Author Archives: Trev

Debating in London: To Trade or not to Trade?

The Big Earthwatch Debate at the Royal Geographical Society in London this year addresses the big question of whether trading in wildlife parts can help to  save endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

We are very much opposed to trade of this kind, believing it only contributes in the long term (and in some cases the short term) to the demise of these species. Dr. Kate Nowak is on the anti-trade team at this debate, which will begin at 7pm next Thursday, 17th October.

If you are interested to watch but cannot get along to the RGS, you can livestream the event, and put questions to the panel live over the internet.

Go Kate!

rhino

2013: The year so far…

Hi everyone. As we gear up to begin a new project in the amazing Ruaha ecosystem of southern Tanzania – where East Africa’s 2nd largest elephant population is under increasing poaching pressure – here is a brief round-up of our year so far…

olifants

In January, UEP Director Dr. Trevor Jones attended a two-day meeting in Dar es Salaam on the elephant poaching crisis in Tanzania, organised by TEPS (Tanzania Elephant Protection Society) and officiated by Mr. James Lembeli MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee Of Land, Natural Resources And Environment. We subsequently took a lead role in editing the report to the Parliamentary Committee, and Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, recommending solutions to the crisis.

mzinga maua

In February, our human-elephant co-existence project with farmers in the Udzungwa Mountains received a boost with the arrival of international Raleigh volunteers, who (among other jobs) helped the farmers and UEP team to re-build roofs for the 50 beehives that currently make up the beehive fence – and planted flowers under every hive. The Njokomoni Farmers Group have been harvesting honey and it is selling well, with the profits going back into our collaborative efforts to reduce the crop-raiding.

Abbas_Mtandika

In March, our MSc student, Lukinga Thabit, completed his fieldwork on the important elephant corridor linking Ruaha and Udzungwa Mountains National Parks. Lukinga is writing up now at the University of Dar es Salaam, and his results will help guide our plans to conserve this critical genetic connectivity for Southern Tanzania’s elephants.

Elephant Poaching_Bunge 23rd April 2013.v4

In April, Trevor visited Parliament in Dodoma, as part of a task force invited by Mr. Lembeli MP to address the Parliamentary Committee on the elephant poaching crisis. Our message seemed to shock as well as inform MPs, and was carried into the next week’s main chamber session on the annual Environment budget, resulting in pledges for major action from the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. Examples of the news stories that reported on these debates and announcements can be found here and here.

honey jar_prototype

May was devoted mostly to meetings and fundraising, with the UEP field team again running the Annual Iringa Marathon. Deals were struck with some tourist lodges and camps to sell the increasingly popular “Njokomoni elephant-friendly honey“, ensuring a better price for the farmers.

NatGeo putting microphone on Ponjoli in between chili-oil and beehive fences

In June, in collaboration with the Njokomoni Farmers Group and again with the help of Raleigh volunteers, we completed the creation of a community tourism trail (complete with bridges and vantage points) that tours the fascinating environment at the interface between the forest edge of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, and the farms that are being affected by elephants. The idea is to develop community-based tourism to provide some extra income for the farmers, and raise awareness of the local challenges we all face to enhance human-wildlife coexistence in the area.

paulo & jo_CTSamir_med

Throughout July and August, Yale University student Jo Smit worked with our team in Mang’ula, including on our three years of camera-trapping data looking at elephants leaving the forest and entering the farms. We have some very interesting and surprising results emerging from this monitoring, which are of great relevance to management of the problem – and we will be posting more on this very soon. In November and December, we will be hosting two more students from Holland who will be helping us analyse the effectiveness of the beehive and chilli-oil fences that are around the farms…

USFWS

And in September, we have been preparing for our new project in Ruaha, which begins in October and is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund. We will post more about this project too soon (with more regular updates on our Facebook page). We are happy to be extending into the Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem, where elephants need all the help they can get…

All the best , the UEP team

Mongabay article about our corridors work

New article just published online about our work on the threatened elephant corridors between Selous and the Udzungwa Mountains. As the writer points out, “Without safe, smart, and well-maintained corridors between designated wildlife areas, animals can get cut off from resources needed for survival and from potential mates (putting genetic health at risk), even while conflicts with humans become more frequent.”
There’s a link to our new scientific paper at the bottom of the article.

Update From The Field: THE MTANDIKA WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

Our Masters student from the University of Dar es Salaam, Lukinga Thabit, has been busy in the field researching the status and viability of the threatened Mtandika corridor between Udzungwa and Ruaha, an important route for elephants and other wildlife. On a recent break to do some data entry, he posted an update on how the fieldwork is going – together with an appeal for help to complete his studies. He’s finding out some interesting stuff – including some unexpected associations between elephants and goats! You can read his short progress report over on our Masters studies page.

