine their effectiveness against predator attacks on livestock kept in bomas overnight. Such deterrents have been deployed across Kenya and Tanzania in areas of high predation, by lions in particular. Anecdotal reports suggest the lights are maintaining a 100% success rate at keeping predators away from livestock. However, the ecology, behaviour and habitat of lions and other predators in East Africa differs significantly to that found in Southern Africa. Therefore, questions arose as to whether such lighting systems would be effective in conflict areas in Southern Africa, such as those in Zimbabwe. The first trial was installed at Mr Costa Nyathi’s residence in the Jambezi area. By the time of the installation in April, Mr Nyathi had lost six head of cattle to lions in 2013 and was especially concerned with an increased rate of predation during the upcoming dry season, when lion attacks often peak. To date, Mr Nyathi has reported no further loses or attempted attacks on his livestock at night since the lights were installed. Lions have been sighted in the area and livestock from other bomas have been killed, suggesting that they may be avoiding Mr Nyathi’s boma. A second lighting system was put in place in April at the ACHM, which had also experienced many lion and leopard attacks. The boma at the ACHM is part of a structured livestock husbandry initiative, whereby cattle are moved every four days to prevent over-grazing. This has meant the lighting system has been in used in a variety of habitats and so far no further attacks have been reported. Herdsmen tending to cattle have directly observed lions approaching the boma fitted with lights, and reported the lions approach no closer than c. 100m before moving away. A third lighting system was installed in June, again in the Jambezi area. Again, no further attacks have been reported on this boma. We are currently seeking funding to extend these trials. Entomology survey: An integral part of any habitat and ecosystem is the health and diversity of micro-fauna and their relationship with dominant plant species. The entomological mechanisms of an area dictate the viability of all trophic layers within an ecosystem. Therefore it is vital the insects of an area be studied, assessed and monitored. In the Zambezi National Park, the research team have been sampling plots to measure species richness and diversity. In conjunction with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe, this study also hopes to provide baseline data for an entomological and flora guide of the area. The ZNP, along with many other areas, is currently battling with invasive plant species. The impact of such species can lead to catastrophic trophic cascades if conservation and removal management plans are not implemented. The current entomological study is providing important data to contribute to the management of invasive alien plant species. Baby clothing company Cudaboo cuddles up to ALERT ALERT is pleased to announce a partnership with Cudaboo who will be donating a percentage of profits from its Max the Lion range to aid efforts in lion conservation. Cudaboo provides super-soft, organic baby clothing featuring Max the Lion who will embrace your baby from birth. Cudaboo is as much about comfy cuddles as it is dedicated to raising awareness about conservation and valuing the beautiful natural world around us. The playsuits designed for ages from 0-12 months and the one-size blanket, is made from 100% organic cotton, as certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. Cudaboo is designed in the UK and manufactured in the purest of cotton fileds in Izmir in a factory dedicated to protecting the environment; using no pesticides when planting the cotton or during the growing stage. Organic cotton is softer to the touch, kinder to baby’s skin and benefits the environment. David Youldon, ALERT’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We were so pleased when Cudaboo contacted us to express their support of our work. As we nurture young lion cubs so that they can be released, and in turn, raise their cubs for release into the wild, so Cudaboo’s range will care for your little cubs. We are very pleased to partner with Cudaboo due to their high quality and ethical standards. We are also proud that our lion, Max, was the inspiration for Cudaboo’s chosen lion name.” Bilyana from Cudaboo says, “When we set out looking for charity partners for each of our animal cuddlers, we were searching globally for dedicated wildlife charities that really make a difference in their field. For the lion range, we found the excellent ALERT and for the panda range, Pandas International based in the United States.” By purchasing from Cudaboo, customers can feel good that they are supporting ALERT. Visit www.cudaboo.com to find out more and order. The Ngamo prideâ€Ś The last few months have seen the younger members of the Ngamo pride start to show signs of their th growing independence. On the morning of the 11 September Kenge’s daughters, KE3 and KE4, were bounding around in the dust, full of energy. As the duo tumbled and rolled towards waterhole one, a squawking din caught KE4’s attention. The young lioness spotted dozens of pied crows mobbing a fellow crow that had met its end in the branches of an acacia