Bush Talk August 2021: News From The Field

 In Newsletter
Photo: istockphoto.com_Utopia_88

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.

Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Chris Foggin works with confiscated pangolins to ensure it stays hydrated.

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.

An immobilized bull is monitored and prepped for translocation to GNP. Blood and tissue samples were taken. The animal was tagged so that rangers can keep a constant eye on the animal from a safe distance.

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.

“My time with Sylvester and my tour of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Wildlife High Care Rehabilitation Centre really had a big impact on me – it was life changing. In 2019, I combined my photography from Africa with my Vitir-Fuaille glass artwork (including a piece I created of Sylvester) to do an Exhibit titled "Into Africa.” It was very successful and proceeds benefited the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. Like so many, I was devastated with the sudden & tragic loss of Sylvester and wanted to help The Trust build a Sylvester’s Legacy Fund. My idea for a photo competition led to the Sylvester Legacy Photo Campaign and I was thrilled to be a part of the joyful, fun and successful project."
"I feel privileged to volunteer what I can to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. How could I not try to help in some small way? The animals of Africa are among our planet's great treasures. In me, they touch a deep emotional well. The diverse threats they face are complex and tragic. I'm immensely grateful for and repeatedly amazed by VFWT's strategic, persistent, creative efforts on behalf of these wondrous creatures."

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.

“I first learned about VFWT like many people, via a walk with Sylvester while staying at the Elephant Camp. And while that walk was the highlight of my two African safaris, learning about the work of VFWT has become much more than a pleasant memory. Rather, it has provided an ongoing opportunity to focus my interest in sustaining Africa wildlife and human communities in ways that benefit both, something VFWT excels at. I am saddened that others will not have the chance to experience an “ambassador cheetah” in person, but I believe Sylvester’s passing makes it even more important that those of us who remember him do what we can in other ways to make people aware of the vital work of VFWT in this spectacular and ecologically significant area.”
"I was thrilled to be part of the Sylvester Legacy Photo Contest, although it was so difficult to choose the winners! To learn how Sylvester moved so many people and how his loss was so deeply felt across the globe made me a little sad to know I would never meet him. When I visited in April 2019 he had already passed away. However, I was overjoyed to interact with my FAVORITE animal.....elephants. Wow!" I help the Trust because their meaningful work with wildlife and the people who live closely with it resonates with me. We are all connected and have to co-exist on this planet. Their wholistic approach is the only way.

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.


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