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2019

Endangered Wildlife Trust expands conservation footprint in the Soutpansberg Mountains

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is proud to announce the acquisition of an additional 1,335 ha of critically important habitat in the Soutpansberg Mountains, bringing the area under EWT conservation management to around 2,800 ha. This recent acquisition borders the Medike Nature Reserve, which was acquired in 2018, a wonderful feat made possible by the generous support of Rainforest Trust (USA), the Roberts family (Australia), and James Douglas Wilson (Bahamas).

The Soutpansberg Mountains within the Limpopo Province are South Africa’s most northern mountain range and are home to thousands of species of insects, plants, birds and mammals that are found nowhere else on earth. With less than two percent of this area being formally conserved, the EWT has identified this region as being in urgent need of protection due to the high presence of threatened species, its extraordinary variety of important habitat types, its crucial role in water production, and its value as a centre of cultural heritage for many communities.

The initial purchase of the Medike Nature Reserve only the first step in a long-term project to realise the dream of establishing the Soutpansberg Protected Area, which will ultimately span in excess of 23,000 ha. Not only does the newly acquired property protect a variety of unique vegetation types such as the extremely rare Northern Mistbelt Forest, the endemic Soutpansberg Summit Sourveld, and Soutpansberg Mountain Bushveld, of which only 3.6% was previously protected, it also forms a critical link between the EWT’s Medike Nature Reserve and the existing Happy Rest Provincial Nature Reserve.

Purchasing this high-altitude property adjacent to our Medike Nature Reserve in the Sand River gorge is also an excellent example of a climate response corridor with altitudinal variation. As systems warm, it is expected that ecological niches will shift upwards in altitude and by protecting areas from valley bottoms through to hilltops it is commonly understood that this creates adaptation potential for a large number of species.

The EWT aims to safeguard the future of hundreds of threatened species through our local conservation activities, which will protect the unique biodiversity and landscapes, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods in the western Soutpansberg Mountains. We are achieving this through the establishment of a formal protected area corridor for the entire western Soutpansberg, while at the same time strategically addressing threats to species and their habitats

across the region, through actions such as the control of invasive alien plant species from the mountain’s catchments and the deployment of our anti-poaching units in poaching hotspots, as well as securing critical cultural heritage and sacred sites for local Venda people.

The creation of a large protected area will not only mitigate wildlife threats, but will also enhance economic activities in the area, thus promoting sustainable job creation within the eco-tourism, biological research, and education sector in and around the mountain. Our vision will see the Soutpansberg mountain become not only a refuge for the protection of amazing threatened habitats and species but also a tourism centre for people to enjoy and experience for centuries to come.

EWT CEO says, “It is significant that, during Heritage Month in South Africa, this long-awaited conservation transaction was finalised. The EWT and our partners, Rainforest Trust, the Roberts Family and James Douglas Wilson, with the invaluable support of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, are creating something very special in this ancient mountainous landscape, by preserving the cultural and natural heritage of multiple communities of life, for the future. As we expand our conservation footprint in this region, the opportunities to engage local communities in sustainable, green economy enterprises that will support their livelihoods, in an area of devastating poverty and unemployment, also grows. We are excited about the potential to develop a unique conservation model that capitalises on the area’s unique biodiversity and cultural heritage to the benefit of existing and future generations and to unpack the secrets of this wondrous Garden of Eden through our ongoing discovery of new species.”

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About the Endangered Wildlife Trust

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world.

The EWT’s team of field-based specialists works across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion.

A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za

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2019

Africa’s Critically Endangered vultures face relentless poisoning

In a letter published yesterday in the journal Science, vulture researchers have raised the alarm over the relentless poisoning of Critically Endangered vultures across Africa. During the past 20 months, over 1,000 vultures across the African continent have perished due to widespread poisoning. Vultures have succumbed to poisoning in Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Vultures are vital for healthy ecosystems and their role in rapidly consuming carcasses is both an undervalued ecosystem service as well as an iconic phenomenon of the African savannah.

Two of the most substantial poisoning threats come from poachers and traditional healers. Poachers deliberately poison vultures in an effort to eliminate them because by flying over carcasses vultures reveal the poachers’ presence. Vulture body parts are harvested unsustainably for medicinal and other belief-based uses and this is typically carried out using poisons.

