Migration News from the Bush

There can be nothing more spectacular that the annual migration of Wildebeest and Zebra but lest we forget there are other actors in this drama, the gazelle and antelope and in the path of the movement of so much food on the hoof, the predators along the way and of course resident game that moves little.

 

At a time when our African elephant herds are under threat the good news is that The Serengeti elephant and buffalo population has increased since the last census and the proof is the frequent sightings of these magnificent and intelligent beasts throughout the Serengeti along with huge herds of buffalo, the latter in more wooded areas and in the open rolling plains of the North.

 

Good news does not often make headlines and determination and efforts of Park Management and our Rangers has made the Serengeti a safer place for elephant, this most iconic of species. At least 7,000 elephants (2014 census) are found in the Serengeti eco-system and most in the Tanzanian side of the border up from about 2,000 in a 1986 census. Buffalo numbers have also increased dramatically with about 61 ,000 counted in 2014. Part of the increase is from inward migration from unsafe areas outside the park, where human activity and population increase has occurred.

 

The last long rains were adequate over the vast Serengeti eco-system and provided enough forage and water across the eco-system from the open short grass plains of the South East and West of the Serengeti to the more wooded areas of the North West of Kogatende and The Maasai Mara. In the North the beautiful rolling country on both sides of the common border of Tanzania and Kenya the ribbon of the Maasai Mara River threads its way to Lake Victoria. This barrier must be crossed to reach the Maasai Mara and the river crossings have been as dramatic as ever.

 

Patience and luck pay off and the writer was lucky enough to see several crossings in the space of a couple of days and witness the heart stopping moments as Wildebeest braved the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River. Inevitably some of them never made it across but survival of the fittest determines the success of a species.

 

Those that are lost have served a purpose, gorging crocodiles that will then have lean months ahead. Nature may seem brutal at times but predation helps to maintain a balance.  Serengeti is unique and a prize deserving of anyone that wishes to see the annual miracle at any place, in its cycle of movement across the endless plains. Come to see the magnificent male Lions and their prides of females and young or happen upon a graceful and powerful Leopard dragging its kill up into the branches of a tree. The Cheetah, lean and graceful, the FI of the animal world quickens the heart as it closes in on its prey in a blur of movement. As suddenly as the hunt started, it is over. In peaceful moments, the plentiful cats of the Serengeti are serene and beautiful, so much awaits you, Karibu Serengeti!

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SERENGETI – MAASAI MARA ECO-SYSTEM Fact File

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SERENGETI – MAASAI MARA ECO-SYSTEM Fact File

Area:

            Maasai Mara Game Reserve – Kenya:                                1,510 sq. km.

            Serengeti National Park – Tanzania:                                14,763 sq. km

            Ngorongoro Conservation Area:                                          8,300 sq. km.

            Game Reserves, WMA’s, Game Controlled Areas          3,600 sq km approx.

           Total protected area                                                                 28,176.sq km.

The Maasai Mara River basin is about 13,750 sq. Km. and essential as a watershed for the Mara and Telek and smaller streams that support the annual Migration water needs.

Wildlife:

Wildebeest                                                                            1.3 million

Zebra                                                                                      200,000

Thomson Gazelle                                                               250,000

Grants gazelle                                                                       30,000.00        

Buffalo                                                                                     40,000

Elephant                                                                                    6,000

Lion                                                                                            3,000

Hyena                                                                                      10,000

Eland                                                                                        8000Geology

The Northern area bordering the Maasai Mara game reserve  is characterized by the Precambrian rocks  600 million +- years old , a very ancient land form  known as The Mozambican shield overlain in places by basalt lava associated with Neogene Volcanic activity in turn associated with The formation of The Great Rift Valley. In places there are young sedimentary deposits left by rivers and lakes.

Kopjes and ridges, usually north South trending are made up of Granites, & quartzites, the hardest igneous rocks, while metamorphic such as Gneiss, are usually found in close association. Kopjes are biogeographic islands of life with different vegetation to surrounding areas and support predators that can use the elevation as a look out for prey and also female Lion and leopard can use caves and overghangs to safely rear cubs in the first month after birth. The resident sure footed Klipspringers are common on and around Kopjes, living in pairs, often with young and hartebeest and Impala found on the open grassy wooded areas nearby.

