AFRICA NEEDS LIONS
a responsible development approach to lion conservation
The first ever WORLD LION DAY August 10th witnessed a global celebration of lions intended to inspire the world’s community to support efforts to conserve the dwindling lion populations both in Africa and India. Awareness and fundraising events were held in North America, across Europe, to Australia and New Zealand, as well as in many locations in the lion range states themselves. Over one million people were reached on the campaign’s facebook page whilst #worldlionday was one of the most tweeted hash-tags. Over 24,000 people visited the web site whilst ALERT’s Chief Operating Officer did a live interview for Forbes in advance of the day itself. The campaign was conceived by ALERT but intended to draw attention to lions and the many organizations working towards their survival rather than to ALERT itself. Twenty-five organizations were represented and we hope that each saw an increase in support as a result of this effort. We hope even more organizations will join next year. We are also very grateful for the support of the many people and organizations who helped raise awareness of the campaign including Dereck Joubert, Stephen Fry, John Rendall (of ‘A lion called Christian’ fame) and Slash from Guns N’ Roses. An important aspect of the campaign is to engender year round support for lion conservation. All of the organizations, including ALERT, depend on continued support to ensure that this enduring symbol of strength, nobility, divinity, justice, chivalry and bravery remains a part of our wild heritage forever. ALERT celebrated the day with the help of our fantastic supporters with events in Zimbabwe, Zambia, UK, USA and Belgium. With help from Lion Encounter and African Impact, ALERT took part in a Lion Parade in Livingstone, Zambia. 150 local children joined in a lion art workshop at Mukuni Park before taking to the main street of Livingstone to parade with their banners and posters. The parade was also joined by the Minister of Arts and Tourism, Ms Sylvia Masebo. The Minister was so impressed by the rd event she asked for it to be repeated on the 23 August to welcome UNWTO delegates to Livingstone. In Zimbabwe Antelope Park guests and volunteers held a volleyball tournament that raised over $1900. At Victoria Falls, Lion Encounter staff showed off their football skills during a friendly match with other local teams. ALERT researcher Yvonne Gordon held a fundraiser in Sefton Park, Liverpool, UK and donated the proceeds to ALERT. Past volunteer, Jay Fiers, undertook the “Death March” in Belgium – a gruelling 100km walk in just 24 hours! Past volunteer and mural artist of the ALERT Education Centre, Kelly Langdon, held a lion art workshop in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Children at the event painted their own lion face masks and learnt all about the King of Beasts.
WORLD LION DAY IN LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA
Welcome RS1, RS2 and RS3 to the Dambwa Release Pride
May saw winter settle over Dambwa, a more active pride and the emergence of puku, who usually confine themselves to the cover of the southern and northern tree lines. The puku are a little slower, and a bit meatier, than impala and are therefore a favourite of the lions. It was no surprise therefore that we saw a surge in the amount of hunting the lions were willing to expend their energies on. Even at the strangest times of day. On the 24th Temi was hunting puku in broad daylight in the early afternoon. The rest of the pride’s signals were emitting close by so presumably she’d been resting the day away with the pride when this lone puku had attracted her attention. On several occasions it looked as though the hunt was over when the puku would look seemingly directly at Temi. The huntress remained stock still each time and must have blended in well enough with the dry grass to remain undetected. It took several minutes for her to close the distance to under 20m. Ultimately though, a startled guinea fowl gave Temi’s location away by flying up in the air, screeching a warning and giving the puku the hint that a fast retreat from the area was in order. A fire swept through the site on the 7th of June. By the afternoon the fire was still burning in the South of the site but was slowly dying out. The lions remained in the same area as they had used to avoid the fire earlier in the day – but not all of their attentions were fixed on the smoking danger. Zulu seemed more concerned with Kela; whilst she wasn’t showing any of the signs of a lioness in oestrous, Zulu seemed fairly certain there was something worth sticking close by for. For the last 5-6 weeks it had become apparent that Kela’s half-sister Rusha was pregnant and whilst we had not seen her mating with Zulu, it seemed Kela was about to join the maternity club. By the 9th Kela still wasn’t accepting Zulu’s advances, but he was sticking to her like glue and even charged the other females on a number of occasions – even when they weren’t anywhere near his intended lady love. Finally on the 10th she allowed him to mate her, even if it was on the run. The other females had grown tired of Zulu’s overly aggressive behaviour and had learnt to get out of his way and so when he tried for the umpteenth time that afternoon to mount Kela, Rusha quickly led the other females on a move North. Kela, keen not to be left behind tried to tack herself on the end of the move – but let Zulu quickly mate her. As she tried to catch up to her sisters, Zulu jogged along behind her and so the pattern was repeated throughout the afternoon with the five other girls trying desperately to move away, Kela wanting to stay with them but having to placate Zulu every 5-10 minutes or so. By the time we left them at the end of the afternoon, they’d travelled almost half the site in this bizarre fashion. The next few days continued in this manner with Kela allowing Zulu to mate her, whilst the others tried to keep a respectable. Finally by the 17th all interest between the two seemed to have dissipated and things quietened down (for now) and attentions turned to more important matters; like impala. The fire was a double-edged sword for the lions – the game was now much easier to spot with the majority of the tall grass having gone up in smoke, but they had very little cover with which to conceal themselves. Kwandi could only watch from waterpan 3 as a herd of impala passed within 100m; the impala had already spotted her before she could even start to formulate a plan. The following afternoon was to be a monumental one, even if no one knew it at the time. It started with Temi leading the pride on a move through Kariba and into Puku Dambo and Rusha looking decidedly uncomfortable. It would be the last time we were with the “original” Dambwa pride. Our encounter with the pride a few days later was minus Rusha. We had not seen her and Zulu mating, so did not have a timeframe of when to expect her to den. But given her size and other physical changes in recent weeks, and her increasingly tired and listless behaviour, we suspected she was getting close to denning. It isn’t uncommon for lions to be in sub-groups, but it is rare to find Rusha alone. We didn’t look extensively for her on discovering she was absent from the main group, but did pick up a signal from her collar towards the middle of the site. Fairly confident after several days that she was now with cubs, the confirmation came on the afternoon of the 24th. Midway through that afternoon she joined the rest of the pride and it was clear she had been nursing cubs from the wet rings in the fur around her nipples where the cubs had been suckling. The following weeks were dominated by the comings and goings of Rusha to the pride. But not only that, Temi seemed to have hit a hunting run and spent several days at a time away from the pride ambushing unsuspecting impala in the East of the site. Temi is fairly low-down the pecking order and can often get squeezed out around a carcass. She has plenty going for her though; one of the best hunters in the pride and arguably the best lone hunter she is prone to taking advantage of this and making sneaky secret kills away from the others. With Rusha holed up with her first litter, Kela having recently mated with Zulu the 29th saw Kela’s sister Kwandi now come into oestrous. Signs of Zulu’s interest in her had been noted for several days previously but as June came to a close the potential third litter of Dambwa cubs was busy being made.
