The Africa of Connection | Londolozi Blog

I love the darkness immediately preceding the dawn. I like getting down to the camp deck early in the morning, before any other rangers or trackers are there, to make myself a cup of coffee and just sit and listen. Those few minutes of utter peace that can be found just as the first hint of…

Origen: The Africa of Connection | Londolozi Blog

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Want to change the world? Give women land rights | Human Nature – Conservation International Blog

More women than ever are growing the world’s food — yet men continue to make most land-use decisions.

Origen: Want to change the world? Give women land rights | Human Nature – Conservation International Blog

Leopardos – Onçafari

Programa produzido por Mario Haberfeld, idealizador do Projeto Onçafari, César Augusto e Adriano Gambarini. Hoje o assunto é a habituação dos leopardos, na África. Foi onde tudo começou. A idéia do projeto Onçafari surgiu daí. Imagens interessantes de um leopardo fêmea comendo um Impala e dividindo a caça com 2 filhotes.
O canal Onçafari, aqui no youtube, tem um novo programa todas as quintas-feiras. Aqui, falamos de habituação, fotografia e conservação das onças pintadas e de outros animais ao redor do Mundo.

Produção: Mario Haberfeld

Fotos: Projeto Onçafari, Mario Haberfeld.

Investing in Wild Tigers by John Varty

By John Varty 

Photo: JV and THE BIG CATS
Photo: JV and THE BIG CATS

Hello Friends,  

Thank you for the many phone calls, emails and comments concerning the last newsletter (newsletter no. 89). They are much appreciated and apologies that I cannot answer each and every one, however, I will try to answer some of your questions.  

Financial Investment:

As a businessman, you will ask the question: “What is the return on my investment?” The answer is, it is not a good one compared to other investments. Money can be made out of tigers by photographing them, filming them and hunting male tigers. I will immediately dismiss the hunting, although lucrative, it is illegal and unethical. 

The photographic potential is huge and growing rapidly for the simple fact that the tiger countries in Asia have not conserved the tiger. Even in India, the traditional stronghold of the tiger, tourists are having bad experiences. Large amounts of money are being laid out on safaris that produce no good sightings and few good pictures. The last remaining habituated tigers are surrounded by many vehicles, all jostling for position. This further destroys the experience.  

Investment: 

The alternative to Asia is to invest in an ex-situ conservation project in South Africa. However, to get to view the tiger, one must first buy suitable land. This is expensive. Once you have the land, you must then fence it with a 3.3 metre electrical fence. This cost is around R130,000 per kilometer (a lion only needs a 2.4 metre electrical fence). Having fenced the land, you need to stock with suitable prey. (A blesbuck will cost you R1,500 per head, a blue wildebeest R2,500 per head).

After stocking and fencing, you need to build a lodge to accommodate your guests. Therefore, at a million rands per bed, an 8 bed lodge will set you back R8 million.  

The most efficient way to get your guests in, is to fly them, so you need a tarmac runway suitable for jets. This will set you back several million rands.  

To run your lodge and tiger safaris, you will need trained staff and you will need to pay them well to compete with other operations. (Tourism remains the best way to create jobs in Africa).  

Staff need proper accommodation and this too is expensive. The old staff accommodation on sheep farms is unacceptable.  

Only now can you start to get a return on your money and you will have to run high occupancies to be profitable.  

The fact that you have wild tigers, gives you a competitive edge but it doesn’t guarantee you success. You are competing against many fine established private lodges and National Parks in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania.  

The key is to build the tiger experience into a package to the south which includes shark diving, whale watching and the garden route. To the north, packages with Kruger National Park,  private lodges and Mozambique will be very successful.

Environmental Return:  

The areas around Tiger Canyons have been subjected to sheep farming for over a hundred years. Man-made desertification has damaged the ‘Garden of Eden’. (Fortunately, sheep farming is a failing land use system). The good news is that the land can be restored if you are prepared to partnership with nature.  

One of the most rewarding things that I have done in my life, is to release large tracts of land by removing sheep fences. In addition, by closing the windmills, the water table lifts and fountains begin to flow. Mini migrations return as the animals can now move. Birds, fish, frogs and insects all respond as step by step the ‘Garden of Eden’ returns to its former glory.  

All of this is dependant on the tiger and the people who will come to see and photograph it. If large enough tracts of land can be assembled, lion, leopard, tiger and cheetah can all co-exist in one park. This would be unique in the world. 

Spiritual Investment: 

As the worlds human population moves towards 10 billion, more and more people are looking to move away from the mega-cities to the small towns and rural areas. People are searching for a healthier, simpler and more spiritual existence. People are searching for projects which bring meaning to their own lives and to those of endangered species. 

To take a tiger (there are 1,000 wild tigers left and we are losing one wild tiger every day), nurture it,  release it onto the land, protect it, and see it produce cubs, is certainly the most spiritual thing that I have ever done in my life.  

