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2018

Putting our money where our mouth is! Announcing the first EWT owned and managed nature reserve

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Africa’s conservation leader, is proud to announce the transfer of the Medike Nature Reserve in Limpopo, into the EWT’s name, as its first ever land purchase. Medike comprises some 1,400 ha of priority and unique mountain habitat in the Soutpansberg Mountains, and was bought through the generosity of the Roberts Family Trust in Australia. This is the first step in a long-term project to realise the dream of establishing the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA), which will ultimately span in excess of 23,000 ha and will connect the existing Happy Rest Nature Reserve in the east and Luvhondo Private Nature Reserve in the west.

This special place is South Africa’s most northern mountain range, and is home to thousands of species of insects, plants, birds and mammals, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. The EWT has identified this region as being in urgent need of protection due to the high number of threatened species, its extraordinary variety of important and unique habitat types, its crucial role in water production, and its value as a centre of cultural heritage for many communities. Despite the significance of the region, the Soutpansberg Mountains currently receive little conservation support, with less than one percent of the area being formally conserved in nature reserves.

By embarking on this journey to protect the area, and purchasing this special tract of land in the western Soutpansberg’s Sand River Gorge, the EWT is about to change all that. Medike Nature Reserve will serve as the catalyst for an ambitious project that will bring in neighbouring properties into the larger Soutpansberg Protected Area, which will safeguard the future of hundreds of threatened species and support the development of sustainable livelihoods in the western Soutpansberg Mountains. “In essence, we will work with existing landowners and local communities to make this one large protected area with the aim of saving species and habitats, providing critical ecosystem services, such as clean water, and developing climate change resilience,” says Oldrich van Schalkwyk, the EWT SPA Manager.

Environmental threats in the area include illegal killing of wildlife, such as Leopards, for the local bush meat and skin industry, and pangolins, for export trade; illegal and unsustainable harvesting of medicinal plants, as well as the uncontrolled collection of firewood; ongoing illegal sand mining in the Sand River; and illegal clearing of indigenous forest, among others. Many of these threats stem from a lack of socio-economic development in the area, and the EWT’s far-reaching vision for this region will result not only in the conservation of its unique biodiversity and the sustained integrity of its water resources, but in sustainable livelihood options for the local communities too. Much of the work will revolve around addressing human-wildlife conflict, and supporting the local communities to farm in an environmentally friendly manner. The EWT will also promote the establishment of a long-lasting conservation-based green economy, linked to innovative local micro-enterprises.

The Roberts family fell in love with this magical mountain when they visited it 2014 and their generosity has allowed the EWT to secure the Medike Nature Reserve and catalyse a bigger conservation vision for the area. The proposed SPA will result in protected area expansion, water security, socio-economic development, ‘green’ job creation and threatened species conservation in the western Soutpansberg. This vision has subsequently leveraged further support from major donors including Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, allowing this dream to approach reality.

Said Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO: “The purchase of Medike signals a new era for the EWT, as we embark on one of the most exciting projects in our history: that of a private landowner and conservator, as well as driver of community stewardship and socio-economic development as a both neighbour and a supporting partner. We remain forever grateful to our investors in conservation, the Roberts Family Trust, as well as Rainforest Trust and the Nedbank Green Trust, for taking this vision forward. We also thank Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr for their enormous support in all the work of the EWT.”

The SPA will act as a demonstration project for the expansion of this work throughout the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and other Man and Biosphere Reserves across the country and continent. We welcome contributions and partnerships from other NGOs and corporates to grow this dream and to establish this unique area as a conservation icon.

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2017

Hope soars for imperilled vultures

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is honoured to have played a key role in bringing hope to threatened vultures around the world, as a new and far-reaching global plan is put in place to protect these iconic birds in 128 countries.

Vultures are under immense pressure from a range of human activities. These threats have resulted in a rapid decline in Africa and Asia particularly, where most of these spectacular birds are now listed as Critically Endangered. But the 124 conservation actions contained in the newly-adopted and exciting Multi-species Action Plan (Vulture MsAP) mean that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Old World vultures.

