Author Archives: Tikki Hywood Trust

Quote” “life is not about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain” Anon.
Humans once belonged to the world, but we’ve moved away and now we are destroying it. I believe that each of us can do something to make a difference – our every positive thought and action creates a ripple effect. – Lisa Hywood

2011…. what will it bring?

elephantbull

If ever we have to stand together it most certainly has to be for this year 2011.  Only too frequently have I heard that life is a journey – enjoy the ride!  Right now this roller coaster ride which Zimbabwe finds herself on, I fear does not have much enjoyment attached to it.  But what Zimbabwe most certainly does not lack are those unsung heroes. A hero, I believe, is someone who feels that they can no longer stand by and watch, but rather have been moved enough to stand up and make a change to what they truly believe is wrong.  I have spent the most amazing moments in the wild savannahs of Zimbabwe’s bush, being completely and utterly spoilt by her beauty and diversity of wildlife.  With all the rains our veldt is rich with the variety of grasses, which allow every type of herbivore to gladly reach their fill.  Elephants have the luxury of choice of only eating the tops of the grasses and leaving the ends.  Sitting silently with my eyes closed being able to smell the veldt on the wind, I am able to dream of days long gone.  But when I open my eyes reality arrives with a bang and my heart and lungs start to tighten as I realise that both our environment and wildlife are not safe and are constantly under threat.  Each day that we wake, we are not certain of what policy or change or action needs to be taken.

There are a lot of remarkable people whom I have had the opportunity of meeting and working with, who will stop at nothing to allow this land we call home to be a land which is safe for our wildlife.  For every one of these ‘hero’s’ there have been multiple sacrifices made to allow them to follow their path of dedication.  When I was growing up, I always thought that a passion must be the most wonderful gift to have, yet as I have lived with my own passion I have realised that that passion does come at a price for those around us and to our own lives.  It becomes something that consumes us and does not enable us to see outside of that world – each day just like taking your first breath your mind turns over and over in the hopes of being able to find another solution to what we face.

Throughout the world and over many centuries, the politics of land has been a turbulent topic.  There is nothing more powerful than land and nothing more destructive than that greed for that land.  Zimbabwe is living her history today and her future is looking very uncertain. I await the day when I can draw back the curtains and watch the sun shining through, without dread in my heart for all those animals which we just can not save, for the ones trapped in wire snares, or bleeding to death from being wounded.

RHINO RESCUE

rhino-carcass

Earlier this year the Trust was involved with the relocation of two rhinos from the Chiredzi River Conservancy where they were under tremendous threat.  Two of the four remaining rhino were poached and their horns taken, in January of this year.  Nothing prepares you, when you see the merciless killing of a beast which is not only 100% innocent, but has been a part of our planet for centuries. Who gives anyone the right to take a life?  Stupid question in this day and age that we currently living in.  GREED! The one major force which drives this madness.  I walked through the bush with the smell of death filling the air all around me.  The black flies darken the branches, the grasses as well as the carcasses.  All that could be heard was the buzzing from the flies.  There lying before me lay these two bodies – only a few weeks ago they were walking, eating and alive.  Today in front of me, they were lying murdered and stripped of all dignity.  These two rhinos did not deserve to die like this!  This land where the murders had taken place, was the land where I had grown up and spent many holidays as a child.  On this very land I began my love affair with nature and her splendid magnificence.  It was her beauty that would in the future get me through many a sad moment.  She had been my saviour time and time again.   Running innocently through this veldt, laughing and playing without the knowledge that in a few decades of my own life I would be standing in that same veldt watching the animals being poached, murdered – for me I don’t understand the difference between the two.  How do I repay this land who gave so much to me, when the fight that we are fighting is so enormous?  Do we get a second chance?  When all the animals have been taken and the trees cut and the grasses burnt?  What will be left for us to marvel at?  Over these past months I have wondered time and time again, how do we, keep going?  The answer is now so clear, we have no choice but to keep going, to keep fighting.

Lisa-Rhinorhino-ops

On the 10th February 2011 two female rhinos were darted and translocated to safety.  This effort was a massive undertaking involving many people who share a similar love or passion for this land we call Zimbabwe.  Each one of us had a task to under take.  On the day everything came together perfectly and in a matter of a few hours, the girls had been located from the air, darted, loaded into crates and moved.  This all sounds so simple – it is not I can assure you, however the professional people involved made it all work like clock work.  I sincerely thank all those involved for not only having the dedication which they all have had over this past decade but for never giving up with this fight.  Due to the sensitivity of rhino issue currently, I will not mention the people and or organisations who were involved in this move.

Even though things do not smell like roses here in Zimbabwe I feel that we have to remain positive and look at the areas in our lives that we are able to make a contribution to.  As you know the Trust made a decision to implant our animals (apart from the hedgehogs) in order to stop breeding for the time being.  We reached that time of year again and our two male Bat-eared foxes were implanted as after the reaction Hooch (female African Wild Cat) had towards the implant (please see September 2010 newsletter) I was concerned to re-implant Sahara our female Bat-eared fox.  Like with many of these things in smaller carnivores in captivity – not a lot of research has been done as to the long term side-effects.  We have decided not to implant any of the female African wild cats as well as Francis our female Civet, due to this area of uncertainty. Though we are not breeding now, it is hoped that in the future we will be able to resume breeding these endangered species to repopulate protected and safe areas of Zimbabwe.

VUMBA WEPU

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There has been such an amazing response with regards to this project.  Even though hiccups have occurred along the way we have managed to overcome them and the project continues to go from strength to strength.  Herewith follows a brief table of results to date:

NOV / DEC 2010

Day patrols : 20 days (not incl. training from 1st Nov to 19th Nov where daily patrols occurred)

Night patrols : 4 nights

Ambushes :  1 – wood poaching truck taking wood out of the Bunga Forest. The vehicle was detained.

Snares collected : 412

Other traps and nets : 27

Animal carcasses found : 1

Arrests and fines : 8 Poachers arrested

January 2011

Day patrols : 16 days

Night patrols : 2 nights

Ambushes :  nil

Snares collected : 145

Other traps and nets : 8

Animal carcasses found : 3

Arrests and fines : nil

February 2011

Day patrols : 20 days

Night patrols : none

Ambushes :  nil

Snares collected : 16

Other traps and nets : 2

Animal carcasses found : 1 (old)

Arrests and fines : nil

One of the biggest breakthroughs with regards to the Vumba I feel has to be moving the squatters out of the Bunga Forest.  In the middle of 2010, several groups of people moved into the Bunga Forest and started settling there.  With this move there was not only deforestation, poaching of the wildlife but also soiling of the river system that runs through the forest.  So all and all, this was something that could not be allowed to continue. Furthermore, the Bunga Forest has never previously been inhabited and has been part of the Parks Estate for as long as Zimbabwe has been independent, so it should never have happened. Our gratitude goes to both, Revayi Mudzingwa, Warden of Vumba National Parks and Lawrence Nyagwande of Environment Africa Mutare, for the ground work which was required to move these people and their tenacity to make sure the squatters were removed.  They had to get support from the Lands council right up to the Presidents Office.  The approval was given and thanks to the support through National Parks Head Office in Harare, as well National Parks Vumba together with the WEPU scouts we were able to remove the squatters.  This is a tremendous break through as you can well imagine for the Vumba.  Hopefully it will act as a deterrent to any other potential squatters.  Our scouts are out on daily trips as well as extended patrols and as you can see from the records, their presence is having an impact in the Vumba.

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Bramble and Blue Bell introduced Hawthorne their first calf born and the Trust’s first steenbok born in captivity.  To date Hawthorne has continued to grow in strength and size.  Blue Bell has been an amazing first time mother which has been a huge relief.  As we had never had a steenbok born in captivity we separated Bramble (male) from Blue Bell and we believe that this has been a positive step.  Bramble and Blue are in enclosures neighbouring one another so that they have the company and do not loose contact.  Once Hawthorne is a little older we will re introduce the two adults.

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Releases seem to be something of a past memory seeing as we have a new policy of not breeding.  However 2011 has seen a couple of releases already for the Trust.

