BUSH TALKS NEWSLETTER
November 2023 Edition
Working under pressure! Our team worked under the scrutiny of a watchful family audience while saving this baby elephant that had a deep snare around her neck. It was an amazing display of trust from the elephants and courage from the team on the ground, who worked under considerable pressure while the calf’s family stood guard over them.
Dear Tracey ,
Last week Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust made international news for the leadership role it played in discovering that a little-studied bacterium was responsible for the series of widely reported mysterious elephant mortalities in Zimbabwe in 2020. It’s an important discovery, and we’re proud of our team who, along with international team members, helped unravel the cause of death. Our own Dr Chris Foggin co-authored the paper which was released to the scientific community last week.
Earlier this month, we rescued a snared hyena that we had been trying to catch for over a year! Baits, traps, free-darting, and call-ups had all failed to catch the distressed animal, but at last, a local tip-off led to its rescue (you can read more below).
Wins like these keep us strong, especially at this time of year. The end of the dry season is often harrowing in this part of the world and in this line of work: it is relentlessly hot, and food and water are scarce for many animals. This puts immense pressure on both wildlife and people.
Thank you for being there for us. Whether it’s through cheering us on or donating where you can, every show of support keeps us inspired to keep going.
For Wild Africa,
Our veterinarians and field team have been extremely busy throughout the dry season, sometimes encountering challenging circumstances with threatening wildlife and very unpleasant weather. So far in 2023, we’ve removed 36 snares – on everything from lion, elephant, and buffalo – to domestic cows!
This hyena eluded our worried team for more than a year. Fortunately, it was seen feeding off a fresh buffalo carcass alongside lions and other hyenas. We removed the deeply embedded snare and cleaned the wound. Despite the considerable injury to its neck, we are optimistic that the animal will fully recover.
Many of you were interested in this young duiker’s progress. Attacked by dogs, she was rescued a few weeks ago – here is a small video update. She is still in our care and is doing very well, currently undergoing a soft release. She sleeps in her enclosure every night but explores and forages for a few hours outdoors each day in preparation for her eventual release into the wild.
This recently rescued, stunning violet-backed starling is showing promise for a successful release.
Wildlife Diseases & Poisoning Training
Our team trained 34 investigators, veterinarians, and rangers in Zambia to differentiate between wildlife diseases, poaching cases, and wildlife poisoning. This knowledge is critical for first responding rangers to determine if they are dealing with a natural disease or if it’s a crime scene involving poaching or poisoning. We thank Wildlife Crime Prevention for hosting the courses with their conservation and wildlife authority partners.
Our Wildlife Forensics and Pathology team have recently expanded their testing abilities and are now working on bacteriology to help diagnose diseases in wildlife, such as tuberculosis and the newsworthy and relevant bacterium Pasteurella multocida that was found in the Botswana elephant mortality event in 2020. With new equipment and capacity-building, our hard-working technicians are beginning to culture different bacteria found in animals in order to improve and expedite disease diagnostics.
Laboratory technicians Mcdonald Shiri (right), Nelson Mpofu (center), and Herman Ncube (left).
We are excited to welcome our team of Eco-Herders! The members, selected from the local community, have received training from the South African Wildlife College and are ready to share their knowledge with community members on developing a livestock value chain and improving rangeland health in the communal areas. The community has formed a grazing association and will jointly herd their cattle, putting them in mobile predator-proof bomas at night, rotating livestock among different grazing areas, and managing and improving livestock health.
Eco-herders will significantly help reduce wildlife-livestock conflict, especially during the upcoming rainy season when many community members focus on growing crops.
Save the Date
Zambezi Cycle Challenge July 12-14, 2024
We have dates! There’s time to get fighting fit and plan a Victoria Falls holiday around this wholesome three-day off-road cycling event, which snakes along elephant trails, shows off our breathtaking Batoka gorge, and, most importantly, raises funds for VFWT! For more information, please visit www.zambezicyclechallenge.com.
Rhino photo credit: Julie Phippen