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Veterinary Students from UNAM visit AfriCat

unam vet students africatunam vet students africat

School of Veterinary Medicine (SoVM) 3rd Year Students visit the Okonjima Nature Reserve and the AfriCat Foundation.

The Veterinary Faculty of the University of Namibia (UNAM) is now in its 5th year of existence.
Every year, according to their curriculum, the students have to be exposed, shown, learn and perform certain veterinary procedural skills. All skills are inline with required 'Day-1 competency' expected from a newly qualified veterinarian.

The AfriCat Foundation with its associated Veterinary Clinic is proud to be involved and associated with the SoVM.
Last year we hosted three different classes to UNAM's 3rd & 4th year students.

This year the 3rd year veterinary students were exposed to wildlife work, all in line with the compulsory curriculum section.

The 3rd year student class was hosted by the AfriCat Foundation Veterinary Clinic.
They were shown and taught the basics

  • In surgical skills relevant to their daily work routine
  • Basic reproductive examination and procedures
  • Basic simple bandaging skills, applicable to companion and production animals
  • Basic essential hygiene routines for surgical procedures and surgical instrumentation
  • Above that, they had enough time on their own to work and perfect the shown skills with confidence under the watch-full eyes of present lecturers

unam vet students africatunam vet students africat

At the end of March 2018, this was again the start of a series of visits to the AfriCat Foundation/ Okonjima Nature Reserve for the 3rd year class of the SoVM.

Not only were the students introduced to the wildlife sector in general (where does the wildlife industry fit into the national economy, agricultural sector, tourist sector, employment scope, responsibilities – ethical, professional and welfare aspect of a wildlife veterinarian), but the students also had a chance to look with hands-on experience the specific aspects of a wildlife veterinarian.

The outcomes of this field trip were:

  • To stimulate group coherence and team work
  • A familiarization of conservation and wildlife principles seen holistically
  • Park management (open or closed system) with possible rectifying measures constantly to be kept in mind
  • Human-wildlife conflict management
  • Getting an insight of some interesting real-time wildlife procedures for that day (not planned), like immobilization of a brown hyena, springbok, impala and a cheetah for translocation after an accident
  • Handling of and loading remote delivered projectors, associated with all relevant safety measures, all constantly been monitored and observed by a competent person
  • Basic handling of wildlife medicines.

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It was enlightening to see the groups enthusiasm in general, despite sometimes real time-line pressure put on them to reflect realistic work pressure.
Every student should see and understand conservation and wildlife living together in harmony.

In the years to come, some of these qualified veterinarians will be in a decision making position. Understanding the basics, it is expected from them to judge factually, rationally and objectively.

unam vet students africatunam vet students africat

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 May 2018 04:06

Hits: 308

Electra - A leopard's story so far

leopard electra okonjima nature reserveleopard electra and cub okonjima nature reserve

Electra was collared in the 20,000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve on 7 May 2010, for tracking and research purposes. In the beginning she was skittish, shy of people and cars, and the guides hardly ever saw her. It was only in January 2013, since found mating with TJ and Nkosi, that Electra started to relax a bit. It could have been because both these males were so comfortable around vehicles.

Leopards don’t have a defined birthing season and litters can arrive at any point during the year, although mating is more likely to occur in the months of January and February, which means that leopard litters typically arrive between April and May, as their gestation period is between 90 and 112 days.

 

Electra becomes a first-time mother to two cubs

In April and May 2013, Electra was again seen mating with Nkosi, and in the first week of August she gave birth to two cubs. It was our lucky guide Gideon Lisara, who caught a first glimpse of Electra and one of the cubs on 13 August. They were lying in a gully covered with thick bush, just south of the Okonjima Villa. The cub was so small that its eyes were still closed. Leopard cubs are born blind weighing only 0.45 kg (one pound) and open their eyes at around 10 days. Newborn leopards are extremely vulnerable and rely entirely on their mothers for nourishment and protection.

After Electra’s first den in the gully, she continued to move her cubs regularly. A leopard mother usually carries her cubs to a new location every couple of days to ensure they are hidden from potential predators. When Gideon saw Electra for the second time, a month later, he saw two cubs! This is the usual number of cubs for a leopard litter, although litters can number up to six. The two cubs were observed playing together on a pile of wood, while Electra was sitting beside them, keeping a watchful eye over both cubs and keeping an eye out for the guest vehicle standing nearby.

A few months later, Electra was finally comfortable enough to show off her beautiful cubs, attracting quite a lot of attention from our guides on their daily leopard tracking activities, and the guests enjoyed every moment spent with the trio. It is always such an amazing experience to see these powerful killers showcase their motherly affections towards their little cubs. It also provided an amazing opportunity for Team AfriCat to follow the month-old leopards and obtain some valuable insights into the number and situation of Electra’s dens, and when she would start walking with her cubs.

