Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Fifth edition November 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fifth edition November 2010

 

 

Uganda News

SACKED BY COURT AND STILL TRYING TO PUSH THE SNOUT INTO THE TROUGH

Information came to light last week that those members of the UWA board of trustees, deemed by court to be eminently unqualified to hold such positions – the ruling is under appeal but an injunction was denied – continue efforts to put their sticky hands into the money jars. A huge budget overrun for board expenses was reported in the local media for their few months in office, as well as information ‘leaked’ that those very ‘sackees’ had attempted to get a supplementary budget approved, aimed to line their pockets even more.

The figures published in the Saturday Monitor via www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1061118/-/ckmykgz/-/index.html are revealing enough, and according to a former chairman of the board ‘outrageous and anti conservation because those who benefitted from these extra large payments denied much needed funds for the field operations’. He continued to say: ‘under my chairmanship allowances were what I should call frugal because we felt it an honour to be chosen to serve and did not see it as a source of regular income but a small token for our time and efforts’. True words and anonymity preserved and respected as promised Rafiki.

The dismissed chairman Dr. Muballe had a few weeks ago publicly pronounced that he was not in it ‘for the money’, an attempted whitewash now clearly relegated into the realm of myths after progressively more facts are reaching the public domain now that the man, omnipresent during his short and ill-fated rule, was removed and his ability to keep things under wrap – for a while at least – had been decisively curtailed. The shame however is firmly laid on the door step of the office of the Minister for Tourism, whose choice of chairperson and board members – if by nothing else but their actions reported in recent weeks in the media – was shown to have  been unwise, if not bordering the incompetent. Fodder for thought how officials should use their discretions when making appointments and observe and respect the letter of the laws governing such institutions.

 

UWA’S ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UNDER FIRE

Comments attributed to the acting executive director of UWA Mark Kamanzi, to the effect of ‘what is wrong with a golf course in the park’ have raised a storm of outrage across conservation circles in Uganda and the wider region, with some rather outraged individuals questioning his sanity and ability to perform the job he is supposed to do. His utterances and off the cuff remarks, according to one regular inside source at UWA confirm that ‘the man is in the wrong job and wearing shoes 10 times too big for him. Such comments undermine what UWA has been working for over the last decades and make us look like amateurs amongst our colleagues in neighbouring countries. The man is a mediocre lawyer to start with and the worst choice to act as our CEO while the mess the former chairman created together with our minister is being sorted out. It is time to bring people back who understand conservation’.

Such hard hitting comments were echoed right across the spectrum of many sources this correspondent spoke with in recent days, with some of the more outspoken critics going as far as calling Kamanzi a ‘hapless nitwit as far as conservation is concerned’.

It is also understood that a powerful conservation lobby is being formed, including at least one former chairperson of UWA, aimed at bringing about measures to restore sanity and renewed order to the Uganda Wildlife Authority but also to fight the misuse of park land for a golf course or any other purpose than conservation and wildlife based tourism. It is in fact the latter which galvanised conservationists and at least some tourism stakeholders into action, before expanding their own brief to the authority itself.

In this regard it seems the Madhvani Group shot itself in the proverbial foot with this unfortunate repeat request – a similar attempt to build a golf course on the Mweya peninsula of the Queen Elizabeth National Park was halted several years ago in the face of stiff opposition – and might live to regret it should threats of boycotting the new lodge would come true, at least until such plans are withdrawn once and for all. That would of course be a crying shame, considering the location and facilities of the Chobe Safari Lodge, and that it can be reached by road and air with ease from Kampala and how this eventually plays out will be featuring right here in coming weeks and months.

 

UGANDA AND CONGO DR SIGN NEW BILATERAL AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT

Last week saw pen put to paper in Kampala, when the long drawn out negotiations over a new BASA were finally concluded. The Ugandan minister for works and transport John Nasasira signed the agreement into effect with his Congolese counterpart Marie Kayena countersigning the new deal.