Closer to Lake Victoria are even older rocks billions of years old and often mineralized and represent what is know as Tanzania Craton rock types. They can yield gold and minerals.

The obvious escarpment   that forms a boundary of the Maasai Mara Game reserve in Kenya is the western boundary of the Maasai Mara Game reserve and it is a fault line associated with the Rifting of The Gregorian (eastern  Rift Valleys and part of the Rift Valley ) The scarp is called Esoit Oololoola in Maasai! The plateau below is a Graben or down fault while the highland above is called a Horst.

Ecological Seperation

Soils formed on the slopes of Precambrian rocky Kopjes and hillsides are sandy & often red in colour while the plains and flatter plateau areas have poorly drained brown clay soils often with underlying secondary limestone hardpan often exposed as white calcareous crusts when eroded such as where roads have been made or land eroded into small gulleys. Hard pan can prevent tree growth. These clay soils are cracked in the dry season and greasy and slippery in the wet season.

Grasses are the mainstay of the migration and short green grass favour wildebeest while Buffalo and Zebra graze on coarser grasses and Thomson gazelle prefer the very shortest of grasses left by the huge herds and also graze on micro shrubs. This explains why a biodiverse and large herbivore community can exist in one area and is known as Ecological Seperation.   Resident game such as TOPI and Kongoni (Cokes hartebeest) & Impala move seasonally from better watered valley areas to high ground in the dry season another adaptive behavior and survival mechanism.

Savanna

The grasslands and grassed woodlands are influenced by keystone species such as the Wildebeest and the Elephant and fire. Fire, both man induced or natural have a huge impact on savanna. Man has inhabited these areas and kept livestock for several thousand years and can be considered to have maintained savanna but in areas like the Serengreti where pastoralist have been excluded TANAPA now uses fire (somewhat haphazardly) as a management tool.

The interaction of keystone species both great and small including Harvester ants and Termites, elephant and Wildebeest and Zebra, form a complex interrelated dynamic web or eco-cycle and any major factor can change the visible face of the eco-system and changes in rainfall, periods of drought, excessive poaching, or other man made disturbance can have a dramatic impact on wildlife numbers. Woodland changes cyclically and it is likely that increasing elephant numbers will reduce woodland in the next decade or so.

Migrant River crossing

The Wildebeest Migration and Maasai Mara River crossing are considered as “The Eighth Wonder of The World.”  The crossing is unpredictable has become a major attraction as Wildebeest and Zebra may cross and re -cross several times as conditions change in the eco-system at peak migration periods as grazing can quickly be depleted in any one area and rainfall patterns can be scattered, promoting new grass growth and accordingly movement from one side of the river to the other. The downside is that crossings can be oversubscribed by Tourist vehicles and a press of too many people in one place at one time which can disturb the migrants. People should be quiet  and not stand on  the roof  of  the vehicle to get a better view as the  human  form sparks  off  a natural instinctive reaction in the  migrants .

Man in evolutionary terms is a super predator and etched into the DNA of wildlife that has evolved side by side with man. The sight of “Two Legs” creates a Fight or Flight reaction in most animals and in the case of Zebra and Wildebeest flight and confusion is a common response.

We trust that in being responsible we cannot allow noise or standing on car roofs and or may even leave an overcrowded crossing site to come back later of find another crossing. By the same token we cannot guarantee seeing the spectacle of the river crossing.

 

Hoopoe Safaris Hosts Former President Bill Clinton and The Clinton Foundation on their Safari Visit to CHAI Projects in Northern Tanzania.

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Hoopoe Safaris was very proud to once again host the Clinton Foundation here in Tanzania. We have had the privilege in the recent past to organise a major conference for CHAI (Clinton Healthcare Access Initiative) including safaris for the delegates. The Clinton Foundation team arrived in Tanzania for extremely important project visits by donors of foundation and we were thrilled and honored to host these delegates, along with Former President Bill Clinton, to take them to visit their extremely worthy projects and on safari to see some of the spectacular natural wonders of the East African Game Plains.  It was an exciting, worthwhile adventure for everyone and something our team of professional guides will never forget.