We discovered three different dens south of the Villa, all of them in 'eroded gullies'. She kept the cubs in the first den for a week, then spent two weeks in the second den and another week in the third den. After that, we were not sure where the next dens were situated. Finally, after two months she started walking with them.

electra cubs riverbedelectra cubs riverbedleopard electra first litter okonjima nature reserveleopard electra first litter okonjima nature reserve

Cub disappears for the first time.

It was when the cubs were approximately three months old that trouble started. Sometime in mid-October Electra was seen hunting and walking with only one cub, with no sign of her other cub. Had it been killed? Was it lost? Or had Electra left it behind for some reason? Statistics show that leopard cub mortality rates during the first year may be as high as 50 per cent. This is suspected to be due to dense lion and hyena (brown and spotted) populations in the area, and in Okonjima Nature Reserve, also a dense leopard population.

More than three weeks later, on 18 November, the lost cub was found on its own, hiding under an old Land Rover frame (left by the previous owner of the farm), south of the Okonjima African Villa. The cub was weak and malnourished. At this point, Team AfriCat decided to become involved by providing the starving cub with meat and water. Electra had been seen in the area several times with her other cub, and our hopes were high that she would soon return to the abandoned one.

leopard electra weak cub okonjima nature reserveleopard electra weak cub okonjima nature reserve

The next day, Electra was found reunited with her lost cub. Though it was much smaller, thinner and lacking in muscle compared to its sibling, we were all relieved that the three were reunited.

The question lingering in at the back of our minds was ‘did Electra purposefully abandon her cub, and if so, why? We were very concerned that the little cub might be ill, so we consulted our experienced associate veterinarian Dr. Adrian Tordiffe, for some advice. Dr. Tordiffe highly doubted that parasites were responsible for the cub’s bad condition, as they were unlikely to cause problems in only one of the siblings. One possibility was that the cub had picked up an infection, which might have weakened it. However, Dr. Tordiffe suspected that the cub had just been forgotten by the 'first-time' mother, left without food for an extended period and had become weak and unable to keep up.

He recommended that we continue with the supplementary feeding to see if the cub became stronger. To give the weaker cub a chance to recover, Team AfriCat tied the meat to a tree so that it couldn’t be dragged away by another carnivore, thus allowing Electra to remain with the cubs until the sick cub had recovered, instead of leaving them alone to hunt.

During daily observations of Electra, we had a rare and amazing sighting. She was seen protecting her cubs from one of the deadliest snakes in the world – a 2.5-meter-long black mamba! She confronted the mamba and kept it away from her cubs until the snake finally decided to leave.

electra black mamba snakeelectra black mamba snake

Cub disappears the second time.

On 27 November 2013, Electra was again seen with only the stronger cub. Later that same week we found the lost cub on its own at the old bait, not as weak as previously, but still underweight. A new bait and a camera-trap were put up in a tree, high enough for the hyenas not to steal them.

The cub was unfortunately too young to be collared, as this would have been an easier way for us to keep track of it. As it was also too young to hunt and survive on its own, we discussed the possibility of capturing it, and placing it in an enclosure at the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre. However, it was decided against this, as our belief is to keep wild animals free and wild. Also, by removing the cub from the wild, there would be little or no chance of us ever returning it to its mother. AfriCat kept on monitoring the cub as far as possible and also kept its strength up by subsidizing its diet, hoping that Electra would return to claim her youngster.

A few days later, Team AfriCat received a call from the staff at the Villa – the leopard cub was walking on the pool deck. Was it approaching humans for food? Perhaps, but the cub didn’t bother with the new bait we provided, instead it started catching insects on the lawn and disappeared into the bush again.

More than two weeks after the cub went missing for the second time, good news came from guide Daniel Augustus – the cub was back with Electra. She had killed a small jackal for the cubs, and together they dragged it up a tree. We still don’t know who found who. This is not common leopard behavior. We are still not sure why Electra gave up or lost or deserted the cub, and then took it back, showing affection one moment and then leaving it on its own for days. It was very strange.

Sadly, the cub disappeared for a third and final time in January 2014. We followed Electra and her remaining cub, put out baits and cameras where they had last been seen together and searched for the cub in the surrounding area, but it was nowhere to be found.

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Electra and Nkosi.

Since the disappearance of the weaker cub, Electra and her other cub were sighted a couple of times with the father Nkosi, one of the territorial males in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Although male leopards provide no parental care, the presence of the father allows mothers to raise cubs with a reduced risk of them being killed by other males.