The EWT has been working tirelessly to drive the development of this global plan, and at the recent Conference of the Parties (COP12) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Vulture MsAP was formally adopted. The adoption of this global plan will drive concerted conservation action to address the negative trends in vulture populations, where in some instances we have lost in excess of 95% of some species over the last 20 years, mostly due to human-induced threats. The Vulture MsAP promotes the implementation of 124 different conservation actions across the globe designed to help populations to recover to sustainable levels. These include policy and legislative changes, research and monitoring, education and awareness, and several on-the-ground actions. Of these 124 actions, 12 have been identified as critical, and immediate implementation is essential. These include:

  • Establishing protocols and training and supporting relevant agency staff (conservation, rangers, police and judiciary) to rapidly respond to poisoning incidents including sharing of best practices.
  • Prohibiting or withdrawing veterinary use of diclofenac, ketoprofen and aceclofenac for the treatment of livestock and substituting it with readily available safe alternatives, such as meloxicam in all Vulture MsAP range states.
  • For new and existing energy infrastructure, promoting the implementation of CMS guidelines by phasing out energy infrastructure designs that pose electrocution risk to vultures and other birds, and advocating retro-fitting with known bird-friendly designs within current maintenance schedules.
  • Conducting a census in 2018-2019 and a census in 2028-2029 of all species to monitor the population size, breeding productivity, distribution and trends across the Vulture MsAP range.

André Botha, the EWT’s resident vulture expert with more than 15 years’ experience in this field, was appointed Overarching Coordinator of the Vulture MsAP in August 2016. He has worked closely with the CMS Raptors MoU, BirdLife International, the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and members of the Vulture Specialist Group of the IUCN, to develop this roadmap for the conservation of 15 species of Old World vultures. Now that the plan has been adopted by COP12, these actions, and others, can get underway in the 128 vulture range states that are affected. André says, “This is where the real work starts. The plan was just the first step, but the declines are still happening and now we need to implement. This is a 12-year plan, and the reality is that if we don’t implement within that time frame, the likelihood of extinction of many of these species is extremely high. A plan such as this gives us great hope that that terrible scenario can be avoided.”

A number of other proposals relating to vultures were also tabled at COP12, including the up-listing of ten species of African and Asian vultures to CMS Appendix 1, which is made up of species that have been assessed as being in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of their range. In more good news for vultures, all the proposals to up-list these species were approved. The species affected are:

  1. Whited-headed Vulture
  2. Hooded Vulture
  3. White-backed Vulture
  4. Cape Vulture
  5. Rüppell’s Vulture
  6. Red-headed Vulture
  7. White-rumped Vulture
  8. Indian Vulture
  9. Slender-billed Vulture
  10. Lappet-faced Vulture

This up-listing provides these imperilled vultures with greater protection in their range states. Parties to the CMS are committed to strictly protecting species on Appendix 1 by prohibiting the removal of these species, conserving and, where possible, restoring their habitats, preventing, removing or mitigating obstacles to their migration, and controlling other factors that might endanger them.

The EWT is honoured to have played a key role in this essential conservation work for these iconic birds and remains committed to saving our scavengers.
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2017

The race is on, this World Rhino Day!

On World Rhino Day, 22 September, a small group of runners will ascend the iconic Rhino Peak in the Southern Region of the Maloti Drakensberg World Heritage Site. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is the official beneficiary of the event and all funds raised will be divided on a 50/50 basis between our work with rhinos and our work with Bearded Vultures. While the rhino connection may be obvious, the funds will be shared with these special birds too because the Rhino Peak itself is home to some of the last Critically Endangered Bearded Vultures in the area.