Relations between the two countries, often rocky in the past, seem to have improved in recent months, paving the way for greater cooperation, including the field of aviation.

Presently two DRC registered airlines are flying from Eastern Congo to Entebbe, namely TMK and Cetraca Aviation, both covering the route from Goma. The new BASA will permit airlines from both countries to fly between their main airports Entebbe and Kinshasa but also from Goma, Kisangani and Bunia, amongst others. It is understood that Air Uganda had expressed interest in flights to Eastern Congo but could up to now not proceed in the absence of an enabling bilateral air services agreement. Watch this space for regular aviation news updates from the entire region.

 

AIR SERVICE LICENSE MEETING RECEIVES MAJOR OBJECTIONS

The recent 34th Air Service Licensing Committee meeting conducted business of receiving application from a range of new applicants, many of whom located in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania but trying to establish branches in Uganda too. A few key stakeholders like Eagle Air and Mission Aviation Fellowship also applied for renewal of their existing licences for the maximum term of 5 years and were according to a well placed source so granted.

However, the air operators located in Kajjansi also filed objections against the applications from Kenyan and Tanzanian firms, citing a range of issues including lack of reciprocity, demanding that this issue be urgently addressed in the forthcoming Council of Ministers Meetings of the East African Community in Arusha next week. The Licensing Committee of the Civil Aviation Authority Board was also told that in view of the current lull in oil exploration business utilisation of existing fleets was not at its optimum and that added competition would likely only result in cut throat undercutting by new entrants, trying to secure business than way instead of finding new business in the market.

The respective applicants were needless to say less than amused over what one applicant called ‘ambush’ claiming that they never did receive the letter of objection and could not adequately prepare for a response in good time, a claim found hard to believe as this correspondent had seen the letter several days in advance of the scheduled hearing.

It was also noted that some of the applicants for new licenses verbally mentioned they would like to commence operations within two weeks of being granted an Air Service License, obviously and blissfully unaware of the minimum timeframe of 90 days to additionally apply for and obtain certification as an Air Operator by getting their AOC issued leave alone the fact that current regulations stipulate that any new applicant for an AOC has to conduct at least 75 hours of supervised test flights to the destinations listed in the application for an ASL. In addition there was general criticism of new applicants listing very aged aircraft like the DC9-30 series and DC 10-30’s first generation, which were pollution intense in both fume emissions and noise emissions alike, expensive to operate and equally expensive to maintain. None of those operators however was willing to go on record and answer questions to the effect, why they would wish to come to Uganda with aged aircraft and if they considered Uganda a dumping ground for old aircraft. It was also ascertained that some applicants had formed their airline companies only weeks before the application hearing and had a paid up share capital of only 5 million Uganda Shillings, equivalent to about 2.200 US Dollars ONLY, which prompted some intense questioning by members of the licensing panel, again with some answers less than satisfactory.

Watch this space for regular updates from the aviation sector in Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean.

 

BUJAGALI FALLS’ LAST FEW WEEKS

Information was received last week that the upcoming hydro electric plant is nearing completion and that the presently open ‘bypass’ for rafters, kayakers and riverboaters will soon be closed, once work on the ‘other side’ of the dam has been finished by the contractors. This will be the last chance now for adventure and thrill seekers to raft this section of the upper Nile, and see the Bujagali Falls in their full flow. Once the dam has been effectively closed water levels behind it are expected to gradually rise, submerging first the other rapids between Bujagali and the dam, and eventually the Bujagali Falls themselves will be submerged too, before power production is to start in early to mid 2011.

While this will be good news for a power hungry nation, especially considering the recent re-introduction of the dreaded ‘load shedding’ – on start-up the power plant will feed about 50 MW into the national grid before gradually rising to the full 250 MW – the adventure businesses’ hubs now located around the falls will have to relocate their starting point for rafting and river boating to a point below the new power plant. For this reason, it will be both tears of joy and tears of sorrow, depending from which side one looks at these developments.