HEDGEHOGS

Miss-Tiggy---Mazowe

The first release of its kind we believe in Zimbabwe, where both wild rescued and captive bred Southern African Hedgehogs are released in a communal manner. There have been many discussions with our partners in this project, Stuart & Michelle Johnson of Esigodini, as to the actual process and more importantly, post release monitoring of this release. We have not as yet perfected a tracking device for our hedgehogs, as they are considerably smaller than their European counterparts but we have stumbled upon a relatively simple and effective means of marking the animals with no invasion what so ever…… bright nail polish!

A release enclosure was established on Claremont Farm in Esigodini. On the 25th January the male hedgehogs were treated for parasites (Frontline) and placed in the release enclosure. Over the following four days food placed outside the enclosure to encourage them out.  By the 7th February three of the four male hogs were being sighted on a regular basis. This was sufficient enough for the movement and release of the females from the same enclosure. A similar protocol was followed for the girls and we are very happy to report that they are being seen regularly and appear to be doing well. We are greatly encouraged by the fact that many of the released females have in fact gained weight!

IMPALA

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Willow our orphaned impala has gone to a small holding where he will be the beginning of a new nucleus with two female impalas. On 23rd February 2011 Willow was introduced to not only the land that was to become his new home, but also the two females.  It was fairly obvious that Willow would have to adjust to knowing that he was in fact an impala!  The two females I believe will help him adjust incredibly well.  The Trust would like to thank both Andy and Tina Lowe for their support as well as offering all three impala’s a new beginning.

GENET

Our three genet orphans, Hugo, Boss and Femme have also started there first phase back to the wild.  On Saturday 12 March, the three genet travelled, to their new home in Mount Hampden.  Here with the help of Neil and Nikki Deacon, all three genets will start the process of being rehabilitated back to the wild.  They are in an enclosure which is where they will stay over the next month or so, adapting to their new environment.  During this time they will be fed as well as being exposed to the wildlife in the area and well as the sounds.  It has been four days since they were moved and we are delighted to report that all three including Femme are adapting well, their appetite as also not been affected which is a great relief.

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I know that there are so many of us who have this feeling of helplessness with what we are up against.  But I also know that we are very privileged to have the support of one another. It is through this strength that I know one of these days we will be able to draw back the curtains and celebrate in this land we call home.  The uncertainly will be gone and the knowledge that we have done all that we could have done will be real.  What was wrong has been righted.  “the beating of our hearts will echo the beating of the drums”, we will be able to rejoice in new beginnings.

Zebras in the Mist!

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It never ceases to amaze me of the strength and resilience of wildlife.  Over this past decade, the animals in Zimbabwe have been under tremendous pressure from man.  The three zebra in the Vumba have been no exception.  Even though the zebra sightings have become a regular part of the trips to the Vumba, we were notified about a month ago by Revayi Mudzingwa, Warden of Vumba National Parks, that two of the three zebra had been herded by a few unknown persons in the Vumba to an unknown location.  Alarm bells started ringing, as they were an easy target for poaching and Parks asked us if we would relocate the zebra to Osborne Dam, which is a National Park just outside of Mutare.

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Thankfully, due to Mr Tim Paulet and his company Wildlife Management Services International, we were in a position to move the zebra on behalf of Vumba National Parks.  On Friday 7 January 2011, we set off in search of the stallion.  What we were not at all prepared for was the MIST!  Visibility was certainly no more than 5 or 6 meters in a straight line.  The WEPU and National Parks scouts had gone out early in the morning to locate the stallion.  When we arrived at the said location (thank goodness for cell phones) we had to whistle in order to identify where exactly everyone was as there was no visibility.  Mist was everywhere!  We located the stallion; Tim drew the dart ready for him and then sighted his gun.  Everything was in place.  Tim had the stallion in his sights aimed and fired – impact was heard – the dart hit the stallion squarely on his rump.  He stood for a while and then without warning ran down the mountain moving further and further away from us who were following on foot.  Concerned not to chase him and push him further, it was difficult to follow without losing sight of him.  The mist seemed to be moving closer and closer towards us, and then before we knew it we no longer had sight of the stallion.  He had been swallowed up by the mist.  Time is an interesting factor when capturing game.  There are those days when you seem to find yourself just sitting and waiting and waiting and then there are days like the one we were having – time vanished.  We searched the surrounding area following the fresh spoor of the stallion realising two and a half hours later that if we were going to move the other two zebras today – we had to go to where they were being kept.  We divided the WEPU scouts in half so that half of the unit could remain under the supervision of Wadzi ……, whilst the other half came with us to help with the remaining two zebra.

Moving wildlife is not an easy task and with every capture there is always something new to be learnt.  This capture was no exception.  The mother and foal duo had been herded the week before by our WEPU scouts, under the supervision of National Parks, to Fernview Valley Police Station for safe keeping until we were able to get to the Vumba and move them.  We would like to thank the Police Station and their staff for taking care of the zebra whilst they were waiting collection.  What we had not quiet anticipated was the road, or rather, lack of road to get to where the zebra were based.  We took the 8 ton truck as far down the road as we could possibly do so, and then it was decided that the rest of the way we would go in the 4 x 4 open back pickup, returning with the two zebra on the back being held by simply manpower!  It all made for interesting thoughts on the way there.  We arrived to see both mother and foal looking calm which was fantastic.  Tim could get very close to both zebras.  Once assessing the weight of the zebra, Tim calculated the drugs which would be required to knock them both down so that we could move them.  The dart gun was sighted and then it was action.

loading-the-dart

First dart hit its target – the mother zebra.  In no less than 7 minutes the mother started to feel the affects of the drugs.  She dropped down and was unconscious in no time at all.  Straight away her eyes were covered and we moved the vehicle into position to lift her up on to the back.  This is certainly no mean feat, to lift an adult zebra onto the back of a high rise pickup.  Holding onto her head and making sure that the blind fold did not come off her face I have to say I wondered how on earth this would all work out.  Not only did we have to get the zebra onto the back of the vehicle, but she had to remain there!!!  Due to a very supportive group of on lookers as well as the WEPU scouts, the task was completed and as soon as the mother zebra was loaded we moved into position to pick up the her foal.  After the mother, the foal was as light as a feather!  With both zebra loaded we headed back to the truck with a crate, in which they would continue on to Osborne Dam in.

LIsa-and-baby-zeb

Just before we embarked on the next leg of this journey, Revayi received a call, letting us know that the stallion had been found and was fully recovered from the dart, eating grass not too far from when he had been darted.  What a relief!!!

Remembering that the road was very eroded as well as bumpy, we felt every single bump as did the zebra.  It was no more than 200 meters when the zebra start to get up onto all fours.  Immediately Tim stopped the pickup and administered more sedative, to make sure they remained unconscious for the remainder of this trip.  After a couple of minutes the drug took affect and we were able to proceed with caution.  Once at the truck the zebra were reloaded into the truck. Once inside a secure crate, the reversal drug was given.  In a few minutes both zebra were up on their feet and adjusting to the sound of the truck.  The trip in the truck to Osborne Dam was about a 30 minute drive, obviously going very slowly.  Once at Osborne Dam the zebra were herded into a boma so we could monitor them for a few days before being released into the main area of Osborne Dam where there are other zebras and wildlife.

This mission would not have been possible without the dedication of Mr Tim Paulet who has been involved with wildlife capture since the early 60’s.  Tim has donated his time and vehicles which included an 8 ton truck with specialised crates attached as well as his own 4 x 4 vehicle – affectionately known as “Rusty” to this operation.  A huge thank you goes to Revayi Mudzingwa  and her National Parks Team as well as to our very own WEPU scouts all of whom where instrumental in putting this operation together and making sure that all animals involved were given the utmost of care.  As soon as the rains have subsided a little we will be returning to collected the stallion and take him to join the other zebras at Osborne Dam.

things-done-in-africa

Technological Hiccup!!

Dear Readers…
You probably think we have dropped off the planet. Contrary to that, we have in fact been a victim of a technological gremlin attack, neither ourselves or Wildlife Direct aware of the brewing problem. However, the Tikki Hywood Trust may have been silent, bu never inactive! We have so much to fill you in on, so this is a quick message to let the world at large know that we are back.