With so many changes abound, the pride was spending more time in subgroups than we’d seen for a long time. On the 18th of July we found Kwandi, Rusha and Zulu in Kariba. The trio were sporting a splurge of blood and flies around their faces and so it seemed highly likely they’d recently feasted on something together. Further East in Bwizu, Kela, Loma and Leya were in fine social form before heading East along the North Boundary Road, where they soon hooked up with Temi. After a spot of tree climbing from Loma the group began heading across Sahara and disappeared into the tall grasses for the afternoon. Several lazy days followed, with the only real activity of note being the comings and goings of Rusha, to her den, and Temi as she sneaked off for a sneaky impala on the side. By the 23rd the pride was resting close to pan 1. It wasn’t a particularly exciting afternoon, but we did notice that Rusha seemed particularly restless. As the afternoon drew to an end it seemed that she wanted to move off, but something was holding her back. The following afternoon the pride was dotted around Puku Dambo in two sub-group but it wasn’t long before one joined the other and everyone shifted location to waterpan 3. Whilst Loma was the central focus for a mass social frenzy from sister Leya and half-sisters Kela and Kwandi, Rusha still seemed somewhat pre-occupied. As the pride began moving East, Rusha not only took the lead in the move but pulled out a large lead over the others. Continuing about 1.5km along the North Boundary Road, Rusha suddenly brought the move to a halt as she turned off the road and went and sat 10m or so inside the boundary tree-line. While it took everyone else a good few minutes to catch up the rest of the pride settled on the road in-line with her. A few minutes later and Rusha disappeared completely into the boundary and not long after Kwandi followed her. Two short high-pitched cries drew the attention of the rest of the pride and heads swivelled towards the treeline. Kwandi reappeared and joined everyone else on the road when a third cry was heard. As Zulu repositioned closer to the trees the KLs had spotted a herd of a dozen or so impala further East in Tsavo. But Zulu – as were we - was staying put and a couple of minutes later Rusha came back out of the trees followed by two cubs who were screeching at the top of their lungs demanding more milk. As she reached the road a third cub came racing out of the bushes. Dad Zulu’s reaction was one of overwhelming interest, but with a good dose of caution towards his offspring. You could hardly blame him though as the cubs screeched and ran at him. When he allowed them to approach to less than a metre he was given a clear warning from the nervous new mother. It was several weeks again before we saw the three cubs. While they’re spoor was often seen around the site, mostly around the Eastern roads in Tsavo, Chisamu and Sahara, but as one week turned into two and then three we began to see them increasingly around Kariba, Chobe and Puku Dambo too. They were becoming more mobile! On the 1st of August the pride had been provided a scavenge opportunity early in the morning in the north of Kariba and by mid-afternoon the females had settled at Waterpan 3 in Puku Dambo, whilst Zulu was busy hording the scavenge to himself. It’s possible that the females had also found the scavenge and been chased away by Zulu earlier – as Rusha and Kwandi especially seemed very fixed on the vultures gathering over the scene and all six of the lions know exactly what that kind of an aggregation around an area means. But no-one seemed willing to approach, so instead Kela led the females to waterpan 2.