 

Kenya News

SAFARILINK ADDS SCHEDULED SERVICE BETWEEN KENYA COAST AND SAMBURU

The Samburu National Park will undoubtedly get a ‘shot in the arm’ when SafariLink is launching their scheduled flights between Diani / Ukunda (South Coast) and Mombasa to Samburu from the 16th of December. Air safaris from the coast traditionally cover the Amboseli National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve but the new flights are now opening up Samburu too, with a minimum of 2 passengers booked. Being a scheduled flight passengers pay for their tickets, a return ticket costs US Dollars 380 plus presently 14 USD tax = USD 394, but do not have to charter a flight, if they want to visit Samburu, Buffalo Springs or Shaba game reserves as part of their Kenya holiday. The lodges and safari camps located in the three protected areas are all offering ‘in house’ transportation, not just from and to the airfield but game drives too, making the new service ideal for tourists staying in one of Kenya’s beach resorts to discover the country with the comfort of flying.

This will, according to the airline’s Director of Sales and Marketing Anu Vohora, be a daily service, with no if’s and but’s other than the minimum requirement of having two passengers ticketed. SafariLink is one of Kenya’s leading domestic airlines connecting Mombasa and Nairobi’s Wilson airport with almost all national parks on a daily basis and they are operating a fleet of Cessna 208 Caravan and several larger twin engined turboprop aircraft. For more information on fleet, schedules and fares visit www.flysafarilink.com

 

HARGEISA NEXT AFTER MWANZA FLIGHTS LAUNCHED

Jetlink, one of Kenya’s leading private airlines, last week launched their daily flights from Nairobi via Kisumu to Mwanza / Tanzania. At the launch in Kisumu was the Kenya Airports Authority asked to reconsider the closing of the airport at 20.00 hrs (8 p.m.) and expand flight operations to around the clock, making better use of the new facilities which have been established in recent years.

Jetlink also announced the imminent launch of flights from Nairobi to Hargeisa / Somaliland – the breakaway part of Somalia seeking diplomatic recognition and enjoying relative peace unlike the rest of this war torn country – and their spokesperson was confident that Eritrea could be next on the list, just as soon as all necessary approvals and permits have been secured. As reported last week Jetlink has taken Kenya Airways to court and remarks made at the launch over the need to level the playing field for air operators, directed to the Kenya government, were thought to have been made with this and other grievances in mind. Watch this space or sign up on Twitter to @whthome to get the latest updates on aviation news from across the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS ADDS ANOTHER AFRICAN DESTINATION

The ‘Pride of Africa’ has just announced the addition of Nampula in Mozambique as its 51st destination, after successfully operating flights to Maputo for quite some time now. Kenya Airways is adding new and exciting cities across Africa to the network, all connecting through its Nairobi hub, where it flies in conjunction with partner airlines KLM and Air France, opening up almost the entire continent of Africa to travellers from around the world. It is understood that the arrival of more narrow bodied aircraft of the B737 series and of Embraer make will allow the airline to continue this expansion strategy and eventually connect all key countries and cities in Africa with East Africa’s economic and tourism powerhouse Kenya. Visit www.kenya-airways.com for more information on schedules, network, fares and for direct bookings.

 

Tanzania News

ANTI PIRACY OPERATIONS IN TANZANIA GET BOOST

The United States government donated two state of the art 27ft patrol boats to the Tanzanian navy, aimed to boost their ability to track and hunt down pirates from Somalia, who increasingly often have been operating in Tanzanian waters off the coast in recent months.

Reports that some of the pirates have in fact made camp at remote locations along Tanzania’s Indian Ocean beaches have not been independently confirmed but there are persistent rumours that at least in one location, near Lindi, a deserted camp was eventually discovered, which would explain how hot pursuit of pirates in the waters off Lindi yielded nothing in the end.