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We were,  naturally, very delighted that the Clinton Foundation choose Hoopoe Safaris as their preferred ground handler. The very act of going on safari with us demonstrated their appreciation the joys and wonders of an authentic African Safari and thereby showing their understanding of, and support for, Responsible Tourism and the role it plays in sustaining this fragile and awe inspiring environment and supporting local community involvement and development – so necessary for its success. Maintaining the complex eco-system and helping to bolster efforts to fight the poaching of Elephants, Rhino and other endangered species – so that one of the last refuges of such a beautiful, awesome natural wonder does not perish from this earth.

DSC_7622The Former President Bill Clinton, The Clinton Foundation and their Donors visited projects which work and impact in economic growth and development, empowerment of women & girls, health and conservation. President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton continue to build upon their longstanding commitment to Africa through the work of the Clinton Foundation, providing investment, opportunity, and health access to underserved communities. In July 2012, both President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton travelled to Africa to visit Clinton Foundation and CHAI projects.  The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) supports the government of Tanzania in a program that procures the pneumonia and rotavirus (the leading cause of diarrhoea) vaccines. The program has strengthened the supply chain for these vaccines, and ensures that they are effective by keeping them at the proper temperatures from delivery to health facility storage.  This collective effort, CHARGE – Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education – has committed over $600 million dollars to reach 14 million girls over five years.

Arusha_MarchThe Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants is a CGI Commitment to Action launched in 2013 by Save the Elephants and other partners to prevent further elephant poaching by directly targeting the chief drivers of poaching. This commitment has facilitated anti-poaching enforcement in Africa, supported efforts to crack down on international ivory markets, and raise awareness of the impact and risks of ivory sales to the survival of the African elephant

Learn more about the Clinton Foundation at http://www.clintonfoundation.org and on Twitter: @ClintonFdn.

Gorilla Trekking in #Rwanda.

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sabyinyo_3Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge has been designed and built by Governors’ Camp, but it is owned by a community trust called SACOLA. Governors’ Camp leases the lodge from SACOLA, who will use the income to finance its socio-economic development and conservation objectives in the area, which include water projects, education, health and informal industries. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is therefore and exciting combination of a top quality lodge and a power for driving socio-economic development and conservation in the area.

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is situated on the edge of the Parc National des Volcans in North Western Rwanda, at an altitude of over 8,000 ft (over 2,300 m). The rainforests of the 5 Virunga Volcanoes are the last refuge of the Mountain Gorilla. The lush slopes of the volcanoes provide an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is perhaps the most poignant and thrilling wildlife experience to be had anywhere. Roughly half of the world’s wild breakfast low respopulation of Mountain Gorilla’s is resident on the Rwandan slopes of the Virungas. Gorilla trekking, which can be strenuous, is not the only activity on offer. Sabyinyo Silverback lodge provides the perfect base from which to explore this fascinating corner of Africa. Visits to the bustling nearby market town of Ruhengeri, beautiful lakes, the genocide memorials or the community and conservation projects are designed for you to take maximum advantage of this unique area, its wildlife and its culture.

Full Itinerary

Day 1
RWANDA (Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge)

Arrival in Kigali. On arrival clients will be met by a driver and private vehicle and driven to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. The roads are good and the journey to Ruhengeri will take approximately two hours. On arrival a late lunch will be served in the main lodge, with its scenic vistas of the Virunga Volcanoes, of the Parc National des Volcans. Afternoon at leisure to settle in and acclimatize and perhaps an afternoon guided bird walk in the surrounds of the lodge. Dinner and overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.

Day 2
RWANDA (Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge)

Allan Falck 7An early breakfast, served at the lodge, before departing by road to the Parc National des Volcans headquarters. Here you will be allocated a guide for one of the habituated Mountain Gorilla families and given a safety briefing. You will then be taken by vehicle to a starting point, to commence your gorilla trek in the forest. The amount of time spent walking is dependant upon which family of Gorillas you are allocated to and where they are to be found on that day. Once the family is sighted you will spend a maximum of one hour with the Gorilla family. After this phenomenal wildlife experience, return to your vehicle on the edge of the forest, returning to Sabyinyo Silverback lodge for lunch. Afternoon at leisure. Dinner and overnight at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge.