VUMBA WEPU is operational!

clouds

Watching the mist slowly moving in from the east, forming a blanket, over the Vumba Mountains I sat for a moment thinking about what had actually been achieved over the past five weeks in this once, almost forgotten part of Zimbabwe. When I was a child, my family and I had visited the Vumba for long weekends. However I would never have thought that one day in the future, the Tikki Hywood Trust would be so actively involved with the people of the Vumba. From property owners, to council members as well as the other sectors of the Vumba, working together to protect this amazing piece of Montane forest. A primate in the form of a Samango monkey had touched the very depth of my soul and had opened up a Pandora’s Box of opportunities to help the Vumba.

Returning the three Samango monkeys back to their rightful home in the Vumba has to have been one of my release highlights. Up until this year, I had never had any interaction with primates and to be honest, had always been rather wary of them. When I arrived in Hwange in August of this year, to capture and return these three monkeys to their rightful home in the Vumba, my heart snapped in two when I saw the look in their eyes. These three monkeys were the last animals on the list to release and they had to furthest to go, but having seen them, I so desperately wanted to free them from this wire cell they had been confined to for the past three months – instantly. Once captured and crated the following day, we packed the crates into the plane and flew 596 kms to Mutare, where we then completed the trip via car up into the Vumba Mountains. Often I have heard that animals shed tears and it was also on this occasion that I saw the male monkey, when he realised where he was – home, have tears welling up in his eyes whilst his nose was sniffing the air which he knew only too well.

After the release, I spent time talking to Revayi Mudzinga who is the Warden of National Parks Vumba Area. During these talks I realized that, there were a multiple of problems which required tackling. As daunting as it seemed then, I came to understand that there were solutions to these problems and the first step was introducing more trained personal onto the ground with the relevant training. So on my return to Harare, I immediately contacted Martin Stiemer of Animal Lifeline. After discussing the pros and cons of what was facing the Vumba, it wasn’t long before and the concept of WEPU – Wildlife and Environment Protection Unit was born. Why WEPU? Well, in the Vumba, animals are not the only creatures that are being mercilessly poached, there are also trees being cut down and the wood sold illegally as well as the fish in the rivers being netted. The whole environment is under threat. Anti-poaching has been an integral part of fauna conservation throughout Africa’s history and more recently encompassing the protection of flora as well. A direct and often extreme form of protection, in more recent turbulent history, it is not much different from war. Poachers and Game Scout alike have lost limb and life in this conflict, but the real horror, the most gut wrenching toll of all, is on the animals and environment that are caught in the middle. Snaring has to be one of the most lethal, yet wasteful form of poaching that there is and unfortunately the most prevalent.

FACT: 82% of all animal carcasses snared are not recovered, or are too decomposed to be used when they are found.

FACT: 100% of all animals caught in a snare die a lingering, painful death if not found and released in time.

FACT: Wood poaching and the decimation of indigenous trees, some more that 50 years old is on the rapid increase in Zimbabwe due to the lack of alternative fuel sources, i.e. paraffin or electricity.

FACT: Environmental degradation, due to unscrupulous mining and excavation, as well as antiquated farming methods are moving thousands of precious topsoil and exposing the bare earth to further erosion.

When viewed in such a stark manner, there is little wonder why people lose hope in the battle to protect the environment and its inhabitants. However, we as a nation are resilient, and somewhere there is always a flicker of light to hold onto. This is the case with the inception of WEPU – Wildlife & Environment Protection Unit in the Vumba I believed that we could recapture our hope.

If the Vumba is to survive, then it has become abundantly clear that both an assessment of the area and as well as increased trained manpower on the ground is required, in order to protect this ecologically unique and diverse area of our country.

As with any project the Tikki Hywood Trust does not wish to re-invent the wheel, but rather work towards repairing the roads! Since Environment Africa was already established in the Mutare which is the closest town to the Vumba, we decided that together with both Environment Africa and National Parks we would have a stronger impact dealing with the problems on the ground.

In the Vumba Botanical Gardens, the singularly inhibiting factor for effective protection of the area is lack of manpower on the ground. The National Parks staff members are too few in numbers to patrol the area thoroughly and still perform their regular duties. Furthermore, the Bunga Forest and the Botanical Gardens are not fenced, so this further increases the difficulty of protecting the area. The establishment of a Vumba WEPU, will be based on the following actions;

· We establish a target number of staff required to safeguard the Botanical Gardens, Bunga Forest and immediate surrounds, which includes both privately owned properties as well as tourist destinations, e.g. Leopard Rock Hotel.

· Once a number is established, we can now determine how many members of staff are required to supplement the existing Parks Staff.

· Additional members for WEPU will be drawn from privately ALREADY employed individuals, at the consent of their existing employers, as well as from Tourism operators in the area, e.g. Leopard Rock. A suitable employment contract will be drawn up that is agreed upon by all parties concerned. The basis for this action is that the anti-poaching work itself will not require full time staff at this moment in time. These employees of existing properties will then be benefiting the area they work in by providing protection, and in turn will be empowered by acquiring new skills.

· These new members of the WEPU have received an intensive three weeks training, by a Animal Lifeline, an anti-poaching organisation. (Please see attached itinerary of training program).

· The WEPU scouts will also be uniformed and suitably equipped. The uniform is of huge importance, since it signifies a UNIFICATION of action, and also instils in the members a sense of pride in the work that they are undertaking.

· Once operational, the WEPU will act under delegation from the Warden of the Botanical Gardens, assisted by Tourism stakeholders and private property owners where possible.

· The WEPU scouts will be responsible for maintaining and submitting information gathered on patrols, to the relevant stakeholders/authorities.

As of the 1st November 2010, the first WEPU training program was started in the Vumba under the instruction of Animal Lifeline. The response to such a training program was over-whelming; on the first day there were approx 46 applicants!

The training consisted of an intensive three week course, conducted by Martin Stiemer. His organisation has been operational in Zimbabwe since 2006. He was accompanied by three of his crack members of his existing anti-poaching unit currently based in Hwange.

Lessons were given in the following subjects:

Ambush

Arresting Technique

First Aid

Global positioning Systems (GPS)

Integrity

Interrogation of Witness / Suspect

Map Reading

Physical Training and Drill

Furthermore, Scouts were familiarised with the following Government policies:

Firearms ACT

Forestry ACT

National Parks ACT

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ACT

Protection of Wildlife (Indemnity) ACT

Trapping of Animals (Control) ACT

During the training, over 220 snares were removed from the Bunga Forest  and surrounding areas

Recovered-snaresreduced

At the final selection, eight scouts graduated with competency at a pass out parade held on 20th November 2010. In addition to uniforms and shoes, the National Parks Vumba Unit was donated a full set of camping equipment which will enable them to do extended patrols throughout the area.

Prior to this pass out parade however, was a critical stakeholders meeting, which was effectively the presentation of a working solution to the people of the Vumba. Through the establishment of the Vumba Green Fund, essentially a funding source for projects in the Vumba such as WEPU, the Vumba Green Fund is to be supported and managed by a board of Trustees selected from members of the Vumba Area. In order for this project to be successful the people of the Vumba need to firstly own their project and then they need to administer it and make sure it works through a sustainable system. This fund would then be essentially the drawing point for the financial requirements of the whole operation, in the form of: incentives for the Scouts, printing of reports and distribution of the situation reports to the stakeholders etc.

One of the ways that funding will be raised was for the stakeholders to form a membership and pay a monthly fee.

The bottom line is;

$ 5 per day keeps a scout on the ground!

VUMBA WEPU officially started patrol as of the 1 December 2010. Together with the support and assistance from both National Parks in the Vumba as well as the ZRP, road blocks have been established to try and deter wood poachers as well as arresting meat poachers. These Scouts are motivated and willing to make a change for the better for the Vumba area, we need to applaud them and SUPPORT them.

scouts

A very special mention must go to a wonderfully talented artist; Calla Van Zyl. Calla has been touched by the wonders of Zimbabwe’s wildlife world. Ever since she started painting she has wanted her talent to benefit the animals that inspire her. At a recent exhibition of her work at the Richard Rennie Gallery in Harare, she very generously donated a portion of the sale of two of her paintings towards the VUMBA WEPU. This money raised from the two paintings will go towards keeping the WEPU scout in action through out the month of December 2010. From both the Vumba WEPU scouts and the Tikki Hywood Trust we would like to sincerely thank Calla for believing in our cause.