While the Tanzanian navy had some limited successes in the past to capture pirates, a more robust approach is now needed from all the countries along the Eastern Indian Ocean seaboard, from Mozambique over Tanzania and Kenya, to more decisively engage pirates and more robustly combat them. Some shipping lines are said to be considering a withdrawal of their port calls in affected harbours due to the increased risks of traversing these Indian Ocean waters, which if found to be true could set an alarming trend and make trade to and from Eastern Africa much more difficult and also costly.

The Seychelles in comparison have actively engaged the ocean terrorists and recorded several successful rescue missions and brought the Somalis to court in Victoria on piracy, terrorism and related charges, unlike the UK navy which stood by watching the Chandlers to be abducted or other naval assets deployed by the international naval coalition watching captured vessels escaped to the pirate havens. Only now, and seemingly reluctantly, are the naval coalition vessels starting to use their superior equipment to retake captured ships while still at sea as seen a few weeks ago when a ship was stormed and the terrorists arrested.

It was also ascertained that cruise tourism has indeed taken a major ‘hit’ for this part of the Indian Ocean as more and more cruise lines have relocated their vessels to safer waters elsewhere, standing by, watching and waiting until the situation has at last been brought under full control. Until then however the ports of Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Victoria, the Malagasy ports and even those as far as Reunion and Mauritius will see less cruises arrive on their shores to the detriment of the respective tourism sectors and denying cruise travellers the opportunity to visit Eastern Africa.

 

SERENGETI POACHERS ‘LIKELY TO BE DEAD’

A group of suspected poachers, who entered the Serengeti National Park in the border area with Kenya in mid and late October, have been missing for quite some time now, lending credence to reports from some of their co-criminals captured by law enforcement that they might have been killed by crocodiles or other predators while attempting to cross a river, and possibly into Kenya. Poaching has been a menace on the increase and inspite of attempts, many say half hearted, by TANAPA and other Tanzanian law enforcement agencies, not been decisively stopped, but in fact has rather increased in the recent past.

Conservationists contacted expressed no sympathy at all, claiming that anyone entering the park, often armed to the teeth, with intent to poach, not only commits a criminal offence but also faces the risks of encounters with wildlife and dangerous predators, and that casualties as now suspected would be one of the inherent dangers related to poaching.

Reports from Arusha too indicated that the authorities now had little hope left to find the 6 or 7 still missing alive inspite of increased patrols and surveillance in the area where the poachers has entered the park.

 

NEW TOURISM MINISTER FACES STERN TEST OVER SERENGETI CONTROVERSY

When the former tourism minister Shamsa Mwangunga was shown the door by her constituents in the preliminary party elections, many attributed her loss to her failure to ‘deliver’ to her own back yard, leave alone becoming known as a ‘parrot’ singing the tune of destroying the Serengeti by pushing for the highway construction, on orders of her ‘bosses’ instead of standing up and doing right for conservation.

Being left in the political wilderness for the next term of parliament she is undoubtedly facing music enough, not the least by being severed from the political ‘trough’ from which her ‘snout’ had been removed.

Her former deputy has now found himself elevated to full cabinet minister and Ezekiel Maige will be the one to face the country’s tourism industry over the hugely controversial plans to build a highway across the Serengeti migration routes.

He will in parliament also face the former Secretary General of TATO, the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, who has defeated a ruling party candidate, and very handsomely for that matter, to become a member of parliament, and he will undoubtedly take on the mantle as ‘shadow tourism minister’ and challenge the government’s position on many crucial issues for the sector, on incentives, promotional budgets, availability of affordable financing and not the least the question of where the highway should pass, through the heartland of the migration of far away from it, having after all been elected on such a platform.

Time will tell, and hopefully soon, if common sense persists in the end and the highway routing be changed to leave the migration alone and free of killer traffic, as experts have predicted. Watch this space.