Day 3
RWANDA (Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge)

Early morning breakfast, prior to departing for your second gorilla trek, with the possibility of visiting a different Rwanda Oct 2007 058Gorilla family. Return to Sabyinyo Silverback lodge for lunch. In the afternoon, relax or take a drive to the bustling market town of Ruhengeri, nearby, or visit the beautiful lakes of Kivu, Burera, Ruhondo and Karago. There are also the genocide memorials and community and conservation projects, to be visited. Return to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for dinner and overnight.

Day 4
RWANDA

Depart after breakfast for Kigali in time for your return flight.
We would recommend an extra night spent at Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, which would enable you to trek for the majestic golden monkeys and to visit Dian Fossey’s Research Centre, as well as a visit to the lakes.

This package is inclusive of the following:- Meet and greet on arrival in Kigali and road transfer to Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. 3 nights full board accommodation at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. The SACOLA community fee. 2 Gorilla trekking permits (one on each day). Visits to Ruhengeri, or any of the nearby lakes, the Genocide memorials and any community projects. Return road transfer to Kigali for return flight or onward arrangements.

Hoopoe Safaris and Conservation

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Wildlife Dispersal Areas, Migration Corridors

Wildlife knows no man made boundaries. Some eco-systems, notably Serengeti –Maasai Mara, can support large concentrations of wildlife within their boundaries all year but most Parks have seasonal dispersal areas outside the Park reached by migration corridors to reach grazing and water in dispersal areas. Tarangire National Park for example, cannot sustain a large wildlife population all year.

Man V Beast –The competition for natural resources and Human Wildlife Conflict

The Tarangire migrant Zebra, Wildebeest, Eland, gazelle and Elephant seasonally move into the increasingly human populated Maasai steppe, a vast area that is seeing an expansion of agriculture and a patchwork of farms block off migration corridors and diminish grazing grounds. Human wildlife conflict is common as farmers ward off elephant, Zebra and Wildebeest from their crops. The biggest single threat to Lion populations in The Tarangire eco-system  is human wildlife conflict whereby lion are killed in retaliation for killing livestock and whole prides can be killed at once. Poisoning is becoming an increasing worry and kills more than the intended victims , killing other predators and scavengers.

Poaching, diminishing herds and diminishing predators. Bush Meat trade and the Illegal Ivory trade

The numbers of herbivores and carnivores in nearly all National parks is diminishing at an alarming rate because of the pressures of increasing human populations and human expansion into areas outside the protected areas that have traditionally been pastoral. Land use change and loss of habitat is the biggest culprit in wildlife loss but poaching for meat, the illegal Bush Meat Trade is increasing sharply to satisfy demand for cheap meat for the towns and cities. The illegal Ivory trade is decimating our remaining elephants at a frightening pace and at current loss rates all our elephants will be lost to possible extinction in only a few years; two or three years in the South and West of the country leaving a small and better protected remnant population in the North in the Tarangire, Serengeti-Maasai Mara and West Kilimanjaro-Amboseli Eco-systems.

Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, and The traditional “Big 5” are all gravely threatened and even The Tanzanian National Emblem, The Giraffe is fast disappearing.

Community Based Tourism

loliondoCheifEstablishing Lodges, camps and Tourism activities in areas outside parks gives the local population a chance to earn money by conserving wildlife for tourism. Restricting agricultural expansion and maintaining a pastoral lifestyle is a Conservation aim in exchange for revenue from Tourism. While the process of establishing Tourism ventures outside Parks has been fraught, with many obstacles and difficulties along the way, changes are being made. The government is making an uneasy transition from a consumptive use of wildlife (Legal Hunting) to slowly trying to create an enabling environment for Nature based or non consumptive nature based Tourism. Our view is that non consumptive tourism is more sustainable way to conserve wildlife with better rewards for all players.

Training

Hoopoe driver guides as part of their training are taught about The history of Conservation , the practice of Conservation in East Africa , the challenges of conservation on the ground , including human wildlife conflict, poaching and the need for Government facilitation of Conservation through adaptive legislation, enforcement of laws protecting wildlife , control  human population increase , removing  cultural barriers  and practices , good and bad;  in the conservation context, pressures of Tourism upon natural resources impacting on wildlife and nature etc.