A rare moment of tension seeped into the pride on the morning of the 4th as most of the pride was found resting in the warming rays of the sun in Kariba. Rusha was one of the members who was missing and we’d heard her signal coming from close to waterpan 2 as we’d made our way through the site. As we sat with the pride in Kariba we soon saw a lone figure making its way towards them from the direction of waterpan 1. As the lions slept on Rusha approached closer and closer. At this point Loma bolted awake and startled by Rusha looming over her charged at the mother. Leya instantly went into a crouch, snarling whilst the rest of the pride flew awake. Rusha immediately rubbed up alongside a still half-asleep Zulu and went in for a head rub with Kwandi. By the looks of things, Rusha simply took the rest of the pride by surprise as the tension soon dissipated, but it just served to show how hard Rusha has had to work to tend to both her cubs and her relationships with the pride. The sight of Leya chewing on a leg bone started proceedings on the 11th; only discernible of that as belonging to a puku at one point by the small cuff of fur above the hoof. As she gnawed away at what little meat still clung to the bones Kela and Loma huffed and puffed their full bellies 10m away. Rusha was by herself a couple of hundred metres South of the trio’s location. She was keeping a watchful eye on the treeline along the southern boundary. Suspecting she may be hiding her cubs in there given the increasing frequency with which small spoor tracks were being seen in this area of the site, we left her alone to look for Kwandi, Temi and Zulu; who remained elusive for the rest of the afternoon. Given the date of when Rusha originally left the pride to den and when we were able to confirm that she was nursing, we have estimated the cubs’ date of birth as the 21st June. In reality it could be a day either side of this date, but even so the cubs reappeared in full view on their (estimated) 8-week anniversary on the 16th August. Obviously most concerned with suckling we were able to spend a bit of time getting to know their individual markings and a little bit about their characteristics. We also discovered that Kwandi is just as attentive an aunt as Rusha is a mother. Despite being something of an old grouch most of the time, Kwandi seems to relish in the cubs’ company – and they hers; when not feeding from mum, Kwandi was the first port of call to clamber over or sleep next to. Sunday 18th also saw the cubs amongst the pride. While the pride had slept the morning away on the 16th as the cubs clambered around, on the 18th there was a little more life. Tails were a source of great attraction to the RS youngsters that morning. Kwandi didn’t seem to care as RS1 yanked and pulled and grabbed at her tail. But soon all three zeroed in on Zulu who initially showed great patience in their playful attentions. But after several minutes enough was enough and he nudged them off his tail to their disgruntlement; their angry cries bringing Rusha over. Undeterred, Loma’s tail was the next victim – but aunt Loma isn’t quite as tolerant as aunt Kwandi, and a flash of teeth and a warning growl sent the cubs scampering back to Rusha.
Fundraising news Helen Rennie, ALERT’s Development Coordinator, describes what drove her to the Roof of Africa “Last month my husband, Mark, and I climbed Kilimanjaro – the highest freestanding mountain in the world, to raise funds for ALERT. While it was the best experience in both our lives, it wasn’t easy and I certainly don’t plan to ever do it again! Even so, I miss being on that mountain every day. Although we were lucky with the weather throughout, I can’t deny it was really very cold during our final ascent in the early hours of the morning. Previously, the views helped to take your mind off the climb when you got a bit tired, but here the only thing you could see was your feet in the beam of your head torch, walking on what looked like the surface of the moon. It was worth it though; the view when we finally reached the summit at 6:25am was literally breath taking. With the sun just beginning to rise, the glaciers glittered in the early morning light and I remember thinking that I will never be anywhere as beautiful again in my life. What made an unforgettable experience even better is the fact that through doing this, we have raised money – over £2,500 – to help ALERT work towards lion conservation. So many people have sponsored us so generously, and Mark and I are very grateful”
ALERT supporter, Kerry Barrett, brought a little touch of Africa to Howbridge Junior School’s Summer Fun Day earlier this month. The event took
When Ben Morgan and Leanne Sheldon visited Lion Encounter Zambia last June for what they now call “a trip of a lifetime”, they couldn’t imagine the mess it would get them into. Once back home from Africa, Ben and Leanne were keen to raise funds for ALERT and decided to undertake a punishing 12 mile long obstacle course. Designed by the Special Forces, Tough Mudder involves running through fire, crawling through tunnels of ice-cold water, suffering electric shocks (!) and mud… lots of mud! Between them they raised over £850, thanks to match funding from Ernst & Young, to make the pain worthwhile. Unfortunately, on the day Leanne was ill and reluctantly had to drop out, so Ben’s brother, Alexander, and his girlfriend, Emma Sykes, stepped into join him. Now Ben (clearly a glutton for punishment) has agreed to go through the whole exhausting experience again – giving Leanne a chance to enjoy a mud bath of her own!
place on a sunny day in the school grounds in Witham, Essex and boasted over 50 stalls including a barbecue, falconry display and of course Kerry’s ALERT stall. Packed full of photographs and information about ALERT’s work, as well as the Ngamo and Dambwa pride, the stall created a lot of interest amongst pupils, their parents and other visitors. Pictures of Lion Encounter Zambia’s 8SN cubs drew the inevitable “ahhhs” and many people were interested to learn more about the community projects supported by ALERT, having presumed that lions were the sole focus of our work. As part of the event, Kerry held a raffle with prizes including a Lion Country DVD and a book singed by ALERT Chief Operating Officer, David Youldon, as well as year’s membership to the Join Our Pride programme. The items were all won by children from the school, who were understandably over the moon with their prizes!
A pride of lions rests near the Etosha Pan in Namibiaâ€™s Etosha National Park Read more about the conservation efforts ALERT is supporting in northern Namibia here. This research desperately needs more lion collars to collect more data. If you can make a donation towards these collars please do so here. If you want to read our complete profile on lions in Namibia click here.
