Project Update Jan. - April 2008
It's been a while since I sent you all an update and I apologise for that. Its not that we haven't been busy, quite the opposite in fact and I will try and bring you up to date.
In December 2007 I wrote about the adventures of Jealous and I on Starvation Island, more specifically our misadventures with boats. As promised in that report we did indeed return to Starvation Island in January to check on the dogs. The lake was pretty rough as usual but with the help of Lake Croc we managed to get across to the island and quickly found the dogs, which seemed to be doing quite well. They looked well fed and we concluded that they must have caught something. I was concerned that National Parks had not been to the island for some time and reiterated the need for regular anti poaching patrols to check for snares. With our planned trip to the USA and Europe coming up it was important to make sure that a series of regular inspection visits was in place. In order to facilitate this I deployed ex National Parks Ecologist, Edward Muchuchuti on the island to represent PDC. I felt confident that the dogs would be well monitored during our extended absence.
Back in Hwange the heavy rains were making fieldwork difficult at best and down right miserable most of the time. Jealous was following up on sightings of the dogs and on a number of occasions we were out together hot on their trail only to be thwarted by the heavy rain, which washes the spoor away or flooded roads.
The rain does not stop the other PDC programmes however and the Children's Bush Camp began its fourth year of operation by welcoming the children and parents from Sianyanga Primary School. Wilton and his team, supported by the irrepressible Foggie are extremely competent and despite a long break over the Christmas holidays, the camp went smoothly. Back in their stride it was quickly followed by visits from Ndangababi, Dingani and Main Camp Schools. The Bush Camp programme is an overwhelming success and we are delighted that the knowledge of the children who have not yet attended the camp is significantly higher than it was four years ago. Indicating that the older children, who have attended the camp in previous years, are clearly imparting the lessons they leant to their younger brothers and sisters.
As February came to a close, Jealous and I embarked on our "World Tour". So many of you contributed to the success of this trip, welcoming Jealous into your homes and going out of your way to ensure he enjoyed the best possible. He is still talking of course. I was delighted by the way he conducted himself, though expected nothing less of someone who typifies what PDC stands for in terms of commitment, dedication and determination. He is a role model to so many here, who have been eager to hear his stories since he returned. They have laughed at his new waistline and commented that that is how a Zimbabwean should look!!!! I must admit to thinking that most of them seem a little thinner and hungrier, such are the difficulties being experienced right now in Zimbabwe. I am not sure what I will remember most from his trip. His first comment when we left Gatwick airport of "where are all the old cars" or the sight of him catching elephant seals in California or his wonder at seeing so many new animal species while visiting our friends in Holland. Probably I will best remember the warmth of your hospitality.
While we were away Foggie ran the ship, with Wilton, Xmas et al pulling their weight to make sure that PDC does not falter. Of course there are always issues and difficult situations to deal with, which is part of the challenge. We arrived back in Zimbabwe amidst the "election fever", which has of course turned into a real illness, which we only hope the country will one day recover from.
The dogs in Hwange are still difficult for us to find at the moment and Jealous and I will soon be with the dogs on Starvation Island again, delighted by the reports from Edward, of him seeing them hunting successfully.