 

ELECTRICITY CUTS TO WORSEN ACROSS TANZANIA

A recent article about a ‘growing shortages list’ drew some acid comments into this correspondent’s email box, but reality on the ground was different from what the common breed of sycophants wanted it to be. Only over the weekend did TANESCO, the Tanzanian national electricity company, have to finally admit what was written on many walls and openly talked about in business circles: ‘there is not enough electricity and power outages will increase from Monday across the country’. This belated admission was long in coming and was probably held back ahead of the elections up to the last possible moment, when the system was about to go into a full scale brown out and subsequent black out, as a result of private electricity producers feed into the national grid falling short of requirements. In addition did breakdowns of equipment and fuel shortages – named previously here together with electricity and water shortages – play a major role, as did rising fuel cost for which someone has to pay.

There have been long running arguments and political battles over the standing of private owners of thermal power plants, their incentives and also the prices they get per unit of electricity produced, resulting in several such plants to be shut down while the ‘discussions’ are ongoing.

The resulting electricity shortages have already brought manufacturers, industries and the hospitality sector to the forefront of demands, that this situation be swiftly and comprehensively resolved, as using stand by generators was at the present cost of fuel not a viable and financially sustainable option for them. Hotels in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, but also other municipalities and areas where tourists regularly visit, depend on mains supply of electricity, and running their standby generators will according to one source in Dar es Salaam put a huge financial burden on their businesses and impact on their profitability. Safari lodges too will be affected, in particular those along the national grid, and hotels and lodges from Manyara via Karatu to Ngorongoro have already reportedly began to stock up diesel to run their stand by generators whenever they are subjected to ‘load shedding’.  Operations according to a source in Arusha are not likely to be affected for tourists though as service levels will be maintained, albeit at a substantial cost for the individual properties affected by powercuts.

 

Rwanda News

KANOMBE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT GETS MORE TRAFFIC

Information from Kigali last week gave a glowing outlook for business at the country’s main airport. Traffic since last year has grown by over 50 percent, and landings have now reached over 100 per week from scheduled flights, compared to under 70 a year ago.

The growth is attributed to increased scheduled flights by RwandAir, but also by regional airlines like Air Uganda and the international carriers as Brussels Airlines and KLM, all of which added more frequencies to Kigali or in the latter’s case commenced operations between Amsterdam and Kigali, via Entebbe.

Once RwandAir launches their new destinations the number of daily flight movements is likely to grow further, at last providing day round activity at the airport, the only international link with the region and overseas for the ‘land of a thousand hills’.

 

HOTEL AND RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR HIGHER STANDARDS

A meeting of the RHRA last week confirmed the setting up of committees aimed to promote improved customer services but also hygiene and sanitation across the hospitality sector in the country. The association made it clear that they were firm in their efforts to promote standards equitable to those found in the other countries in the region so that the ‘in country’ experience of visitors can be raised to the levels of satisfaction expressed when visiting Kenyan or Tanzanian hotels, resorts and safari lodges. It is also understood that a new tourism law is presently in the making which, when passed and related regulations have been promulgated, will demand a range of criteria to be met before licensing, or re-licensing for that matter, can be effected. Rwanda has in recent years made a concerted effort, through the Rwanda Development Board, other government institutions and the private sector, to improve customer services through a range of workshops and training sessions for stakeholders, raising awareness. Beyond this however RDB has also been paying greater attention to the establishment of tourism and hospitality training institutions as a way to train the workforce intent to start a career in the industry and offer refresher courses for those already in employment but in need for greater skills.

 

FIRE PREVENTION A KEY TOPIC IN TRANSBOUNDARY CONSERVATION MEETING

Conservation stakeholders have last week met in Rubavu district, Western Rwanda, discussing amongst other things the need to harmonise regulations and guidelines towards controlling bush fires, likely as a result of raging fires devastating national park land in the recent past. Some of the fires were spreading across national borders, bringing the wildlife managers from Rwanda, Uganda and Congo together to devise an information system and alert mechanisms in case of future fires, which might extend into sharing resources and manpower at short notice, should the situation demand such cross border cooperation.

