Fellowship of the clan.
Four young spotted hyenas have begun their journey to Zinave National Park, where Peace Parks Foundation will introduce them as the founder population of the first resident large carnivores in decades. The spotted scavengers were captured in Sabie Game Park and moved to a temporary boma in Karingani, from where they will be airlifted to Zinave today. This remarkable journey is the result of a partnership centered around dedicated conservation efforts in Mozambique.
Over the last five years, Zinave National Park, which lies in the Mozambique component of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, has seen the reintroduction of more than 2 000 plains game, giraffe, elephant, buffalo, warthog and even ostrich. A total of 13 species have been translocated here, each with a unique ecological role to play in restoring balance to this landscape.
“Zinave’s herbivore population is growing extremely well,” says Bernard van Lente, who works as Peace Parks Foundation’s Project Manager in Zinave, “so much so, that we have decided that it is now time to reintroduce predators into the system. Animals die of natural causes, which is completely normal and part of nature’s cycle, but because there are no large predators and very few scavengers in Zinave’s sanctuary where most of the wildlife was introduced, the carcasses are not being properly recycled.”
Peace Parks Foundation, who, through a 20-year partnership agreement signed in 2015 co-manages Zinave with Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC), requested the assistance of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to undertake a feasibility study on the introduction of predators into the park.
The EWT team first visited Zinave’s sanctuary in November 2019, to assess various possibilities. Dr David Mills, head of EWT’s Carnivore Conservation Programme, says, “because we found that there were almost no carnivores in Zinave, we suggested that rather than reintroducing only one species, there would be much more conservation value in reconstructing the lost carnivore guild which will eventually revive important ecological functions and processes.”
Following a presentation of this study to ANAC, approval was granted to reintroduce those apex predators that exploit related natural resources, such as hyena, leopard and lion, to Zinave National Park, setting in motion this remarkable hyena translocation operation.
The ecological impact of spotted hyena entering Zinave’s system will be significant as the species is both a predator, taking off weaker animals from herds which keeps the gene pool strong, as well as a scavenger that cleans, ensuring systems remain disease-free. Another significant advantage is that they will most likely attract smaller scavengers. David says, “there is evidence from elsewhere in Africa that vultures need hyenas to open carcasses since most are not strong enough to do so themselves. We learned that only a few jackal were occasionally seen and no vultures were present in the sanctuary. We therefore decided that it was critical to kick-start the scavenging process by introducing spotted hyenas first as they will both hunt and feed on existing carcasses.”
Sabie Game Park, which is one of Mozambique’s flagship private reserves, did not falter in again stepping up to support rewilding of the country’s national conservation areas. During 2019, Sabie donated 99 buffaloes to Maputo Special Reserve, which is also being developed through a partnership between Peace Parks and ANAC. Sabie CEO, Sandy McDonald, says, “we are in the privileged position to be able to offer hyena for a relocation due to our successful conservation programme.”
In mid-April 2020, Saving the Survivors, a wildlife veterinary organisation that serves as ANAC’s official veterinary resource in Mozambique, commenced with the identification of a hyena clan in Sabie to start preparations for the translocation operation. Working with the Sabie team, the selected clan was slowly baited over time to habituate the animals to vehicles. “Saving the Survivors has lent its entire weight to this project, not only its Mozambique operation but also the back office functions in South Africa and the UK. We are supplying two wildlife veterinarians, Dr Joao Almeida and Dr Hugo Pereira, as well as all the medical equipment, treatments and drugs required to safely complete the capture, translocation and ongoing care of the animals following their release in Zinave,” says Tristan Wood, Saving the Survivors Director.
In early July, despite delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, two males and two females were successfully darted and transported to Karingani. “As part of Karingani’s larger restoration plan, we already had appropriate predator bomas (holding facilities) that were made available for the hyena while they underwent veterinary tests,” says Karingani Warden, Ellery Worth. His team kept a close eye on the animals to ensure they remained healthy and kept feeding after the capture operation. “Landscape restoration and collaboration are at the core of our ethos – what better example of that than to be a part of the restoration of Zinave National Park in partnership with like-minded public and private conservation organisations.”
After receiving the all-clear from the veterinarian team, the clan spent about a week enjoying Karingani’s hospitality before embarking on the final leg of their journey, by small airplane no less, to Zinave. Upon arrival, the animals will be released into an electrified boma where they will stay for approximately six weeks before being released into the bigger sanctuary. Large predators have an amazing homing instinct that allows them to return to their capture location from hundreds of kilometres away. To help them establish Zinave as their new home, Bernard says, “during this period, we will ensure that the four are well-fed and watered, basically catering for all their needs which will help hone their homing instincts to Zinave and ensure they remain within the sanctuary.”