It was a truly amazing experience to see Electra and her cub, lying so close together and relaxed next to Nkosi. Electra’s cub was playing with 'mother', who had finally had enough and walked over to the nearby riverbank to lie down in a more peaceful place. When the cub turned her attention to Nkosi, he growled. Electra instantly walked up to Nkosi, growled back, and showed him who the boss really was! 'This is better than the National Geographic Channel!' guide Pieter said to his guests.

electra cub nkosielectra cub nkosi

On Saturday, 12 April 2014, mum and cub were fine and playing together – as they were on Sunday morning – but then two of the Okonjima guides found the cub late Sunday afternoon, shaking and in trouble. Electra would not leave its side and because it was getting dark, it was too risky to go in between mum and cub.

Early Monday morning, Electra was led away with a bait and team AfriCat drove right up to the cub and gave it an injection of very strong antibiotics and then two hours later one of cortisone – but by 17:00 that afternoon it seemed to take a turn for the worse. Electra was still at her side and all we could do was wait and see if she would make it through the night.

The cub did make it until morning but became weaker as the Tuesday progressed and died before the end of the day. The body was taken to Otjiwarongo, (the nearest town, north of Okonjima Nature Reserve) for the vet to make a proper diagnosis and conduct a full postmortem. The cub was skinned to look for snakebite and blood was taken. By the next day the results came back positive for rabies. Knowing this, we realized that no matter what we had tried – nothing would have helped.

Electra was vaccinated against rabies after we realized her cub had been infected with the virus – on the day after we received the results from the laboratory, then again on days three, seven and fourteen, as recommended by the veterinarians. Thankfully, she showed no subsequent signs of rabies.

Soon after the tragic loss of her litter, Electra was seen with Nkosi for about two weeks. In the middle of August 2014, she left her familiar territory and moved into the mountain range in the southern part of the Nature Reserve. Because of the inaccessible terrain we could only assume that she had given birth to her second litter and was seeking protection in the mountains.In the beginning of September, Electra was spotted again, roaming her usual home ranges but still regularly disappearing into the mountains.

Towards the end of September, to our surprise, Electra was observed mating with Madiba. Madiba, a large, elusive leopard had been spotted before on many occasions, but we had never been able to catch him. He was finally collared on 25 September, after months of brief sightings and occasional appearances on trail cameras. That night Electra was blocking the entrance to the box trap that had caught him earlier in the evening, giving us no chance to get anywhere close to him or the trap. All efforts to lure her away failed. It was too dangerous to dart only Madiba when Electra was around and was obviously on heat. As Electra’s collar had been causing problems for the past few weeks and we planned to re-collar her anyway, the decision was made to put a new collar on her while we could and so we darted both cats. Madiba turned out to be the biggest cat that had ever been collared in the history of Okonjima (weight, 76 kg; body length, 1.2 m; shoulder height, 0.73 m; canine, upper:4.3 cm; lower, 3.4 cm).

It is always a challenge to free-dart a leopard, especially in the dark, since it’s difficult to judge the cat’s reaction and foresee the distance the cat might run off after being darted. However, from previous experiences we knew that Electra usually stayed relatively calm and didn’t move very far from the darting site. Luck was on our side and after being darted she moved about 10 m away from the trap before she lay down. Her collar was replaced and her general condition checked. Besides a weight loss of 6 kg since the last darting in April, she seemed to be a perfectly healthy cat. During our standard, visual examination that is required while a carnivore is anesthetized for any reason, it did not look as if any cubs were suckling from her. Teeth are also examined and any abnormalities recorded for subsequent scheduling of treatment by a veterinary dentist. Nothing unusual was recorded.

With the evidence that Electra was mating, we excluded the idea that she was nursing her second litter in the mountains as we initially assumed. However, contrary to everything we have ever seen, heard or read before, Electra was found in mid-October, accompanied by two cubs of approximately two months of age.

leopards mating namibialeopards mating namibialeopard electra first litter okonjima nature reserveleopard electra first litter okonjima nature reserve

Female promiscuity has been observed in several carnivore and primate species where females mate with several males during their active estrus cycle to increase paternity uncertainty among males and thus avoid infanticide (males might be less inclined to kill cubs that they may have sired) as well as increasing the level of genetic variation among their offspring. To our knowledge, no data is available that shows that leopards mate while accompanied by dependent cubs.

Infanticide is an adaptive strategy that provides reproductive benefits mainly for males. By killing cubs that are not their own, it increases their reproductive success by forcing the female back into estrous. They can then sire her next litter and accelerate the transmission of their own genes to the next generation. Even though domestic cats have been observed to have an estrus cycle about 6–8 weeks after giving birth (in rare cases even within a week after giving birth), we are unaware of any information on leopards or other large felids. A return into estrus is usually inhibited by lactation, which suppresses sexual activity until 2–8 weeks after weaning.