Lead author Dr Antoni Margalida said, “The sustainability of free-ranging vulture populations depends on our ability to identify and mitigate existing and future threats. In this sense, African governments should prioritise the reduction of illegal poisoning related to belief-use and poaching, as well as the education of their citizens about the dangers of pesticide misuse.”

Dr Darcy Ogada of The Peregrine Fund, and one of the letter’s authors, stated, “It’s time that African governments acknowledge and address the massive problem of pesticide misuse. As poisoning continues to devastate vulture populations, the widespread misuse of pesticides seriously threatens the health of Africans, their livestock, as well as the environment that we all share.”

“Although some of the actions recommended in the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures to reduce the impact of poisoning on the continent’s vultures have been implemented in some areas in southern, east, and west Africa, a lot more needs to be done. For example, better coordination of such activities in identified poisoning hotspots, and cooperation between multiple stakeholders is needed,” concludes André Botha from the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa.

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2019

Cheetahs introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve after decades-long absence

Two years after cheetahs were reintroduced to Malawi, in Liwonde National Park, four individuals were safely translocated from South Africa to Majete Wildlife Reserve to form a crucial founder population and help grow the range of this vulnerable big cat.

A small founder population of wild Cheetahs has been successfully translocated from South Africa to Majete Wildlife Reserve, in Malawi, where cheetahs have not been present for decades. Cheetahs were entirely absent from Malawi for twenty years before a successful reintroduction returned them to Liwonde National Park in 2017. The translocation of four Cheetahs on Thursday, 25 July, resulted from a collaboration between African Parks, which manages Majete and Liwonde in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). Their introduction into the secure reserve supports conservation efforts to ensure the survival of Cheetah on the continent, and marks another milestone in the restoration of Malawi’s predator population.


Cheetah in Liwonde National Park. Photo credit Olivia Sievert.
“Our partnership with Malawi’s DNPW and collaboration with the EWT is helping to ensure a future for an iconic predator species in decline. By bringing Cheetahs back to Majete, we have achieved another important step in transforming the once-depleted ecosystem into a thriving reserve while supporting critical predator conservation efforts in the region,” said John Adendorff, Park Manager of Majete Wildlife Reserve. He added, “Effectively managed parks like Majete create safe havens for wildlife and generate opportunities for millions of people to benefit from the development of conservation-led economies and from the long-term dividends of healthy landscapes.”
Donated by Welgevonden, Samara and Dinokeng Game Reserves and Rietvlei Nature Reserve in South Africa, the Cheetahs were flown to Lilongwe and transferred by road to Majete where they arrived safely on the evening of Thursday, 25 July. They were released into enclosures, where they will spend over a month acclimating to their new surroundings before venturing into the wider reserve. The animals are in good health and expected to do well in Majete, where habitat and prey conditions are optimal and measures are in place to ensure their ongoing conservation and protection.

Each individual was carefully selected by the EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which creates safe spaces for Cheetahs while managing populations across reserves to ensure genetic diversity. The EWT considered a variety of factors when selecting Majete’s founder population, which are unrelated to the Cheetahs reintroduced to Liwonde in 2017, providing the foundations for a diverse and healthy gene pool in Malawi. “It’s really wonderful to be reintroducing Cheetahs into the 60th metapopulation reserve. We are grateful to African Parks and DNPW for creating 750km2 of safe space for wild Cheetahs. Majete has the ecological capacity to support an important viable Cheetah population,” said the EWT Cheetah Metapopulation Coordinator, Vincent van der Merwe.

The EWT’s Vincent van der Merwe overseeing the translocation in South Africa. Photo credit Jo Taylor.
Historic records suggest that Cheetahs were present in the region around Majete several decades ago. However, due to decades of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and poaching, Cheetahs vanished from Malawi until the 2017 reintroduction saw their return to Liwonde National Park. African Parks assumed management of Majete Wildlife Reserve, the first park to enter its portfolio, in partnership with Malawi’s DNPW in 2003; and begun reviving the park by implementing sound law enforcement, community development and conservation programmes. Almost 3,000 animals of 15 species were brought back, including both leopard and lion, making Majete Malawi’s only home to ‘Big Five’ wildlife. Since then, the conservation efforts of the Malawi Government and African Parks have overseen a predator restoration plan for the region, with Cheetah and lion also reintroduced to Liwonde National Park in 2017 and 2018 respectively. With Majete secured wildlife in the reserve is flourishing, in turn benefitting local communities through sustainable tourism, livelihood opportunities and socio-economic growth.