tree. The growing commotion became too much for KE4 to ignore and she leapt high onto the tree trunk to get a closer look at the frenzy. Not too far away from the Ks were AS4 and AS5, who were also chasing one another around through the site. The game of chase continued past the sleeping Ngamo lionesses until they hooked up with the Ks, but the jubilant and light-hearted mood seemed to disappear. AS5 is now at a pivotal age; not yet fully mature, but nor is he a care-free cub and is beginning to receive dominance-based rebuffs from his pride mates. When approaching 2.5 to 3.5 years of age, male cubs will often be ousted from their natal pride as a natural function to prevent inbreeding. The pride is starting to show some shift in behaviour towards AS5, and most interesting ly AS5 is also demonstrating signs that he is preparing for life as a powerful adult male. After meeting the Ks sisters in Amboseli, AS5 strutted up to KE4, who bowed her head in submission and bared her teeth before diverting his attentions to KE3. Suddenly, KE3 sprinted south through Amboseli with AS5 pursuing. On seeing this, KE4 bared her teeth again and followed the pair whilst AS4 seemed curious and took up pursuit too. The chase was brief with KE3 turning to stand her ground, albeit in full submission of the larger male. After a few spits and slaps, the four sub-adults called a truce and as quickly as the tension sprang up, it dissipated and all four settled down to rest. As September drew to a close clouds covered the Ngamo release site, providing some much needed th relief from the heat of the summer months. And on the 29 the pride was scattered between Masai Mara, Camp and Amboseli. Ashanti, AT1, Kenge, KE3 and Phure were in Masai Mara as a cold wind brought a dash of rain to the release site, the group huddled together for warmth. Milo was soon located in Amboseli, while nearby Nala, Kwali, KE4 and AS4 and AS5 rested, also huddled together to shield themselves from the increasingly hostile elements. But Kwali was restless and moved off into the open, giving the area the once over for any potential meals. After scraping her claws on the trunk of a msasa tree, she moved off towards waterhole 1. Once on Route 66 she headed off into Masai Mara and beelined towards the other group and after a couple of greetings towards KE3 and Phyre, she settled next to Ashanti. th On the 30 the weather continued to wear down the lions’ spirits. With AS5 located on his own in the Tree Tops area, his coat soaked from the rains overnight he was seemingly in search for the rest of the pride. Whilst he vanished into a thicket, company wasn’t too far away as Phyre, Nala and Kwali moved through Kruger. Kwali playfully stalked Phyre as she moved through the long grass before chasing her a short distance. After a quick greeting the trio continued on their way and were soon joined by AS5. The group of four continued into Etosha where the soon met up with Kenge and KE4, and there were greeting abound as the rest of the pride emerged one by one. The morning of the 11th October was bright and sunny in the Ngamo site, and the pride was I the Hwange area. With Milo and Nala absent, the rest of the lions were spread out in all directions keeping an eye out for any passing meals. After a short time, Kenge spotted something in the distance and swiftly rose to her feet. Watched by the others, she steadily made her way up the hill. Pausing to briefly survey the area, she suddenly set off at a brisk pace. As she began trotting towards an aggregation of crows, Ashanti, Kwali and KE4 were soon speeding along behind her, while AT1 and AS5 followed along at a slower pace. The source of interest was some bones from a recent kill. Later in the day, AS4 exchanged a warm greeting with mother, Ashanti, before settling next to her, whereby Ashanti began grooming her, proving that despite AS4 growing up she’s still very much her mother’s daughter. The pride was alerted to a potential meal when the warning snorts of some impala rang out nearby. Kwali was the first to move off, and headed left of the pair of impala standing in the open grassland. Her nieces, KE3 and KE4, quickly followed as the rest of the pride flanked right using the long grass to their advantage. The impala caught the lions’ scent on the wind and swiftly moved off. Kwali was undeterred however, and followed the pair. Concealing herself behind an anthill, she waited for the opportune moment and began the chase. She quickly narrowed the gap between herself and her prey, but their speed and agility was too great for the lion and they were able to evade her efforts. The 23 October was an unusually chilly and wind morning. Phyre AT1 and AS5 were located in the long grasses of Serengeti West. Shortly thereafter, AT1 led the trio along a game path into Hwange. Once in a clearing, they stopped and scanned the area, before Phyre led them towards Route 66, sniffing the ground regularly for any interesting scents. As the group neared Etosha, Milo joined them before AS5 continued on his own. It wasn’t long before they moved off once more in pursuit of a herd of impala and found themselves a good vantage point to watch the grazing herd. AT1 led the assault, flanking left of the herd while Milo and Phyre watched. But as the impala moved