The rains are here now and Thuma has turned into a wonderful green paradise, everything is growing at a phenonomal rate, along with the animal population.Road maintenance will now be the big issue here, the rains have made some areas fun to navigate and of course Nature is growing back after the dry season and covering up the tracks.
Miss Monika Haussmann returned to Germany after being with us for almost 3 months, energetically working to assist in the continuing existence of Thuma FR and all it contains, she will be sorely missed (and her great cooking too!!)
On Christmas day the scouts went on anti poaching patrol along with mrs edina kaphuka the DNPW armed ranger (poachers don't break up for Christmas!) with a promise of a large Christmas lunch on their return, cooked by myself for them, comprising of roasted whole chickens, tomatoes and onion salad with cabbage coslaw dressing and soft drinks, they provided the nisima and we all had a filling lunch in the beautiful surroundings of Thuma camp.
The Elephant's have been situated around base camp lately, and can be heard rumbling at night,along with the call of the hyena, we have several strong herds of elephant, most sightings are 18+ with quite a few young ones in attendance, the kudu herds have also increased and regular sightings of these beautiful antelope can be steadily seen,along with fleeting rushes of bushbuck,duiker and grysbok to mention but a few.
The new electric fence is doing its job of keeping the elephant/human conflict problem a thing of the past in the East, although with the rains, the fence alarm is sounding off now and again and the odd fallen branch assists in activating the alarm as well. Both the Lilongwe and Thinthipe rivers are now in flood and act a a great barrier to stop illegal entry and poaching to the northern and southern areas of the Forest reserve, strong scouts those!
On the down side, the tsetse fly population has increased and can be a real bother when exiting from the vehicle after driving though the FR, especially on returning to camp,as they are attracted to the moving vehicle and catch a ride back to base......there is always a little problem to go hand in hand with Paradise.
After several meetings with the local leaders and the community, WAG started with the preparations for the installation of 12 km solar-powered electric fence along the eastern boundary of Thuma. After some more incidents, the community is welcoming the activities very much and men and women of the villages along the boundary agreed immediately to support and help with the clearing of the fence line and preparation of access tracks.
Trustees of WAG with local leaders
Villagers supporting the electric fence project
For the past years villagers had to abandon their fields because of the permanent crop raiding by elephants, which has led to a serious food shortage. With the technical support of WAG International, WAG is planning to fence most of the boundaries of Thuma to avoid future damage to man and wildlife.
Please support the electric fence project and our work here.
Eduard Thom and Josamu Lemison have joined the scout team a few weeks ago after the departure of Matthews and Andrew and are doing a on the job training at the moment. Getting to know the animals in the Reserve will be a easy task:
Now at the end of the dry season, there are lots of sightings of elephants, buffalo, duiker, kudu and warthog. It seems they are getting finally used to all the activities in the Forest Reserve.
At the same time is the construction work going ahead. The roofing of the buildings has started and will hopefully be ready before the first rains arrive. The scouts are looking forward to moving into their new homes after staying for so many years in basic grass huts - thanks to the great support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who has supported the whole Thuma Project in so many ways in the past years.
While we enjoy frequent elephants sightings - even from Base Camp - for the past months the problem of elephants raiding adjoining farmland along the eastern boundary has increased, which have led to an incident, resulting in the death of a villager from Mphinzi area, almost 3 km outside the Forest Reserve, recently. WAG agreed with the District Commissioner, the DoF and DNPW to support the local community to raise funds to reinstall a solar-powered electric fence to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in future. WAG International has already started with the fundraising for the fence. Please support this project so we can erect the fence as soon as possible to reduce the problems for the local, surrounding community.
Snare collection on patrol
Through the volunteer programme Thuma has accommodated five volunteers over the past seven weeks supporting WAG on different tasks, like at the construction site, surveys and joining the scout team on snare patrols. Since a snare bounty for every snare or tool of tree- and bamboo cutters has been reintroduced, between 26 May and 11 July, 208 wire snare have been collected, 7 panga knives, 3 axes and one big saw for ripping planks confiscated.
In addition has been a GPS monitoring system for patrols in Thuma and Dedza-Salima Forest Reserves implemented.
Snare collection on patrol WAG scouts and volunteer near Mphinzi
After permission has been granted by the Department of Forestry for the construction of the new volunteer and scout accommodation, offices and storerooms as well as the Heritage Centre, construction started immediately. Most work has been contracted to building teams, workers and carpenters from surrounding villages, which brings substantial income into their communities. The buildings are constructed using the local "mdindo" method which is pounding clay soil into a movable mould whereby under ideal weather conditions each building grows by about 30 cm daily. Georg Kloeble, Trustee and former chairman of WAG Malawi is supervising the construction. The Volunteer accommodation will consist of six spacious rooms with a separate kitchen and adjoining dining-veranda which hopefully will also attract paying visitors from Lilongwe. All this is happening through a generous grant by the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service, who is supporting the project for several years.
At the same time the site for the heritage centre has now been identified to fit well into the new camp settings and construction will start soon. We are all looking forward to this, since it will be a valuable contribution to show and explain the projects work and will also display found artifacts of former villages and settlements that existed in the area before Thuma was turned into a protected area in 1926.
Conservation should bring direct benefits to those who live with the wildlife in order to be successful. One of our main objectives for this year is therefore to increase our extension work efforts in the surrounding communities.
Apart from the fact that the majority of our staff are recruited from the surrounding villages, we also engage the local villagers as much as possible in other work inside the reserve. This year we have received a significant grant from W.A.G. Support Europe to upgrade our 10 kilometer long main road from the entrance of the reserve to our base camp. The work is distributed through the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the communities. 85 Percent of the money earned by the CBOs goes directly to the member of the CBO who is doing the work (as a welcome extra income during those lean months before the harvests in April-May). The remaining 15% stays with the CBOs which enables the CBOs to conduct their social and environmental programmes in the community: i.e. supporting the elderly, orphans and the chronically sick plus raising environmental awareness.
Proposal writing by the members of the CBO from Mvululu village.
This year we further target to establish a more continuous co-operation between W.A.G. (volunteers and staff) and the local CBOs by working together in developing other income generating activities (IGAs) for the CBOs. Volunteer Hanna from Finland and the CBOs are currently working together in writing proposals for a soap making project and a mushroom farming project.
If you wish to sponsor one of these community project, please contact us. Your assistance will be highly appreciated!
The 2008 mammal survey was the third consecutive survey and has produced again some very interesting data, especially since this latest survey makes it possible to compare the 2008 data with the 2007 and 2006 data and look for trends. And we are pleased to see that the 2008 survey data confirms the positive trends which we believed to observe during our patrols throughout the year.
A summary of the Thuma F.R. Mammal Survey 2008 Report can be found on: www.africanconservation.org/dcforum/DCForumID5/454.html
The full Thuma F.R. Mammal Survey 2008 Report can be downloaded from: www.wag-malawi.org/ThumaFR_Mammal_Survey_2008.pdf