CAN CAPTIVE-BRED LIONS CONTRIBUTE TO SAVING THIS VULNERABLE SPECIES? A scientific journal article by the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) in collaboration with Dr. Jackie Abell of Lancaster University discusses whether existing conservation efforts alone are capable of saving the African lion from extinction. The authors suggest that lions of captive origin can provide an additional source for reintroduction, recognising that this should be undertaken alongside existing conservation efforts. They recognize that reintroducing lions of captive origin has complications. Estimates of lion populations published at the end of 2012 by a team at the Nicolas School of the Environment suggested that between 32,000 and 35,000 lions remain in Africa and that there is “abundant evidence of widespread decline and local extinctions” even in protected areas. The UK-based charity Lion Aid estimate numbers may be as low as 15,000. Ex situ management for threatened species is common in conservation, yet the use of lions from a captive origin is not currently recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), despite the IUCN’s own reintroduction guidelines which state: “The reality of the current situation is that it will not be possible to ensure the survival of an increasing number of threatened taxa without effectively using a diverse range of complementary conservation approaches and techniques including, for some taxa, increasing the role and practical use of ex situ techniques. If the decision to bring a taxon under ex situ management is left until extinction is imminent it is frequently too late to effectively implement, thus risking permanent loss of the taxon… Priority should be given to the ex situ management of threatened taxa and threatened populations of economic or social/cultural importance.” The authors recognize that in situ conservation programs must continue to be the mainstay of efforts to protect habitat for lions to survive. Dr Abell, lead author of the new report, is concerned with a lack of empirical evidence that current conservation solutions for lions are, or can work, in the long term. Given the speed of decline in lion populations; 80-90% since 1975, and the ICUN’s Red List classification assessment that “… the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible”, the authors suggest it is necessary to ensure that there is a back-up plan to complement in situ efforts. The IUCN technical guidelines for ex situ management are based on fulfilment of one or more of the following Red List Criteria: “When the taxa/population is prone to effects of human activities or stochastic events or When the taxa/population is likely to become Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, or Extinct in a very short time. Additional criteria may need to be considered in some cases where taxa or populations of cultural importance, and significant economic or scientific importance, are threatened” (IUCN, 2002). The report argues that for the African lion, both of these criteria apply. However, not everyone is convinced. Critics of the use of captive origin lions in reintroduction programs say that such efforts have yet to present sufficient evidence of merits of ex situ management for lions, and that claims for the need of these programs portray an overly bleak picture of current lion status and on-going conservation initiatives. David Youldon, co-author and Chief Operating Officer of ALERT says: “in situ conservation efforts for lions are central to the species’ survival, and our charity is using a responsible development approach that encourages African solutions to these African challenges. ALERT is also investigating how previous problems of using captive origin lions for reintroduction can be addressed. As part of this effort, ALERT, and our conservation partners, released a pride of captive-bred lions into a fenced natural environment in 2010 that are self-sustained and now have cubs that will be old enough to be considered for release into the wild in 2014. A second pride was released in 2011 with the first litter of cubs being born into this pride recently. Studies undertaken by ALERT, and by independent researchers, suggests that both the released captive-bred prides and their semi-wild born cubs are behaving and developing exactly as you would see in a free-ranging lion pride. Our intention is to publish the results to-date from this pilot program over the coming year.” You can download the full report here.
A FRAMEWORK FOR THE EX SITU REINTRODUCTION OF THE AFRICAN LION A second journal article discusses contributing factors to failed and successful captive-bred species reintroductions and revisits previous ex situ efforts to release the African lion into wild. Whilst past attempts to release captive-bred lions into the wild are largely undocumented in scientific literature, they have valuable lessons to offer future attempts. A framework is proposed for the ex situ reintroduction of the lion based on scientific guidance and previous undertakings. Concerns are raised that captive-bred lions have modified temperament traits and behaviours as a consequence of captivity and human imprinting, an inability to respond adequately to competitive species and predation, and that the focus is on genetic variation at the expense of social traits and behaviours by offering impoverished environmental enrichment. As such, captivebred lions are considered a potential risk to the safety of communities and their livestock in areas where these lions may be released. Dr Abell, lead author of the new report notes that previous efforts in ex situ reintroduction for the lion have not typically been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Consequently it is easy to dismiss the evidence as anecdotal. However, she argues that these efforts provide useful insights for the provision of an ex situ reintroduction programme as a conservation tool for the African lion. The report proposes that an ex situ reintroduction programme, that meets IUCN and AZA recommendations and heeds lessons from previous captive-source reintroduction attempts, can achieve the objective of producing self-sustaining wild lion populations in areas where it has been extirpated or where numbers are dwindling. Moreover, the report proposes that this should now be seriously considered for the African lion. You can download the full report here.
Community news Construction on the new orphanage site for Midlands Children's Hope Centre (MCHC) is ramping up. In May, returning volunteer, Reece Walsh (pictured right), along with fellow New Zealanders Don McLellan and Garry Howard were hard at work building chicken runs for the orphanage. MCHC hope to raise up to 1,700 chickens at a time over the three runs to sell to the community, providing much-needed income for the orphanage. Director of MCHC, Question Ndou said â€œWe were hoping to have chicken runs of a good standard but we never thought what we would receive would be as great as these! They are the best in the area! We are extremely grateful for them!â€? Thank you to Reece, Don, Gary and all the hands that have been involved in getting this done! With the building plans of the orphanage itself formally finalised and approved in May by the Vungu Rural District Council and the Environmental Council, the next item on the agenda was to get the electricity connected to the site, which happened over June. While plans are made for the creation of the new orphanage, the 22 boys who will eventually call the new site home have been busy working on the vegetable plots while June saw the main gate and poles for the perimeter fence put up. In July the boys were full of smiles with the delivery of new mattresses for the orphanage. Until now, the boys were sleeping on bunk beds or on the floor without any kind of cushioning. Now, thanks to the generosity of Antelope Park volunteers, they can sleep in comfort. New blankets, sheets and pillows have also been donated by volunteers, perfect timing with the onset of winter. Midlands Children's Hope Centre runs entirely on donations; your support and sponsorship of the new orphanage will make a real difference to the lives of the boys and their future. Donations are urgently needed to help with the completion of this project. If you can make a donation to help please click here.