into a thicket Phyre joined the hunt and flanked right. An alarm call signalled that the lions had been spotted and the herd fled, while the lions found somewhere suitable to snooze. th The afternoon of the 25 October brought a huge milestone to the Ngamo pride. As the lions woke from their afternoon nap in the Valley area of the site Phyre led them onto Route 66, except Milo who was still in a deep sleep. Soon AT1, along with the KE and AS sub-adults took over the lead but came to a halt after spotting the tell-tale stripes of a herd of zebra in the distance. This served to ignite the young K sisters attention and the pair flanked right into the grass into the long grass. Kenge had also spotted the herd and followed her daughters into cover. rd AT1 and AS4 also joined the hunt when sight was lost of KE3. As Kenge and AT1 moved closer towards the herd the sound of galloping hooves were heard and KE3 was seen hot on their heels. Their immense speed, however, had the better of the young lioness and she soon ran out of steam. As the pride caught up with KE3, they all moved through Camp and into Amboseli, where the herd of zebra was spotted again. Once more, KE3 and KE4 initiated the hunt moving through the thicket straight towards the herd’s direction. Phyre, Nala and Ashanti soon sat down and watched as Kwali joined her nieces, moving through the thicket towards the now restless herd. She then took over the lead, and guided her nieces towards the herd. KE3 and KE4 positioned themselves near a thicket and clung low to the ground, watching their aunt move closer to the herd. As Kwali slid behind an anthill within metres of the herd, a lone zebra walked out of the thicket. Kwali sprinted from behind her anthill and pushed the zebra in the direction of her nieces who were waiting in ambush. The zebra spotted KE4 just in time and leapt over her, right into the grasp of KE3. In one swift movement the young lioness pulled the zebra onto its back. Once the dust had settled it revealed KE3 on the throat for the kill, with Kwali and KE4 helped hold the zebra down. You can see footage of the kill here On the 1st November, perhaps shamed by his young daughter’s success and his relatively low hunting input, Milo showed that he too can be of some use from time to time. The idea that male lions never participate in hunts is based largely on the idea that they steal food from their pride females, as well as other species such as hyena and cheetah. However, male lions are forced to become self-sufficient when ousted as young adults from their natal pride. Once they become old enough to reign over a pride and territory, male lions can then afford the opportunity of chasing subordinate females off their successful kills. But males will get involved in hunts when their strength and weight are required, for instance when hunting buffalo or elephant. Even when top dog, males still have duties to perform in patrolling their territory’s boundaries which may take them away from their hunting females for days or even weeks at a time, and will often kill during this time. Regardless of size, age or gender, a cat is still a cat, and the predatory instinct to chase something moving is a ‘fixed action pattern’. This term describes animal behaviour that is triggered by instinct and is followed by basic rigid actions - chase, catch and kill. And that day, that is exactly what Milo did on spotting a fleeing zebra, the old man launched his chase, brought down the animal and inflicted a fatal throat hold. The lesson to learn here I that no matter how dormant or lazy a lion may appear, it is worth bearing in mind that this animal has a primordial instinct that will transform a sleepy cat into an apex-predator in the blink of an eye. November continued to be prosperous for the Ngamo lions, with fortune this time shining on AT1 â€“ or so it seemed at first. The afternoon of the 12th the pride was resting in Etosha. As the afternoon began to cool AT1 headed off in the direction of Route 66 before moving into the open grasslands of Serengeti East and slowly sunk into a stalking position. Carefully making her way through the grass she honed in on a sub-adult male impala with a limp; the perfect quarry. As the impala moved into a thicket, AT1 seized the chance to close the distance between them and took cover. As the impala moved back into the open, AT1 launched her attack. After a 20m sprint she had the impala in her grasp. You can see the video of the kill here Dragging her kill into cover, she soon began to fed. But the activity of the hunt had attracted some attention from her pride mates. Rustles in the thicket signalled the arrival of Ashanti, AS4 and AS5 causing AT1 to grumble before chasing her half-siblings away. However, the momentary abandonment of the carcass was all the invitation Ashanti needed and she grabbed the impala. AT1 had no choice but to share her feast with Ashanti. But Ashanti decided this kill was for her and her offspring only and AT1 was relegated to the side lines. The afternoon of the 17 found the pride on the move from Serengeti West into Camp. As the pride settled Nala spotted something in the distance. Heading off to investigate she discovered a herd of impala and wildebeest grazing. As Nala got closer, she flanked left into the longer