Good news about rhinos

Rhino cow and baby, Madikwe Game Lodge, North West province. Photo courtesy of South African Tourism
Rhino cow and baby, Madikwe Game Lodge, North West province. Photo courtesy of South African Tourism.

Good news for southern Africa’s rhino population! After almost a decade in which poaching has skyrocketed, South Africa and northwest Namibia saw a decrease in the killing of these animals.

Since 2007, poaching of rhinos has risen drastically in response to an international demand for their horns. Some people mistakenly believe the horns have medicinal value.

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, told the BBC the drop in her country was due to better anti-poaching technology and tighter border controls. In 2015, the country arrested 317 poachers, versus 258 in 2014.

Save the Rhino Trust attributes the drop in northwest Namibia  to increased patrolling of the rhino’s range, made possible by fly camps funded by Conservation Travel Foundation (formerly Tou Trust) and TOSCO (Tourism Supporting Conservation), groups supported by Ujuzi’s partners in Namibia.

Interested in getting involved? Guests at Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland, Namibia, can participate in conservation in action by tracking desert-adapted rhino with Save the Rhino Trust.

Contact Ujuzi to learn more about visiting South Africa or Namibia.

Featured Organization: Uganda Carnivore Program

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Petra Kilian-Gehring took this photo of a lion on an Ujuzi safari to Uganda.

Lions, leopards, and hyenas are among the most popular charismatic mega fauna in the world.  Unfortunately, their populations have declined significantly over the past 200 years, due mainly to the growing needs of an expanding human population.  The Uganda Carnivore Program works to monitor and conserve important predators, working primarily inQueen Elizabeth National Park to find solutions that meet the needs of both wildlife and humans.

Read moreFeatured Organization: Uganda Carnivore Program

Today is World Rhino Day

A white rhino grazes at Lake Nakuru National Park. Photo taken by Kathy Overman on an Ujuzi Safari to Kenya.
A southern white rhino grazes at Lake Nakuru National Park. Photo taken by Kathy Overman on an Ujuzi Safari to Kenya.

Please take a few minutes today to help protect endangered rhinos around the world. If you are able, consider a donation to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, which is racing against time to save the northern white rhino. There are only four northern white rhinos left in the world.

You can read more about Ol Pejeta’s work here.

Find additional organization that work for rhinos, and other ways to help out, at World Rhino Day’s Facebook page.

Big boy! Our find of the day with only 33 living in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
A black rhino enjoys browsing in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Photo taken by Ujuzi African Travel.

Safari Tourism: More Crucial for Conservation Than Ever

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Earlier this summer, Chris Costa of National Geographic Traveler wrote a blog post calling on his readers to go on safari.

Tourism to Africa dropped as much as 70 percent in the wake of the Ebola crisis last winter, even though popular safari destinations such as the Serengeti are thousands of miles away from affected areas.

With fewer tourists and less money coming into local communities, poachers have more opportunities to kill endangered animals and sell their body parts on the international black market. Pangolin scales, elephant ivory and rhino horn are all in high demand. As a result of this illegal trade, subspecies like the northern white rhino are on the brink of extinction.

Costa quoted safari guide Mark Thornton as saying, “One of the few things standing in the way of the possible extinction of endangered [animals] is tourists who pay to see these majestic creatures in the wild.” This is because tourism brings jobs and income to local communities, providing alternatives to destructive poaching. Park entry fees fund conservation and anti-poaching programs.

Read moreSafari Tourism: More Crucial for Conservation Than Ever

Elephant Population on the Rise in Uganda

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Petra Kilian-Gehring took this close-up of elephants on an Ujuzi safari to Uganda.

Good news about one of the world’s largest land mammal. Once nearing extinction in Uganda, the African bush elephant is now thriving there. Its population has gone from about 700 in the 1980s to 5,000 now, according to the Great Elephant Census, which seeks to survey all of Africa’s elephant populations.

Read moreElephant Population on the Rise in Uganda

Featured Organization: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Orphaned elephants learn to socialize and play with each other at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans' Project, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.
Orphaned elephants learn to socialize and play with each other at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans’ Project, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

At the heart of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s conservation activities is the Orphans’ Project in Nairobi, which offers hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought.

To date the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and effectively reintegrated orphans back into the wild herds of Tsavo East National Park. Many healthy calves have been born in the wild from former-orphaned elephants raised by the Trust.

Many safari-goers enjoy spending a day or two in Nairobi upon arrival in Kenya to adjust to the time difference. A visit to the orphanage is a wonderful way to learn about elephants and have a chance at close interaction that would be impossible in the wild.

Links:

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Visitors watch a feeding at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen, Kenya.
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A curious elephant checks out a visitor at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen, Kenya.
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Caretakers watch over baby elephants at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen, Kenya.
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A baby elephant plays with a branch at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen, Kenya. This is important practice for adulthood, when trees and shrubs become an important source of food.

Eco-Tourism Helps Prevent Poaching

Ellen Wilson took this amazing photo of a young gorilla while traveling with Ujuzi in Rwanda.
Ellen Wilson took this amazing photo of a young gorilla while traveling with Ujuzi in Rwanda. Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village is helping to preserve the mountain gorillas’ rainforest ecosystem by creating income so that residents don’t need to poach for food.

