ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE
Only after the last tree has been cut down.
Only after the last river has been poisoned.
Only after the last fish has been caught.
Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
Cree Indian Prophecy
11th May 2011
VISIT TO IMIRE
Last weekend, we decided to pay a visit to Imire Safari Ranch to see how Tatenda was doing. When we arrived at John and Judy Travers' farm house, we were introduced to the latest edition to their household, Charlie, an adorable baby zebra. Our granddaughter, Kylie was delighted when Judy allowed her to feed Charlie with a bottle.
KYLIE AND CHARLIE
There are several zebra in the Imire Game Park and one of the stallions had started attacking the foals. Sadly, he killed 3 of them and the Travers decided to rescue Charlie before he became victim number 4. He is now being hand reared by Judy at the farmhouse. Judy told us that she wakes up some mornings to find Charlie standing next to her bed staring at her.
Our next stop was Tatenda. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Tatenda's mother, father and one other rhino were brutally slaughtered by poachers in 2008 when Tatenda was only 6 weeks old and Judy Travers had to hand rear him until he was old enough to be moved into the game park where he was paired up with a potential mate, 4 year old Shanu. Tatenda is doing very well and we were amazed to see that he has grown almost as big as Shanu.
TATENDA AT 6 WEEKS OLD TATENDA TODAY
Some of you may remember that a baby elephant was born at Imire about 2 years ago. His name is Kutanga and he is quite a mischievous little fellow. We fed the elephants some game cubes and Kutanga, unable to wait his turn, stole some of the cubes out of his father's mouth.
KUTANGA STEALING CUBES FROM HIS FATHER'S MOUTH
Imire has recently acquired 2 white rhino from the Matopas National Park. A number of rhinos have already been poached in Matopas so in an effort to preserve them, National Parks asked the Travers to relocate a male and female to Imire in the hope that they will breed.
In April, we reported the cruel and barbaric attack on the Matendere rhino in the Save Conservancy and we have had several requests for an update. The poachers shot him and then hacked off his horn as well as a good portion of his face and left him for dead. The poor rhino regained consciousness and was found wandering around in agony. Veterinarians did their best to save him and as far as we know, he has managed to survive the terrible ordeal.
We have recently received a very sad report from the Zululand Wildlife Forum. A rhino was chased off a cliff in Msinsi Nagle Dam Game reserve by poachers using dogs. The rhino fell to its death and the poachers hacked its horn off. The dead rhino had a young calf and the calf took a whole day to find its mother's mutilated body at the bottom of the cliff. We have heartbreaking photos of the bewildered calf nuzzling its dead mother but we were unable to include them due to the size. If anyone would like to see them, send us an email and we will forward them to you.
PREVENTION OF RHINO POACHING
We have received the following information from the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in South Africa.
RHINO RESCUE PROJECT: INFORMATION
“All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph, is for enough good men to do nothing” - Edmund Burke
With the number of rhinos lost to poaching rapidly approaching 300 in this year alone (in fact, this figure is already outdated, the total number now stands at 304) the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is of the opinion that we are well beyond the point where we can afford to do nothing about the dire poaching situation in South Africa.
After a poaching incident on our Reserve at the end of May this year, we contemplated many conventional means to fight the poaching scourge: from de-horning of animals to microchips and tracking devices. The problem we found with all of these alternatives, however, is that they are largely reactive instead of proactive, and would in all likelihood not deter poachers from targeting a particular property. Therefore, they become valuable tools in the arsenal of anti-poaching weapons only after yet another animal has been murdered and mutilated for its horn. Logic would seem to dictate that the true point of origin for a permanent solution would be to eliminate the demand for a product like rhino horn altogether. Needless to say, education would go a long way towards teaching consumers that rhino horn contains no nutritional or medicinal value. However, education will not produce an immediate result, and results are what we need most at this point.