grass to disguise herself. The herd not only failed to notice the danger lurking in the grass nearby, but also the rest of pride rapidly approaching. AT1 was the first to make a move, keeping to the long grass she crouched low as she sought a better position. Nala snuck up behind an ant hill, just a few metres away from the wildebeest â€“ everything seemed set for a perfect ambush of the wildebeest. The next few moments were a blur of fur and legs but the net result was that AS5 jumped the gun and went after the wrong prey. Nala could only watch as the fleeing impala spooked the wildebeest and her meal exited the scene at a great pace followed by a lumbering AS5. th The evening of 18th saw the pride, less Milo, grabbing a quick drink at waterhole 2 and heading into Masai Mara. A herd of zebra could be seen grazing in the distance and the females soon began the stalk.The wind gusted back and forth, serving to alert the zebra to the lionsâ€™ presence and the herd bolted towards waterhole 1, whereby Kenge and AT1 had already caught a zebra and were starting to feed by the time the rest of the pride descended on the area. The start of December continued to be good to the Ngamo pride, with several more kills for the lions to gorge themselves on. And it would seem that despite being the smaller and more agile of th the prey species in Ngamo, impala are currently the favoured meal. On the 5 December, Nala was found pink furred and covered in flies whilst a short distance away Phyre and Ashanti fought over the remains of an impala kill and AT1 and KE3 indulged in a long grooming session together. You can adopt a lion, sponsor a school, orphanage or clinic, or support an anti-poaching unit. Visit our website here for full details. On the look-out for last minute Christmas gift ideas? Consider one of our sponsorship programs. Community news Midland’s Children’s Hope Centre Midlands Children’s Hope Centre’s Founder and Manager, Question Ndou, was thrilled in September when long-running work on the chicken houses was completed: “We have just taken delivery of feeders and water system, and are gearing up to receive the first batch of 500 chicks this Friday,” he commented at the time. “Thank you to Antelope Park for your unwavering support, everybody here is more than excited about this development.” For this project, day-old chicks are bought and raised until they are approximately sevento-eight weeks-old. By which time they are large enough to sell to community members. This creates a sustainable income for the orphanage. th The first chicks arrived on the 6 September, and with 500 of them the chicken house was soon buzzing with activity! The one-day old chicks will be looked after by the orphanage’s boys During the school break, the boys assisted with preparations for the chicks’ arrival before turning their hands to a spot of gardening. Preparations needed to be carried out so that the soil for the designated garden area would be ready for planting crops in time for the incoming rainy season. By November, staff and kids alike had been busy ploughing the beds and planting lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers and chomolia; a leafy green vegetable widely farmed in Zimbabwe. November also saw the first batch of raised chicks sold to the community and local businesses, allowing the purchase of a further 600 chicks. A generous donation received at the start of December from local supporters enabled the completion of on-going plumbing work at MCHC. Two taps were connected for use on the newly-planted vegetable gardens, and for the chickens. A 5,000 litre water tank was also put in place and a 5.5 horse-power water pump was purchased. An electricity transformer has also been installed. The AEC’s Conservation Stars! Over October a further 47 students from Makoba 4 Primary School graduated from the ALERT Education Centre. Even more encouragingly many more students are now eager for their chance to join in the classes. At the graduation ceremony, Antelope Park volunteers presented the students with their certificates and t-shirts before accompanying them on a game drive to spot the wildlife they had been learning about during their classes. th Friday 15 November was a fun day for the 256 AEC graduates from the school. Instead of wearing their school uniform, the students wore their “I’m a Conservation Star” t-shirts to school. The day was designed by teachers as recognition of the AEC’s role in the lives of the pupils who have completed the six conservation modules. You could join us as a Conservation Education Intern at the ALERT Education Centre in Gweru, Zimbabwe, or at the University Times Training Institute in Arusha, Tanzania. Bridging the gap between pupils in Livingstone, Zambia and in Chesham, England Year 8 children of Cheshum County Primary School, located in Bury, Lancashire, have been learning all about Africa, its people and wildlife. As part of this, ALERT’s Director of Research Dr Jackie Abell, was invited to give a talk to the class about lion conservation. ALERT’s involvement in some of the schools based in Livingstone, Zambia, was of particular interest to the children. They wanted to know what they were studying at school, what it’s like to live in Zambia, and what games Zambian children like to play. So