Eradicated from 90 percent of their historic range in Africa, Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, and as few as 6,700 remain in the wild. While numbers have plummeted due to shrinking habitats and growing anthropogenic pressures, protected areas provide safe spaces that are critical to enabling population growth and range expansion, and to securing a future for the species on the continent.

The EWT is grateful to PwC for their support of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project.

Photo and video assets are available here.

About African Parks
African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 14 national parks and protected areas in nine countries covering 10 million hectares in Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia. For more information visit www.africanparks.orgTwitterInstagram and Facebook. 

About Malawian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW)
African Parks and Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) have been working closely together to rehabilitate habitat and restore biodiversity to the country’s parks since 2003, when a public-private partnership was formed for the management of Majete. African Parks subsequently assumed management of Liwonde (and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve) in partnership with DNPW in 2015, following the successful track record achieved in Majete.

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with its vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world. The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with its partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion. Find out more at http://www.ewt.org.za.

Contacts
Fran Read, African Parks, franr@african-parks.org;
Johannesburg: +27 (011) 465 0050

Belinda Glenn, EWT, belindag@ewt.org.za;
Johannesburg: +27 87 0210 398 ext. 110

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2019

Breaking news as new Riverine Rabbit population found in Baviaanskloof

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme was thrilled to confirm the presence of a population of Riverine Rabbits on the western side of the Baviaanskloof in late May 2019. This population represents a completely new distribution of the species not anticipated by any previous population modelling. According to Bonnie Schumann, EWT Nama Karoo Coordinator, this is an historic find with the closest confirmed sightings of the southern population having been more than 250 km to the west.

The discovery comes after ornithologist and well-known conservation scientist, Alan Lee from Blue Hills Escape Farm in the Western Cape, discovered a dead Riverine Rabbit on a gravel road in December 2018. Fortunately, he realised that the animal in front of him was not a hare or a Rock Rabbit but the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit.

EWT team members visited the area and set out 38 camera traps with the aim of capturing live images to confirm the presence of another population. Camera traps are placed in clusters and in such a manner that individuals are not likely to be observed twice by more than one cluster. After 50 days in the field, the cameras were collected by the team and processed.

According to Cobus Theron, EWT Drylands Conservation Programme Manager, “while we expected one or two clusters to capture images, we were astounded that eight of our 12 clusters had confirmed images of Riverine Rabbits on them!” This again demonstrates that this species is the true hide-and seek champion of the Karoo.

“This find is unexpected and redefines our understanding of the distribution of the species. It demonstrates that their elusiveness is part of their survival strategy,” continues Cobus.

CapeNature Executive Director: Biodiversity Capabilities, Coral Birss, added, “CapeNature is delighted about the recent discovery of Riverine Rabbits in the Baviaanskloof area in the Southern Cape. The species, which previously managed to go virtually undetected, has proven to effectively solidify its presence, supported by research on genetic connectivity and distribution in the last decade. This latest discovery is remarkable and bodes well for the future survival of this Critically Endangered species, particularly for its protection within the landscapes of the Western Cape surrounding our nature reserves. CapeNature commends the great work and research being done and facilitated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and looks forward to further collaboration and tracking the progress of this interesting species.”

The EWT has also obtained a genetic sample from the dead rabbit found by Alan Lee. This will be analysed to provide insights into the relationship between the Baviaanskloof Riverine Rabbits and Riverine Rabbits from the northern and southern populations.

The find shows the importance of sightings by members of the public and the value of social media in connecting people.

The EWT, along with CapeNature, will now incorporate the findings into their conservation strategy and engage landowners in the Baviaanskloof to ensure that the Riverine Rabbit receives the attention it deserves.

 

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2019

EYE of the PANGOLIN. The search for an animal on the edge. A definite must see!

A firestorm of poaching and illegal trade is raging around the African pangolin. Conservationists estimate that one pangolin is poached from the wild every five minutes due to the huge demand from the African and Asian traditional medicine markets. These shy, defenceless animals are being pushed to the edge of extinction, yet this curious little creature is one of the most elusive on the planet. Many people have never heard of it, very few have seen it in the wild and it does not survive in captivity.

We have partnered with award-winning South African filmmakers Bruce Young and Johan Vermeulen to produce a powerful, awareness raising film about the critical situation facing the African pangolin.