On 3 November, Electra was seen for the last time with both her cubs – a day later the Okonjima guides reported sightings of Electra accompanied by only one cub. No signs or clues of the whereabouts of the other little cub could be found. With the disappearance of Electra’s cub from her first litter in mind, we started to worry.

As if her strange behavior within the past weeks wasn’t enough, a few days after the first cub disappeared, Electra was spotted mating with Nkosi for three consecutive days. To sum up, Electra was not only mating with Madiba while nursing her second litter, she also mated with Nkosi, who was most likely the sire of her cubs.

On 19 November, five days after Electra was last seen with Nkosi, we witnessed Madiba killing Electra’s remaining cub. Post mortem analyses revealed that the death was due to hemorrhages of the lungs and liver lacerations, caused by violent shaking. Additionally, the cub appeared to be very skinny. It showed signs of degeneration of the liver which is rather unusual for a cub, suggesting starvation and malnutrition. All her cubs from the first as well as the second litter had appeared to be underweight, which raised the question of whether Electra was able to produce enough milk to nourish her cubs sufficiently within the first few weeks of their lives. The pathology report on the cub suggested that metabolic problems in the mother were the source of the malnutrition rather than abandonment or miss-mothering.

Her behavior was unusual. The fact that she returned to estrus in the early stages of lactation suggested that she was not producing the right combinations of hormones to maintain good milk production (these hormones would suppress any ovarian activity) or she had a structural problem with her mammary glands (not able to get the milk out – the pressure in the mammary glands would then cause the milk production to stop). The reduced milk production would also explain the poor condition of her cubs. Once her lactation hormones were reduced, she would lose interest in the cubs and start looking for mating opportunities.

AfriCat planned to try and dart her a few weeks after she gave birth to her next litter, this time focusing on whether she was producing milk or not. In the meantime, Dr Tordiffe and Dr Roberts investigated whether this kind of behavior had been reported in southern Africa before and if any other explanation could be given.

Electra came out tops during January–June 2015 as the most sighted leopard, with 69 sightings. After losing both of her cub’s in 2014 she kept going strong and holding her territory in the south-eastern part of the 200 km² Okonjima Nature Reserve. She was seen mating on a couple of occasions with Nkosi as well as with newly-collared Madiba in December. At the end of March 2015, she kept returning to the same place for several weeks – a hole in a termite mound. Was she having cubs again? On 10 April it was confirmed that Electra had given birth to two cubs when she was sighted moving den sites. But disaster struck again on 5 May, when one of her cubs was found dead outside the den. Post mortem results showed bruises on the body, a half bitten-off tail and severe lacerations of the tongue, which led to her inability to suckle and eventually to starvation. We are not entirely sure what caused the lacerated tongue or the bitten off tail – and can only assume it might have been a result of a jackal or honey badger attack when Electra was hunting away from the den.

leopard mother carrying cub africatleopard mother carrying cub africat

Due to the fact that her previous litter looked malnourished, Electra was darted by Dr. Ulf Tubbesing in May to test the production and composition of her milk. Results showed no abnormalities, and Electra and her remaining cub seemed to be doing fine.

At the beginning of March 2016, we received some photos from the guides showing that the stitching of her collar had come loose and the antenna was hanging out. It made the signal of the collar a lot stronger but we were concerned that it might fall off. We set a box trap in her territory but with no success. With the good rain that had fallen early in the year, the grass grew thick and long and the option to do a free dart on her was ruled out, as it was just too dangerous to try and find her on foot after darting.

At the beginning of April, the guides reported that they could no longer pick up any signal from her. We went tracking from all the high points in her territory but with no success. Luckily at that time Okonjima was busy capturing game in a boma with a helicopter. The pilot was very helpful and took us up to get us behind the southern mountain range to see if she had escaped again, but we could not pick up any signal. Was this the result of yet another failure of technology or had she decided to find a completely different territory somewhere else? The latter seemed highly unlikely. Motion cameras with baits were placed in the surrounds of her territory for the next week but again there was no sign of this elusive cat.

We then decided to give it another go from the sky and a pilot was brought in to take us up in the Okonjima Gyrocopter. The whole area was covered again, but there was still no signal from her. Where was she? We kept on baiting the area with the hope that she would pop up somewhere.

Then on Thursday 4 May 2016 we received some good news. Guests, who were on their way to the lodge, took photos of a collared leopard sitting in a tree. After viewing the photos, it was confirmed that it was indeed Electra. We could also now confirm that the collar was dead, which is an ongoing problem for us. Luck was on our side that day. Late Thursday afternoon one of the guides spotted her walking through an open area south-east of the Villa.

Team AfriCat and our vet Dr Rodenwoldt went out to go and have a look. We found her sitting very relaxed next to a road in a fairly open area. The decision was made to go for a free dart seeing that we might not get an opportunity like this again. All went well and she fell asleep not far from where she was darted. We could spot her from the vehicle, which made it less dangerous than to go after her on foot.