It was also agreed to increase efforts of sensitising the nearby communities to the dangers of lighting fires in order to harvest honey, or leaving domestic fires unattended, as this has been identified as some of the major causes for fires spreading beyond control and becoming a raging inferno endangering not just humans but also the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas and other animals and birds found in the parks. Said one regular source from Rwanda: ‘these fires can have a big impact on tourism. When an area is burnt down tourists will not go there, the gorilla families living there are displaced and when seeking new feeding grounds come into conflict with other groups. This makes tracking them difficult and even dangerous. Not long ago we had fires spreading from the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to the Mgahinga National Park across the border in Uganda and only because of very good working relations were we able to cooperate in fighting these fires. However we need a proper mechanism and action platform towards fire prevention and fire fighting in the worst case, and this is now a great deal nearer to reality. We also need greater resource allocation from our respective governments towards training the population in fire fighting techniques to act as volunteers when called upon. In addition we need to have equipment procured and stationed nearby, which should primarily be used to combat forest fires but is also available for fighting any domestic or industrial fire outbreaks in or near those locations’. Transboundary cooperation at its best!

 

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES NAMES CHENNAI AS NEW ASIA HUB

Last weekend information was obtained from HM that the airline has made Chennai their new hub for Asia, not a surprise for keen observers as code shared flights with Air India on the route and beyond can open up new and emerging markets for the Seychellois national airline, in accordance with their medium and long term market strategies. The initial flight was between Mahe and Chennai was delayed, arguably due to mischief at the Indian aviation authorities’ offices, probably at the bidding of a rival airline not happy with the arrangements but now that ‘traffic finally flows’ there are smiles all round. Bookings to and from Chennai look promising according to an airline source and with the ability to offer code shared destinations in India and beyond via Air India’s flights, travellers to the subcontinent are suddenly rediscovering Air Seychelles, having travelled to and from India in the past on other airlines.

Air India too has access to the onward flights between Mahe and Mauritius and South Africa, providing an added incentive for them too to book passengers via HM.

It is however up to this moment not yet clear if, or when the sectors between Chennai and Singapore can be operated in the future with full traffic rights for the flight, which under a codeshare with Air India should be possible, yet considering the ‘spanners in the works’ in the run up to this flight more difficulties are expected to be put in the way of HM and AI by aviation bureaucrats. Watch this space.

 

AFFORDABLE SEYCHELLES GETS FURTHER BOOST

The opening last week of a new Seychellois owned and managed holiday ‘villa’ near Mahe’s Carana beach has added further rooms in the ‘affordable’ market bracket in line with the Seychelles Tourists Board’s aim to combine economic participation and empowerment for citizens with more rooms in the lower priced market segments. Still, guests will miss few amenities in comparison with bigger resorts and beach hotels, as the new ‘Carana Hilltop Villa’ offers beauty treatments, spa services and car hire, while being only a few minutes’ walk to the sandy beaches below. Visit the STB website www.seychelles.com for more information on ‘Affordable Seychelles’, where bookings can be made via the site’s links with a variety of such properties located on or near some of the most popular beaches on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.

The opening came hot on the heels of the launch of a new restaurant on Praslin, the ‘Capricorn’, owned and operated by the Godley family, which also managed the ‘Islander Guest House’ nearby, a popular place for local and overseas visitors. Brand Seychelles surely making an impact and progress across the archipelago!

 

Southern Sudan News

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOSTS TOURISM

The recent first ever showing of the National Geographic’s ‘Great Migrations’ programme filmed in the Southern Sudan was a massive eye opener not only for the world at large but also for many residents of Eastern Africa.