Gardeners at the Dako Garden in Victoria Falls had their work made a little easier in May with the installation of a reservoir designed to bring water closer to the garden site. Community volunteers joined project staff to construct the tank. All was going well until the pipes were installed. The team waited, and waited for the reservoir to fill up. But, nothing. Fortunately, Hans, a volunteer who manages a scientific centre in his native Holland came up with a simple, but highly effective idea to solve the problem. Building a funnel at the other end of the pipe allowed the reservoir tank to the quickly fill with water! Once the structure was finished, the hard-working volunteers were able to put the finishing touches to it; their names etched into the wet cement as a lasting reminder of the part they played in assisting the garden project.
The resources available to schools in the Victoria Falls area are extremely limited. Usually the size and condition of the school buildings and the number of teaching staff available are inadequate for the volume of the students who attend. To allow these schools to offer their best standard of education, we provide both manpower and material support, enabling them to enhance their work in the local community. Chikamba Primary School: Community volunteers visited the school in May to hand over donated stationary, exercise books and toys. They had also made two portable boards for the teachers to use during lessons. Project staff were pleased to see that since their last visit the number of teachers at the school had risen, and also that previously donated resources were being put to good use. Neliswe Pre-school: Currently a one-room building, which was previously condemned by the Ministry of Health, the school serves 34 children. Dedicated staff are doing their best in a challenging situation, and community project volunteers are doing their bit to help with a delivery of resources. Simagade Primary School: Of the 146 children who attend this school, 70 are orphans. A critically under-resourced establishment, the staff struggle to provide their pupils with an education under near-impossible circumstances. Despite this, the students were in fine voice when community volunteers paid them a visit. Before handing out donated clothing, books and toys they were treated to some beautiful singing from the children, led by their class teacher. Monde School: Thanks to several generous donations on Friday 28th June the project team attended the school to hand over the first consignment of new desks. The kids have been very crowded in classes using broken furniture, and this negatively affects their concentration. More desks are coming, and a paint job of the school is underway. The school had also requested burglar bars for the school and admin block. With no security the school had lost several important educational assets and teachers were resorting to taking home school resources to keep them safe. With the installation of window bars and gates on doors the staff can feel comfortable knowing that education resources are secure to be used for the purposes they are intended.
ALERT Education Centre, Gweru At the end of May, the ALERT Education Centre’s teacher, Staben, accompanied by some Antelope Park volunteers visited Mkoba 4 Primary during their assembly. Forty two grade six students had celebrated their graduation from the ALERT Education Centre in April. The AEC presented each student with certificates, class photos as well as an “I’m a conservation star” Tshirts during their school assembly. With the chance to show off their T-shirts and certificates in front of their school mates – as well as their new-found expertise in conservation – we hope this class can act as ambassadors amongst their school to encourage others to take up the challenge. Clive - "At AEC I learnt about conserving nature. I didn't know that a cheetah's tail is longer than its body. The program was very helpful to me because even my parents never knew those things. What I enjoyed most was the module 5 ‘Save our Cats’". Thank you Mr Staben." Tsungai - "At AEC I learnt about many things including conservation, African Animals, African countries and tracks & signs. I learn about the cheetah, I did not know the difference between a cheetah and a leopard. Because of Mr Staben now I know about lions and that a tiger is not an African animal. Thank you Mr Staben for your time." Tawadzerwa - "AEC is a beautiful and smart school." Cathrine - "What wonderful things I learnt at the AEC. I salute my teacher for the opportunity and he was kind to us. He taught us important things that I never knew in my life. I will now know to conserve our wildlife, if not, it will be extinct like the Quagga. At the AEC I also improved my English. Goodbye AEC and thank you Sir Staben." Patrick - "The program helped me because now we know how to protect our wildlife." Mercy - "At AEC I learnt that the big five are the dangerous animals. Let me name lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and elephant. The new thing I learnt at AEC is about conservation, conservation is to take care of something. The learning was helpful because I learnt many more things I didn't know. The teacher was helpful, he taught us things we didn't know like African countries and threats to wildlife. Thank you Mr Staben.” Victor - "I learn that conservation is the protection, restoration and preservation of the wildlife. The learning was helpful because I can now know how to conserve. I enjoy the big 5 game, the big 5 is the most dangerous animals. I thank you all that brought us the ALERT Education Centre. Thank Mr Staben."