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remember-me

Other organisations and individuals who have assisted and made this unit possible are:

Tikki Hywood Trust & Environment Africa – for conceptualizing and making WEPU a reality.

Animal LifeLine – Martin Stiemer and his staff for excellent training

British Airways – for assisting with bring in the camping equipment from South Africa

Cape Union Mart – for assistance with the camping equipment for the scouts at a discounted price.

Mr Rick of Spar Ballantyne for providing delicious snacks to celebrate the pass out parade

And to everyone else who assisted and made this WEPU possible, our heartfelt gratitude goes out to you.

Bikita again – November 2010

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A wave of familiarity hits, as the well recognised Tikki Hywood Trust vehicle enters the Bikita Minerals premises, bearing the equipment for the sterilization program held in November 2010. This is our third year of operating in Bikita, the largest province of Zimbabwe, bordering two conservancies, both the Chiredzi River Conservancy and the Save Valley Conservancy. For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘Conservancy’ – this is a protected area for wildlife which is not a National Park. The impact that domestic animals can have in these convergence zones, where rural settlements and wildlife areas meet, is immense. This devastation can range from disease transference like rabies and distemper, or from dogs breeding excessively, forming packs and hunting the wildlife to feed themselves and their owners. This is why good animal husbandry and population control in these areas is vital.

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Even though I have been going down to Bikita regularly now and have developed a relationship with both the people and animals in the area, I must admit I am never excited to arrive. Rather, there is a gut churning anticipation of what I might see and how I might be disappointed, or horrified, or even sickened. What am I going to be presented with this time and how am I going to react? Each trip has been a soul searching journey for me and is always a time when I have had to realise many facts about both mankind and the country which I call home.

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On this trip however all those fears and trepidations were laid to rest and I can say I was hugely relieved and filled with joy and pride. All of us on the team, Drs Blessing Matingura, Biko Gadaga, Simon Chikadaya, Regional Inspector of ZNSPCA and I noticed a marked difference in the animals which were brought to the clinic. Their condition was good – we did not just see the typical rural starving looking dogs, but more rounded and healthy looking dogs than on the trips before. The best and most apparent surprise was that there were not very many puppies!!! This trip we were only presented with around 20 or so puppies, as opposed to previous visits, where there were at least double that amount. For me this is encouraging because it means the education of the people about sterilization of their animals is having an impact. The communities are a lot more affectionate towards their animals and are learning that it is better to have one or two animals that are in good condition, than many who look half dead! The dogs treated with Depo Provera ® looked amazing, and better yet, there were no adverse effects reported by the owners of the dogs who had received the first dose in April of this year. As Depo Provera ® has not been extensively used as a contraception in domestic animals, we will continue to monitor the animals who are receiving it very closely. From our point of view, it makes a huge difference being able to offer this form of contraception for the dogs and cats in these rural areas, as you can increase your area of impact with contraception. As a far easier alternative to surgical sterilization, during the mobile clinics we are able to offer more than just the vaccinations and treatments. Some of the areas we visited this trip were just too remote to get the people to bring their animals into the clinic, so we had to go out to them. Seeing as we have been visiting the Bikita area for the past three years, we feel that we can now start doing more mobile clinic work in the hopes of addressing more remote areas and giving the animals there a better quality of life. One of the areas we visited, we learnt of two litters of puppies being born, but all of them but two had died. Biko suspected an infection of parvo virus. In this area, in contrast to the dogs not being in good condition, the cattle and donkeys were. Simon took the opportunity to address the use of the donkey harnesses and spent quality time with the owners teaching the correct process of harnessing and working the donkeys, or rather not over working the donkeys.

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STATISTICS OF ANIMAL TREATMENTS:

Number of dogs treated

Oct 2009 –  110 April 2010 – 66 Nov 2010 – 84

Number of cats treated

Oct 2009 – 13    April 2010 –  8 Nov 2010 – 4

Number of donkeys treated

Oct 2009 – 3 April 2010 – 10 Nov 2010 – 14

Number of rabbits treated

Oct 2009 – 16   April 2010 – 30 Nov 2010 – 70

Number of cattle treated

Oct 2009 – 0 April 2010 – 0   Nov 2010 – 16

TOTAL ANIMALS TREATED

Oct 2009 – 142 April 2010 – 114 Nov 2010 – 188

Number of animals euthanized

Oct 2009 – 0 April 2010 – 1 Nov 2010 – 0

Number of rabies vaccinations

Oct 2009 – 100 April 2010 – 53 Nov 2010 – 65

Number of animals revisited

April 2010  – 9   Nov 2010  – 14

Number of castrations

Oct 2009 – 2  April 2010 – 15 Nov 2010 – 9

Number of spays

Oct 2009 – 4    April 2010 –  0 Nov 2010 – 1

Number of animals treated with Depo Provera ®

Oct 2009 – 0 April 2010 – 32   Nov 2010 –  43

The above info gives a brief breakdown of the animals treated over all three programs that have been run in Bikita since we started. From the rabbit numbers, we can make the clear comparison that they are breeding and healthy. This is very good news for us, because it means the people of Bikita are now growing their own food source instead of poaching wildlife. Also the number of animals being treated with Depo Provera ® is increasing, which means we are getting through to the people about contraception and sterilization. Hand in hand with this statistic is the fact that we did not see as many puppies on this visit as with previous ones. As our mobile clinic expands it reach however, we will be able to offer expertise to larger life stock as well. We still remark on the fact that the rural folk are very open to chemical contraception, as opposed to permanent sterilization through surgery. It just goes to show that one always needs to be creative in the approach to a problem!

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In conclusion we were delighted with this year’s trip and all left with a happy heart knowing that the trials and tribulations over the past three years are actually beginning to pay rewards. The main winners are of course the animals! This trip to Bikita would not have been made possible with out the major support of the Bridgette Bardot Foundation. Thanks to their assistance we were able to purchase a much needed autoclave. This has made our lives so much easier when it comes to sterilizing the surgical instruments and drapes needed for surgery. National Foods showered us with 300kgs of animal food. You can only imagine what delight this brought to both animal and owner. We were able to give out prizes in the form of food for people to take home. Every dog who was sterilized received a 10 kg bag of food as well, just to help with the post operative care. All Bikita Minerals staff were a huge asset and made our work so much easier by being there.

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BIKITA MINERALS P/L – Mr. Nigel Mcphail, for providing members of mine staff to complete clerical work, for providing accommodation for volunteers, for providing a premises to conduct the clinic as well as providing fuel to conduct a mobile clinic. A special thanks goes to Sasara and Ryan Reyneke for their assistance and support.

Dr Biko Gadaga (Voluntary Veterinary Surgeon) – who willingly gave of his time and knowledge to help the domestic animals of Bikita, for the third time.

Dr Blessing Mutangira (Voluntary Veterinary Surgeon) – a resident of Bikita, whose care and dedication to the Bikita animals and people is never-ending.

Dr Petros Luefi (Veterinary Surgeon) & staff at Borrowdale Lane Vet Surgery – his fantastic support, advice and knowledge when it came to sourcing equipment and materials required to undertake such a project.

Fondation Brigitte Bardot – All the way from France, this Foundation has made a hugely positive impact on the sustainability of the Bikita program. With their donation, we were able to secure much needed equipment and drugs. We offer them our deepest gratitude and look forward to continued collaboration and support.

Graniteside Chemicals – Another huge sponsor of the Bikita project, without whose help we could not have assisted the animals of Bikita. Mr. Shah Snr and Jnr have generously donated veterinary products, needles and syringes as well as other consumables which made this project a success. Furthermore they have shown a vested interesting in improving the lives of all domestic animals of the Bikita district and we thank them for their support.

