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David Youldon

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The first truck of materials to build the Dambwa Forest release areas has arrived in Livingstone. The first task is to build three large management enclosures at the south western corner of the site. Progress on this has been very quick. As soon as the remaining trucks arrive we will start building the main site itself. We are hoping that the whole site will be complete by the end of the year but with the rains setting in the end of January may be a more realistic goal.

The first area to be built is just under 1000 acres and will be used to conduct night encounters. Over the next three months the Livingstone release pride of Kela, Kwandi, Leya, Loma, Rusha, Rundi and Zulu will all retire from walking in the Mosi-oa-Tunya NP.

They will then move on to night encounters whilst we prepare their stage two release area. The cubs will be old enough for release late 2010 or early 2011 which gives us some time to raise the necessary finance to complete the site. However, if there are any issues with this then the night encounter area is big enough to be their stage two area until the real one is complete.

We anticipate that the lions will remain in stage two for around one year when at 3½ years old they would move on to stage three, which is also being built in the Dambwa Forest. This release would take place towards the end of 2012. Assuming the pride breeds in the first year we expect their offspring to be ready for stage four in mid to late 2014. That seems a long way off at the moment but the dream is becoming a reality.

Also this last month the disease testing of lions within Gonarezhou National Park in eastern Zimbabwe has started. With so few lions left in the Park it is going to take a while to locate, dart, test and collar the lions. The first lion to be collared was an adult male. The operation is being conducted on the ground by our partners AWARE.

The TV series about the release program continues to be filmed, now from our Livingstone base. We expect the first episode to be broadcast at 1930h on ITV 1 in the UK on 6th January 2010 but will confirm this as soon as the schedule is set in stone.

The new ALERT web site is finally live. We will continue to develop the site over the coming months but we finally have something more for those interested. Apologies for the delay in this - you have no idea what we have been through to get this thing live.

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