Advocacy

The Tourism industry cannot by itself conserve the foundation of its business however much progress is made through for example Community Based Tourism as the challenges and pressure on wildlife are on such a scale that East African Governments must be creative and engage all stakeholders in Conservation so that they can create a better enabling environment to nurture Tourism, mitigate human wildlife conflict , address human population control and have the political will to deal with Poaching and the Illegal ivory and Rhino horn and Lion products. International demand and pressure add enormously to our own homegrown problems such as Bush Meat trade , cultural practices, like killing Lion to prove manhood and poisoning of Lion and other carnivores that predate livestock with the banned but readily available chemical Furadan, that kills indiscriminately  and ends in an excruciatingly painful death.

At a local level Hoopoe supports efforts by sponsoring Conservation activities through the Tour Operators Association and Peter Lindstrom is actively involved in campaigning against poaching but would prefer not to be named for obvious reasons.

Advocacy is best achieved  through organizations that represent many members that have a stake in Tourism , directly or indirectly and are listened to by those in authority.

On safari again

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The festive season is time for family and friends to reconnect and what better choice of a safari for a family to be together and for grandchildren to have their first and hopefully not the last safari experience. On the safari road again with Soren, my elder brother and fellow guide (we have collectively more than 100 years of bush experience); together again on one of many safaris we have guided here in Tanzania together. On this occasion we visited Arusha, Tarangire , Manyara , Ngorongoro , Olduvai and ended on the Serengeti short grass plains based out of Kirurumu under canvas tented camp, owned and managed by Hoopoe.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park

The highlights of the safari were many and for me seeing a large herd of elephants, numbering at least 70 individuals in Northern Tarangire park ; unusual in itself as the short rains have come and continued. when it rains we normally witness a dispersal of elephant into areas outside the park. The really good news is that we saw several very big Tuskers in attendance with this clan of related families. Some females were in estrus attracting every male in the immediate area. I wondered if poaching pressure outside the park is forcing the elephant to congregate in larger herds. As the rains have continued there is enough food and water in the park to sustain them but so too outside the park. We continued to see scattered elephant family groups on the very short game drive we had time for. Wildebeest and Zebra have to a great extent left the park leaving a few small pockets of them within. Sadly at Manyara I was called with what was breaking news from my Maasai grapevine , the spearing (& shooting ) of 7 Lion very close to the park gate at Tarangire an event now widely reported in the local media. Human wildlife conflict is not new but it is destroying our predators, especially around Tarangire National Park. The problem is a microcosm of what is happening across Tanzania which has the largest population of Lion left in the World but a population that is shrinking fast.

Untitled-1Onward to Serengeti and at shifting sands and just beyond we saw the first of the migrants, large herds of Thompson gazelle on the shortest and most closely cropped grasses and later more and more Wildebeest finally arriving at camp to be surrounded by the clowns of the Serengeti. The next few days were wonderful and eventful and we were privileged to be on our own several times to watch Cheetah with cubs , two magnificent and probably nomadic Lions near to the prime of their lives sporting handsome manes, one a blond and one dark.

Again we were to see several large groups of elephant and once more females in estrus and many large Tuskers . Heartening indeed after the ravages of poaching and demonstrating that the Northern area of Tanzania has not suffered the blitzkrieg of poaching of the South and Western regions. That is not to say we have not had any poaching but it shows some success in anti poaching.

We missed early morning call for a last full day because a large pride of Lion had killed a Zebra right in camp and our ever attentive crew were hemmed in to their tents by Lion cubs that stole their shoes left out to dry overnight, gamboled with our solar cables and growled and crunched their way through an adult Zebra while we slept fitfully.

All good things come to an end and Soren and I were soon back in Arusha with lots of images to sort out and with another safari behind us.

Untitled-1Otto our camp manager called me two days later called me to report that wild dogs were just outside camp and they stayed for several days in the immediate area. In this news we have the unfolding of another interesting story. The return of wild dog to the protected areas after a hiatus of nearly 30 years. Ours is to reason why and hopefully make sure they remain and breed to numbers we were used to seeing decades ago.