Benefit Sharing in Dambwa As part of our responsible development approach to conservation, ALERT seeks to create ways that stakeholders can gain benefits from supporting conservation, in turn motivating further support. th
On Wednesday 12 June, the Zambia Forestry Department met with Dambwa community members who together form the Joint Forestry Management Committee for Dambwa. This Committee is a partnership between government and community to share the responsibility for managing the Dambwa Forest, and to share in the benefits created from that management. ALERTâ€™s partners Lion Encounter operate part of the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild program in Dambwa, including a breeding centre and stage two release site; currently housing a total of 24 lions (including Rushaâ€™s cubs). This meeting, hosted generously by the headmaster at Maunga Basic School, was to provide a payment to the committee as a share of revenues generated by the commercial aspects of the lion release program in Zambia; a donation of over US $40,000 to date. With these funds the committee is able to plan longterm and achieve already agreed objectives for the common good of all eight villages surrounding the Dambwa Forest, as well as for maintenance and regeneration needs of the Forest itself. The community have been encouraged by the Forest Department to invest in revenue generating activities; such as bee-keeping, thatching, brick-making and crafts. The Forestry Department appealed to community members to come forward and take up the positions available to them as Honorary Forest Rangers. Such a title allows them to make arrests for illegal activities in the Forest and improper use of its resources. In July our partnership with Greenpop was renewed with another mass treeplanting session in the Dambwa Forest. Greenpop, Lion Encounter and ALERT project teams and volunteers, both foreign and local, joined together to plant 1,000 indigenous trees in Dambwa over just two days to add to the almost 900 that were planted during last yearsâ€™ Trees for Zambia event.
Zambezi National Park In Zimbabweâ€™s Zambezi National Park, close to Victoria Falls, a large predator occupancy survey in underway to assess the distribution of lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and African wild dog. A grid of the Park is being used to identify specific areas within which all sightings and signs of these predators are recorded. Over time and with repeated sampling of each grid square we aim to identify core areas of predator use. This will allow us to focus future efforts to identify individuals and asses population size and structure. Three more grids were sampled over June. Lion were identified in one grid square, whilst leopard were identified once in a different grid. Hyena were present in all locations, as were signs of species in the small predator class. African wild dogs were identified once in the same grid as lion. However, no signs of cheetah were found. A vegetation sampling program is also underway in the Zambezi National Park and neighbouring Matetsi Safari Area, with a view to producing a vegetation map of the Park for use by management and researchers. Using satellite images a variety of broad vegetation cover types have been identified with the aim of identifying the vegetation at a sample of locations with each cover type. Our Victoria Falls research team, along with a Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority botanist visited each sample site and undertook a 100m long step point survey. At 1m intervals along the transect line the vegetation was assessed for dominant grass, shrub and tree species. A photo of each sample location was also taken. Once further sampling points have been undertaken, the data set will be provided to Lupane State University to produce two maps. The data points will also be used to train nonprobablilistic classifiers in a remote sensing environment. Once the task is completed for these areas, the project will be extended to include the Victoria Falls National Park.
Stage one news Kanu cubs - Five-year old Kanu gave birth to her first litter of cubs at Antelope Park’s breeding program in June. Sadiki’s tooth – It’s probably a first for the Lion Rehabilitation & Release project; lion dentistry. Back in June, then six-month old Sadiki at Lion Encounter Zambia began suffering a painful swelling to the side of her face. The problem was quickly identified as a chipped tooth which in turn had led to the root becoming infected. With the tooth needing to be removed ASAP early on the 15th June, young Sadiki was crated up and driven four hours to Mazabuka where the project’s vets are based. Treated by Dr Noleen Parsons, the tooth had to be first sawn in half before being pulled out (while Sadiki was under sedation, obviously!) before being put back in her crate ready for the journey back home to Livingstone. She was back with her brothers and sisters a little over 12 hours after her journey began and has gone on to make a full recovery. Nkoya impala kill - Nkoya from the 5KN set in Livingstone made her first kill in June - and made it in very dramatic fashion. When she and sister Namwala were on a mid-morning walk on 19th June, the sisters spotted a herd of impala. Whilst Namwala wasn’t too interested in chasing anything in the midday heat, Nkoya was off like a shot. It was several minutes later before the handlers were able to catch up to her only to find the 14-month old had chased an impala into the Zambezi River before killing it. After hauling it back on dry land, Namwala soon joined her sister where the pair played with their prize for eventually tucking in. Ss leave Victoria Falls - Lion Encounter Zimbabwe said farewell to the 2S group of Sengwa and Savuti in July. The brother and sister who spent their entire walking careers in the Zambezi National Park left Victoria Falls for Antelope Park to begin the second phase of stage one; Night Encounters. The 2Ps hunting - The 2Ps (pictured) continued their reign of terror over Antelope Park in recent months. On a Night Encounter in mid-June Penya and Paza hadn’t actually seen much game over the evening. Completely out of the blue the pair seemed to simultaneously become aware and interested in something. Taking off at lightning speed they disappeared into thick bush whereby seconds later distress calls were heard. The pair were found with a young wildebeest, with Paza delivering a choke hold and her large paws holding the juvenile to the ground. In July, the impala were the duo’s next victims. Having spotted a herd late in the evening, the girls seemed to have both singled out a juvenile and gave chase almost immediately, working hard to separate the youngster from the others. Once again it was Paza who executed the catch and kill, refusing afterwards to share the carcass with Penya. Most recently over August the fearsome duo have seen success after digging a warthog family out of their burrow and catching one of the fleeing individuals and then just a few days later an adult wildebeest was their next victim.
The 2Rs first kill – June was also a successful month for the 2Rs of Ruvubu and Rusizi at Antelope Park as the 11-month old cubs made their first kill! They were frisky and clearly loving the cool winter weather from the very start of the walk with Rusizi soon stalking a herd of impala. The long grass and riverbed aided her approach and she remained concealed from the impala until she was ready to make a charge. As she began the chase, brother Ruvubu also began running – but in a completely different direction whereby he was found with a young impala. Having sought her brother out after her own failed hunt, Rusizi came to join Ruvubu. Being so young and inexperienced the cubs then proceeded to “play” with their catch until instinct finally took over and they went for the throat and muzzle.