Deidre Herbst, Eskom Environmental Manager, will be running the race as the EWT’s representative. She says, “As the environmental manager of Eskom, an organisation that impacts on the environment, I am passionate about reducing the negative environmental footprint and making a difference in South Africa, specifically related to water, biodiversity and clean air. When taking up the challenge of improving our environment, we should always consider that the earth is our life support system, and we need to believe that we can make a difference – believing is a critical ingredient to achieve what we set out to do! I feel very privileged to be representing the Endangered Wildlife Trust for this challenge. This is an awesome opportunity to demonstrate my passion for sustainability, specifically the role of biodiversity and the important role played by vultures in the ecosystem. Eskom has a partnership with EWT that focuses on reducing the impact of power lines on birds. While I have participated in many sporting events, I have not had the opportunity to take part in such an awesome challenge before, and have not recently spent time in our beautiful Drakensberg mountains. It seems fitting, given my passion for the environment, that I am able to complete this challenge, representing the EWT, and contributing to the survival of the Bearded Vulture.”

If you’d like to get involved in this epic race, without actually having to run it, you can pledge to support one of the participants, and in so doing, support the work of the EWT! As an added incentive for those pledging, each participant will be offering a lucky draw prize. This prize will be drawn by the runner after the event, and anybody who has pledged against that particular runner will stand a chance to win their prize. Those pledging against Deidre’s race time, for example, stand to win a weekend away at any City Lodge B&B!
To find out more, and make your pledge, visit http://www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za/

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2017

Réveur Finest Linen – Just launched

At Réveur we take immense pride in offering the highest level of service to our customers through a wide range of quality tried and tested linen at competitive prices. Our consistent efforts to improve our range have earned us recognition as being a key supplier to the hospitality industry and in particular to, safari lodges and boutique hotels. Our customer base includes re-sellers and all consumers of linen.

We use only the best quality linen and inners that we can find to ensure that your linen will last for many years in your establishment. Using the state of the art manufacturing process, the mills produce woven fabrics that are strong and beautifully soft, yet highly durable and easy to care for.

Our Réveur linen is produced using quality imported percale fabrics in authentic 200 thread count up to the ultra luxurious 800 thread count. Depending on the customers own requirements. We also offer embroidering for our customers who require bespoke linen.

Within this range all our customers should be able to find a suitable balance between comfort, luxury and value.

Choose from our extensive range of quality bed linen, duvet inners, pillows, mattress and pillow protectors (quilted and waterproof), converters, table linen (from serviettes to table cloths) as well as spa products including kimono gowns and eye masks. You will be pleased with our selection, prices and service. Please feel free to browse our online shop or contact our representatives for more information on our manufacturing of Hotel Linens. All linen is made to order, which means we tailor your linen to your exact requirements.

Submit a quote request by emailing orders@livingstonessupplyco.co.za

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2017

Saying no to single-use plastic

During March we celebrate a number of water-related environmental days, including International Day of Action for Rivers (14 March), National Water Week (20–24 March), and World Water Day (22 March). Water has recently been a very topical subject in South Africa, with the country feeling the effects of drought through water restrictions, increased food prices and frightening visuals of empty dams.

One impact on this essential resource that is not often given as much consideration by consumers as it should be is the use of single-use plastic. These products include soft plastics such as drinking straws, plastic packaging, plastic utensils, plastic bags, product bags and disposable cups. Single-use plastic is typically created for only one use, has a short useful lifespan, is unlikely to be reused, and is either difficult or impossible to recycle. This means that while we may only use these products once, they linger almost indefinitely as waste in landfills, or end up as pollution, not only on land but in our rivers and oceans too.

Species that live in rivers or oceans are particularly susceptible to the threats associated with plastic bags, which, together with plastic fragments, are frequently misidentified as food resources (for example, they are mistaken by turtles for jellyfish), and consumed accidentally. This hinders digestion of natural food resources, leading to gut-blockage, asphyxiation, starvation, strandings and death of marine mammals and turtles. Plastic drinking straws similarly tend to end up in rivers and oceans, where they can injure or kill wildlife. So serious is their potential impact, that global movements such as the OneLessStraw campaign have been developed to encourage consumers to give up their plastic drinking straws. Microbeads are also of serious concern. These solid, tiny plastic particles (typically < 1 mm in size) are used extensively in personal care and household cleaning products, such as toothpastes, exfoliating face and body scrubs, and washing powders. Microbeads have replaced traditional biodegradable exfoliating products, such as salt granules and ground nut shells. These plastic beads are washed down the drain and eventually make their way into rivers, lakes and, ultimately, the ocean. These tiny particles have the potential to absorb persistent organic pollutants, and become incorporated into the food chain, as microplastics are consumed by various marine and riverine animals. The ingestion of microplastics can demonstrably affect an organism’s reproductive success, feeding, growth and movement, as these particles can be taken up into body tissues and fluids.

