Category Archives: Partners

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.

Southern Tanzania Elephant Conservation Forum – Inaugural Meeting

The Southern Tanzania Elephant Conservation Forum (STECF) met for the first time in Iringa town on July 19 at the Neema Crafts Conference Centre. Thirty-six participants attended. Mr. Adam Swai from the Iringa Regional Government, Mr. John Muya from the Wildlife Division and Mr. Dennis Ikanda from TAWIRI opened our meeting, moderated by Professor Mutayoba (SUA) and Ponjoli Joram (TANAPA & UEP).

Members’ talks covered challenging and complex issues including contraction of elephant range in Africa and chronic physiological stress experienced by groups without matriarchs and groups made up of non-relatives (Prof. Mutayoba); the debate over consolation (Mr. Muya and Alex Chang’a) and the possibility of a micro-credit scheme to empower farmers and make HEC mitigation sustainable (Alex Chang’a); broad patterns of HEC and non-lethal deterrent methods such as cultivation of non-palatable crops (sesame, sunflowers, chilies) and donor independent methods such as the Combretum ash-chilli method (Cyprian Malima); the mis-match between locations of “Problem Animal Control” and actual hotspots of HEC in eastern Selous to the coast (Cyprian Malima); the dangers of policies such as Kilimo Kwanza, of priority farming areas placed within wildlife corridors, and conflicts of interest between conservation bodies (WD, TANAPA and district councils) (Ponjoli Joram), as well as the need for less bureaucracy and more actual support in, for example, the establishment of WMAs (Rogasian Mtana); historical and current connectivity of elephant populations (Prof. Mutayoba, Cyprian Malima, and Trevor Jones); and the two top strategic objectives of the 2010-2015 Tanzania Elephant Management Plan: HEC and corridors (T. Jones).

We agreed that problems in southern Tanzania are unique, i.e., different from those faced by elephants in the north where populations such as Serengeti and Tarangire are relatively well-protected. Arguably, meanwhile, the two most important elephant populations in Eastern Africa (representing 60% of elephants in E. Africa) are Ruaha-Rungwa and Selous-Mikumi. It was proposed that the former one should be re-surveyed soon, and that MIKE data from the Selous-Mikumi population need updating.

A wealth of local knowledge about elephant corridors and human-people interactions from around southern Tanzania was shared during the meeting. More content of our moderated and focal groups’ (HEC, land-use & corridors, behavior & ecology, and community conservation & WMAs) discussions will be reported in an upcoming Proceedings-style report. In addition, a southern Tanzania corridors and HEC hotspots map that was begun by forum members with the help of GIS expert, Guy Picton-Phillipps (WCS), will be made available for updating online.

The meeting ended with enthusiastic discussion about future plans for the forum. A chair and committee were agreed, and we hope to meet again in January 2013.

Check back for more details soon. Meanwhile, some photographs from the meeting. Please click on the images to view a larger version of the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forum Members’ talks. From top left: Mr. Muya on challenges facing wildlife, Prof. Mutayoba on poaching threats & elephant stress physiology and genetics, Kate on symbolic value of elephants in Tz, Cyprian on novel ash-chilli wind blown deterrent method and Selous-Indian Ocean corridors, Alex on sustainability of HEC mitigation, Joram on government bodies and policies, and Trevor on management plan & corridors website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant dung paper demo in Neema Crafts workshop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moderated discussion during the forum meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group photo outside Neema Crafts.

We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the World Society for the Protection of Animals for sponsoring this meeting.

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

Onwards and Upwards: New Year MIKE Workshop

Hi all, and Happy New Year; we hope you’ve had a relaxing break. After a showing of BBC’s Frozen Planet and some dancing on Saturday night, we have been straight back into it, facilitating a training workshop yesterday for the 30+ rangers of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park who were around for the new year.  For those of you not familiar with MIKE – Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants – it is a CITES-managed, Africa and Asia-wide programme for monitoring trends in elephant populations and illegal killing. There are 51 MIKE sites across 28 countries in Africa. Of the four designated MIKE sites in Tanzania, the Udzungwa Mountains are part of the largest site, the ‘Selous-Mikumi-Udzungwa ecosystem’ (the others being Tarangire, Ruaha-Rungwa and Katavi-Rukwa).

At the request of the Protection Department of Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the Udzungwa Elephant Project is helping with training so that the Udzungwa sector of the site can fully participate in contributing all the different types of MIKE data to the central database. All of these data are assessed to look at which populations are suffering the most serious declines, and to try to identify the most important factors driving the killing of elephants. While it has become clear over the last three years that elephants are facing a new crisis of poaching for their tusks across much of Africa, the quantity and quality of data being contributed to the database from around the continent provide a major challenge for the MIKE programme.

