March 2020 Newsletter: ‘Bush Talk’

 In Newsletter
Greetings!
The rains have finally arrived in Zimbabwe! After three years of drought, wildlife is rejoicing over renewed pans, budding vegetation, and the reemergence of shade – vital for providing relief from the heat. Unfortunately, it also means that our Snare-Removal work is as important as ever.
The cover of vegetation affords poachers an advantage by camouflaging snares and the chances of capture in an abandoned or redundant snare increases as animals disperse away from water sources with the onset of rains. Poor weather conditions, i.e., storms and wind, make detection difficult and consequently leave many snares uninspected. This means that missed animals might die from their injuries in vain, for nothing.
In January together with Dambari Wildlife Trust, we removed a snare from an adult 22-year old female white rhino. She was hanging out with three others including one young calf. At 2pm our vet Dr. Chris Foggin darted the rhino and a health assessment revealed she was in otherwise excellent condition. The thin cable snare had wrapped around her neck and muzzle preventing her from eating, but it hadn’t penetrated the skin at all making removal easy and no rehabilitation necessary.
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In late 2019, VFWT, UK-based NGO TRACE and the Netherlands Forensic Institute trained 27 wildlife investigators in Zimbabwe on Wildlife Crime Scene Investigation. Participants were trained over six days on everything from basic principals of wildlife crime scene investigation to evidence collection, documentation, chain of custody and forensics. The course was a mixture of theory in the classroom and field practicals.

A full-day mock-crime scene exercise occurred on the last day where each group of participants had to test their newly gained knowledge to process the scene, complete all the documentation, collect the evidence and then submit the evidence with chain of custody to the lab. All successful participants received certificates and were given cameras, compasses and evidence collection kits to use in their forensic efforts. Future courses will include fingerprint lifting and analysis to improve the capacity of the investigators in combating wildlife crime.

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We are excited to be expanding our Human-Wildlife Conflict mitigation work. With funding secured from a UK organization, we’ve started a project that works to help improve the livelihoods for people experiencing higher levels of conflict because of proximity to wildlife areas.
Predator-proof mobile bomas (livestock enclosures) have had a 100% success rate in preventing predation upon livestock. As predicted, fertilized soils left behind after the bomas are moved are seemingly producing greater yields of crops. This year, we are researching how much the yields are actually increasing. Twenty research plots and twenty control plots will be planted with maize, sorghum and chilies with the ultimate goal of improving food security for the people that lose the most through wildlife conflict.
Communities grow plots of chili plants around their crops to deter elephants from entering fields. Our Community Guardians will help execute the project in addition to responding to any elephant conflict that might arise by firing ping-pong balls filled with a highly concentrated chili solution that stops elephants out at 50 yards, sending them running for cover before they can cause any damage or hurt anyone.

VFWT will be holding a Vulture Workshop in March convening all organizations and researchers working to conserve Zimbabwe’s diminishing vulture populations. The goal is to assess what conservation work is being done in different geographic areas, identify gaps and conservation needs, to plan future collaborative actions and identify implementing partners. All of the species of vultures that are present in Zimbabwe are endangered, with human-derived threats the biggest factor in their declining numbers. VFWT believe that a systematic, coordinated and regional strategy will be the only way we can save these essential and evolutionary remarkable birds.

Registration is now open for the Zambezi Cycle Challenge . This epic 3-day off-road mountain bike cycle event, July 10-12, 2020, showcases the beauty of Victoria Falls and her Batoka Gorge, the Zambezi & Victoria Falls National Parks, and surrounding Safari Areas. All proceeds benefit wildlife conservation of the local areas with part of the proceeds benefiting The Trust. You can ask for more information or register here and if you would like to be a sponsor of the event, please contact Tracey Butcher .

Fernando Invents Socks is a new book by Zimbabwean author Brad Pohl about a penguin named Fernando and his couch-surfing friend – a brown chicken Judith, who find themselves tangled up in ocean trash. They manage to free themselves and turn the solution into a lucrative eco-business that benefits local communities and cleans up the environment. Part of the proceeds benefit Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. You can order this wonderful book here or request a signed copy from Brad Pohl .

We are hiring! Although we’re sad to say goodbye to a few retiring members of our family, we’re excited to be growing our team, and expertise. We are looking to hire a wildlife researcher, laboratory technician, administrative assistant, and someone to join our communications team. Contact us here If you love what we do, are qualified, and think you would be a great addition to our team.

Our 2019 Year-End Report is in process with publication expected shortly. If you would like to receive a copy please contact Tracey Butcher and she will happily forward one.
Until next time, thank you – for everything. Please reach out to us for more information and, if you’re so inclined, kindly consider supporting our important programs . For, without you, our work stops.
For Wild Africa,
Jessica Dawson
Executive Director