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Project Update November 2007

Nov 29, 2007

Jealous and I returned to Starvation Island again in November to check on the progress of the five dogs we released in August. This time we travelled by boat from the town of Binga, which is approximately 160 km by road from our base in Dete.

The four hour boat trip was quite an adventure, the notorious Sengwa basin section of Lake Kariba living up to its reputation and "treating" us to some very stormy waters, leaving Jealous and I wondering if we shouldn't have travelled via car along our usual and equally notorious road to Tashinga. Especially as he can't swim!!

Our rough journey was rewarded however with the sight of the dogs feeding on a male impala. We stayed in the area for a couple of days, checking on the dogs and left feeling reasonably happy that they were coping. Though they were thinner than we would have liked to see them, we felt that the coming weeks would provide them with an easier food source as the impala give birth to their fawns in December.

Back in Hwange the news is more mixed. Jealous has searched every corner of Hwange National Park for any sign of the Umtchibi pack and drawn a blank. We are thus left to speculate on the fortunes on Mango, Pita, Crescent Moon, scribble and the rest. These four were all collared and seem to have moved out of our main area of operation. However we are getting encouraging sightings of a pack of ten near Main Camp, which we had been seeing fleeting glimpses of early in the year. There is a pack of eight further south and another pack of 6 to the east. So, all in all, the situation is reasonably positive. It's the loss of familiar friends that is distressing, however we will soon get to know the new faces.

Poaching remains an ever-present threat to the dogs and all wildlife in the region and while we are able to keep some sort of control over it in the areas our APU patrol regularly I decided that we needed to step up our efforts. With this in mind, Boniface Manda, the former Officer in Charge of Dete Police Station has joined PDC. "Manda" brings with him years of experience in Personnel Management, training and deployment of units. He has an excellent reputation and we have enjoyed working with him over the years when he was Officer in Charge. He has always tackled the poaching issue aggressively. He organised "Operation Bush Buck" in January, which led to the arrest of 54 poachers in and around the township of Dete. We are delighted to have him on board as his presence will increase the effectiveness and professionalism of our APU and will allow us (funding permitting) to increase our anti poaching effort by adding one or two new units. Martin Stiemer is also back in the region and currently running a training programme for APU in the Gwayi Conservancy. It is our aim to have at least two more professional APU operating in the region early next year.

November was a busy month for Wilton and his Education Department team. The Bush Camp hosted four schools during the month. The new programme that brings the parents for a tour of the PDC facilities is proving to be a very effective vehicle for getting our conservation message across. In addition to this, Wilton hosted a workshop for the local tour operators and guides aimed at showing them how best to utilise the PDC facilities to derive the maximum benefit for their clients. Attendance was not as high as we had anticipated, despite plenty of notice having been given, however those who did attend were very excited at having such a facility at their disposal.

All in all, a very busy month as usual with many positive steps forward.