Many still don’t appreciate the rich biodiversity and large numbers of game found in the Southern Sudanese 6 national parks and 13 game reserves and a few have in the past even spoken of outright ‘inventions’ when this correspondent talked and reported, from his own experience and viewing, about the huge numbers of for instance white eared kobs found migrating between the Boma National Park on the border with Ethiopia and the Nile. Inspite of a decades’ long war of oppression, waged upon the South by the Northern regime in Khartoum, game has not been ‘eaten’ or ‘poached out of existence’, as Northern ‘sources’ have often suggested, arguably to limit the tourism potential in the South, but has in fact benefitted from a strict discipline imposed by the SPLA at the time, which allowed shooting of game for food only after a process of application and approval, being foresighted enough even then to see the benefits of wildlife for a future independent Southern Sudan.

A team from National Geographic Television was in the Southern Sudan on several occasions from 2008, putting together a documentary on the wildlife migration of an estimated 800.000+ animals, and as a result USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society have been funding efforts to create infrastructure along those parks to gradually start the process of bringing tourists to the South, once the independence referendum has passed and a new country has been born.

Meanwhile is the film also used to put pressure on the Government of Southern Sudan to halt plans to lease out parts of their parks to UAE based ‘investors’ who have openly expressed their desire to turn their concessions into a hunting paradise for the rich and famous from the Gulf area, an idea which is both revolting as well as reeking of corruption claims made by conservationists in the South Sudan and the East African region. Watch this space – and tune to the National Geographic Channel to watch any of the forthcoming repeats scheduled for this unique programme.

 

AND in closing today once again material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, produced at the Victoria Falls by Gill Staden – thank you!

Of special interest is the first piece about Carmine Bee-eaters, where – and this comes as no surprise to those who are watching the connection between Chinese expatriate workers and poaching – an alarming story is told about yet another target in the African nature to satisfy their burgeoning greed for trophies.

However, there is also an update from the Painted Dog Foundation, aka Hunting Dogs or Wild Dogs, and from the Africa Wildlife Foundation, telling their story of successes and challenges – enjoy!

 

Carmine Bee-eaters

I was told rather a disturbing story during the week about carmine bee-eaters.  Apparently there is a growing Chinese market for the feathers of these beautiful birds.  The villagers around the Caprivi/Western Province area and along the Zambezi are fully aware of this and are catching them.  You would think that catching a bird would be difficult, but carmines are very easy because they come here to nest in the high banks of the river.  A dugout canoe along the river at night, cover the riverbank (and nest-holes) with a net, shine a torch … and the birds come out and are caught in the net. 

This, of course, is a sign of the times and the poverty that lurks in Zambia.  Fortunately I chatted with a friend in Botswana who said that it wasn’t happening there.  I assume that this will be the end of our carmines.  Anyone got any suggestions?

 

From Africa Wildlife Foundation

Jones Masonde

You have been hearing a lot from me over the past year about AWF’s successes in the Kazungula Heartland, a large conservation landscape along the Zambezi River that includes the Sekute Conservation Area, our Easements for Education program, and the new primary school we are building. But as an ecologist, I’ve most enjoyed talking about the white rhinos of Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia.

A little over a year ago, with your generous support, AWF helped wildlife authorities to settle four new white rhinos translocated into the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park after poachers had shot all but one of its rhinos. Since then, again with your help, AWF has provided ongoing field and technical support to the park’s rhino protection team; today, all of the rhinos are doing fine. While just one of scores of programs being carried out by AWF, I think the survival of the white rhino is an apt symbol of our important mission across the Heartlands.

That’s no small order. Resources for conservation, especially in the region where I work, are scarce, and growing scarcer. Much of what we’ve been able to achieve has been thanks to the support of people like you. As the year draws to a close, I urge you to do all you can to help AWF continue this work and our other important programs. Without your contribution, there is no way we could carry out the important mission we have set out to do.

We depend heavily on this season of charitable giving to fund AWF programs throughout the entire year. Please do all you can to help us make 2011 as successful as 2010.  Only with your support can AWF continue its programs to protect rhinos and help communities conserve wildlife.