She weighed in at 42,3kg. After a thorough examination by Dr. Rodenwoldt it was also confirmed that she was about 8–10 weeks pregnant with one cub. New big boy Mawenzi was possibly the father, seeing that he was spotted mating with her a couple of months previously, before he was even collared. She was fitted with a new collar and released the next morning looking strong.

Electra’s home range is still located in the eastern and south-eastern part of the reserve where she seems to be the dominant female. As those ranges are characterized by a dominant mountain range, she often disappears and hides in them for a couple of days. As observed in the past, Electra regularly retreats into the mountain ranges for an extended period of time if she is preparing to give birth to a new litter of cubs.

When she was hiding in the mountains for a few weeks in July 2017, we had reason to believe she had given birth, and in August 2017, Electra presented her newly born male cub for the first time. This is her fourth litter. Sadly, only one of her previous offspring survived to adulthood, – Nandi, her female cub from her third litter. Unfortunately, she was killed by another leopard at the beginning of 2017.

leopard mother and older cub namibia okonjimaleopard mother and older cub namibia okonjima

Electra, with her present cub, has provided 112 wonderful sightings for Okonjima guides and guests alike. The cub is now about six months old. Electra is often seen with Mawenzi, the resident male leopard in the area, suggesting that he is the sire of her offspring. We are crossing our fingers that this little one will survive the many dangers of the wild and will grow into a strong and beautiful male leopard.

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Last Updated on Friday, 18 May 2018 12:30

Hits: 434

The AfriCat Environmental Education Report January - December 2017

children nambia learning about the environment environmental education students working africat

INTRODUCTION

The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme at Okonjima had a busy 2017, during which we interacted with nearly 600 learners, students and teachers. This included hosting Namibian primary and secondary learners at the Centre, as well a number of UNAM-initiated groups for practical training at the AfriCat Environmental Education Campsite. We also had visits from a number of international schools and colleges from the USA, UK, Poland and Italy, as well as a group of teachers from the Perivoli Schools from across Namibia.

We had some significant staff changes in the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme during 2017. Johan Viljoen joined the EE Team as Environmental Educator, while Mrs. Helen Newmarch, Head of Education, took up the role of training Okonjima Lodge guides.

To add to our successes during 2017, we have great plans to widen our potential impact in the future.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PARTICIPANTS FOR 2017

The following table represents the groups that have visited the Centre since January 2017. Each group was accompanied by two or more teachers who, hopefully, were also positively influenced by their experiences.

  DATE SCHOOL'S NAME REGION GRADE AGE LEARNERS TEACHERS
1 25-29 Jan GIZ Khomas 12 16-18 13 2
2 17-20 Feb  NHCC  Erongo 8-12 14-18  20 2
3 3-5 Mar  Mondessa Youth  Erongo 5 10-11  19 4
4 10-12 Mar  K J Kapeua Otjozondjupa 9-10 15-17  20  2
5 30 Mar-2 Apr  NHCC Erongo 8-10 14-15  12  1
6 18-21 Apr  WIS Khomas 12 16-18  19  2
7 25 Apr-1 May  Make a Change Poland 10-12 16-18  11 4
8 17-18 May  Farm Kids (Secondary) Otjozondjupa 7-12 13-18  32  1
9 23-24 May Farm Kids (Primary) Otjozondjupa 5-6 11-12  21  1
10 27-29 May  Rhodes College  USA College 20  1
11 16-18 June  Mondessa Youth  Erongo 7 12-14  21  4
12 9-14 Jul  UNAM 3rd Year Vet Khomas University Mix  15  2
13 15-18 Jul  Miami - NYAH Project USA Collage 17-20 10  8
14 20-23 Jul Dr Challoner Group 1 UK 12 16-18  16  2
15 24-27 Jul Dr Challoner Group 2 UK 12 16-18  20 2
16 27-30 Jul Dr Challoner Group 1 UK 12 16-18  16  2
17 30 Jul-2 Aug Dr Challoner Group 2 UK 12 16-18  20  2
18 4-7 Aug Perivoli Teachers Otjozondjupa 12 - 0 9
19  18-21 Aug NAMCOL Otjozondjupa 17-20  20 
20  28 Aug-1 Sept  ROSA  Italy University  Mix  10  10 
21  6-10 Sept UNAM 4th Year Vet  Khomas 12  Mix  16 
22  18-22 Sept WIS  Khomas 6-7  16-18  17 
23 29 Spet-1 Oct Karundu  Otjozondjupa 6-7 12-14  19 
24 2-4 Oct  Train Occasion School  Otjozondjupa Mix Mix  10 
25 5-8 Oct  Ubassen Primary School  Erongo 5-7 11-13  21 
26 15-17 Oct  Dartmouth College  USA College  18-20  16 
27 3-6 Nov  KJ Kapeua Combined  Otjozondjupa 10  15-16  20 
28 10-11 Nov  Edigate Private School  Otjozondjupa 12-14  19 
29 20-22 Nov  POCS  Otjozondjupa 1-2  8-11  12 
30 27Nov-1 Dec  Vets Darting Course  Namibia Mix  Mix  10 
31 11-13 Dec Mamadu  Khomas 5-9  8-16  17 