It is no secret that, in the weeks immediately after the poaching of our beloved rhino cow, Queenstown, we seriously considered poisoning our rhino’s horns. However, as we proceeded with research into the feasibility of doing so, we liaised with other researchers working on different challenges affecting the health of rhino’s in general. Of particular interest to us was work being done on the control of ecto-parasites (ticks etc.) through the treatment of the horn with depot ectoparasitacides. So our original idea of poisoning the horns was circumvented by the need to treat the horn, and thus the animal, against parasites instead. Furthermore, our legal advisors strongly advised against the idea of intentionally poisoning horns. Ectoparasitacides are not intended for consumption by humans, and are registered as such. Although not lethal in small quantities, they remain extremely toxic, and symptoms of accidental ingestion may include, but are not limited to, severe nausea, vomiting, convulsions and/or nervous symptoms, in extreme cases. Because of these side-effects, the treated rhino and their horns have to be visibly identifiable to avoid ingestion of treated horns by people. We then realised that the treatment of the horns with a mixture of ectoparasitacides coupled with an indelible dye would go a long way to helping us achieve our goal of protecting all rhino’s in South Africa from poaching. This dye, similar to products used in the banking industry, is visible on an x-ray scanner and thus a treated horn, even when ground to a fine powder, cannot be passed through security checkpoints unnoticed. Specifically, airport security checkpoints are almost certain to pick up the presence of this dye. Furthermore, in the selection of acaracides for inclusion in the treatment compound, care was taken to only consider “Ox Pecker” friendly acaricides so that collateral damage to innocent animals and other organisms is limited.
And so, the Rhino Rescue Project was born. Our testing is ongoing and comprehensive to ensure that the animals are in no way harmed by the administration of such a treatment, and to determine how long a single treatment may last. Based on our research, we believe the treatment should remain effective for approximately three years, after which re-administration would be required. Because all of our rhino’s are wild (with the exception of poaching orphans that are being hand-reared) they would not normally be treated against parasites. We believe strongly in nature being allowed to run its course, and human intervention being kept to a minimum. However, upon realising that treatment could potentially neutralise a dual threat (both poaching and parasites) we decided to proceed with testing and subsequent treatment. The treatment compound at this stage consists of a carefully mixed “coctail” of drugs in which exact quantities of each substance are paramount to ensure the animal and other organisms remain unharmed whilst still delivering enough potency for humans to present with symptoms upon ingestion. As mentioned before, this approach is unique for the simple reason that it eliminates demand for poaching, instead of focusing solely on stopping the activities surrounding the poaching itself. If consumers are no longer willing to pay exorbitant prices for rhino horn, poachers may think twice before engaging in this dangerous activitiy and running the risk of getting caught without a substantial financial reward as trade-off.
To further empower us in the ongoing war against poaching, the Rhino Rescue Project proposes that, when an animal is temporarily immobilised for the sake of receiving this treatment, a simultaneous harvesting of genetic material (a DNA sample, in other words) be done. Information from this sample can then be added to a national database of treated animals, with the aim of aiding the legal community in securing prosecutions in cases where treated horns are poached. We also enlisted the help of dog training experts to train sniffer dogs in detecting rhino horn shavings. At this stage of their training, the specialist dogs are so adept at identifying the scent of rhino horn that they can detect miniscule quantities of powdered horn inside vehicles and pieces of luggage. These dogs can further track a poacher fleeing a property on foot by following the scent of the rhino horn alone. This confirms the notion that instead of attempting to eradicate poaching with a single weapon of choice, a holistic, multi-pronged approach is neccesary to control the problem. When coupled with other measures like anti-poaching patrols, fast and effective reaction units and proper policing, the Rhino Rescue Project initiative becomes a cost-effective, commercially viable alternative to stopping poaching once and for all.