Aerial support helping elephant protection efforts in the Udzungwa Mountains

A view from the plane

We are in the midst of an elephant poaching crisis, and even in the remotest parts  of the Udzungwa Mountains, elephants are not insulated from the threat that emanates from China and her neighbours. Last month, three elephants were killed up in the mountains, and their tusks hacked off. The anti-poaching and intelligence wardens and rangers of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park are an effective force, but like everyone on the frontline in elephant country, they have their work cut out to protect these magnificent beasts from the greed and ignorance of the ivory traders.

Pilot David Moyer briefing his passengers: L to R, Arafat Mtui (UEMC), Joel Masaki (Asst Protection Warden), Pius Mzimbe (Protection Warden), Ponjoli Joram (Ecologist)

With help from the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Conservation Fund, we are providing some aerial support to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Apart from one day with a helicopter earlier this year,  the Park has had no assistance from the air as they try to cover this challenging area of mountains and remote plateaus. So we asked local conservationist and pilot David Moyer, who is based nearby in Iringa and knows Udzungwa like the back of his hand, to do some flights and be on call with his small Cessna plane. While some of the mountainsides are cloaked in sublime closed-canopy rainforest, other extensive areas are drier and more open meaning that much useful information can be gleaned from the air. On a flight last week with both protection wardens and the park ecologist, a previously unknown elephant carcass was spotted, and some extensive fires set by poachers were discovered, prompting a rapid ground response.

Taking off

Flights until now have made use of the Illovo Sugar Company’s airstrip in the northern Kilombero Valley. Park wardens are now looking into the possibility of creating some small airstrips within the Park, including in remote areas, which would help respond more rapidly to reports of poachers, fires and other threats up in the mountains.

L to R: Trevor Jones (UEP), David Moyer (Pilot), Ponjoli Joram (Park Ecologist), Joel Masaki (Asst. Protection Warden)

 

UEP Team to run Ruaha Marathon on 26th May !

Jose, Paulo and Athumani (all pictured) are running in the inaugural Ruaha Marathon in Iringa, for the Udzungwa Elephant Project! Please have a look at our special events page to read more….

Chili fences in the news

Chili fences are in the news this week, with a new article in the Wall Street Journal about their use in Tanzania to deter crop-raiding elephants. The article features one of our camera-trap photos showing elephant behaviour at a fence. As we point out in the comments below the article, we are seeing mixed results so far from these fences in Udzungwa – but it’s still early days.

Meet The Conservationists!

Kate and Trevor of UEP were recently interviewed about our work and the project by our partners at the African Rainforest Conservancy. Many thanks to ARC for giving us a chance to ramble and let off steam!

Tanzanian National Elephant Management Plan launched

TEMP front cover

Click on this image to download the whole document (7MB)

The Udzungwa Elephant Project are proud to have been involved in the epic collaborative effort to bring this important document into being. I worked for a year and a half alongside TAWIRI and WCS staff in Arusha, and around the country collecting data on the major elephant populations, to assess the current status of Tanzania’s elephants. We also surveyed officials from all 108 districts of Tanzania to understand patterns and trends in human-elephant conflict. Workshops around the country gathered input and opinions from stakeholders, and finally 70 experts represented Tanzania in a gruelling 3-day workshop to finalise all the objectives, targets and actions required to conserve and protect the country’s amazing elephant populations and habitats over the next five years and beyond. Lots more hard work now lies ahead to ensure that the Plan does not just gather dust on shelves.

Everyone reached agreement on nine national ‘strategic objectives’, representing the most important challenges facing elephant conservation in Tanzania, and the Udzungwa Elephant Project has adopted the top three (plus of course number 6!) as the main focus of our work:

1. Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC)

2. Elephant Corridors

3. Law Enforcement

4. Benefits/Sustainable Utilisation

5. Management of Ivory Stockpiles

6. Research and Monitoring

7. Elephant Health and Welfare

8. Cross-border Cooperation

9. Elephant Information Management

The Plan is ambitious, but we have to strive as best we can towards the targets that are laid out under each objective. Please download and give it a read, and if you can help in any small way towards Tanzania’s noble vision to “be a world leader in elephant conservation”, then do not hesitate!

QGIS Training for Park staff

QGIS training

This week we have been training Protection and Ecology staff of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park in use of QGIS, in collaboration with the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre and GIS fundi Nick McWilliam (of Map Action and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge). Quantum GIS (QGIS) is open source, completely free, high quality GIS software and therefore a great option for Tanzanian Protected Area managers and researchers to manage their spatial data, and make the maps that they need for their work. Special thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Fund for supporting this training.

USFWS