the Year 8 children of Chesham took the opportunity of making a Year 8 school-friend at Mukamusaba School in Livingstone through ALERT’s pen pal scheme. Jackie brought the letters to the school on her return trip to Livingstone, and the letters were soon distributed amongst the Mukamusaba pupils. It didn’t take long before the kids were busy compiling their replies back to Chesham. With so much enthusiasm from both pupils and teachers in Zambia and England for this scheme, we hope this will continue and become a first-step in linking Zambian schools with others around the world. Lion Encounter Project Manager Muelnga hands out letters Happy Christmas Kids Club! Lion Encounter Zambia volunteers hold a Kids Club every Saturday morning in Maunga village, one of the villages closest to the Dambwa release site. In October, the volunteers held a sports day at the club to help promote the importance of regular exercise. They played games such as Whatâ€™s the time Mr Fox?, Tug of War and football to show that exercise can be fun. nd The 2 November saw the pre-launch of the Kids Club at Natebe Primary (whilst also still running weekly at Maunga), which is also located in Dambwa Forest. As it was the first time ALERT and Lion Encounter had worked with the school, it was very encouraging to see a total of 58 children turn up for the session. The Kids Club is designed to allow local children the opportunity to play in a supervised and safe environment. Many of these children have to deal with situations way beyond their years. The aim of Kids Club is for the children to take part in informal lessons whilst also being encouraged to relax and have fun. Christmas rounded out the year with students at both Maunga and Natebe learning about how Christmas is celebrated in other countries. The children were fascinated to learn about the traditions in other parts of the world; from decorating homes and Christmas trees, to writing letters to Santa. After the lesson it was time to put some of the information into practice as they made and exchanged Christmas cards â€“ before receiving their Christmas gifts, donated by Lion Encounter volunteers. The summer months have seen the Chinotimba, Dako and Ntabayengwe community gardens in Victoria Falls positively thrive. Thanks to the summer sun, crops are looking green, healthy and good enough to eat. Members of Livingstone’s Twabuka Reading Club have now been divided into three colour groups, according to their reading levels. Blue is for beginners, yellow is for intermediate readers and students who are already able to read well are in the red group. The importance of being able to read cannot be overemphasised, as these students are well aware. This is illustrated in the fact that Elina and Claudia, who were part th of the red group but have now completed their 7 grade examinations, still showed up for their reading sessions in their free time! Antelope Park was approached by Mlezu Primary School in Kwe Kwe, central Zimbabwe, in October to support the school’s ‘Learning is reading, reading is learning’ program. Margaret Ethelston, a return volunteer who works in education in the UK, had recently donated a large number of books to share between local community projects, so the Park was able to give 36 of these to the school. The community gardeners were able to harvest produce as early back as August and September. However, gardeners and volunteers continued to work hard alongside one another to ensure a bumper harvest before the season came to an end. This project ensures that garden members and their families can eat healthily, whilst also providing additional produce to sell onto the community. Festive celebrations were welcomed at Mudavanhu School for the Disabled in December, with a Christmas party for the children, prepared by Antelope Park volunteers. The day began with an enormous amount of food preparation for the vols, but as the kids waited for their Christmas party to begin, they passed the time with music and dance. Although the volunteers had been tasked with a huge amount of cooking, they were able to serve up in good time proving that many hands make light work. To top off a great meal, the volunteers had also brought a cake as a special Christmas treat for the children. The perfect end to the perfect meal! The Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education initiated their second annual National Deworming and Bilharzia Program in November, which provides treatment for children under the age of 15. During this initiative, which was coordinated by local clinics, Antelope Park volunteers assisted nursing staff from Mkoba Polyclinic and Mkoba 1 Clinic. Together they visited schools to ensure that all children had eaten a protein-based snack before distributing medication and registering each child’s details. In all, the teams visited 16 pre-schools and six schools in just five days to treat 6,540 children; a mammoth task but ultimately a great success. Children from the Mickey Mouse Pre-school in Gweru recently took part in a special graduation ceremony. Over the year, Antelope Park community volunteers have been supporting the pre-school. Parents, community volunteers and their teachers took pride in watching these youngsters graduate from the early stages of education.