Trade in rhino horn is illegal, and thus, anyone who knowingly purchases and consumes rhino horn is involved in a criminal activity. Even if the use of rhino horn in some countries may be deemed culturally acceptable, it remains illegal all the same. We should emphasise that we do not want to kill anybody. In fact, nothing would make us happier than if no human ever again touched a rhino horn. However, since this appears highly unlikely under the current circumstances, we want poachers and the consumers of their products to know that we mean business. The treatment administered to our animals is no joke. It is not a ruse; it is not a hoax; it is not a mock-up. It is as real as poaching and its consequences can be every bit as devastating. The importance and seriousness of this cautionary advice is not to be underestimated. That having been said, if individuals still proceed in the harvesting, sale, purchase and consumption of rhino horn, having been fully informed that it could potentially pose serious health risks (to this end, we have placed in excess of 200 signposts warning of the contamination in and around our property) they do so at their peril.
In conclusion, our plans to release a one-hour special Rhino Rescue programme on the treatment process and the consequences thereof are rapidly coming to fruition. The show is currently in it’s editing and post-production phase and will be available for international distribution within weeks, under condition that the distributor/broadcaster is willing to translate the content into Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese and to distribute the material actively in these countries as well. Rhino’s have no other way of defending themselves against the greed and ruthlessness of man but for the defences we give them. The Rhino Rescue Project has armed the rhinos of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve and encourages you to do the same.
KARIBA ISLANDS APPEAL
Two successive seasons of above average rainfall in the Zambezi Catchment area have resulted in Lake Kariba rising to unprecedented levels. Disaster looms on all islands inhabited by wildlife especially, but also around the shoreline of Lake Kariba, as the once vast floodplains of the nutrient richPanacum grass are rapidly disappearing under the lake surface.
Bumi Hills Safari Lodge are appealing for assistance in feeding the animals which will otherwise perish.
THE WISH LIST
30 tonnes hay bales
15 tonnes maize
5 tonnes game cubes
200 game blocks
2 000 litres petrol
Transport of goods from Harare
Transport of goods across the lake to select drop-off points
Alternatively, donations can be marked "Starvation Appeal" and deposited or transferred to the following bank account:
Account name: BHAPU
Account Number: 0240065296002
Beneficiary Bank: Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe Limited
Swift Code: SBICZWHX
Branch sort code: 3103.
We continue to receive reports about the Chinese carving up the landscape in their search for gold. They are now mining in the Wedza mountains and we don't believe they have had an Environmental Impact Assessment done. In addition to destroying the landscape and vegetation, this area is of spiritual significance to the local people because they believe it is the home of their ancestors.
ELEPHANT MEAT FOR HUNGRY PRISONERS
The Zimbabwean Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs is proposing the culling of elephants to feed the prisoners to try and curb the shortage of protein in their diet. There are unconfirmed reports that prisoners have gone without meat for 4 years. It was agreed that since the experts claim there is an overpopulation of elephants in the country, it would make sense to feed them to the prisoners.
We sincerely hope the Minister's proposal is rejected because we don't believe there is an over-population of elephants in Zimbabwe. We are losing plenty to poaching and illegal hunting and we don't need this additional burden to be placed upon the elephant population.
WALKING WITH LIONS
We have made no secret of the fact that we are against walking with lions, firstly because it is dangerous and secondly, what happens to the lions once they become too big too walk with? They can't be released back into the wild because they have become too habituated to humans and would find it difficult too feed themselves, as well as being an easy target for illegal hunters. We are told they are actually released back into the wild but we have never seen any evidence of this happening and we suspect they may be being used for canned hunting.
We quite often hear about people being attacked whilst walking with lions and recently, an American woman was on holiday in Zimbabwe with her husband. They went to Victoria Falls where they took part in "walking with lions" and the woman was attacked by one of the lions, turning her dream holiday into a nightmare.
We would like to appeal to everyone not to support this activity. It is not only dangerous but cruel to the animals as well.
We would like to thank the following people who have assisted us so far this year with funding, with a very special thank you to Barbara Bowman.
Lynley Cahill & the Southern Region Trading Co
John & Helen Buckle
Pearl, Iain, Lesley and Tim
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Landline: 263 4 339065
Mobile: 263 712 603 213
Temporary website: www.zctfofficialsite.org.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force relies soley on public donations. Your donation can help to preserve the wildlife in Zimbabwe. If you would like to assist, please contact us.