Painted Dog Foundation

Website: www.painteddog.org 

The sound of the chase, fast feet racing by, the kill and eating noises were all unmistakable. The Kutanga pack had killed an Impala. Good news indeed for them but wonderful for me as it was right outside my house in Hwange! I was having dinner with Ester, Hans and my Father, having just arrived back in Hwange after an unusually long absence of six weeks due to personal commitments, followed by the annual fundraising trip to the USA. It was as if the dogs were welcoming me back! A bit of an exaggeration in reality, but the coincidence of them making a kill right in front of the house only minutes after I got back was a little hard to ignore. It was as if they were saying “welcome back and look at us, we are doing fine.”

They were actually doing ok for once. Ester and Jealous had been doing a great job, keeping up the monitoring of the pack and dealing with what we now call the “usual” issues with the Kutanga. One of the males, Moth, had a badly wounded ear, which was red raw and hanging down. Ester immobilized him and cleaned the wound. A few days later he was “fighting” with John and Romany, two residents at our Rehab and his ear got torn again!! Its healed now but looks rather floppy. Alpha male, Bullseye, has been limping around but has also recovered now as has the young female, Shoulder Patch. With the pack now spending a lot of time outside Hwange National park and thus in the poaching “hot spots”, we decided that all of them should be collared and happily Ester dealt with this. The collars not only give us a handle on each individual but also afford them some protection from snares and perilous roads.

The fighting with our resident dogs at the Rehab is something we have not expected and is cause for concern. However, for now, we have built a screen to present a visual and physical barrier that seems to be working, though it has not stopped the Kutanga from “visiting” every two or three days.

The dog news on the whole is rather encouraging. We have received sightings of a pack of 11, another pack of eight and a pack of two. Greg, Ester and Jealous have been making quite an effort to get collars on these dogs but all of their efforts have been frustrated so far. Ester and Jealous came closest when they actually saw the pack of 11 at a waterhole deep inside Hwange NP, called Secheche. Thus the pack has been named Secheche. Their territory is deep inside the pack however it is also close to the South East boundary, so collaring them is a high priority for us.

Our only real concern is for the Kanondo pack, which is just three dogs and hasn’t been seen in quite a while. Their territory is to the east of us in the Gwayi Conservancy, an area of intense poaching activity, which our APU patrol regularly.

Wilton and his Education Department team have completed a couple of very busy months, hosting

five schools during the period, including the Harare International School whom we were delighted to welcome back after a year’s absence. All of the camps went very well as usual, with the kids having the time of their lives. Well over 4,000 children have now attended our Children’s Bush Camp.

Wilton has added Dominic Nyathi to his team, tasking him with taking over the Conservation Clubs we established in 2008. Dominic has a lot of experience in teaching in the local area and is a well known figure. The Conservation Clubs is really an extension of the Bush Camp programme and aims

to work with the same kids in their communities, engaging them in hands-on activities that carry a conservation message such as clean up campaigns and tree planting.

As ever, we are tried and tested and it’s with the help of your tremendous support that we can achieve so much. On my recent trip to the USA I was reminded that you can never say thank you enough, and certainly I will never get tired of saying thank you to everyone who has helped make PDC what it is today.

 

Okavango Tourism Sites available

 

It seems that the Tawana Land Board in Maun has identified another 73 sights for tourism development. 

With so many lodges and hotels in and around the Okavango, one wonders if this will be overdoing it a bit.  We all know that Botswana’s tourism strategy has been successful in boosting their economy, but another 73 developments in this fragile eco-system may be too much.  We wait …

 (AND READERS TOO WILL WAIT TO SEE THE ‘EMPTY SPACES’ FILLED WITH PICTURES – WORDPRESS HAVE INDICATED THEY ARE WORKING ON A SOLUTION TO PERMIT UPLOADS OF WORD FILES WITH EMBEDDED PICTURES DIRECTLY WITHOUT THE EXTREMELY CUMBERSOME AND TIME CONSUMING SEPARATE UPLOADS OF EACH AND EVERY PICTURE … WE WAIT …)

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