About the film

From the co-director of Blood Lions, this powerful documentary is the story of two men on a mission to get all four species of African pangolin on camera for the very first time. As they travel the continent to learn more about those caring for and studying pangolins they are captivated by these strange, secretive creatures and document the race to save them from being poached to extinction.

Our goal is to make Eye of the Pangolin the most widely watched wildlife documentary ever, that will be seen by millions of people around the world via free online platforms, through schools and other educational establishments, at wildlife film festivals, and at screenings supported other conservation organisations everywhere. By making the film open source we can reach the greatest possible number of viewers because we believe that if people come to know the African pangolin they will care enough to somehow help put a stop to the horrific trade.

To ensure the greatest possible impact we are launching an intensive screening campaign for Eye of the Pangolin, taking the film to rural schools in high poaching areas across the continent where poaching may be a livelihood for communities or traditional cultural practice.

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2019

You can help save the world’s most trafficked mammal!

The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked mammal.
As a result, this elusive little fellow is now threatened with extinction across its home range. Pangolin numbers are now so low that every animal counts and we cannot afford to lose even one more!

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s team in the Soutpansberg Mountains, led by Oldrich van Schalkwyk, received disturbing news last Saturday, 4 May, that a pangolin was being offered for sale in a neighbouring village. Working with rangers from the H12Leshiba Game Reserve and the South African Police Service, a sting operation was immediately launched to rescue this trafficking victim so that it could be safely returned to its wild habitat. 

The suspects had contacted the reserve to offer the pangolin to them for R80,000, but were exposed by a brave informant, who negotiated with the sellers while the team put the sting operation in place. At 15:00, we were advised that the pangolin would be sold to someone in Johannesburg if the R80,000 was not forthcoming in the next hour, and knew there was little time left to save this terrified animal.

Unfortunately, the suspects were tipped off, and fled the scene before an arrest was possible. However, the woman and children in the house lead the team to the room where the animal was being kept. Amongst the clutter, Oldrich found the distressed pangolin hiding under a cupboard. 

The priority was to get the stressed and extremely dehydrated male pangolin to safety, and EWT staff took him to the EWT’s Medike Nature Reserve, where he could forage, drink water, and de-stress. Normally, pangolins absorb water from their food, rather than through drinking, but this poor animal was so dehydrated that he drank deeply from the water hole, after enjoying a meal of ants.

The next morning, this brave little survivor was taken by the African Pangolin Working Group to a specialist rehabilitation centre in Johannesburg, where he will be treated and cared for before being released back into the wild in the Soutpansberg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, the vet found him to still be dehydrated, but in otherwise surprisingly good condition. It was extremely fortunate that we were able to rescue him after only a few days in captivity. Usually, these animals are only found after a much longer time in the trade, and often it is too late to save them.

A case has been opened against the suspects and the police are closing in, with an imminent arrest being on the cards. 

But the fight to save this brave pangolin is not over!
When he is ready to be released, he needs to be fitted with a tracking device so that we can ensure his safety and continued wellbeing. All pangolins, without exception, are compromised both physically and mentally when rescued from the illegal trade. During the hospitalisation and rehabilitation process, the aim is to attain ‘full and fit health’ before release. However, old injuries and illness picked up during capture often reoccur post-release. There have been instances where these trauamtised animals have deteriorated post-release and had to be readmitted to hospital, or worse, have succumbed to their illnesses. That’s the last thing we want to see happen, and we’re sure you feel the same way. To prevent this, we need to monitor him via the tracking device, to enable us to rush to the pangolin’s aid if necessary. These tracking data will also give us a better understanding of the behaviour of these elusive creatures, helping us to conserve not just this pangolin, but many more of them in the future.

Will you help to save our pangolins?
Your donation will help to cover his veterinary costs, buy a tracking device, monitor him in the field for at least three months, and keep him, and other pangolins out of the illegal wildlife trade. 

Costs:
Tracking device: R20,000
Monitor pangolins in the field per day: R200
Pangolin rehabilitation costs: R30,000

Your help could make the world of difference to this pangolin, and many more.

