Posts Tagged ‘Mozambique’
Well, I have been here in the Niassa Reserve with the Niassa Lion Project for three days now and we have had some of the best wildlife viewing from right outside the tent. I am here to assist with conservation activities and to find ways the Houston Zoo can deepen their relationship with this unique and awesome community-based conservation project.
Wildlife viewing is a given when visiting field-based conservation camps, but no one could have prepared me for the show we were in store for here. Earlier today, 30-40 elephants were just outside our tent. They sounded like a group of bulldozers as some of them crashed around in the trees and bushes. We sat and watched them with local teachers that had come to camp from nearby villages to help us prepare for some conservation activities we will be doing with the villages in a few days. Elephants often raid crops in their villages and kill village members that attempt to stop them, so we were happy to share in this rare peaceful experience they were having with these elephants. I was delighted to see that they seemed to watch them with the same amount of intrigue and amazement as we did. I think this was the first time they saw them without feeling any kind of fear.
The Niassa Lion Project is actively trying to reduce all wildlife conflict in the Niassa reserve. They work with the local communities to provide solutions. The are currently testing non-lethal methods to deter elephants. In fact, They have a Mozambiquan, Mbambu Marufo, doing his masters on bee hive barriers. Elephants are afraid of bees and try to avoid them at all costs. This method of control has been used sucessfully in other parts of Africa, but no one has tried it here in Mozambique yet. Mbambu used to be a park warden and has seen lethal control methods used and fail in the past on elephants, so he looks forward to testing this method and hopes it will provide a peace for both the animals and the people.
As we tuck in to sleep here in the Niassa Reserve, I listen as the elephants crash around in the bushes and vocalize loudly outside the tent. I then hearmen from a nearby fisherman’s camp yelling, screaming and banging objects together to keep the elephants from coming in their direction. I suddenly experience first hand the importance of Mbambu’s research.
At the beginning of this year the Houston Zoo funded Mbambu Marufo to attend a human wildlife conflict training in Kenya. He wanted me to thank everyone at the Zoo for making this possible for him. The training has been invaluable for him and he uses it to protect species on a regular basis.
More to come from Niassa…
He is bound for stardom.
Last week I was writing that people are drawn to stories and personalities and sometimes, those wildlife personalities take on a following all their own. So if I want to tell a story about wildlife, make you want to follow that species, then why not let you identify with an individual that you could have an emotional attachment to and in turn care more about and want to act on it’s behalf?
This week, it has to be the lion Fabio in the Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique. This ~18 month old male seems to be turning up everywhere over the past few weeks with his family: Mom Flavia, Aunt Fatima and younger cousin Fantine in tow.
I first met Fabio on my visit to the Niassa Lion Project in very early June as we followed his collar signal through the tall grass. He looked up at us, curious as to why the Land Rover had 5 odd humans in it and then went about his business. A few days later we met him once again but this time with his family and our first sighting of Fatima’s new cub Fantine (pronuounced Fon-teen) as well as an unidentified female.
Fabio is not the leader of the pride, there is a territorial male in the area that this group is related to, but he does seem to be around every corner of this part of the Reserve whether it is wandering across a dry riverbed or more recently literally showing up outside the Niassa Lion Project camp.
It is good to have him be such a visual part of the project and even better to hear that Fabio and his family are moving around the reserve doing what lions do. If you would like to learn how you can help the Niassa Lion Project you can link to http://www.houstonzoo.org/niassa-lions/ or www.niassalion.org or look for their Facebook Page. These animals make people care. Wildlife outside our doors do not have a chance if we do not care. It is just that simple.
We will continue updating you on Fabio as news and photos arrive. Just remember, now that you know Fabio, we need you to care about him and all the people and wildlife of Niassa National Reserve.
The trouble with Elephants is two-fold. First, they carry very expensive pieces of ivory around with them that are valued as trophies and ornamental carvings. Second, they invade peoples crops making it even more difficult for villagers to feed their families through the dry season. Both of these add up to the elephants in the region being very nervous and even sometimes aggressive in their interactions with people.
Three days ago, two of he Niassa Lion Project (NLP) staff went out to gear about a report of two elephants killed about 2-3 weeks ago near the village and they found carcasses with the tusks hacked off. Two days ago, there was a report of poachers in the next concession who killed 2 elephants. Fortunately, an anti poaching unit was able to get to the scene thanks to a small aircraft in the area that spotted the actives and chased off the poachers while they were trying to bundle up the ivory. Unfortunately, no poachers were caught and two elephants were dead, but at least all the ivory was recovered.
This is playing out constantly across Africa and it is putting serious strains on elephant populations. Persecuted elephants create dangerous situations where it is difficult to protect both the village people and the elephants. NLP will be looking at new models to approach human-wildlife conflict involving both elephants and lions in the future.
Update: We received a message that on June 15th that 3 elephant were shot in the night behind the NLP camp but by the time they were able to get out to the field with scouts, the poachers and ivory were gone. Nobody lives here except the ~10 NLP staff. The closest village – Mbamba Village – is an hour plus walk away and due to their fear of lions and elephants at night, it makes it all the more likely that these poaching syndicates are now reaching into areas from distant villages in the reserve.
The photo below was not from a poached elephant but from a ~1 year old predated on by lions. The belief these days is the more adults that are being killed, leads to more orpahned elephants which are being taken by predators rather than being protected by the herd. The value of this ivory in the local village is very small – maybe $30USD but once into a larger city its value is around $400 and then internationally that price can double. These tusks were deposited with the National reserve which maintains a vault to keep confiscated and found ivory.
On Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, 2011, come and join us at the Houston Zoo, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. We’ll be hosting Lion Fun Days at the same time as the events described in our blog post below will take place in Mozambique!!
For Lion Fun Days at the Zoo, enjoy numerous keeper chats, craft stations, and games. Items will be sold to raise money for the Niassa Carnivore Project. Please plan on visiting the Zoo on the first weekend in November to learn about how you can help the African lion.
My name is Angie Pyle, and I am a Carnivore keeper at the Houston Zoo. My favorite animal is the African Lion. Unfortunately African Lion populations are dropping at a devastating rate. During the 1950’s there were an estimated 500,000 Lions in Africa. Today they estimate 20-30,000 Lions in all of Africa.
After hearing that one of the Houston Zoo’s fall lecture series speakers was going to be Dr. Colleen Begg (researcher and conservationist for African carnivores), I began to research the Niassa Carnivore Project. The Niassa Carnivore Project has been working since 2003 exclusively in the Niassa Reserve. Researchers have been tracking animals, vaccinating animals, educating the locals, and working with the locals on how to safely live with Lions. One of the methods for community outreach and education that the project was involved with was “Lion fun days.” The entire Niassa Carnivore project team got together and came up with activities, games, and puzzles for the children of Mbamba, Mozambique to take part in. The idea is to teach the children about the importance of Carnivores in their ecosystem through fun and engaging activities. The children painted animal masks, ran relay races, acted out plays, just to name a few of the activities. They also participated in a special eco-system tug of war. ”The majority of people in Niassa believe their lives would be better without lions, elephants and leopards. We wanted to spark some thoughts on what the consequences might be if these animals were all to disappear from Niassa. Would it matter if all the lions or elephants were gone? We divided the children into two teams for a ‘tug of war” using our tow rope with each child representing different elements of the ecosystem – lions, leopards, elephants, honey badgers, eagles, bees, trees, grass flowers, fish, sunlight, rain etc. One side was the reserve and the other an unprotected area. Initially the tug of war was equal but as more and more elements disappeared, some connected to each other resulting in a cascade of effects, the unprotected team started to fall apart while the Reserve team was still strong and pulling together. ” At the end of the day the children bring home solid conservation messages to their parents from these activities and crafts.
We organized a “Lion fun day” here at the Houston Zoo on November 3rd – 4th and was a great success. I thought it would be great to have Lion fun days at the Zoo in conjunction with Mozambique’s. We could teach the same principles, and let American and Mozambique children know that children around the world are learning about their role in conservation.
After discussing the idea with the Houston Zoo’s Conservation department, we set our sights even higher and decided to include the Velasquez Elementary School on the project. Children from the Velasquez Elementary School raise money annually for cat conservation. Last year the school donated $1,000 to the Houston Zoo’s conservation department for Small Cat conservation, focusing on Ocelots. This year the school donated $1,000 to be given to the Niassa Carnivore Project. As a reward for the classroom that raised the most money, we invited 18 kids from Velasquez to the Zoo on March 22, 2011.
The children participated in a condensed version of Lion fun days, we tried to duplicate a few of the activities they do in Mozambique. The children colored lion masks, played a special eco-system game of tug of war, made hand prints next to their take home Lion paw prints, and all the while learned about African Lions. At the end of the activities the children got their class picture taken in front of our Lions at the training window.
Later on this fall when Colleen Begg visits the Zoo for her lecture, she will be taking some of the pictures and film we took of the Velasquez elementary children engaged in their Lion Fun day activities back with her to Mozambique. The children in Mozambique will be delighted to see that kids in Houston are participating in the same activities as them. We hope to create a partnership/connection between the Houston Zoo and the villages of Mozambique. Maybe together we can make a difference in the future of Lions.
By Angie Pyle
The Niassa Lion Project in Mozambique was founded in 2003 by Dr. Colleen and Keith Begg. Their mission is to secure lions in the Niassa National Reserve by reducing human-induced threats and promoting co-existence between lions and people. Acknowledging the costs to communities who live with lions, the program recognizes the potential for lions to provide ecological, economic and cultural benefits to the Niassa National Reserve and Mozambique.
Niassa National Reserve is located in northern Mozambique on the border with Tanzania. It is one of the largest protected areas in Africa (42,000 km²) and is considered to be one of the “Last of the Wild” and most undeveloped places in Africa. Time is running out to sustainably conserve the Niassa lions, as well as the Reserve’s significant populations of leopard, spotted hyena and African wild dog.
The conservation of lions in particular touches on many of the major ecological and social challenges facing Niassa National Reserve at present. The Reserve is home to a growing human population of 30,000 residents in forty villages on the verge of modern development. The costs to communities living with lions and large carnivores are significant through the loss of life, livelihoods and livestock.
The Niassa Lion Project views community participation as an essential element of long-term protection for the African lion and the many other imperiled species within its critical habitat. NLP is deeply engaged with local residents, the management authority of the Niassa National Reserve, schools, tourism operators, and the bordering nation of Tanzania in its spectrum of conservation, scientific, and educational activities.
A number of the programs efforts include: education and outreach, wildlife research, Human-Lion conflict mitigation, community programming and international coordination of Lion conservation efforts across Africa.
For more information visit their website http://www.predatorconservation.com/niassa.htm