Inspector Simon Chikadaya Regional Inspector for representing the ZNSPCA and collaborating with the Tikki Hywood Trust. Together we could educate the people of Bikita and give them insight into creating a better environment for themselves and their animals.

KDB Holdings – for continuous generous donation from Mr. Dieter Balzer and his company.

N. Tselentis P/L – For donation of material for surgical drapes, mutton cloth and cotton wool for the operations.

National Foods – For their amazingly generous donation of animal food, which was much appreciated, by both the animals and owners who came to the clinic.

The People of Bikita who took part in this project and were prepared to come from far and wide, to make sure that their animals had treatment.

September 2010 Newsletter

Spring has Sprung!

I remember when, I was a child, of being so excited for the bright bursts of ‘spring’ colour, from all avenues, leaves on the trees, buds bursting open and the petals of the Jacaranda spilling onto the roads and gardens, leaving, underneath them, purple carpets, which popped when you drove over them. Thinking back, I can see how wonderful it was being so naïve and living in a then, wonderland, which I called home.

Now when spring is around the corner, my heart is full of fear for the veldt fires which are destined to fill our night horizon. Burning seems to be a way of life in Zimbabwe around this time. Be it due to poverty and many people trying to catch rats to eat, or for clearing of land in preparation for the rains, or simply for revenge. Whatever it may be, Zimbabwe is turned into smoke and flames for the best part of August and September. I once believed, that education was the way forward with so many of the wrongs in this country, but sadly due to ever increasing poverty levels, I am afraid that even with knowledge there are certain issues we can not change, fire burning being one of those realities, no matter how hard we seem to try change it.

“Life is meaningless only if we allow it to be. Each of us has the power to give life meaning, to make our time and our bodies and our words into instruments of love and hope”.

– Tom Head (Author)

Each step that the Trust’s takes, is such a learning curve. I am thankful that with each one of these steps, I am able to embark on a journey of self realisation. As you all know my patience levels are tested constantly, and for me this has been one of my greatest challenges, living and dealing with conservation issues here in Zimbabwe. No one else’s clock seems to tick quite the same as mine, and there are many occasions when I find myself having to take very deep breath and count to a 100, long gone are the days of only counting to 10! In June of this year, the Trust was contacted by our National Parks to take care of a situation. A collection of animals, referred to as Noah’s Ark, had been captured in one of our premier Parks, and through, I pray, a greater conscience, our Director General decided to rescind this decision, and release these animals instead of sending them to a zoo overseas. We automatically reacted to this change of heart and in less than five days, we were bound for Hwange, to release Zimbabwe’s much talked about Noah’s Ark. You have all received the newsletter which outlines the release of these said animals, so I will not go into that. However, I would like to explain that as a result of this, move many doors have opened, and a few new directions have presented themselves to the Trust. After arriving in the Vumba, to release the captured Samango Monkeys, the Trust spoke with many of the stakeholders on the ground and the realisation of tremendous poaching and deforestation became a reality to us. With these facts racing through my mind, I returned to Harare with a multitude of ideas of how we might be able to assist. The long and short of it was that without trained manpower on the ground, to form a buffer against the main assault of poaching animals, we really are wasting our time. In light of this, I met with Martin Steimer, who runs an anti-poaching unit called Animal Lifeline in the Hwange area, to ask him to help with training. I have also been in contact with Charlie Hewat of Environment Africa with regards to a project in the Vumba. Together, we have got approval from ZPWMA to do the first anti-poaching training program in the Vumba, starting on the 1st November 2010. We, will be developing the Wildlife and Environment Protection Unit (WEPU), and this unit will operate throughout the Bunga Forest Area and the Botanical Gardens, and will be a reaction unit for the stakeholders who remain on land in the Vumba area, to protect against poaching and deforestation.

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As I walked through the forests of the Vumba and saw these beautiful trees that had been growing, providing shelter and food for many different species below them for decades now lying, dying on the earth’s floor, my heart silently cried. The devastation throughout Zimbabwe is huge, vast, no, mammoth! Can we, actually make a difference, can we prevent further destruction – those of us who really care about the future of this land? Right now, there are questions which I have and which I want so badly answered. But who is there to answer them? The definition of chaos is “a state of complete disorder and confusion” this is where I feel Zimbabwe, stands right now. In amongst this are those of us who so badly want to see the light shining on the horizon, but for now our horizon is charred black and it will take time for that green bite to emerge. My dream is, that just as year after year the green bite continues to grow, so too in time will our future horizons, here in Zimbabwe. Because this land is our home we love her and we are here for her and so for now all we can do is crisis manage, one step at a time, one animal at a time and one tree at a time. So the answer of course is YES, we can do something to help restore our homeland. Hand and hand and through unity and determination we will find that horizon.

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Orphans have become a way of life for the Trust, over the last six months the following animals have entered our lives and become part of our ever growing family;

Galadriel – a female serval arrived in a cardboard box, hissing as soon as you looked into the box. Her front right leg had been caught in a snare and was very swollen. Thankfully however we were able to save the leg and to day she is a beautiful, if somewhat aggressive serval. Being so young, she still has a good, eight or so months, before we have to decide what her future will be. Currently, I fear that there are no safe environments out there that will welcome an animal like Galadriel, without any threat of being poached either by dogs or wire snares!

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Officially known as Madagascar, but rather affectionately called Mugsy – a young male, African Wild cat came into the Trust, from the Chirundu area in June. Mugg Wugg (another baby name he responds to!) maybe one of Africa’s smallest cat species but he most certainly has a character of a tiger! This little cat has survived one tragic event after another and still remains positive, loving and keeps everyone on their toes. At around three months old, Mugsy developed a condition called joint ill, which is a bacterial infection that develops in any joint, and left untreated can cause irreparable damage. However, it is highly uncommon in felids, and Mugsy’s case was the first seen by the vets in a kitten. He has been on a extensive course of antibiotics, as well as supportive treatment, but only time will tell with this little tiger as his limbs grow, the full extent of the damage to his leg. It certainly does not hamper his pounce ability!

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Apple Blossom – a female common duiker arrived in September, weighing only 2.7kgs together with a fledgling eagle owl, who has aptly been named Archimedes! Once again, both of these critters came from the Darwendale area. We are so relieved that people are bring these orphans in and not just leaving them to a fate we would rather not know about. Apple has adapted to the bottle very well as well as starting on solids. With a piggy squeal, every time you pick her up she has learned what the routine is, and looks forward to her basket of daily delights from dandelions to Msasa leaves.

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Each one of these orphans, have their own stories to tell of how they became orphans. Unfortunately most of them have one thing is common, they were all going to die should it not have been for the kind people who found them and brought them into us. In order for Apple to be released from her captors, a goat had to be given as a swop! This does not sound correct, almost like an eye for an eye and which animal has more value? There are question and decisions such as these that we are faced with and morality, does not feature, so it seems with many of these cases.

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In July, I travelled to Victoria Falls to see how Makwa and Kennedy were doing at the Wild Horizons Trust. It was great to see that both elephants condition, had improved and they were walking daily into the wild regions surrounding Wild Horizons. Each day they will be learning more and more about what is required ultimately to be a wild elephant. Their characters have emerged little bit by little, Makwa is very much a wild animal at heart, and there is no way she wants to have anything to do with the human ways (she certainly has her head screwed on the right way!) Kennedy however, is much more forgiving and is not so hostile towards his fellow handlers. Whilst I was there, the two young elephants would go out walking daily with Miss Elly and Lulu, together with their minder. From a distance we could watch the four of them interacting with one another. Their trunks, investigating the, new branches and leaves, which they came across whilst on their walk. Early in the morning when they are let out of their stables, their excitement can be seen as their tails are lifted high up into the air and the ears start flapping forward and backwards and they do the elephant jog, not quiet a walk but certainly not a run. We will be following their progress.

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One of the Trust’s key species is the Southern African Hedgehog. This tiny spiky creature has become part of our lives in a “big” way! 2010 will be the first year that we will be releasing hedgehogs into the wild. Stuart and Michelle Johnson, who are based in Esigodini, will be heading and monitoring the release of these animals back into their natural environment. With every release project there are mortalities and steps which we take and then have to re-think and step in a totally different direction. Nonetheless, all these steps are vital for the further survival of this species. It still amazes me that there are so many people who are totally unaware that Zimbabwe even has its own hedgehog species!