March for Elephants and Rhinos: Arusha, Tanzania [14th October 2014]

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On Tuesday, October 14th 2014, we marched wholeheartedly with the impassioned residents, friends in conservation, supporters, well wishers and visitors of Arusha, Tanzania to save Elephants and Rhino. The march was scheduled to start at the Cultural Heritage near the Tanzania National Parks (‪#‎TANAPA‬) headquarters at 7.30 a.m, walk down the center of Arusha town along Sokoine/Uhuru road to the Clock Tower, turning north on Boma road, then on to Makongoro Road passing by the City council and Regional Administration officers, on to the Arusha Declaration Monument (Mwenge), ending in the Sheikh Amri Abeid Karume Stadium grounds

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Kirurumu Under Canvas’ Ngorongoro Camp.

1609960_758216760905401_3024422552934805773_nWith the re-opening of the ascent road, Kirurumu Under Canvas’ camp site at Nyati Camp site is conveniently close to the rim and set in beautiful forest surroundings with a resident buffalo keeping the grass in front of the tents as close cropped and smooth as a bowling green.

The weather has warmed but the duvets and hot water bottles and the camp fire are most welcome! The crater at this time has its largest concentration of wildlife as seasonally migrant Gazelle, Zebra and Wildebeest congregate in the crater floor as the Olbalbal depression and surrounding Olduvai plains dry out. 

Peter Lindstrom’s July 2014 Safari

No two safaris are the same and this unpredictability is the essence of a safari & no less the one I just completed with my brother Soren. On this occasion my brother and I were co-guides and our guests, The Pitt’s family from New York, were on their 5th safari with Soren, their first with me, their second in Tanzania. Their previous safari in Tanzania was in 1975, when things were very different in the “socialist paradise”, with State Travel being the only Tour Operator and the lodges owned and managed by the Government.  Standards were very low, guiding was in the hands of poorly trained guides and tourists were treated with suspicion. The experience left a bitter taste.

Nearly 40 years later the contrast came home to them very quickly although a rude, thuggish security guard manning the scanner at the entry to the domestic departure lounge at KIA did his best to whisk us back in time, being gruff and rude and insisting all cameras be emptied from their cases, much to the embarrassment of the staff trying to get us quickly through to our charter flight. Thankfully from that bad moment on & throughout our safari smiles and helpfulness was the order of the day, more akin to our expectations.

Singita & Grumeti Reserves offer a much pampered experience and the style of mobile camping we enjoyed was luxurious, not too over the top, with very good staff and excellent food and wildlife aplenty. The camp was all ours. With Privacy extended to game drives there is much to be said for only allowing a maximum of three cars around predators and we would only ever see one or two other cars in the area in a whole day.

Grumeti was alive with migrating Wildebeest and Zebra, mostly seen to the East in The Ikorongo image_1game Reserve on the annual move north. This was surely the icing on the cake. Thousand of Wildebeest and Zebra on the move, The Wildebeest running helter skelter sometimes this way, sometimes that, as they wanted to cross a water course supporting trees and dense shrubbery that could offer Lion cover to ambush them. Zebra were more nonchalant pushing through tall grass nodding heads held high, moving a little nervously until clear of the crossing & danger and followed by the noisy Wildebeest.

Late rains produced a green flush over the Ikorongo area and it became lusher as we moved east sufficient to support much game and a spectacle of over 150 elephants, feeding peacefully,image_2 moving slowly over a broad front. The several clans made up of distinct family groups had attracted small bands of roaming bull elephants, in with a mating chance and saved their more usual dry season wanderings over a larger area, checking out the ladies in fragmented small family groups.

Image_3The day was pent without another car in sight…..doesn’t get much better than this. Picnic lunch was taken on the edge of an open plain and surrounded by wildebeest and Zebra taking shade on the woodland margins nearby and keeping a safe distance from our group of “two legs”.

Later we saw small groups of vulture greedily dispatching the remains of wildebeest calves that Image_4had fallen by the migration wayside, victims of predators or of sickness or injury.

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Elephant sightings were frequent throughout our stay and the families we observed were reasonably relaxed and seem to have escaped the heavy poaching in other Northern areas.