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2019

Inaugural African linear infrastructure and ecology conference

It is likely that many drivers have, at some point, accidently hit an animal on the road. The consequences? Not only an injured or dead animal, but probably an insurance claim, or a visit to the emergency room for various injuries. At the inaugural African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology (ACLIE) 2019, which was held this past week in the iconic Kruger National Park, and co-hosted by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Eskom, solutions to prevent wildlife roadkill and improve driver safety were addressed. Work undertaken in Canada, demonstrated in one of the many fascinating presentations at the conference, shows that building wildlife bridges over or under roads effectively helps many animals to cross over the road, while avoiding an interaction with a vehicle. Simple, but effective!
 

Similarly, the Eskom/EWT Strategic Partnership – an African first – excited international delegates who saw how this unique relationship is directly reducing wildlife interactions with electrical infrastructure and preventing disruption to our power supply. 
 

Centred around linear infrastructure, namely roads and rail, energy, canals, pipelines, and fences, and their impacts on the environment, ACLIE was the first of its kind, not only for Africa, but also in the framework of combining transportation and energy at one forum outlining multiple, common threats to the environment. ACLIE sought to move away from the current international conference framework, which usually focuses on each form of linear infrastructure in isolation (for example, roads only), and introduced a less siloed approach that combined all forms of transportation and energy, since these necessary modes usually co-exist and have multiple negative impacts on biodiversity. Examples include the loss of wildlife due to roadkill and electrocution on power lines. The EWT’s Wildlife and Transport and Wildlife and Energy programmes have been addressing these impacts and developing solutions for years and were the drivers behind this international gathering of experts, to expand the knowledge pool. The impacts are not unique to South Africa, however; they are a threat worldwide. 
 

ACLIE delegates

Presentations ranged from global perspectives to individual country case studies, covering current scientific research, policy, legislation and best practice, and all with the potential to enhance both the project development process and the ecological sustainability of all linear infrastructure modes. A common thread across many presentations was the threat posed by current and future development across Africa. Over the next decade, major developmental projects have been planned for Africa, which will see ‘development corridors’, comprising networks of power lines, roads, railways, pipelines, and ports being constructed to facilitate the movement of commodities. There are over 30 development corridors taking shape across Africa, spanning over 53,000 km in length, and potentially affecting protected areas with high conservation values and multiple threatened species. It is therefore timely that ACLIE was held, in order to better prepare ecologists and sustainability experts for this explosive development. The conference attracted many key players, including the World Bank and USAid (PowerAfrica), and was a golden opportunity to facilitate discussions and influence decision-makers around future developments on the continent.

The EWT’s Matt Pretorius presenting “A power line collision model for Lesser Flamingos in South
Africa.”

Case studies of how to prevent Martial Eagles being electrocuted on power lines, or Samango Monkeys being killed on roads in South Africa, to examples from North America on the design of bridges specially constructed over roads to assist wildlife in crossing, and prevent collisions on roads, were just some of the practical illustrations of the significance of this work. Keynote speakers included Yolan Friedmann, the EWT’s CEO, Deidre Herbst, the Environmental Manager from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, and George Ledec, the lead ecologist with the World Bank.

Wendy Collinson-Jonker, EWT Wildlife and Transport Programme Manager, elaborated, “We were extremely proud to be able to showcase our projects to the rest of the world at ACLIE, as well as share potential solutions for the proposed linear infrastructure developments across the African continent. The challenge will be implementing many of these solutions, but the input and support from experts who attended ACLIE may well assist us in ensuring development that is more resilient and ultimately benefits the economy but conserves the environment.”
Feedback from the conference delegates supports the need for ACLIE to become a regular event on the global calendar – only through bringing together experts from around the world, will we truly address this very real threat to biodiversity. 

Rodney van der Ree, an associate professor from the University of Melbourne, said, “The conference was a fantastic opportunity to network and look at innovative solutions to the problems posed by linear infrastructure. It was particularly great to see so many African countries represented her, given the current programme of infrastructure development on the continent – this suggests recognition of the potential threats and ownership of the need to find ways to address them. The opportunities for building sustainable infrastructure in the long-term are an exciting outcome of ACLIE.”

Kishaylin Chetty, Senior Environmental Advisor at the Eskom Biodiversity Centre of Excellence, added, “The ACLIE 2019 conference brought industry and wildlife impacts to a discussion forum where all parties can work towards shared objectives, expanding knowledge, and understanding how to ultimately minimise the threat to wildlife. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity.”