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On the 2nd of September, Hooch our female wild cat started showing signs which were very similar of that to giving birth. Watching her closely we noticed that by early afternoon she was passing fresh blood. After phoning Clare Savage of Chisipite Vet Surgery, I asked if she would not mind coming on her way after surgery later that same day to check on Hooch. Returning to see Hooch after the phone call, it was evident that she was in terrible pain, arching her back and squatting at the same time. Quickly, we put Hooch into a basket, and called Clare telling her we were on our way and Hooch was not in a good way at all. Both Clare and Margie were quick to react to the very serious situation which we were presented with. Without delay, Hooch was anaesthetised, stomach shaved and Clare cut an incision down the length of her stomach. What Clare discovered was in fact a grossly oversized uterus, which was bleeding from a massive tear running the length of the organ almost to the external opening of Hooch’s genitalia. Literally had we waited another hour or two, it would have cost her life. Drs. Savage and Peacocke did a phenomenal job removing the damaged uterus and repairing the tear. The biggest concern was that Hooch’s bladder would function normally and pass urine out of the body, as opposed to leaking it into her abdomen.

Once sewn up, Hooch was brought home, put inside, on a hot pad, as after an operation of such magnitude, animals struggle to regulate their temperatures. Hooch is our “Grand Dam” who started our African wild cat project so many years ago. It has been a huge hurdle to over come and bring her through the worst of the operation. Despite all our efforts over those first few days, Hooch still developed a condition called, peritonitis and there were some very long and tense hours spent wondering if there was anything further one could possibly do. But true to her indomitable spirit, Hooch was very determined to see just how much extra special treatment she could get out of her adoring humans. Whether it was playing cushion for her to knead and sharpen her claws on, or delicately placing droplets of vanilla yoghurt on her tongue, or simply telling her how much we loved her, Hooch got the very best care and therapy. We are exceptionally pleased to report that Hooch is now almost back to normal, and is re-establishing her pecking order on the outside world. Being spayed now of course Hooch and Starsky are reunited without fear of producing any kittens – they are back in love – Hooch of course in total control of their relationship!

We here at the Trust, would like to thank all of you, who make it possible for us to continue doing the work that we are doing. Each week brings with it new challenges as well as a heart sore story – thankfully due to your support we are able to address each issue and try to solve it, to the best of our ability.

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The final report on Hwange Fire Breaks

The gusty months of August have arrived, which in Zimbabwe normally means fire month. High winds and hot dusty air carry sparks and flames across the country where adequate protection is not provided, turning our valuable land, black – losing all its value in grazing and browsing. By Zimbabwean Law, we are not allowed to burn fire breaks after the 31 July, as it is considered too dangerous to burn after this date. Thanks to a hugely combined effort, we have managed in a very short period of time to cover a large area of Hwange’s boundary, which will prevent winter fires from ravaging the land.  To undertake a task such as this was at first very intimidating for the Trust, as we have never ventured into this area of the country, and had no knowledge of the magnitude of the undertaking which lay ahead.  Had it not been for the personnel at the Hide, as well as The Friends of Hwange Trust, together with National Parks, we most certainly would not have been able to achieve the successful outcome.

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Being Zimbabwe’s largest National Park of 14 600 square km, Hwange is considered our premier wildlife park, home to the big five and boasting a variety of habitat and terrain, from open Serengeti like plains to balancing granite boulders and old camel thorn forests. A good 40 % of the boundary is demarcated by a railway line, which is infinitely useful as a firebreak in itself, provided is it maintained. Due to the very limited amount of time available to burn and bringing into consideration the prevailing fire factors as well as which areas were more important to protect, a working plan was put into action by an enthusiastic and collaborative group of people.

It is important to note that apart from the following foreign donors, SAVE Foundation Australia, Friends Of Hwange – Australia and LT General Sir Richard Swinburn of the United Kingdom, this project was entirely sponsored by concerned Zimbabweans. Our sincere thanks go to all of you, who supported this initiative and hence financially or physically, made it happen. The reason I am mentioning this is that all too often when something happens in a country, to do with her wildlife, the world is ready to take up arms and protest. However, when it comes to solving the problem, the silence that follows a cry for help is deafening. Zimbabwe has been under a very watchful eye of late and I do feel that through what was, potentially a disaster in the making, positive strides have been made to not only correct that, but also to address other very important issues such as fire breaks which are labour intensive and costly to maintain.

Vehicles, sweat and manual labour were the order of the day, with the odd lit match here and there and like to the pioneers of old, the fire break teams cut through the bush creating a protective strip of already burnt veldt that would stop an uncontrolled fire. In many places, the roads also serve as fire breaks and these were re-vamped and ploughed to spec. Please see detailed map below of work done:

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From the map it is fair to say that at least 35 – 45 % of the Park is protected from fires coming from the East of the country. The Botswana border is protected by a double highway and the remainder of the South-Eastern border is going to be ploughed further as and when equipment and manpower is available. This is an achievement for all of us, to be exceptionally proud of, since Hwange has not experienced this kind of fire protection for a very long time. Heartfelt congratulations, to all involved!


As always, commitment to a project of this enormity is what makes it happen. The Tikki Hywood Trust gratefully acknowledges the input and effort from all people and organisations, whom have assisted and participated in making Hwange safer from wild fires this year.

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The Elephants, another chapter in the Hwange release story

For those of you who have not, yet read the full story of the animals captured in Hwange National Park, who were destined for an overseas zoo, please read our previous blog  dated: July 10th 2010 at           

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The very, anticipated morning arrived, 12th July 2010.  Makwa and Kennedy (the juvenile male and female elephants) were to be moved to their new, if only temporary home – Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust (WHWT) in Victoria Falls.  Both young elephants could not have behaved more perfectly.  Thanks to the skill of Vic Coetzee and his years of experience in wildlife capture and handling, both elephants walked out of the bomas, which had been their home for the past two months, and onto the truck which was to take them to WHWT.  When I learnt, that Vicus had agreed to do the capture and translocation of these two elephants, it most certainly brought a smile to my face.  In 1992 it was the legendary Clem Coetzee, Vicus’s father who taught me about wildlife and what conservation meant.  I was to learn over those three months of moving family herds of elephants out of the drought stricken Ghonerezhou National Park, that people who care can move mountains, or perhaps in this case elephants.  

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We were delighted that the two National Park Elephant, handlers who were taking care of Makwa and Kennedy in Hwange, were coming along as well to settle the elephants into their new home. This is hugely, important as the handlers have become the elephants surrogate family, and to minimise the stress and fear of translocation it is vital that they have a familiar face to reassure them.  The trip from Umtshibi in Hwange National Park to WHWT is around 200 kms, so both elephants were given a mild sedative which helped with the journey. 

 When the truck arrived with both Makwa and Kennedy, the resident elephant herd at WHWT, could be heard.  Makwa the female was the first to leave the safety of the truck.  She was escorted to her new stable where there was food, water and browse ready, for her.  Kennedy, the more wary of the two, followed shortly after Makwa.  They were stabled independently but along side each other.  Makwa and Kennedy were captured from two separate herds and so are not related, so in affect the two of them have to adapt to one another as well.  The reason why the two young elephants have to now go through this rehabilitation phase is because the can not be returned to their family herds from which they were taken.  When they were captured, they were going to an overseas zoo, and therefore parent herds were not marked for post-capture monitoring. So this means that their family herds cannot be reliably identified.

The following day both Makwa and Kennedy were taken out of their stables and introduced to the main herd which is to become their new family.  This is still the first step in the rehabilitation of these two elephants, however so far things are looking positive and for the first time in a couple of months both elephants got to walk in amongst the bush, where they should always be.  They are now part of a process where they will be socialising with other elephants of all ages, to develop a more natural herd system.  By these two elephants being introduced to older elephants, they will also be disciplined and taught the social graces of what it is to being an elephant, a wild one that is.