So what can you do to make a difference? The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) advocates making the following small lifestyle changes which, when implemented routinely on a large-scale societal basis, could significantly reduce South Africa’s single-use plastic consumption and the associated environmental threats of plastic waste and pollution:

  1. Reduce consumption by avoiding purchasing unnecessary single-use plastic products, and when necessary, replace them with environmentally-friendlier alternatives. For example, always make sure to take reusable shopping bags with you when shopping and never pay for single-use plastic carrier bags.
  2. Choose recyclable packaging.
  3. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
  4. When alternative products are unavailable, inconvenient or expensive, plastic products (designed for single-use) can be reused a number of times if washed out after use. These include plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, etc.
  5. Select products packaged using non-plastic materials.
  6. Up-/down-cycle plastic products into something else, for example flower pots.
  7. Bring your own container to restaurants and markets.
  8. Make your own products, such as juices, smoothies and even cleaning products.
  9. Think carefully about how you package your lunches – use re-useable containers as much as possible to limit the usage of cling wrap, plastic bags, etc.
  10. Find out which plastics can and cannot be recycled and what types of plastics your local recycling drop-off facility will accept.
  11. Buy refills.
  12. Avoid body and face scrubs, shower gels, toothpastes, sunscreens and washing powders that contain microbeads (look for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyethylene terephthalate, or polystyrene in the list of ingredients). As an alternative to shower gels packaged in plastic bottles or tubes, rather choose soap bars packaged in wax paper or cardboard boxes.

For more information, take a look at our position statement on single-use plastic.

Claire Relton, Intern

ClaireR@ewt.org.za

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2017

Leap into action for frogs!

Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Threatened Amphibian Programme Manager

JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Leap Day for Frogs is marked annually in February to raise awareness of the plight of these special amphibians. Frogs are often met with negative reactions and mixed attitudes, and Leap Day for Frogs aims to help to dispel some of these unpleasant connotations and educate people about the importance of frogs to our environment. There are 125 frog species in South Africa, of which a third are threatened by habitat destruction, increasing levels of pollution in freshwater systems, disease and climate change. The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) is working hard to secure populations of some of South Africa’s most threatened amphibian species, including the Critically Endangered Amathole Toad, Pickersgill’s Reed Frog, and Western Leopard Toad; protect key habitats for threatened amphibians; and raise awareness about frogs and their importance, making Leap Day for Frogs a very important day.

It’s also a day to have fun! This year, the TAP team will be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog. This event will take place on Friday 24 February at 10:00 on the Durban beachfront promenade (near uShaka Marine World), and we’d love to see as many of you there as possible. We’re aiming for 1,500 participants, so round up your friends, family or school group and hop on over!

For more information on this frog-tastic event, please contact Dr Jeanne Tarrant at JeanneT@ewt.org.za or visit www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za

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2016

Alpacas on Guard

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme recently placed Alpacas in the Northern Cape to function as livestock guarding animals, with the aim of protecting livestock from carnivores predating on them. This exciting first forms part of the broader project which sees the EWT working with farmers to eradicate lethal, and often unselective, methods such as poison and gin traps, while still alleviating conflict between these farmers and predators.