The morning of the 4th May found Milo, Kenge and the Ngamo cubs on a scavenge feed, which are placed in the site from time to time, to help emulate scavenging behaviour found in wild lions. After Milo had pushed Kenge and the youngsters off of the carcass several times they gave up trying to feed and made their way through Masai Mara and into Amboseli, where AT1 promptly vanished. The travellers joined up with the other females resting in the early morning sun. As they settled, AT1 re-emerged making her way through the long grass while calling to the others. Just as everyone was drifting off to sleep the silence was shattered as a loud roar resonated from the direction of where Kenge and co., had left Milo. Ashanti led the pride towards the source but when they arrived at the scavenge site Milo was nowhere to be seen. Needing no invitation, the group descended on the abandoned carcass. AS4’s true character showed itself as she fought and muscled her way to the best bits of the carcass. On the afternoon of the 5th KE4 was the first pride member to wake from their collective nap. After scanning the sleeping lions she picked out her target and slowly stalked before pouncing on her sister, KE3. With barely a moment to recover herself, KE3 pinned her troublesome sister to the ground and bit at her ears. After dealing with her sibling, KE3 was drawn away having spotted a herd of impala in the distance. Unfortunately for the young huntress she was spotted by the herd and didn’t even get a practice stalk in.
Winter had settled over Ngamo by the 20th May and the lions were huddled together for warmth in the Tree Tops area of the site. As the pride moved even further into shelter to escape the harsh winds AS4 and AS5 used the opportunity to play, even trying, unsuccessfully, to get mother Ashanti in on the act. A discarded pile of bones in the cubs’ path caught their attention and after giving them a bit of a sniff, both cubs selected a bone of their choice and ran to catch up with the pride. Their playful antics were contagious and soon KE3 and KE4 joined in, running circles around aunt Kwali.
Once the pride had found a spot to settle out of the wind, AS5 disappeared into the tall grass only to re-emerge as he scrambled up the trunk of a tree. Nala, who had been watching the youngster, caught the climbing fever and as soon as the young male was back on terra firma effortlessly scaled the tree in a few graceful bounds. On the 17th June Milo, Nala, Narnia and AT1 were resting in the Etosha area soaking up the remaining rays of afternoon sun. AT1, always vigilant to any passing zebra, followed a herd into the Camp area, unaware that a meal had already been served up by the rest of the pride who had been munching on a carcass through the day. Over in the Tree Tops area, Kwali, Phyre, Ashanti, AS4 and AS5 were fat bellied and fast asleep. Kenge and KE3 were picking at the kill when KE4 came strolling through a thicket looking for mum. She and Kenge exchanged warm greetings before both turned their attention to the zebra remains. As the K family settled to indulge in some sunbathing, the ‘A’ family woke to take their turn at the carcass. In addition to the sound of crunching bone, a rustling could be heard in the scrub nearby. Soon, the distinctive stripes of zebra could be seen through the foliage; their grazing bringing them closer to the lions. Ears pricked up and KE3 and AS4 began their stalk, camouflaging themselves in the long grass. The gusting winds suddenly changed direction and, alerted to the lions’ presence, the zebra herd galloped away in the opposite direction. The zebra were soon lost to sight and the cubs began chasing each other back to the pride. On the 25th June, 7-and-a half year old Narnia was discovered with her back legs seemingly paralyzed. She was removed to the release site’s management enclosure and a vet called. It seems the most likely diagnosis is a prolapsed (or slipped) disc. Narnia’s recovery has been positive but slow, and she remains in the management enclosure, where she is regularly visited by sister Nala, and pride male Milo along the adjoining fence line between the management and the site. The pride was resting in the Camp area of the site on the afternoon of 28th June. Nala and KE3 were belly up, legs intertwined and fast asleep. Nearby, AS4 and AS5 rested wrapped up in one another’s limbs, despite every adjustment by AS5 squashing his sister’s face beneath his massive front paws. But as the sun slowly set, Nala stretched and emerged from the cover of the tall grass and was soon followed by the rest of the pride as she set off into Etosha. The following morning, found Nala and Milo in Amboseli catching the first rays of the new rising sun together. The rest of the pride was located in the Hwange section of the site, with the K youngsters scrambling through the thicket and chasing each other around an anthill where AS4 looked on as the playful pair ran circles around her. As the morning began to warm up, Ashanti and Phyre moved off onto Route 66 and into Kruger. KE3 found a tree to climb, swiftly followed by AS4. They moved higher into the upper branches, swatting at each other playfully. When KE4 realized she was perilously close to the tip of the branch and that the pride was no longer in sight, she leapt to the ground, managing to avoid AS4 on the way down. On 8th July Nala, Narnia and the five cubs were paid a visit by the vets. The recovering Narnia had her reflexes tested with positive results from both back legs, and the vets encouraged by her progress. All sedated lions were given a health check-up as well as having blood tests taken for DNA profiling and disease testing as part of pre-release preparations for the five cubs, which will take place when they’re old enough in 2014. Nala and Narnia were included in this as they are one generation distant from a known wild population, and will provide us useful information to compare with the five cubs. All cubs were given microchips and the four females fitted with contraceptive implants to avoid any possibility of inbreeding ahead of release. But it was business as usual by the 11th and the pride members were huddled together in Amboseli. Kenge seemingly had had enough of the cold winds and led the pride into the less exposed Camp area of the site. As AT1 and KE3 bounced along behind, chasing one another, KE4 kept a keen eye on a herd of impala in the distance. With the pride slowly moving away from her, she soon lost interest and ran off to catch up to them.
