Bush Talk August 2021: News From The Field
Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation is at the center of Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust’s conservation work. Some of the species we save are just heartbeats away from extinction so protecting each individual is important.
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world: 185 tonnes of pangolin scales have been seized between 2014 and 2018, the equivalent of about 370,000 pangolins. (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.) Pangolins only give birth to one baby every 2 years so their ability to sustain or grow their populations is severely impacted by mortality due to the illegal wildlife trade.
In July, Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust worked closely with Zimbabwe’s Wildlife Authority Investigation and Police Wildlife Units on two pangolin confiscation cases. Both pangolins were adult females and fortunately had not been in captivity for too long. They were therefore in good health and all we had to do was keep them feeding, drinking and exercised until they were presented as evidence and/or released back into the wild. The accused are currently awaiting trial and if convicted, face a sentence of up to 9 years imprisonment. Both pangolin have subsequently been successfully released in a secure wildlife area.
The Fight for Rhinos. One of the most iconic animals in all of Africa, rhinos are remnants of supersized, plated land mammals that roamed the earth 50 million years ago. The seemingly overnight devastation of rhino numbers in the early 70’s arguably alerted us all to the realities of the extinction crisis we now face.
In this part of Africa, we are fortunate to have two species of rhino: the black rhino and the Southern white rhino. Our rhino conservation efforts center on stopping poaching, stopping the illegal trade in rhino horn, and husbandry to maintain the genetic heterogeneity of small localized populations. We do this by regularly assessing the health of calves in our rhino populations, tagging as many individuals as possible for easy identification and monitoring, dehorning to deter poachers, mapping rhino DNA and translocations of bulls to bring in new bloodlines.
This year we’re part of a team that has been reintroducing black rhino back into Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) in the southeast of the country. It was decided to move these rhino here because GNP is an Intensive Protection Zone well-managed by the Frankfurt Zoological Society with a detailed monitoring and health plan for them. It’s been 27 years since black rhino were present in the park and this is an exciting milestone in black rhino recovery efforts that we’re thrilled to be able to report on.
Wildlife Veterinary Medicine is integral to the majority of our conservation work. Dr. Chris Foggin overseas our rescue and rehabilitation work, rhino conservation efforts, our Forensic and Wildlife Disease Laboratory, and vaccination efforts that are part of our rural livelihood programs.
We extended a warm welcome in May to Dr. Harley Peacocke, who joined our team as a junior veterinarian to support Chris in the field. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Dr. Peacocke volunteered flying a microlight with the Hwange Lion Research Project before heading to Australia where he graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Honours from The University of Queensland. Dr. Peacocke’s experience includes a mixed large and small animal veterinary practice, herd health and management, biosecurity, and diesel mechanics before coming to join our team at the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust.
We’re fortunate to have found someone so qualified and committed to wildlife, a life in our beautiful Zimbabwe, and our organization. And our wildlife is lucky to have these two wonderful caretakers watching over and protecting it.
The dates for the 2021 Zambezi Cycle Challenge were postponed until August 13-15th due to unforeseen changes in COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Permission has been granted by the Zimbabwe Sports and Recreation Authority to now hold the event and, as long as no further lockdown restrictions are put in place, we have every intention of pulling it off this go around. If you are interested in participating we have had some last-minute cancellations and have spaces available, please register online here. It’s a great event and part of the proceeds benefit VFWT so help spread the word!
Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust relies heavily on our volunteers and interns. This month, for our Volunteer Spotlight, we wanted to shout out to our volunteers who help us in administration, fundraising or in advisory capacities. We asked these volunteers to talk a bit about why they volunteer for The Trust and if you would like to volunteer, please contact Tracey@vicfallswildlifetrust.org.
Christine Wilson (Las Vegas, Nevada) is an award-winning stained-glass artist whose passions, travels and love of nature come to life in vibrant colors and creativity. Christine helps VFWT with fundraising, hosts fundraising events for The Trust, and was one of three leads in carrying out our Sylvester Legacy t-shirt photo event.
Vicki Pearse (Pacific Grove, CA) Vicki Pearse, was a research associate in biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is now a Library Specialist in the Digital Library Systems Department at Hopkins Marine Library. Her interests in evolutionary biology led her to southern Africa on a quest for Welwitschia, basically a living fossil in the genus of the family Welwitschiaceae. This in turn led her to Victoria Falls and ultimately the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. She is new as a volunteer, and one of two gems who help us with copy editing and proof reading.
Jack Marcum (Louisville, KY) is a retired sociologist/demographer who worked for more than 25 years in the research department of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). These days he spends much of his time gardening and helps the trust with fundraising. Jack was also one of our three leads in carrying out our Sylvester Legacy t-shirt photo event.
Sue Holloway (Cape Cod, MA). Sue helps us with copy editing and proof reading and, in a change of pace for her, was also one of our three leads in the Sylvester Photo Campaign.
Consider Joining Friends of the Wild – our monthly giving circle.
Monthly giving is incredibly important to an organization like Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. The beauty of a sustaining giving pledge is that It provides a reliable stream of income. Your donation directly protects Africa’s iconic wildlife because there’s less administration and fundraising costs associated with a recurring commitment.
It’s also less work for you – your credit or debit card will automatically be billed. All you have to do is sit back and know that we’re using your investments wisely, quickly and with great results. If your situation changes, you can decrease, increase or cancel your membership at any time.
It’s a win-win for everyone, especially if you need to spread out your support so that it doesn’t impact your wallet all at once. Commit to $25/month+ and we will send you one of these awesome coffee mugs. While supplies last.