 ACLIE 2019 was organised with the assistance of africaMASSIVE, and was supported by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, Road Ecology Center – UC Davies, TRAC N4, EcoKare International, SANPARKS, Balmoral Engineering, Painted Wolf Wines, and Arcus Foundation.
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About the Endangered Wildlife Trust 
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world.

The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion.

A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za

Contacts
Wendy Collinson
Wildlife and Transport Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
wendyc@ewt.org.za

Lourens Leeuwner
Wildlife and Energy Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
lourensl@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

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2019

Conserving Kruger’s Martial Eagles

Martial Eagles are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to suspected population declines across much of their African range. Locally within South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland the species is classified as Endangered owing to worrying population declines. In South Africa, it has been estimated that there could be up to 800 pairs of this magnificent eagle. However, recent findings by researchers at the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute of Ornithology have suggested that the species has declined by up to 60% over the last 20 years. This is also the case inside the Kruger National Park, the largest protected area in the country, where it has been estimated that the species has declined by as much as 54%. These declines are very concerning and highlight the need for larger landscape conservation efforts to mitigate threats to large raptors.

 

In response to these declines, in 2013 the FitzPatrick Institute of Ornithology established The Martial Eagle Project, which is now run in collaboration with the EWT’s Birds of Prey Programme and is a registered SANParks project. The project aims to improve our understanding of the threats faced by this species and how these threats could be driving population declines of Martial Eagles, with a particular focus on the declines that have been observed within Kruger, where species are usually expected to be most protected. This research is important to understand the role that protected areas have in conservation and to understand specific threats and habitat requirements for the conservation of Martial Eagles.

 

At the outset of the project, one hypothesis for the population declines was that immature Martial Eagles might be subject to increased mortality outside of protected areas, due to the tendency for inexperienced eagles to range into areas with increased human pressures. This would cause a reduction in the number adult birds that are able to recruit into the breeding population in Kruger. The good news is that contrary to this hypothesis, GPS tracking data collected since 2013 did not find evidence for low survival during these early life stages despite ranging widely beyond protected area boundaries.

 

However, through GPS tracking of adult birds and nest monitoring, two potential factors that may be contributing to the observed population declines have been detected: low adult survival and poor breeding productivity. Adult mortalities, including persecution and electrocution, during unexpected wide-ranging movements outside of the Kruger, might be a major factor contributing to population level declines.

 

The poor breeding productivity recorded by the project from 2013 to present comes in two forms: both a lower than average number of pairs making a breeding attempt and low success of those pairs which do try. To better understand the latter, the project has recently been installing time-lapse cameras at nests, which will record the actual causes of nest failure. Cameras are currently installed at active nests and at the end of the breeding season in November, they will be recovered so we can learn something more about this year’s nesting attempts. Alongside this, the project is continuing to investigate individual eagles’ movements and survival in the Kruger using GPS tracking.

 

In order to conserve a species we need to understand its requirements, how it interacts with the environment, and the threats that it faces. Thus, the information gathered by the Martial Eagle Project will all contribute to the goal of long-term conservation of this wide-ranging top predator.

 

Dr Gareth Tate, Manager, EWT Birds of Prey Programme

 

ewt

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2018

Civil society organisations welcome new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust(EWT) have come out strongly in favour of a new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding in the country. Entitled Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting and Bone Trade in South Africa, the new report finds:

 

  1. Captive lion breeding holds no conservation value;
  2. There is no evidence to support the flawed, minority-held, argument that the captive-bred lion industry is “a well-regulated, manageable industry that contributes way more positively to South Africa than negatively”;
  3. The South African government should rethink its policy stance on the captive lion breeding industry, which runs the risk of making the country an “international pariah”;
  4. The increase in the lion bone export quote from 800 in 2017 to 1500 in 2018 is “highly problematic”;
  5. There are ethical, welfare* and brand concerns relating to the captive lion breeding and hunting industries;
  6. The use of lion parts in commercial trade is one of the major emerging threats to wild lions and could facilitate illegal trade;
  7. It is concerning that the current export quotas were not based on scientific evidence and that the 2017 quota was not been adequately managed, resulting in more than 800 skeletons being exported.