We hosted 31 camps at our PAWS Campsite and 500 learners and 92 teachers visited the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme. This is a total of almost 600 people with whom we had the opportunity to interact and to share the knowledge and skills that could impact their attitude towards conservation.

The following table indicates the schools that have been involved in our outreach programme. The outreach programme is primarily used as a conservation and environmental awareness programme, but also serves as a tool to establish contacts with schools and spread the word about AfriCat’s Environmental Education Programme and what it offers.

 

DATE NAME OF SCHOOL REGION GRADE AGE LEARNERS TEACHERS
20 Oct JP Van der Wath   Mix Mix 340 10
20 Oct  Ubasen    7 12-14 20 4
20 Oct  Omaruru Primary School    5-7 11-15 250 6
24 Oct  Bergop Primary School    1-7 6-14 290 10
24 Oct  Bergop Primary School    8-9 14-16 20 1
13-14 Nov  Suiderhof Primary School   4-7 10-14 560 15
13-14 Nov Windhoek Gymnasium   4-7 10-14 390 11
          Total  2027

 

The figures that are available from the Ministry of Education are generally not very accurate and the number of children in each school is normally much higher, with an average of 40 learners per class. As there cannot be interaction with every student, most of the initial contact is with individual teachers representing the learners.

In summary – the following educational levels visited our Centre in 2017:

Namibian schools & institutions

  • University of Namibia – three groups
  • Primary schools – nine groups
  • Secondary schools – nine groups
  • Adults/teachers – one group

Non-Namibian

  • European schools – four groups
  • USA colleges – three groups.

We keep our programme flexible to be able to adapt it to the skills and abilities of each individual group. We incorporate physical, mental as well as fun activities in all sessions, while emphasizing the core principles of environmental education. We motivate all participants to use critical thinking skills, to think outside the box, and inspire them to make decisions that are beneficial to both the environment, as well as their future careers.

regional map namibia

 

OUTREACH

Our outreach included the towns of Otjiwarongo, Omaruru and Okahandja, as well as the settlement of Kalkfeld. These communities are situated in a predominantly commercial farming area, which regularly experiences livestock/predator conflicts.

 

While our main aim is to reach the learners with our outreach programme, this is not always possible because of the high demand on learners’ time by schools. Therefore, we also endeavour to make contact with the principals and teachers at the schools we contact.

  

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATORS INVOLVEMENT

EE/ESD Policy workshop
During July 2017, the long awaited and equally long overdue Environmental Education/Education for Sustainable Development Policy Workshop was held in Windhoek. During the three-day workshop, a representative of the AfriCat EE Programme joined representatives from numerous other Namibian stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the Ministry of Education, Art and Culture (MoE), Namibia Desert environmental Education Trust (NaDEET), and others. A final policy was drafted and forwarded for final approval by Namibian Authorities. This should greatly assist environmental educators and create a common voice.

Namibian EE Service Providers Workshop
November 2017 saw the Namibian EE Service Providers gather at PAWS, the AfriCat Environmental Education campsite. The main reason for this workshop was to establish common grounds and to look at mutual problems and solutions. The meeting was fruitful and a second meeting of the EE Providers is envisaged for the near future.

environmental education students campingenvironmental education students sunrise okonjima nature reserve 

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

One of our main challenges remains transport to assist students to come to our Centre. However, Okonjima has generously allowed us access to their 22-seater bus, at a small cost, to collect learners from Otjiwarongo, but the ideal would e to have our own Environmental Education transport.

A second challenge is to get the schools from less affluent areas here at the AfriCat Educational Centre. We are presently approaching Namibian companies for sponsorships for these schools, to enable them to join our programme.

 

THE FUTURE

Our plans for the future are to improve, and also grow the programme in the following ways:

  1. We are planning a longer programme that will allow students to stay with us for a whole week. We have found that the longer the students are exposed to the EE Programme, the more significant the positive impact is on them, creating a more memorable impression.
  2. We will also incorporate more high-profile primary and high schools that cater for students that come from families involved in the governing of our country. These students are likely to follow the same professions and will therefore be in a position to make decisions that could be beneficial to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s natural resources.
  3. Outreach is high on the priority list, as this will allow us to reach more students in remote areas, and also to concentrate on northern Namibia, where the vast majority of schools are situated. If they can’t come to AfriCat, we will go to them.