CNN recently ran a fascinating story about Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, a site where many of Ujuzi’s travelers to Rwanda have learned about local arts and ways of life. Visitors can learn to grind sorghum or millet by hand, start a fire without matches, or shoot a bow and arrow. Tasting banana beer and other local foods, watching traditional dances, seeing artisans at work, and talking to village elders are unique experiences that open our eyes to a different way of life – and the commonalities that tie all humans together.

It all started when Edwin Sabuhoro was a warden in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. He had the opportunity to talk with some individuals who had been jailed for kidnapping a baby gorilla to sell to a private buyer. He heard stories of desperate poverty and hunger, and came to realize that poaching would not stop until these issues were addressed.

He provided farm land and seeds to former poachers so they could raise their own food and sell it at market. “I left them with that and they started farming, and when I came back six months after I found they had harvested enough – they had enough food at home, but they were [also] selling more in the markets,” Sabuhoro told CNN. They no longer needed to turn to poaching for income.

Looking for other ways to generate income for communities near Volcanoes National Park, Sabuhoro worked with locals to create a Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village. The village has brought in enough income so families no longer  need to turn to poaching to survive.

Visit the link below to view an interview with Sabuhoro.

Saving rhinos one surgery at a time

A white rhino grazes at Lake Nakuru National Park. Photo taken by Kathy Overman on an Ujuzi Safari to Kenya.
A white rhino grazes at Lake Nakuru National Park. Photo taken by Kathy Overman on an Ujuzi Safari to Kenya.

Poaching the Creature That’s More Valuable Than Gold is a fascinating look by the BBC into the worlds of people who poach rhinos and people who protect them. Rhino poaching has increased dramatically over the past few years as demand for their horns escalates.

Rhino horn is used as a medicine in parts of Asia, where people credit it with treating everything from male impotence to cancer. None of the claims are true. Rhino horn is simply keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails.

Rhinos have gone extinct in parts of their range, and poaching has risen nearly 100-fold over the past decade in South Africa.

The article provides a rare look into the many aspects that contribute to poaching, including poverty and political corruption. It also profiles people risking their lives to save rhinos, and veterinarians providing care to rhinos who have survived poaching attacks.

It notes a new trend in poaching, where some poachers tranquilize rhinos rather than kill them before removing their horns. Unfortunately, these poachers don’t have veterinary experience and often end up severely injuring the rhinos.

Scroll to the bottom of the article for a (non-graphic) video of veterinarians doing facial surgery on one such rhino.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Saving African Carnivores by Protecting Livestock

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund A Maasai boy walks toward one of the boma’s houses; to his left is a Living Wall used to protect livestock from predators. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
A Maasai boy walks toward one of the boma’s houses; to his left is a Living Wall used to protect livestock from predators. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania. Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund.

In last week’s post about a recent safari to Tanzania, we mentioned the “Living Walls” project, an effort to reduce conflicts between humans and big cats in the Maasai Steppe. Named after the Maasai ethnic group, the Maasai Steppe is an area in northeastern Tanzania that encompasses both Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and is home to diverse wildlife as well as a longstanding human population. (Here’s a map of the Maasai Steppe.)

Raising cattle and goats is a major livelihood among the Maasai. At night when the herds are not out grazing, their owners traditionally keep them in circular pens fenced in by dead acacia thorns. The thorns can deter predators, but they aren’t foolproof, because they degrade easily in the harsh sun. Each Maasai community in the Steppe experiences carnivore attacks on livestock in these traditional pens about 50 times a year, resulting in the deaths of 72-84 lions across the Steppe as herders seek to protect their livestock.

Living Walls are a better approach developed together by Maasai communities and the African Wildlife & People Fund. Living Walls are based on the traditional acacia pen, but use fast-growing native trees and chainlink as reinforcement. This makes it very difficult for a predator to jump over or break through the pen.

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund Livestock contained within a Living Wall. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund. Goats protected by a Living Wall.

Living Walls dramatically decrease predator attacks on livestock, and thus also virtually eliminate killing of predators by humans. From 2003 to 2013, Living Walls had a 99.9% success rate at deterring nighttime predator attacks, and herders with Living Walls didn’t kill any predators.

Because the fences rely largely on abundant natural resources, they are a practical, cost-effective solution to what up until now seemed like an intractable problem on the Maasai Steppe.

Would you like to learn more? Check out the links below:

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund Two children walk along a well-trodden track around the Living Wall in their family’s boma. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
Two children walk along a well-trodden track around the Living Wall in their family’s boma. Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund.

Vaccinating dogs protects African wildlife

Photo taken by Jack Traeger  on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jack Traeger on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

When people think about threats to African wildlife, they often think of poaching. But it’s not the only cause of dwindling animal populations. Disease is also a big concern. For example, rabies can spread from domestic animals to lions and other wildlife, decimating their populations.

Since 2003, scientists have been offering free rabies vaccines for domestic dogs around Tanzania’s Serengeti, resulting in a dramatic drop of rabies cases among the park’s lions and also saving many human lives. Before the program began, 50 to 150 people in the area died of rabies each year.

“It’s very, very effective,” Joseph Ogwa, acting district livestock official for the Bunda District, told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t have cases now. I remember 10 years ago it wasn’t good because there were so many cases of rabies.”

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo has been in charge of the vaccination program for the past five years and is looking for additional funding to continue it. It costs about $110,000 a year to run the program. You can donate here on the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

An article in The Verge illustrates the importance of vaccination programs in protecting wildlife. It shows how – before vaccination programs were in place for domestic dogs – canine distemper spread to Serengeti’s lions, then mutated to become endemic among the predators.

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