Next we moved to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, “Maasai Versailles.”  The lodge was a hit, with its Image_6eclectic architecture and decoration and superb location on the crater rim, in my opinion the best. Tribute to the builder, architect and interior decorator. “They must have been on something” I heard but whatever “that” was , surely it must have been the heady mix of the cold air and the magnificent tapestry of the crater highlands, mountains, the crater with its teaming wildlife and the red robed Maasai and their numerous livestock punctuating the highland  landscape.

Thankfully the crater floor was not too busy and we saw Rhino a few times in the middle distance completing the tally of the big five on the trip to date and an unusual sighting of a Greater Bustard with chicks.

Image_7_0Then for something completely different, The Selous and Beho Beho Lodge no less. What better start than seeing Wild dog on arrival, straight off the plane & conveniently close to the airstrip and to the lodge. This event signaled an outstanding stay with sightings of the pack three days in a row. While their behavior was difficult to interpret it was fascinating to watch them and patience paid off and it was remarkable how quickly the dozing dogs could suddenly become active and psyche themselves up for a hunt and one occasion suddenly respond to other pack members that came onto the scene from afar prompting a meeting greeting ceremony and much excitement.

Every time the photo opportunities and light improved, with a hunt in full cry the crowning moment.

Like Grumeti we had the area pretty much to ourselves , the tsetse were not too fierce, the beer was wonderfully cold, red wine slightly chilled an innovation I found to be most agreeable.Image_7

The lodge was my favourite of the whole safari. My last visit to Beho Beho was in 1977 and there in hangs a tale, but another time.  The lodge guides were excellent and the game drives superb with sightings of Lion up closed on a kill, Angolan Colobus Monkeys and those wonderful painted dogs.

The Game Reserve takes its name from a famous and iconic individual, professional hunter and an early conservationist. Selous would be proud of the low key development in the area that was fought over and where he met his end. Image_8He died in this far away theatre of the Great War, victim of a German Schustruppe sniper. German forces were lead by another famous man, the great German commander Von Lettow Vorbeck. We visited the grave of Selous. He lies buried where he fell, near the Beho Beho lodge and where in 1977 I saw a Lioness, seemingly protecting the grave. She quickly moved away from us, looking back a few times and staring, threatening & tense. This part of Selous had only just been created as a Photographic area and Lion were suspicious & hard to see. That has all changed now and we watched a pride on a kill at very close quarters.

While wildlife is not as abundant as in the north the wilderness experience is very special. Elephant in small family groups and a few bulls were seen in the area surrounding the lodge and they clearly enjoy some safety thanks to the Game Scout posts and the tourism presence in the area whereas a greater part of Selous game reserve has seen a devastating decline in Elephant.  Birdlife especially on the nearby lake offered us birdwatchers (Soren and I) an entertaining half day on the boat trip and I photographed a rare visitor, the Madagascar Heron on Lake Tagatala

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Hoopoe and Conservation

Community Based Conservation

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Hoopoe has a long history of working with local communities outside National Parks and other protected areas. Wildlife knows no man made boundaries and while some eco-systems , notably Serengeti –Maasai Mara , which can support large concentrations of wildlife within their boundaries year around and have small seasonal dispersal areas outside the Park , Tarangire National Park for example, like many other parks  cannot sustain a large wildlife population all year.

The Tarangire migrant Zebra, Wildebeest, Eland, gazelle and Elephant seasonally move into the human populated Maasai steppe, a vast area that is increasingly being given over to agriculture and a patchwork of farms that block off migration corridors and diminish grazing grounds. Human wildlife conflict is common as farmers ward off elephant, Zebra and Wildebeest from their crops.

The numbers of herbivores in all National parks is diminishing at an alarming rate because of the pressures of increasing human populations and human expansion into areas that have traditionally either been pastoral or supporting little human occupation.

Establishing Lodges, camps and Tourism activities in areas outside parks gives the local population a chance to earn money by conserving wildlife for tourism. Restricting agricultural expansion and maintaining a pastoral lifestyle is an aim. This in exchange for revenue from Tourism. While the process of establishing ventures outside Parks has been fraught with many obstacles and difficulties along the way. The government is making an uneasy  transition from a consumptive use of wildlife (Hunting) to creating an enabling environment for Nature based non consumptive nature based Tourism. Our view is that non consumptive tourism is more sustainable and with better rewards for all players.