As the pride moved into Etosha, something caught Kenge’s eye. She slowly edged towards Route 66 followed by AT1. The pride settled and watched the pair lower themselves into the classic stalking posture. A herd of zebra could be seen in the distance, and Kwali soon followed as the assault edged its way closer to the grazing herd. The two K sisters took their position in the thicket and held back as AT1 continued her pursuit. Visual was lost of the young female as the zebra strolled into Serengeti East as she wove between clumps of trees. Soon the sound of stampeding hooves could be heard and AT1 was hot on their trail. After a 70m chase, the zebra had pulled out too much ground on the young female and the three hunters headed back to the pride. Later in the month on the 25th, the pride was resting in the Camp area. With all pride members present it was the perfect chance to conduct a territorial playback experiment. Just after 5pm, the unmistakable roar of a single male lion could be heard in the direction of waterhole 3. Milo, who had been sound asleep, was quick to his feet, ears pricked up and eyes set in the direction of the unknown roars. The stranger’s roars had also grabbed the attention of the females and soon Kenge, Phyre and Nala also rose to their feet. As the playback continued Milo began his advance towards the assumed intruder and soon picked up the pace to a brisk jog. Keenly watched by the females, soon they could no longer see their pride’s male. It was then that Phyre and Kwali provided back-up and made their way down the road after Milo. By the time Ashanti, AT1 and the cubs also decided to investigate the playback had all but finished, but before long encountered Milo emerging from the tall grass heading back towards them. With Milo in sight, the females one by one settled, still keeping watchful eyes riveted in the direction from which the playback had emitted. As Milo reached the group, he took a moment to scent mark before exchanging a warm greeting with Nala and AS4. At the start of August, AT1, Kenge, KE3 and KE4 were at waterhole 2. After grabbing a quick drink they moved off towards Route 66 and into the Camp area. With the rest of the pride nowhere to be seen it seemed they too were on the look-out for the missing pride members. As they moved into Etosha, a herd of wildebeest caught AT1’s attention. Her ears flattened against her head as she slunk into cover. Her movements attracted the younger Ks’ attention and they stopped to watch their half-sister stalk the herd ahead. As the game continued to graze, AT1 inched closer, with KE3 close behind. As the pair took cover behind an anthill the wildebeest spooked. Experienced hand Kenge, who had been watching her daughter and niece’s efforts from the back of the group, quickly flanked right. But her involvement came a fraction too late and the wildebeest raced out of range. The following morning (2nd) the pride was on a fresh impala kill. Kwali, Phyre, Nala and KE4 were feasting on the carcass, whilst the others had to wait patiently on the sidelines. As Milo arrived on the scene, he edged closer to the kill. Tell-tale grumbles began to emanate from the group feeding, signalling that Phyre was no longer willing to share. Swiping a paw a Milo, she then turned her wrath against any other lion within striking distance. Grabbing the carcass between her jaws, Phyre dragged the remains away. When Milo tried his luck once more, he again felt the firm end of Phyre’s wrath. On the morning of the 12th August the K cubs were in highly playful mood around waterhole 1, whilst the rest of the pride tried to ignore the sisters’ antics and sleep. Even Kenge lost patience with her daughters, sending them instead towards a nearby tree, and KE4 hauled herself up into the branches. As the mischievous pair settled, the resonating grumbles of their father, Milo, drifted around the waterhole. He was resting next to AS4 as his daughter snacked on an impala leg. When AS5 made his way over, he soon found out he wasn’t welcome as Milo came charging out of the grass, scaring off not only his overly-bold son but the rest of the pride too. Claiming the impala carcass for himself, Milo dragged it away growling a warning with every step to all within earshot. With her slumber disturbed, Ashanti left the drama behind her and moved off on her own towards Amboseli. In the distance a large herd of impala were grazing and instantly caught her attention. After watching their every move for several minutes, she flanked left and used a thicket for cover. With the herd moving to Masai Mara however, she soon lost interest and made her way back to the waterhole.
AND FINALLY… ALERT is extremely proud to announce that our founder, Andrew Conolly has been nominated to receive the biennial Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation. The winner of the Prize will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award and the Lilly Medal. Five other finalists will each receive $10,000. The nominated conservationists’ work spans the globe and represents a broad range of species including chimpanzees, snow leopards, sea turtles, giant pandas, bats, swans and many more. An international Nominating Committee composed of renowned professional conservationists and local representatives reviews all nominations and selects six finalists, who will be revealed in the spring of 2014. The Prize Jury will then determine the winner, who will be announced in mid-2014 and honored at the next Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., to be held Sept. 27, 2014, in Indianapolis. “The current nominees are exceptional and they represent many of the most significant wildlife conservationists working in the field today,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo, which initiated the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. “Increasingly more species are at risk of extinction, and these heroes deserve our recognition and support for their expertise, accomplishments, and tireless efforts protecting them. We encourage people around the world to celebrate the nominees’ important work and to join them in advancing animal conservation.” The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to Dr. George Archibald, the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and an icon in field conservation around the world. In 2010, the Indianapolis Prize was awarded to Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, who pioneered research in elephant social behavior and has led the way in fighting poaching of African elephants. Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., of Polar Bears International, received the 2012 Indianapolis Prize for his work promoting the cause of the world’s largest land carnivore. More about the Indianapolis Prize here