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Over 4.8 million tune in to Lion Country


David Youldon

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The big story for the last month is of course the transmission of the first two episodes of Lion Country on the UK’s ITV1 channel. Episode three airs tonight (Wed 10th Feb, ITV1, 7.30pm).

Around 4.8 million people tuned in to watch the show which we hope will bring much needed awareness to the need for quick action to ensure the future of the African lion, arguably the world’s most iconic species and a prominent symbol of Africa.

Of course we also hope that those people watching the series will dig into their pockets and financially support lion conservation programs such as those implemented by ALERT.

We expect ITV to announce a desire for a second, longer series in the next few days and hope that we will be able to include more information on lion conservation needs in general, as well as our own work with other species and communities. These topics were either missed or given only small inclusion in the first series due to the nature of the program style.

Elephant conflict mitigation bears early fruits

For the first time ever Maunga School, located in an area hard hit by crop raiding elephants has produced a crop of maize allowing the school to help feed the children. So successful was the crop that Lion Encounter (Zambia) is also purchasing excess produce from them to feed its own staff raising additional finance for the school.

Human conflict with elephants is a significant problem for the rural communities surrounding the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Dambwa Forest. Elephants can destroy a family’s entire crop yield in a single night; and they are also a risk to property and life. Community attitudes to elephants and wildlife conservation in general are made negative due to the repeated conflicts making long-term management of these wild areas difficult for the relevant agencies. Our project in Livingstone is aimed at researching effective and sustainable land management strategies that will reduce human-elephant conflict for these communities. Once complete we will then undertake a training program with affected communities on successful mitigation measures that they are able to sustainably implement.

The school in the village of Maunga in Dambwa Forest has been unsuccessful over many years in growing crops to assist in feeding the children that attend. This site therefore presents an ideal location to investigate the effectiveness of a number of mitigation measures whilst also engaging the children and wider community in the conservation program. Four plots of land were marked out; three with different mitigation measures and one control plot with no measures in place.

Elephants are most prolific within the area in terms of population size and likelihood to engage in crop raiding activities during the dry season (Mar–Oct). As such, the plots have been planted and maintained during 2009 and into the rainy season to establish them prior to the return of the herds in 2010. The timing of this planting is not usual for the area and this early success means that timing of planting is also going to play a crucial role in the overall management plan. The biggest challenge lies ahead as the crops will be maintained during the upcoming dry season and all elephant activity around the fields recorded.

The project will continue for many months but this early success is bolstering support for the program within communities and the school itself has also seen a rise in attendance since this project started.

A number of new community initiatives have been started at our Antelope Park and Victoria Falls projecct sites that include:

Teaching assistance at Chamabondo Primary school:
With teacher-pupil ratio as high as 1:50, our work be invaluable in supporting teachers to be able to give each pupil vital one-on-one learning time. The volunteers at Lion Encounter (Zimbabwe) have already given the school a lift by painting the outside of one of the classroom blocks – but there’s still plenty more to do, such as painting classrooms, helping to build a new three-classroom block, renovating classroom furniture as well as paving pathways and an assembly point.

Holistic child support initiative (HOSCI):
Again at Chamabondo, the HOSCI team will:
• Create gardens with the 200 pupils at the school
• Train pupils on income generation ideas
• Team building and sports activities
• AIDS education
• Life skills lessons
• Building a playground.

Victoria Falls old age home:
A small establishment with the infrastructure to currently only care for 14 of the communities elderly citizens. A previous lack of funding means the home has been unable to maintain the building. Here we'll help:
• Refurbish the property
• Secure the perimeter by building a wall
• Spend time with the residents, playing board games and reading to those with impaired vision
• Assist in the maintenance of the vegetable garden to ensure there is an abundant stock of nutritional food.

Nutritional gardens for those living with HIV/AIDS:
Every week, local counsellors come together to support those members of their community living with HIV/AIDS. We’ll assist in the creation and upkeep of nutritional gardens to supplement dietary requirements and for the generation of group members’ income.

In 2002, Mkoba Polyclinic catered for 47,580 people in one year. Currently, it is estimated that this figure has risen to over 90,000 people. It is poorly equipped and woefully underfunded, and above all severely understaffed. This service provider is heavily dependent on the goodwill and support for donor agencies. Their maternity ward caters for all surrounding areas and records on average 125 births per months yet only has two delivery beds.

The Opportunistic Infections Department process about 2,500 cases of HIV/AIDS a month and the Extended Programme for Immunization Department carries out a minimum of 1,900 immunizations a month.

Again, we will be providing assistance to the medical staff, particularly in administration so that the staff can concentrate more on providing the primary healthcare that is so needed.

With a very impressive haul of five impala over the month of December, Antelope Park’s Ss continued their hunting success into January.

The 3rd of January saw the group kill yet another impala. We can’t be sure who made the catch as all of them were found in the tall grass with a healthy grip on one part or another of the animal. Three days later – coinciding quite nicely with the airing of the first episode of Lion Country – the trio were back out in the Park again.

Swahili had made three kills over her walking career, a monitor lizard and two baboons. Several more impressive and close encounters followed, but almost a year to the day since making her first kill, she made up for all those missed efforts by bringing down a juvenile zebra; only the third lion in the program to achieve this, following in the footsteps of the mighty Phoenix and Etosha.

Another nice element of symmetry to this story is that the first ever kill on a zebra by one of the program’s lions was made by Phoenix on the evening of the 8th October 2007; the day that the 3S litter was born.

Release site update

Dambwa Forest release area expected to be completed in Mar / Apr
Ngamo release area is expected to be completed in May / June

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