Two of the animals were also collared to enable Zinave’s team to keep track of the clan’s movement. Robust anti-poaching efforts are ongoing to ensure that the area remains safe.
A sentiment shared by all partners was the fact that being part of this conservation effort is a privilege. “I think the emphasis on collaboration is key to successful and holistic conservation – multiple stakeholders all driven by the same desired outcome of safeguarding the planet’s heritage, is a significant aspect of this and future projects,” concludes Ellery.
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National Administration for the Conservation Areas
Established in 2011, the National Administration for the Conservation Areas (ANAC) is a State institution responsible for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable development of Mozambique’s ecotourism. Its main activities are the planning, coordination and execution of activities in the conservation areas, in partnership with local organisations and communities. The conservation areas, administered by ANAC, represent around 25% of the national territory, including 7 National Parks and 7 National Reserves, and 70 game hunting areas divided in 20 official game reserves, 9 hunting blocks, 13 community projects and 31 game farms. http://www.anac.gov.mz/en/anac/
Endangered Wildlife Trust
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for nearly 50 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world. The EWT’s team of field-based specialists works across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion. A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za
Extending over an area of 150 000ha (370 000 acres), Karingani represents the largest privately managed tract of land within the Greater Libombo Conservancy (GLC), Mozambique. At Karingani, we have an integrated and enduring vision, of becoming a world-leader in sustainable conservation. Our goal is to restore, enhance and maintain the natural ecological processes and biodiversity of Karingani through an effective and sustainable partnership between the Mozambican Government, private investors and participating communities. To utilise, exemplify and demonstrate the viability of world-leading investor-funded sustainable conservation practice in order to re-establish and preserve the presence of wilderness and wildlife, alongside thriving and like-minded communities in this vast and strategically important habitat, which, without careful, long term responsible stewardship, faces the stark risk of being lost forever. www.karingani.com
Peace Parks Foundation
The Peace Parks Foundation dream is to reconnect Africa’s wild spaces to create a future for man in harmony with nature. In order to achieve its vision of “Restoring Tomorrow” for life on earth, the Foundation works to renew and preserve large, functional ecosystems that stretch across international boundaries through the establishment of transfrontier conservation areas. In so doing Peace Parks safeguards the integrity of biological diversity, whilst protecting and regenerating vital natural resources and cultural heritage. At the same time the Foundation contributes to the development of shared economic benefits and poverty alleviation by harnessing the potential for ecotourism development to provide sustainable economic growth, as well as fosters community engagement and beneficiation initiatives for those living in and around these conservation areas. www.peaceparks.org
Sabie Game Park
This completely unique part of Africa was named after the Sabie River “Ulusaba” which forms the reserve’s southernmost boundary and is ecologically recognized as one of the most biologically diverse rivers on Southern Africa. The area we now know as Sabie Private Game Reserve, was formerly know as Mandevu or Mangalana after the cattle farmers and local communities in the area. Today a 30,000 hectare pristine wilderness area borders the Lower Sabie section of the Kruger National Park, sharing a 46km common boundary with the national park itself, as well as forms part of the GLC (Greater Lebombo Conservancy), and the GLCTFCA (Greater Lebombo Trans Frontier Conservation Area). Situated between the world’s highest concentrations of Rhino and the world’s highest concentration of poaching syndicates, this pristine and well managed wilderness, is currently the most critical piece of land on the planet for Rhino conservation. For 15 years, the reserve was intensely and sustainable managed and protected as wildlife numbers recovered and rebounded after the civil war in Mozambique. Joint efforts from local communities, private investors, Kruger National Park and our loyal donors saw Sabie Private Game Reserve being considered as the only Big 5 destination in Mozambique, with white and black rhino, pangolin, wild dogs and cheetah amongst many others. By 2018 wildlife populations had recovered to such an extent that the reserve become one of few feeder reserves for repopulating other conservation areas in Mozambique. www.sabieparkmoz.com
Saving the Survivors
Saving the Survivors is a Wildlife Veterinary organisation founded in 2012 in South Africa. During 2018, in response to a growing demand for their services in Mozambique, they established a full time presence in the country headed up by Dr. Joao Almeida. Today their veterinary units cover the whole of Mozambique and they are the only official veterinary resource of ANAC. The diverse skills and knowledge of STS cover every species and their expertise and equipment allow them to be engaged in initiatives from the embryonic planning stages, right through to the physical delivery of projects in the field. In any Wildlife conservation situation, the needs of the animal are paramount from beginning to end, so the involvement of STS is vital throughout. www.savingthesurvivors.org