Full report on the Hwange Animal Release

Dear Readers,

Many of you have heard about the saga that has unfolded in the wildlife industry over the past few months, here in Zimbabwe. To briefly encapsulate the story: Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) entered into a business transaction with an overseas zoo.  Zimbabwe was to supply a selection of specimens with which to restock the zoo, in the press this was known as, a “Noah’s Ark” of animals, each species being represented by a minimum of a pair. Whilst it is not uncommon for zoos to occasionally restock their collection from wild caught animals, it has of recent years become a frowned upon practice by many conservation groups and individuals. In fact, it is now supported by research that it is not in the best interest of any animal, to be removed from its natural state to an artificial one, no matter how good the artificial conditions may be. So, when it became public knowledge that this transaction was going to take place, it raised concerns from both local and international organisations alike.

After giving the issue due consideration, the ZPWMA made an executive decision, to cancel the deal and release the captured animals back to wild.

It was at the request of the Director General of ZPWMA, Mr Vitalis Chadenga, that the Tikki Hywood Trust was asked to assist with the release of the animals which had been destined for the overseas zoo.

Before I give an account of what took place I would like to give you two words, with their Oxford English dictionary meanings, and I would like you to give due consideration to those two words, before reading further;

WILDliving or growing in the natural environment, not inhabited or changed by people – uncontrolled.

 CAPTURED: to take or get by force – take prisoner.

Having had the privilege to work with wild animals, I can honestly say, that there is nothing more disturbing, than witnessing wild animals that have been captured and then placed in a completely unnatural and therefore hostile environment. Time was of the essence and we had to get those animals released, as soon as possible. After being given the mandate by the Director of Parks, to co-ordinate this release, our journey started earlier morning Friday 25thJune 2010.  Thanks to a very generous Zimbabwean, we were able to have the use of his skills as a pilot, as well as his plane.  Without this hugely charitable action, the work which lay ahead of us would have been so much more gruelling and stressful. However, flying purposefully over the Zimbabwe landscape made me realised that I am immensely proud to be part of what this country has had to offer. Since we had left very early in the morning the sun was rising as we neared Hwange National Park and as we came in to land, there was a herd of wild elephants, mothers with babies by their sides.  For me, seeing this herd was incredibly significant as to what we were about to undertake.

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Once, the plane had landed we met up with Gary Cantle of Friends of Hwange Trust, who was our transporter on the ground assisting the release of the animals back to the Park.  We drove straight to Main Camp where we met with the Parks personnel to discuss the next two days operations, and to make sure that we were releasing the animals back into areas where they had been captured so that they had the best chance of meeting up with their respective social groups.  The co-operation from all parties involved was inspiring, and we all seemed to know what was expected of us and worked together to one common goal which was to get these animals out and released back into their wild home!    Once all the meetings and discussion had been completed and assurance was given that all the necessary permitting was in order, we drove to Umtshibi (Capture unit headquarters for National Parks in Hwange).  I am not sure if it was excitement or fear that made me unable to sit still whilst driving through the sand veldt of Hwange National Park en route to the holding area where we were to see the animals.  When we arrived on site at Umtshibi, my heart was beating an erratic and painful rhythm against my ribs, and my hands were sticky and clammy from sweat.  Nothing ever prepares me for seeing animals who are miserable within their environments, but even more soul destroying is seeing the long distance stare, that wild caught animals develop, wondering what on earth happened and how did they end up behind bars!?

As we entered the area there was a heaviness which prevailed – we walked, slowly towards the Samango monkey’s cage. In the corner of the cage huddled together and staring outside we found the three Samango monkeys, who had been captured in the Vumba which is in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.  There was a male, who was a lot bigger than I had expected and two smaller females – one of which had a very sore arm, perhaps even broken. Attached to the back of their cage was another cage with two young warthogs in.  From the scars on their faces it was evident that these two young warthog were terrified, and no sooner had you looked at them, than they started running into the fence and around and around the cage!  Wanting desperately not to heighten the stress for these two animals, we backed away to check on the hyenas who had only been caught within the last two weeks.  Both of these hyenas were young. Mercifully, the hyaena’s clan where still in the area close to the holding bomas, where they had been captured, and we knew this by the fresh spoor which was sighted, around Umtshibi from the previous night. Next were the two rock hyraxes that were together and thankfully had hiding places inside their portable cage.  They would be the first to move as they had to be transported to where other rock hyraxes occur in Hwange.  We could just transport them in the cage that had been their home for the past couple of months, without having to stress them further.

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The two elephants were the next to visit. The two little innocent animals had been named after the pans where they were captured, Makwa and Kennedy.  Fortunately both elephants were in good condition thanks to the input of both Varden Safaris, a specialist horseback tour operator based at Umtshibi, and the Parks personnel on the ground.  Taking care of juvenile elephants is no mean feat.  There is a daily requirement of cutting excessive amounts of browse as well as hay and cubes.  Apart from the feeding side of juvenile elephants being in captivity, they also get very bored and stressed and require constant company because they are so young.  Both elephants had bonded with their handlers and you could see a rapport with handler and elephant.  Makwa and Kennedy are bound for Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust (WHWT) based in Victoria Falls to be integrated and rehabilitated with a herd of elephants that are ultimately to be released.  WHWT, had brought one of their handlers who would be working with the Parks handlers to help with the cross over from one group of handlers to the next. National Parks have further aided this transition by allowing their staff to accompany the elephants to WHWT in Victoria Falls, and staying with them until they were adjusted to their new family. WHWT, will be feeding the two elephants at Umtshibi until they can be safely moved to their new home.

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It was midday when we loaded the rock hyraxes into the vehicle and off we went to release them where there were other hyraxes in the Park.  It was the first time I had been to Hwange National Park, so if it had not been for Friends of Hwange who knew the Park intimately, we would have struggled to find the suitable environment, rocky outcrops and other hyraxes for these two hyraxes to join up with.  102.6 kms later the vehicle stopped at what must have been the first rocky outcrop we had seen since leaving Umtshibi.  Gary Cantle stated that this was the area where he had seen other hyraxes.  It looked perfect, rocks boulders and still pools of water in the rocks.  Quickly we removed the cage and carried it to the rocks.  Christine Shields (from ZNSPCA) and I each carried one of the hyraxes out within the tube that they had been hiding in for the journey.  Once facing the rocky outcrops the female hyrax (braver of the two) very slowly inched her way out of the tube. In a blur of fur, she was off not looking back running into the bush!  Once the female was out, she straight away ran up into the rocks, jumping from boulder to boulder – she was back in her natural environment and you could see it.  The male on the other hand, did not want any of it, and remain tucked up inside of where he had been hiding for the journey.  I wanted them to stick together, so quickly I moved him in his hiding box of safety to where the female was and kindly helped him out.  Once out into the sunlight and with soil and rock beneath his paws – he seemed to know that this was freedom.  We watch both hyraxes leaping from rock to rock, a feeling of achievement came over all of us as we stood watching them for awhile.  Time was of an essence though so we had to return before dusk in order to release the hyena in the hope that they could met up with their own clans that evening.