CONCLUSION

We offer a unique environmental education addition to the Namibian education system and through this, are able to make a positive contribution towards the long-term and sustainable development of Namibia’s youth and its natural resources.

 

STUDENT COMMENTS

The following comments are from students attending Namib High School, Swakopmund.

"What was really special and fun for me, were the walks we made through nature. All the wildlife we saw was especially interesting. We learned a lot on these walks and it is good to know more about wildlife and nature."

"The game drive Sunday morning and the sunrise. The two cheetahs we walked to. To learn more about plants and animals."

"Liked the walks, and sunrise/sunsets and the slide shows and the night walk/star gazing were great."

"Seeing the cheetahs that were not in a cage was the best experience."

"The fact that solitude is respected at Okonjima, and that helped me a lot, not always to talk much but to take a moment and listen and appreciate things."

"The view of Okonjima from a high point. The sunrise was beautiful. Standing on a mountain and just looking out over the entire lodge was beautiful. Also, the star gazing is a very good idea."

"Being chosen to paint our club’s adopted spot! Having to bath in an open bathroom, and using an open toilet is by far the most memorable."

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 May 2018 01:44

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'Behavioural ecology and management-induced niche shift of brown hyena in a closed reserve; implications for conservation management.'

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Executive summary

Closed reserves are an increasingly common wildlife management strategy across southern Africa. They represent a practical solution to separate wildlife from surrounding human communities, thereby protecting both sides from threats such as human-wildlife conflict. However, the often small size of such reserves means they can represent a threat to the survival of species within them when natural processes such as emigration, immigrations and expansions of ranges are prohibited.

This may ultimately lead to inbreeding depression and at an extreme level, local extinction. Additionally, opportunities for spatial partitioning of potentially competing species may be limited, which may influence the community structure within the enclosed area, as well as the spatial organisation and activity patterns of subordinate species. As a result, wildlife populations living in closed reserves require close monitoring and management to ensure their long-term survival, and that conservation intentions are successful.

Differences in the behaviour of species living inside a closed reserve, compared to those free-ranging individuals may be expected given the varying environmental conditions, and such differences have been termed 'management-induced niche shift'. Management-induced niche shift may manifest in a number of forms, influencing various aspects of a species' behavioural ecology, such as spatial and social organisation and activity patterns.

The Okonjima Nature Reserve, is ideally suited to studying carnivore management-induced niche shift. The 200 km2 reserve is fully surrounded by an electrified fence line, and bordered by commercial farmlands. It is home to a number of carnivore species, including leopard Panthera pardus, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta and brown hyena Parahyaena brunnea, as well as a host of mesopredator species. Brown hyena, classed as 'Near Threatened' by the IUCN, makes for an interesting species in which to study management-induced niche shift, for a number of reasons; it is a species with the potential to reach a high population density within a closed reserve, for example Welch and Parker (2016) recorded a 367 % population increase following the introduction of six individuals 10 years prior, equating to a density of 19 brown hyena/100 km2. The species is subordinate to spotted hyena (Mills, 1990) and is therefore more likely to alter its behaviour to avoid direct encounters with this species on the reserve. Within Namibia, brown hyena research has largely been restricted to coastal populations, or to a smaller extent, free-ranging individuals occurring on commercial farmlands, therefore this study will fill the void of information regarding brown hyena ecology on closed reserves. Finally, brown hyena is a species whose persistence across its range is threatened by lethal removal following real or perceived livestock-predation events and therefore is likely to increasingly rely on protected areas for its survival.

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This project will focus on the behavioural ecology of the naturally occurring and free-ranging brown hyena population residing in the Okonjima Nature Reserve, using a number of non-invasive methods. GPS collars will be fitted to adult individuals to obtain high resolution spatial and activity data, and camera traps will be used to produce density and occupancy estimates and to study and sympatric carnivore interactions. Additionally, a full epidemiological study will be conducted to ascertain the disease prevalence in the brown hyena population. A genetic diversity study will also take place to evaluate the genetic diversity of the population, which, given that the population has remained closed within the reserve for some years, may have been compromised.

The results of the study will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and where appropriate as popular science media articles, to ensure the results are disseminated to a wide and appropriate audience to help achieve maximum impact. Understanding the behavioural ecology of species living in fenced reserves will not only help manage carnivore populations in reserves; the data will become increasingly relevant as the trend for wildlife-proof fencing used by the growing wildlife industry on private lands across southern Africa progresses (Weise et al. 2014), which will increasingly fragment wildlife populations.