One of the reasons Alpacas are being trialled in the Northern Cape is because we have struggled to successfully place livestock guarding dogs with Dorper sheep in the Upington area. As these sheep don’t have a herding instinct, it was extremely difficult for the dogs to bond with the flock. These sheep also seem to find the dogs, who have grown rather large, intimidating. As a result, and after hearing of the success of a local farmer who was using Alpacas to guard his sheep, we decided to trial Alpacas in this area. Four male Alpacas were sourced from a farm in the Western Cape and relocated to the Northern Cape. Once we were happy with their condition, as the veld in the Northern Cape is quite different from the lush, green Western Cape, we split them up. They have been placed on farms to protect the sheep from predators such as Caracals, jackals, and Brown Hyenas. The feedback thus far has been extremely positive and the Alpacas appear to be a huge hit with the farmers. They have already started displaying guarding behaviour, and the team is collecting data with the hopes of publishing a study on the effectiveness of Alpacas as livestock guarding animals in the future.

Derek van der Merwe, Carnivore Conservation Programme Limpopo Regional Co-ordinator

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2016

Nurturing Citizen Scientists

Cherise Acker, Threatened Amphibian Programme Field Officer

CheriseA@ewt.org.za

Our wetlands form the heart of our water catchments, purifying our valuable water resources that are essential for the survival of all living things.  However, these precious ecosystems are under severe threat from urban encroachment, pollution and overutilisation.

The EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) has a wonderful opportunity to change this through the establishment of green economies within communities. Our programme employs 61 people within six communities in the eThekwini District Municipality to remove alien invasive plants and rehabilitate wetlands habitats which are home to the endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog.  Our people working in the field not only receive a source of income for their work, which is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs Natural Resource Management Project, but also develop a sense of appreciation for these wonderful wetlands and their fauna and flora through this work. Through continuous exposure, they realise that their water resources are being polluted, and that this is ultimately threatening their livelihoods. They observe the wildlife and appreciate the beauty and value of these plants and animals.

As a means of measuring our teams’ growing sense of interest in their natural surroundings, TAP has turned to social media. We have created a WhatsApp group where our team members can post their pictures of the plants and animals they find. This is empowering a whole new group of people who are able to contribute as Citizen Scientists and we are excited and proud to be a part of this! Importantly, many of our team members realise that we are saving water by removing alien plants from wetland areas. Other feedback from team members includes Tawanda Msomi, based on the Bluff, who said: “It gives me a sense of pride to know that I am doing my bit to help the environment!” Another team member said: “We can’t believe that these plants are dangerous, I mean we have them in our gardens! So we go home now and take them out and we have a poster of the poisonous plants which we show our neighbours so that our children are safe.” This kind of comment is a lovely indication of how the work we do has a ripple effect.

The TAP team is excited to have the opportunity to nurture these Citizen Scientists in an effort to collectively care for our precious natural heritage, contributing to knowledge banks and policing emerging environmental threats.
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2016

Breaking new ground in the fight against Rhino horn and ivory smugglers

This World Rhino Day, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is breaking new ground in the fight against rhino horn and ivory smugglers. The EWT’s expert wildlife sniffer dogs, Belgian Malinois Renaldo and German Shepherd Condor, have honed their skills in detecting rhino horn and ivory in the cargo warehouses at OR Tambo International Airport over the past two years. However, for the past few months, they have upped their game as they have been trained to detect rhino horn and ivory using the MECHEM Explosive and Drug Detection System, or MEDDS (also known as the REST or RASCargO), which Kirsty Brebner, EWT Rhino Project Manager, describes as a whole new ball game.
Conventional detection dogs physically sniff the target, be it inside suitcases, packages, vehicles or whatever other medium is being used to transport and hide the contraband. MEDDS technology, on the other hand, uses a remote detection system whereby air from the container of interest is drawn in situ by a vacuum pump onto a special filter which is then presented to the dogs in a specially set up clean room.

This method was originally developed, and has been very successfully used, in the high volume cargo market, particularly where it is difficult for conventional detection dogs to work, such as shipping ports. However, it has mainly been used to detect relatively volatile substances such as explosives and drugs which are likely to emit a relatively large number of volatile organic compounds into the air compared to comparatively inert substances such as rhino horn and ivory.

The MEDDS method comes with considerable additional costs for items such as the filters, as well as trained personnel. It has never been rigorously tested on these more inert substances in real life situations. The trial that the EWT has been running, along with Afri Guard dog handlers and trainers, is designed to change that, and to provide answers for once and for all as to whether MEDDS technology is an option for detecting rhino horn and ivory in shipping ports, which present a challenging environment for law enforcement.