Like-Minded:

If you are looking for a good financial return on your money, you are looking in the wrong place. If you are looking to speculate by raising land prices, this is not for you.  

If you have dollars or euros which are strengthening against the rand, you start with an enormous advantage. If you are prepared to buy into the ‘Greater Cause’ which includes: 

1) Helping save the tiger. 

2) Creating jobs in depressed communities.  

3) Up-skilling and uplifting people to work in the tourist industry.  

If you are prepared to include the financial, environmental and spiritual investment and are like-minded, then feel free to contact me.  

In the last newsletter (newsletter no. 89), I listed at random, several wealthy individuals and the investments they have made. This was not criticism. They are fine and worthwhile investments. I was merely pointing out that no one individual has picked up the ‘Tiger Cause’ and there may be an opportunity there.  

Tread Light
JV

Watch: First Video of Fish Leaping Into Air to Prey on Birds

Posted by Jane J. Lee in Water Currents

A tigerfish mugs for the camera by showing off an impressive set of teeth. PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID DOUBILET, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
A tigerfish mugs for the camera by showing off an impressive set of teeth. PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID DOUBILET, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The last thing a barn swallow probably expects as it’s flying low over a lake is to be met with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth emerging from the water. And if the bird happens to be flying over a certain lake in South Africa, that may well be the last thing it sees.

A recent study has caught what researchers say are the first scientific observations of a fish launching itself out of the water to catch birds in midair.

2Fish preying on birds is not unusual, but it’s not a common part of many fish species’ diets either.

“There are more than 14,000 freshwater fish species in the world,” wrote Nico Smit, director of the unit for environmental sciences and management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in an email. “[But] of those, only about five species are known to prey on birds, so I definitely don’t think it is a widespread  behavior.”

For the most part, when fish feed on birds, it’s a meal of opportunity, Smit noted. Either the birds have accidentally fallen into the water, or waterfowl like ducks just happen to paddle over the wrong stretch of a lake or river.

But during a 15 day survey in February 2010, Smit and colleagues saw African tigerfish—which populate a storage lake for the Schroda Dam in South Africa—snatching barn swallows out of the air, they report in a study published online last month in the Journal of Fish Biology.

3Unlike other instances of fish eating birds, barn swallows actually seem to be a fairly regular part of a tigerfish’s summer diet when the swallows are available, Smit said. “[The fish] have been incredibly well adapted to hunt the flying birds as part of their daily routine.”

Video taken by study co-author Francois Jacobs, also of  North-West University in South Africa, is just getting major media attention now.

Beginning around twilight, tigerfish near the Schroda Dam patrol deep open water near well-vegetated areas. They exhibit a less active lifestyle during the day, which they spend in the deeper, more sheltered water, the study authors write.

But during the 2011 survey, researchers noticed that five of the tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) they had tagged exhibited increases in their midmorning activities.

Smit and colleagues did not observe any of their tagged fish leaping for barn swallows (Hirundo rustica), but they did observe other tigerfish catching the birds in midair.

The fish would either follow the birds in a surface pursuit before leaping up to try and catch them, or the tigerfish would track the swallows from deeper in the water and launch into the air to ambush them.

Smit marvels at the skill it takes for these fish to capture birds on the wing. Tigerfish have to spot a fast-flying swallow from the water, exceed the bird’s speed, compensate for refraction—or the fact that the angle of light changes when it goes from air to water—and then leap out of the water to grab the bird, he explained.

Over the course of their study, researchers saw up to 20 successful attempts on flying barn swallows by tigerfish in one day.

A young barn swallow perches on a branch in Botswana. Photograph by Vincent Grafhorst, Foto Natura/Corbis
A young barn swallow perches on a branch in Botswana. Photograph by Vincent Grafhorst, Foto Natura/Corbis

“During the 15-day survey as many as 300 [barn swallows] were preyed upon by the local [tigerfish] population, indicating that this feeding behavior is not occasional,” the study authors write.

They speculate that the scarcity of other food in the Schroda Dam lake, like other species of fish, have driven these tigerfish to attempt loftier prey.

“I think this research also illustrates that we still actually know incredibly little about the behavior of freshwater fish in Africa,” Smit said. “The fact that this amazing behavior has escaped documentation for so long surely means that a lot more needs to be discovered.”

Saving the Big Cats of Central Mozambique

Posted by Paola Bouley of Projecto Leões da Gorongosa – Gorongosa Lion Project in Cat Watch

The famous Lion House Pride in Gorongosa National Park (1960s). Gorongosa was once a stronghold for wildlife and today an ambitious, large-scale restoration project is underway to restore it to its former glory. (Courtesy Gorongosa National Park)
It wasn’t too long ago that Central Mozambique was considered lost territory for the big cats, a place where they would soon no longer roam wild and free. But today an effort is underway to hold the line against extinction and ensure that the African lion has its rightful place here into the foreseeable future.  This thanks to a 25-year commitment to restore Gorongosa National Park and a stellar team of scientists, community educators and organizers, cinematographers, and funders—including National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative.
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Before the 1977-92 war in Mozambique, Gorongosa’s lions were a famous tribe, strong in their numbers alongside the vast buffalo herds that roamed the plains. Today a few dozen of these resilient individuals rebounded (possibly more) from near extirpation, although a thorough accounting of how many and where has never been done. Impossible to effectively restore and conserve what we don’t sufficiently understand, in 2012 Projecto Leões da Gorongosa was launched and we began the important and exciting work of putting Gorongosa’s lions back on the map.

