Research

Two elephants killed in suspected cyanide poisoning

Jul 19, 2017 |

Two elephants have been killed in a suspected case of cyanide poisoning around Hwange National Park.

The carcasses of the two jumbos were discovered on Monday by anti-poaching officers.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) confirmed the suspected cyanide poisoning case after officers who were on patron around Hwange National Park noticed the carcasses of two adult elephants.

The case has since been reported to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) which is now conducting further investigations, while a task which was removed from one of the elephants has since been recovered.

Zimparks Public Relations Manager, Mr Tinashe Farawo said the suspected cyanide poison was administered on the saltlick, adding that the recovered task has been sent for safekeeping while 150 anti-poaching unit officers have been deployed to deal with the emerging poaching cases.

Mr Farawo added that the authority in collaboration with other government agencies is working tirelessly to reduce cases of poaching with cumulative figures for 2017 indicating a downward trend compared to last year.

Recent reports from Zimparks show that between January and June 2017, a total of 14 elephants were lost due to poaching activities.

During the recently held third Defence and Security Chief Meeting hosted by Zimbabwe, member countries were challenged to domesticate the SADC law enforcement and anti-poaching strategy.

Research on the missing endemic frogs

RESEARCH REPORT FOR THE MISSING ENDEMIC FROGS OF THE EASTERN HIGHLANDS                          

REGION 0F ZIMBABWE – DECEMBER 1ST TO December 9th 2016

The search was conducted under the direction of R.Hopkins (Research associate Natural History Museum, Bulawayo.)

Team members: F.Becker, (MSc Cape Town University): S.J.Scott BSc Rhodes University:: Guide and member of the MATSETO Sports and Conservation Club: Fungayi Marema : Guide and Member of the Matseko Sports and Conservation Club. T.Blessing Makanidzani and Johnston Masunda of the Matsko Sport and Conservation Club

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This report is confined to the search and capture of Arthroleptis troglodytesAmietia inyangae has been classified as extinct by Professor A.Channing, after an extensive search during 2016. Strongylopus rhodesianus has been located and is abundant, and breeding freely in the Chimanimani area.

A troglodytes (Cave or sinkhole squeaker) is known only from the Western Chimanimani Mountains, and was located in 1962 at an attitude above 1500meters, no new material has been collected since the initial sixteen specimens taken in 1962. Described by Professor Poynton in 1963. This species has not been seen since 1962 (54 years). Various subsequent surveys and searches have been conducted at yearly periods post the Independence war.

TARGET SPECIES

Arthroleptis troglodytes was considered to be the prime target species. It was described as a small (maximum 27mm) Arthroleptid, it is a direct breeder, meaning it does not have a tadpole phase, the young develop in the egg, and hatch as fully formed frogs. The type series was collected in 1962 (Poynton 1963); none have been seen or collected since. Only 16 specimens are in collections, these were collected mostly from sink holes and caves on the summit of Mount Chimanimani in or near the Bundi River. The micro habitats consisted mainly of caves, sink holes and under rocks in grassland, and at an altitude of 1500meters and above. It is extremely localised in distribution, and as gold panning and human activities are increasing daily, along the Bundi river valley, it was considered to be extinct in the wilds or near extinct, and was listed in the  as critically endangered (B1ab(v) + 2ab(v) (Poynton and Channing 2004. At a meeting of Herpetologist in Cape Town in November 2015 ( I was a member of this meeting);it was prioritised as one of the top ten southern African species in need of conservation research (Amphibian Ark) 2016) and it’s rediscovery must be considered as a high priority, and to breed this species ex-situ must be considered as extremely important. This decision was based on my input, I had said that I had been looking for this species since 1998, without success, but wanted to try again at the end of 2016. This was agreed, I approached the Mohamed bin Zayed fund for conservation for funds, as I wanted to include a Mr François Becker, a M.Sc. student at the University of Cape Town to join my team as he was young, and extremely field knowledgable. He had also approached me and requested to be included in a search in December 2016. I applied for a grant and the fund allowed this. Mr S.J Herbst also remained a member of team, he is a B.Sc. (entomology; Rhodes University) and a Zimbabwean citizen (please see photographs of the team attached).

THE SEARCH

All members were gathered and transported to Chimanimani in my vehicle, we arrived there on the 1st December 2016, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the National Parks Office had been moved to a new location, better suited to an important office like Chimanimani. As per usual we were well received by the personnel in the office the team comprised Zimbabweans and a South African.

On the 2nd of December 2016 the Team who had now included members of Conservation clubs, and who acted as guides were suitably kitted, with full rations and left at 0900hrs for the summit. I remained in Chimanimani, as I have been diagnosed with cancer. At 1730hrs I received a call from a very excited François Becker saying he had located an Arthroleptis troglodytes. It was great surprise and release after all these years. The team remained on the summit gathering data, and also examining the locations. As a result we were able to locate three male and one female (gravid) specimens. These were photographed. These photographs (please see attached) are the only photographs of these frogs in the world, and belong to the people of Zimbabwe, and to National Parks in particular. DNA clippings were taken, and these will be sent to Professor Alan Channing of the University of Stellenbosch in the cape for analysis… A great deal of data was gathered, and most interesting of all, is that I am able to state that this species is alive and well on the summit of Chimanimani, and is breeding well, there seems to be a very viable population. My greatest concern now is that the scientific world will flood in to capture and illegally export specimens from Chimanimani, and I ask the National Parks to be vigilant to this threat. I have requested members at Outward Bound School to assist and they have readily agreed to do this. I will be approaching the Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation fund to assist in possibly funds to assist an operation to conserve Arthroleptis troglodytes, National Parks may want to inform me what they would require for this operation. I can only ask the fund, but cannot guarantee their financial help. I t would not be correct of me not to mention the personnel of National Parks, the Mohamed bin Zayed conservation fund, the staff at Outward Bound, and the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, for their assistance.

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Zimparks guns down hippo in Nyanyadzi

August 31, 2017August 31, 2017
Inset from Zimpapers. THE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority last week shot dead a hippopotamus that was damaging winter wheat in Nyanyadzi. The hippo, which had a calf, is believed to have escaped from Save Conservancy. ZPWMA ordered the shooting of the hippos after traditional leaders in the area reported that it was damaging crops and endangering lives. ZPWMA officer, Mr John Danfa, said they were still hunting for the calf which is believed to have found habitat along Save River. “Usually hippos move up and down rivers during the rainy season. We believe the two escaped from Save Valley Conservancy. They were both females and they do not usually click if there is no male. “They are believed to have separated. We received reports from traditional leaders in Hot Springs and Nyanyadzi that these hippos were feeding on wheat and crops in their fields.” “People’s lives were endangered so the authorities ordered its killing. The first time we attempted to kill it, it was in the company of so many cattle and could not do anything. Our officer teamed up with villagers to track it until last week when it was shot down in Nyanyadzi”. The officer is said to have fired 12 shots before the hippo died. The meat was shared by villagers. One of the villagers in Dirikwe village, Mr Tapiwa Munyati, said: “This hippo was becoming a threat to human lives in the area. It was being spotted near homes at night. “There are vegetable gardens along one of Save River’s tributaries where it was being spotted.“We were told that hippos do not like light and the danger was that lives would have been lost.” “A villager survived death by a whisker recently when the hippo strayed into his homestead.“He went out of his house to investigate when his dogs were barking. He had a torch and the hippo advanced towards him. “Fortunately he managed to escape the attack and notified other villagers and the village head. We are appealing to the responsible authorities to make sure that the remaining one is also killed,” said Mr Munyati.