 

Dassie-release

 

Climbing up onto the top of the crates where the hyenas had been kept was very emotional.  This was a moment when I felt ashamed to be part of the human race.  These two young hyenas had been separated from their families and put into the darkness of these crates, for what was meant to be for their protection until leaving, and for the safety of the staff that were to take care of them.  Due to the myth of how dangerous these animals are, I fear that the conditions they were in were totally unnecessary, especially in light of the fact that no wild animal should be caught for captivity – I hope a lesson was learnt to all mankind involved with this incident and that it will never happen again.  To see the panic of these two animals as we tried to gently move them out from the crates was heart wrenching.  No animal should have their dignity taken from them to the point of total terror, of not being able to move.  Slowly as their eyes adjusted to the light, and they realised that they could leave the crates, one by one they bolted out of the crates running to the furthest point from where us humans stood.  After being released and having joined up, they moved towards the area where the Hyaena spoor had been spotted. Whether it was, scent, sound or sight, somehow they knew that they were back in the zone which had been home before they had been captured.

hyaena-release

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Warthogs and monkeys would be released the following day, as the sun set on an emotional and physical rollercoaster of events that marked 25thJune 2010. But, work was not finished as we did have a small problem; the two wooden crates for the monkeys did not seem strong enough after having physically inspected the animals. So mending and strengthen of these crates were paramount, before the next days capture.  A half sedated, confused and terrified monkey loose in a small plane did not appeal to anyone of us who were to be passengers or pilot!   Roger Parry of Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust was to be doing the necessary darting of the monkeys the following day.  Working with primates is not something that many of us get the opportunity to do in Zimbabwe, so we discussed the many options and drug choices which were at our disposal.  Having never done primates, I think both Roger and I, wanted to make sure we approached this correctly as we would not have many chances with the darting and the last thing either one of us wanted to do was resort to netting them and stressing them even further. As the crow flies the Vumba Mountains are approximately, 600 kms from Hwange, so there was also a time factor against us, as we had to make sure we were airborne no later than 10 am the following morning.

warthog-release

The Hide (a well-known tour operator with a concession within Hwange National Park), very kindly put us up for the night together with a warm fire and hot water bottles in our beds!  Over dinner we discussed the day’s events, and there was a feeling of great satisfaction that some of the animals were back in the wild and by the end of the following day another five would be home!  That night, as I went to bed my thoughts, however, were solely on the Samango monkeys, this would be their last night in captivity, the last night in an environment which is so alien to each one of them.  Why do we as man, believe that it is our right to decide the fate of what is to become of so many of these animals?

At 4.30 am we awoke to get to the bomas, which were at least 40 minutes away.  A cup of hot tea and we were off.  It was dark and very, very cold.  The warthogs were the first to be released this morning.  I could not watch them being put into the crate for transport, after having seen them yesterday and their fear when we just looked at them. I could not face the terror with humans chasing them into the crate, but I knew this was the quickest and least “stressful” method.  Roger and the Parks capture team managed to get the petrified animals into the crates, whilst I silently willed them to know that this would be the last act of terror visited on them by humans.  I accompanied the Parks rangers to the site where we had decided to release the two warthogs.  As the colour of the sunrise started to touch the horizon, the door to the crate of the warthogs was lifted and both warthogs were like bullets leaving the chamber of a gun.  They were not hanging around, they knew that what lay outside of the crate was home!

With regards to the monkeys capture, we decided to follow the system that Parks had been doing over the past couple of months.  The male, due to his dominance over the females, would be crated to be fed, so that the two females got some food before him.  Whilst in the management crate it would be easy to pole syringe him, and then dart the two females in the main cage. Such sound planning, but how we waited! The monkeys knew something was up, and with the movement of animals yesterday and the addition of so many people today, they were wary.  We waiting until 7.30 am for the male to get into the management crate as was habit, but realising that this was not going to happen, Roger Parry together with Esta Van der Meer (a researcher based in Hwange), agreed that darting all the monkeys was necessary.  Both Roger and Esta had nerves of steel and before long the male was down and Roger was about to dart the first female who had the injured arm.  A few minutes later, we got the thumbs up from Roger, a signal that Esta and I could go in and get to work on the first monkey.  I have not had any experience with monkeys, and in fact have always been rather nervous of them. However sedated and lying there helplessly on the blanket were two of these monkeys and it was immediately apparent that Hwange bushveldt was not their natural habitat. Just a simple comparison, Hwange National Park is approximately 1080 meters above sea-level, whilst the Vumba, mountains, where the monkeys came from is approximately 1900 meters above sea level! After reading about them in guide books, nothing compared to the up close and personal inspection of the Samangos, their coats were thick with a rainbow of colours, perfect for blending into the canopies of the Vumba forests.  Due to using ketamine, the drug used to knock them down, we had to put eye drops into the monkey’s eyes so that they did not dry out.  As I drop the eye drops, into, the male’s eyes, I saw these two eyes looking up at me and blink once and then again, as if he knew it was to help him.  The first female to be darted was the one with the injured arm, which had been infected due to a bite.  We lanced the wound and irrigated it; thankfully her arm was not broken!  After, a penicillin and a vitamin B complex injection to help with the infection, she was placed into the crate that would take her to the Vumba.  The male was given the largest of the crates and the most secure.  The second female was a little more difficult to dart, however Roger managed to get her and before 8.45 am all three monkeys were in their independent crates and we were once again in the vehicle and moving toward the airport and then on to the city of Mutare, the nearest airport to the Vumba botanical gardens.  After our goodbyes were said, we loaded the crates into the plane and set off for a three and half hour flight to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.

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Monkey-1

The flight went very well with all the monkeys, none of them panicked and all remained calm throughout the journey.  Just after 1 pm the plane came into landing, where we were to be met by Ian Campbell-Morrison, from Leopard Rock Hotel, together with the Warden of the Vumba Botanical Gardens, who would be accompanying us to the site where these three Samango monkeys had originally been captured from.  Once the crates had been loaded into the vehicle we jumped in, and began the final leg of this journey.  Half way up into the mountains of the Vumba you could feel that the air was different with the damp scent of forest, the terrain heavily dense with mountain acacias.  I took the blanket off the crates so that the monkeys could smell where we were going.  Quietly, the male Samango started looking out of the crate and sniffing the air. Did he know that he was home?  We travelled higher up into the mountains and then past the sign saying we had arrived at the Vumba Botanical Gardens.  Everything happened so quickly, we moved the crates to the area where we were going to release the three monkeys.  I thought we would have to wait awhile for them to get their bearing before releasing them.  There was no need, the tree canopies, suddenly became alive, we looked up and there was the troop of wild Samangos, a welcoming committee second to none.  Without delay – we opened up the crates, the male first then the two females.  Home! Each one of those monkeys knew they were home!  They ran towards where the wild Samango, troop were.  Silence was all that could be heard, and perhaps the odd thump of our hearts beating!  We stood there, watching the forest dwellers melting into the forest – this was the perfect ending for these three monkeys.

monkey-free

To achieve the results with any wildlife rescue, such as this, it would not have been possible, with out the involvement of multiple organisations both local and international.  We at the Tikki Hywood Trust would like to thank the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, and in particular Mr Vitalis Chadenga, for understanding the moral stand point of how important it is that wild animals should remain in the wild.  In no particular order, we sincerely thank and acknowledge the following local and international organisations, without whom this rescue would not have become a reality.

www.bornfree.org.uk

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EFT LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESTA VAN DER MEER

 

www.elephantvoices.orgelephant voices logo

www.friendsofhwange.org

 

FOH logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.theleopardrockhotel.com

leopard rock

 

SEBOA TRUST – Mr. Darren Lança

www.vardensafaris.com

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www.vawz.co.zw

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www.wildhorizontrust.org

 WH Wildlife Trust Big

www.zctf.net  or  www.zctf.mweb.co.zw

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www.zimparks.com

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Hwange release – first report

Dear Readers,

Please take a moment to view the following links with regards to a deal that was to take place with Zimbabwean wildlife,

http://allafrica.com/stories/201006180808.html

And then this report:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201006230012.html

In light of these events, we would like to offer the following brief statement:

The Tikki Hywood Trust together with ZNSPCA, Friends Of Hwange Trust and with the assistance of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, have just returned from a very successful release of the wild animals who were en route to an overseas zoo. We will be writing an account on what took place at a later stage, however so that there is no confusion I am by point form explaining what took place and what was released.

1. The rock hyrax were release first and within the Hwange National Park where other rock hyrax occur

2. The Hyaena were released directly from the holding boma,  reasons for this was

a.) they were juveniles

b.) the parents have been calling for them at the bomas

c.) we wanted to minimize stress without using drugs

The following day we released

1.  The warthogs which were crated and moved to a water pan where other warthogs occur

2.  The three Samango monkeys were darted by Roger Parry of Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust and flown to the Botanical Gardens in the Vumba where they were captured from.

Remaining animals are;

1. The two elephants, who will be moved this coming week to Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust,

2. The giraffe and zebra are moving  to a game farm within Zimbabwe

Should anyone have further questions please contact me. We will however be putting together a comprehensive report on what took place. Once again we would like to thank everyone on the ground who made this operation run so smoothly with no injuries to any of the animals.

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