Udzungwa Park rangers, MIKE training workshop, Mang'ula, 2nd January 2012

Udzungwa Park rangers, MIKE training workshop, Mang'ula, 2nd January 2012

Yesterday’s workshop was specifically for the rangers, to introduce MIKE and ensure data are collected correctly in the field when on patrol using standard MIKE field forms. We used an example provided by Save The Elephants from Laikipia-Samburu. Feedback was good, including from senior wardens, and we are continuing to work closely with both the Park Protection Wardens and the rangers, to help with protection of elephants in whatever ways we can. Next on the agenda will be a GPS workshop for the rangers who need an introduction or re-fresher in the use of GPS hand-held units.

Many thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife African Elephant Program for supporting this work, and to the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre for hosting this first of a series of workshops.

USFWS

Visit to Noto Plateau & Kilwa, Lindi Region

In September, I joined a team from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group on a survey of Noto Plateau, Lindi region. Our chief aim was to confirm the presence of four species in this coastal forest: the Rondo galago, east coast akalat, spotted ground thrush and southern banded snake eagle. But we were also doing a baseline biodiversity survey under the REDD scheme. I was excited to come upon plenty of fresh elephant dung piles brimming with seeds from predominantly two plants: “monkey fruit” with yellow-orange seeds and a long hairy seed (pictured). I’ve received two ideas about what the former may be: Tabernaemontana pachysiphon (but could also be a climber with similar sized fruits, e.g., Saba sp.) or a coastal relative of Commiphora. Please send any ideas!

On one morning, we practically walked into elephants, who warned us with three ground-shaking rumbles and moved off. There were plenty of elephant trails, dug up roots and chewed lianas as well as some attractive grassy clearings – but no water, which means that elephants descend into the farmland below to drink. People burn elephant dung and chili “bricks” to deter them from crops, so our cook was collecting some dried elephant dung to take back with her to the village. These bricks do work but need to be burned frequently.

On our way back to Dar es Salaam, we stopped off in Kilwa to visit WWF’s Cyprian Malima, who works in the Selous-Niassa corridor and is a fundi (expert) in elephant crop deterrents. His formula is a low-tech discovery for which a small amount of chili is required: he mixes the ash of dry/dead Combretum tree species with chili and places this in a flat container from which wind can disperse the mixture; the container can be hung along an elephant trail ~20m from farms (therefore, the ash/chili does not blow onto people’s crops). It is possible that other tree species may work but Combretum has an especially caustic smell.

Malima is also working on documenting elephant movements between the Selous and the coast, including Kilwa mangroves, which elephants are using…FASCINATING! I hope to return soon to set up some camera traps with Cyprian to find out what elephants are doing in the mangroves, where Cyprian’s team has recorded elephant footprints, trails, dung, and tree breakage. Could elephants be attracted to mangroves for salt? Or are mangroves a place of safety?

Visit to ELP

ELP iconBack in May, Kate and I paid a visit to the headquarters of the Elephant Listening Project in Ithaca, NY state in the US, to learn more about their work listening in on forest elephants in central Africa. A senior scientist of the project, Liz Rowland, gave us a fascinating demonstration of the Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) that they use to record the low frequency communications between elephants, and how they can be used to monitor distribution and abundance of elephants. They could also potentially be useful for exploring habitat use, and detecting poachers. Naturally, we are very interested in potential tools that could help us to understand and protect the savanna elephants living in forest in Tanzania, and are considering how we could use them in Udzungwa in the future. In the meantime, pay a visit to ELP’s informative website here.

Thanks again for a great day, Liz!

Our New Partners!

ARC_logo

We are excited and proud to announce a new partnership with the US-based charity the African Rainforest Conservancy (ARC) and their sister charity in the UK, the African Rainforest Trust (ART). Please click on their logo to read about the fantastic fundraising work they do for conservation of Tanzanian forests, especially through their major support of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), one of Tanzania’s most effective NGOs.

As of today, you can make a DONATION to the Udzungwa Elephant Project which is TAX-EXEMPT in either the US or the UK, through the webpages of either ARC or ART. If you are interested in donating, please pop to our Support Our Work page and follow the simple instructions – it will only take you a couple of minutes at most! We have so much work to do here to enhance harmony between elephants and people in southern Tanzania, so any donation however small will be hugely appreciated.