Nick van Loggerenberg, Afri Guard Training Manager says: “Training of the dogs has gone really smoothly, as they are already imprinted on the rhino horn and ivory. We trained them using the MEDDS system, and experimented on extraction times, the climatic variations, and different containers and boxes. We have extracted the samples and presented them to the dogs as much as two days later, and the dogs readily found the positive, proving that the method is working properly. We’re very excited by how well Renaldo and Condor, who are used to fast paced work, are searching!”
These two heroic dogs will soon be sent to an undisclosed port location to put their training into practice as part of this critical trial that, if successful, will provide another vital tool to tackle the smuggling of wildlife contraband in previously inaccessible locations.

This work is made possible by the support of Afri Guard, TRAFFIC, Royal Canin, Hollard Pet Insurance, and Relate.

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2016

Driving Change: Protecting the Protected

23-08-2016

South Africa currently has a serious problem with regards to road-related fatalities, and this epidemic is relevant to wildlife too. Insurance claims suggest that approximately R82.5 million is paid each year against collisions with wild animals, though the costs to wildlife of these collisions are never calculated. So what are the consequences for animals? The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is tackling this question and working to find solutions to the problems associated with wildlife and transport infrastructure.

 

Perhaps the most obvious concern is the direct and negative consequences of vehicle-wildlife collisions, more commonly known as ‘roadkill’. Reports via social media platforms from members of the public show a high level of public disquiet and emotional concern about the rate of road deaths in parks, including issues related to speeding and careless driving, and the conservation impacts and wildlife welfare risks such driving poses. To take a closer look into the problem the EWT launched a new project in 2014 aimed specifically at wildlife and road issues in nature reserves and parks.

In 2014, Pilanesberg National Park was the first reserve to support the initiative, where many wildlife species including leopard and zebra have been killed on the roads. Following this, research continued in Addo Elephant National Park in 2015. The research team set out to monitor driver behaviour through placing a fake snake on the road, and recording how many times it was ‘hit’ and the speed at which the vehicle was travelling.  We found that approximately 50% of drivers hit the fake snake. “From our survey, it seems that observation levels of the driver, rather than the speed of the vehicle, is the key factor in causing roadkill,” explains Wendy Collinson, the Project Executant of the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project.

 

Armed with a better understanding of the reasons why roadkill may be happening in national parks, the research team have returned to Pilanesberg National Park to undertake follow-up work. “A driver awareness campaign is to be launched in parks to make drivers more aware of animals on the roads themselves,” Collinson commented. “We plan to test a number of awareness-measures with visitors to the park and to assess which method works best. This will guide us on future decisions in other parks that will improve the quality of the experience of park visitors and safeguard the animals in these protected areas,” she concluded.

 

The EWT is also excited to announce that the project has expanded to Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park through a joint collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, as well as Table Mountain National Park, where preliminary roadkill surveys have begun. “We are also eagerly awaiting the start of some surveys to begin in Kruger National Park, with support from the University of Mpumalanga and SANParks,” stated Collinson. “There is an urgent need to better quantify and understand the impacts of roads on wildlife in protected areas and to develop and test methods to manage these. Ultimately, through understanding the causes of roadkill, this project will guide further research, specifically for recommended roadkill-reduction measures in other protected areas in South Africa.”

 

The project is novel, unique and innovative in its design since it also uses volunteers or citizen scientists to assist with data collection. Citizen scientists are becoming more recognised by wildlife researchers as a support to expert data collection. To galvanise public participation to this process, the EWT has taken to the internet to get people to report wildlife fatalities.  The EWT has a Smartphone app, Road Watch, which allows data to be quickly and accurately captured, assisting people to easily submit their information. Other social media platforms include Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project in Protected Areas is supported by Bridgestone SA, Copenhagen Zoo and Mikros Traffic Monitoring. Collaborations include: Mpumalanga University, University of KZN, North West Parks and Tourism Board, South African National Parks and Africa:Live.

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