When our field-work first began we spent many-a-night on the roof of Lion House,” famous for its stair-climbing lions who claimed this colonial-era structure as part of their dominion back in the 1960s. Lying on the southern edge of the vast floodplains of Lake Urema, it is the highest point for miles around and one can fully appreciate why lions would favor this outpost. From the roof you can see Mount Gorongosa rising over the lowlands filled with sable, waterbuck, reedbuck, oribi, and the occasional wildebeest; The mountain’s rainforest and cascades filter down the essential waters that nourish all this wildlife, including the perilously endangered population of Panthera leo.

A lioness with Mt. Gorongosa rising above Lake Urema and its floodplains. (Photograph Adolfo Macadona)
A lioness with Mt. Gorongosa rising above Lake Urema and its floodplains. (Photograph Adolfo Macadona)

Gorongosa is a wild place and lions here are elusive. Anyone who works with these big cats knows well that trying to find them during daylight hours as they slumber in the deep scrub and tall grass is akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack; it can be (and is) done, but the night hours when they are most active is the better time to be out working the lion shift. So we became nocturnal creatures ourselves and Lion House became our night-refuge, a mission control center of sorts, where we could safely convene in the dark hours to hear out the location of local prides (conveniently not having to watch our backs if we inadvertently snoozed off). Any roar would send us swinging down the stairs in the dead of night, into our vehicle and off to try identify who was out patrolling the dirt roads. It took many weeks of preparation and learning as the lions slowly revealed themselves, then just outright sweat and definitely tears (on my part for sure) before we found ourselves in the right place at the right time to collar our first lion. We made that crucial leap early this year when our team satellite-collared our 1st male—who has since led us on to more lions, being the highly social creature that he is.

Paola Bouley (left) and Rui Branco (right) collar the 1st lion.  (Photograph by James Byrne)
Paola Bouley (left) and Rui Branco (right) collar the 1st lion. (Photograph by James Byrne)

Satellite monitoring of our lions has been crucial in these early stages of our work. The real-time capabilities of this technology means we can rapidly locate lions anytime of the day and document their social interactions (meaning we find more lions, and faster too), diet (understand what lions in a recovering ecosystem subsist on), sources of any mortality (human or otherwise), and their response to the extreme flooding and environmental change that occurs in the Park each year.

A typical mating signal from the satellite data alerts us to the presence of other lions and we are able to deploy into the field immediately.
A typical mating signal from the satellite data alerts us to the presence of other lions and we are able to deploy into the field immediately.

Most importantly, as we succeed in collaring prides in more remote areas we’ll be able to understand how lions interact with the boundaries of the Park and Gorongosa’s human communities and aide the Park in securing expanded protected areas for lions. It’s also essential for anti-poaching  as we are able to document core areas for strategic de-snaring operations and if a collared lion’s movements seems unusual—or cease to move for an extended period possibly due to a poacher’s snare—we can deploy a rapid-response team and help save a precious life.

PLG’s team documents poaching and works with law enforcement to focus strategic de-snaring where lions and snares will potentially coincide.  (Photograph by Paola Bouley)
PLG’s team documents poaching and works with law enforcement to focus strategic de-snaring where lions and snares will potentially coincide. (Photograph by Paola Bouley)

Now with each additional lion identified, tracked and those collared we gain more insight into the ecology of the Park’s largest carnivore while also helping secure their conservation. A thorough accounting of how many lions and where is now solidly underway in this Park for the first time ever.  And what we learn from this recovering population has the potential to inform the science of wild lion recovery in savannah ecosystems across southern Africa; a need that sadly only continues to grow as lion populations across the continent face ever greater challenges.

Projecto Leões da Gorongosa is dedicated to the recovery and conservation of big cats in the Gorongosa Ecosystem of Central Mozambique.   We work in direct partnership with the Gorongosa Restoration Project: a 20-year Public-Private Partnership between the Government of Mozambique and the Carr Foundation, a U.S. non-profit organization.

Stay tuned for Projecto Leões‘s upcoming blog with co-author Domingos Muala (local historian) highlighting the social histories of Gorongosa’s lion-people relationships and how we’ll work with National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative to foster co-existence with these big cats. The Big Cat Initiative will also support the training of Mozambique’s first women to work directly on lion research and conservation – updates on this exciting development to come soon!

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