POACHING

ImagePoaching of wildlife has been a constant feature and a challenge for any conserved area around the globe and no less in East Africa, but growing human populations and human migrations, sometimes of huge numbers of refugees, have made East Africa a safe haven for them but often at the expense of our wildlife, particularly in Western Tanzania and North and Eastern Kenya. In Tanzania a poorly regulated hunting industry and resident hunting under license has been much abused and the recent spike in Elephant and Rhino poaching, to feed the voracious appetite of the new middle class in China and other Far Eastern Countries for ivory, is decimating our elephants and threatening them with extinction. 

While Hoopoe can do little about poaching in any direct way other than by supporting community based tourism that by its very nature discourages poaching we support The  Tanzania Tour Operators Association in their conservation efforts and in particularly a campaign to help stop illegal killing of elephants. The support takes the form of sponsorship with material support for the campaign and by being actively involved from within and volunteering to help with,  for example taking local School kids to the National parks with plans to give talks in Schools on Conservation and particularly poaching and human wildlife conflict. Children often live in areas where there is Human Wildlife conflict and like their parents could not care if an animal is poached. However these conflicts can be mitigated and of course Tourism, if allowed to flourish can directly benefit them. Resources gained from Tourism, if directed at providing good Schooling, allow children to move away from their natal areas as they grow up and compete for jobs with their fellow Tanzanians brought up & living in cities and towns. Often there is not enough land or resources to allow the new generation to settle on the land anymore.
 
The most effective role for us is one where the ordinary East African can be reached to understand how important wildlife is to the national economy. Important, for future job creation, and as a major  source of government taxes that can be ploughed back into good education and infrastructure etc. and that wildlife and nature can provide a sustainable source of income whereas gold, oil and gas for example have a limited shelf life.

Hoopoe therefore supports, as a member of the local Tour Operators association these aims:

  • Create Awareness of the poaching menace (Through Media , talks and events)
  • Education particularly of our younger generation particularly those living on the boundary or near parks
  • Enforcement, by engaging the government to enforce the laws and to step up anti poaching.

Closer to home our Driver guides are all taught , as part of our annual Training courses , a Conservation module , encompassing Conservation , its history and application and in the local context the problems faced and how we can mitigate these.

Poaching of wildlife is a worldwide challenge in an increasingly crowded planet.

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The East African context

  • High birth rates and changing demographic factors, including a huge influx numbers of refugees from neighbouring countries, has put pressure on natural resources and increased poaching in some areas. Compounding the poaching menace Tanzania has a poorly regulated legal hunting industry and poorly controlled resident hunting which though legal, has been much abused.
  • The Africa wide spike in Elephant and Rhino poaching, driven by the voracious appetite of the new middle class in China and other Far Eastern Countries for ivory and Rhino horn and Lion bones. It is this demand that is the major factor in decimating our remaining Elephants & Rhinos and Lion and threatening them with extinction.  East Africa amongst the hardest hit.
  • Wildlife in all our Parks and protected Areas outside parks is diminishing fast due to the increase in human populations bordering the parks and in areas outside them that form wildlife corridors and or seasonal dispersal areas. The loss of habitat as well as poaching for the bush meat trade; whereby game meat finds its way to cities and towns. Here game meat competes in price with beef and other domestic sourced meat. The East African Wildlife heritage is under serious threat.

How does Hoopoe actively help to stop poaching?

  • As a player in community based tourism that by its very nature discourages poaching.
  • As an active member of The Tanzania Tour Operators Association in their conservation campaign. The support takes the form of Hoopoe sponsorship with material support for the campaign and by volunteering to help manage the campaign.

Hoopoe therefore strongly supports, as an active member of the local Tour Operators Association (TATO) with these aims:

  • Create Awareness of the poaching menace (Through Media , talks and events)
  • Education particularly of our younger generation particularly those living on the boundary or near parks
  • Enforcement, by engaging the government to enforce the laws and to step up anti poaching.

(Peter Lindstrom is the current Vice Chairman of TATO and a member of the Conservation Committee).