 

The 24-page report – adopted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs (PCEA) during a special meeting on 8 November – followed a PCEA colloquium held on 21 and 22 August 2018. It was, reportedly, the longest and best-attended Parliamentary colloquium held in recent years. During the special meeting last week, the PCEA resolved that:

 

  1. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) should urgently initiate a legislative and policy review of the captive lion breeding industry with a view to putting an end to this practice, and the Minister of Environmental Affairs should report quarterly to the PECA on progress in this regard.
  2. DEA should conduct an audit of captive lion and cheetah breeding facilities to assess legislative compliance.
  3. DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) should present a clear programme and timeframes to deal with welfare* and health issues relating to captive-bred lions.

 

“We hope that this is the beginning of a just and equitable system for the management of captive lions and other wild animals bred for commercial use in South Africa, and we look forward to participating in the policy and legislative review of the industry,” said CER attorney, Aadila Agjee.

 

EWT CEO, Yolan Friedman, concluded: “We welcome the PCEA’s resolutions and commend the Honourable Chair and Members for their close consideration of this important issue, and the hard work that went into the colloquium and its outcome. The EWT has actively fought against the torrid industry of captive lion breeding, shooting, and bone trade for over a decade. We welcome this report that acknowledges the widely held stance by most South Africans, and all lion biologists and experts, that this industry is nothing but a blight on the conservation pedigree that South Africa should otherwise be able to claim.”

 

*See the CER and EWT report Fair Game for a comprehensive set of recommendations on improving the legal and practical regulation of the well-being of wild animals. This report was funded by the Lewis Foundation.

 

Ends

 

Contacts:

Annette Gibbs

Communications Manager

Centre for Environmental Rights

082 467 1295

agibbs@cer.org.za

 

Yolan Friedmann

CEO

Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600

yolanf@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600

belindag@ewt.org.za

Read More
2018

Youth tackle hot topics on World Rhino Day

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) recognises the critical role that young people have to play in conservation, as the guardians of our future. With this in mind, the EWT will be running its annual speech and poster contest for schools on World Rhino Day, 22 September 2018. South Africa’s rhinos are in crisis and the EWT believes that the youth can play a key role in helping to save them. This annual event, made possible by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund, invites Grade 10 learners from schools in areas that are high risk for poaching activities to prepare speeches and posters on a topic relevant to the rhino crisis. Now in its fourth year, the contest was initially held in Mpumalanga in 2015 and has subsequently taken place in the Waterberg region in Limpopo each year.

This year, participants have three options to choose from:

 Preparing a speech on the topic: “You are chosen to attend the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. You have been requested to give a speech to the CITES member countries on the value of rhino to you as a South African youth. What will you tell them? In your speech please tell us why rhinos are important to you and explain what CITES is and why you feel the international community should help South Africa save them from poaching.”
 Preparing a speech on the topic: “The Endangered Wildlife Trust Wildlife in Trade Programme has a project called ‘Kopanang’, meaning come together. This project aims to bring communities and nature reserves together – how would you achieve this goal? In your speech please set out the importance of wildlife, why wildlife crimes must be stopped, and what activities you will do or would like to do to help under this project.”
 Designing a poster on the topic: “What rhinos mean to you/why you love rhinos.” Twenty schools from the area are participating. Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School where the contest is hosted, says: “The contest has a huge impact on the participants, as it deals with the perception amongst local communities that biodiversity does not deliver tangible socio-economic benefits, particularly to the poor. It is through this competition that communities see social upliftment and empowerment of the younger generation to attain critical thinking skills and get involved in solving real issues like rhino poaching. The incentives are greatly appreciated by all participants since our province is one of the poorest provinces in the country, often with limited resources for teaching and learning. These opportunities close the gap of lack of proper uniforms, lack of study aid and lack of access to technological equipment.”

While the contest offers valuable prizes in the form of laptops for the winning speakers, enhancing their educational opportunities, the real prize is the engagement around these critical conservation topics. The participants go on to become ambassadors for rhinos in their local communities, speaking out against poaching, and acting as eyes and ears on the ground. The EWT has a long track record of tackling rhino poaching, and first established a targeted Rhino Conservation Project in 2010. The EWT has taken a multi-faceted approach with multiple interventions along the rhino poaching chain. These approaches include the provision of detection and antipoaching dogs to key locations, such as airports and reserves; community engagement and awareness raising; patrol optimisation technology to improve detection and enforcement; capacity building through training for law enforcement officials, rangers, and other stakeholders; and policy engagement.

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision of being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world. The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human-wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion. A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together.

Find out more at www.ewt.org.za
Contacts Ashleigh Dore Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust Tel: +27 87 021 0398