Fencing is now a legal requirement for ranchers to own wildlife in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia (Lindsey et al. 2012). Within Namibia, 43 % of the landscape is currently used as commercial farmlands for domestic livestock (Barnes & de Jager 1995), however there is a rapid movement towards the farming of wildlife (Erbs 2004) and in particular the breeding of expensive species such as roan Hippotragus equinus and sable Hippotragus niger. The use of electrified fencing will essentially convert game ranches into fenced reserves, on which species will only continue to persist if tolerated by landowners.

Progress: The brown hyena project started in January 2018 with ten GPS Wireless Wildlife collars being purchased and the project being granted funding for 40 camera traps, protective boxes, SD cards, batteries and chargers by the Namibian Wildlife Conservation Trust. Varta batteries subsidised the cost of purchasing the batteries as part of their pledge to supporting conservation within Namibia. On the 25th January the first brown hyena was collared at the feeding site by Wahu gate. Due to the damage brown hyenas can inflict on themselves in a box trap, the decision was made to free-dart all hyenas. Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt, the AfriCat veterinarian darted the hyenas whilst he was feeding from bait put out for the purposes of darting. The hyena ran a short distance after the dart went in, but was actually so calm he then started eating the bait again until the effects of the drugs started to kick in. This was a young male, weighing 44.5 kg and standing 82 cm tall at the shoulder.

Four nights later the team darted another male hyena from the same area. This was a well known individual on Okonjima for having a broken 'floppy' ear. This was an older male who weighed 45.8 kg. The team then moved over to Dam Lisa and darted a female on the 8th February at a specially selected bait site, with another female darted at Dizzy Hill on the 12th February. When the hyenas are sedated we take biological samples including hair and blood so that the disease prevalence and genetic diversity of the population can be evaluated. It also gives Dr Rodenwoldt the chance to assess the health of each individual. We are currently receiving regular downloads of the spatial data from the collar and it seems the two males come from the same clan, whilst the two females come from different clans. We now plan to dart in the western section of the park and look forward to learning more about the hyenas through their spatial data. At the time of writing 1,340 spatial points have been downloaded from the four hyenas.

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In-between darting activities, mapping of hyena signs across the park has been ongoing. Currently, 57 paste marks and 39 latrines have been identified and mapped. Paste marks are anal gland secretions placed on grass stalks throughout the territory of a clan and serve as a means of olfactory communication between clan members and along with latrines, sites where hyenas go to defecate, help warn intruders the area is occupied. Brown hyenas produce both a white and black paste mark; they are the only member of the hyena family to produce two different paste types. Paste marks and latrines are excellent sites for camera trap placements as the hyena is likely to stop still in front of the camera whilst sniffing, pasting or defecating, meaning clear photos of the front leg stripe patterns can be obtained. The front leg stripes of the brown hyena are individually unique and can therefore be used to identify individuals.

Whilst we wait for the delivery of the 40 camera traps, six cameras have been set up at latrines and paste marks to start monitoring hyena activity across the park. The cameras are capturing lots of hyena data and showing us which individuals have overlapping ranges and allowing us to start cataloguing individual identification images. We look forward to deploying the full 40 camera traps and start modelling the density of the Okonjima brown hyena population and gaining a better understanding of their ecology, which will ultimately help us to make well informed conservation management decisions.

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We thank both the Namibian Wildlife Conservation Trust, Varta batteries Namibia, the National Council for Research Science and Technology and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism for supporting this project.

 

Update: Since the writing of this report we have now received a grant from the Namibian Wildlife Conservation Trust to fund the camera trap part of the study. We now have 40 camera traps set up across the park.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 31 May 2018 04:37

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Walk 4 Wildlife

Walk for Wildlife New Forest 28th October 2017

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Three intrepid AfriCat supporters braved the elements and took part in the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017 Night Walk in the New Forest that began at 10pm on Saturday evening 28th October and went through to 6am on Sunday morning. That was the time that it took to complete the 20 miles through England's newest National Park.

Georgina, Andrea and Janet at the beginning of their 20 mile walk. The three were all raising money for AfriCat. Andrea and Janet had both grown up in the New Forest and felt it was the natural place for them to take part in the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017.
Walk 4 Wildlife 2017 organised a number of events throughout the country for wildlife charities to raise money and publicity for them.

 

Janet's husband, Carey, had taken part in the first walk of the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017, which took place on the South Downs earlier in the summer.

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We would like to thank all the walkers for their efforts – we know the walks were long and all of you gave up your own time to undertake training to ensure that you could complete this challenge. Thanks also go to the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017 organisers – Mark and Mike – for the success of the walks this year.

Funds raised by Janet and Carey are going to help the AfriCat North Projects including the AfriCat Lion Guards.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 April 2018 10:49

Hits: 1003

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