- December 2008:
November the Sunday
school from Salima, 25 children plus teachers, visited Thuma F.R. to enjoy
the bush and to learn more about conservation.
On the picture to the right you see game ranger Namani, well experienced
in conservation education, explaining to the kids the origin of the
different bones in our Thuma 'museum'.
December W.A.G. sponsored the two wildlife clubs of Mphinzi village and
Mvululu village (East of Thuma F.R.) to organize a tree planting day in
their communities. During this day every house(hold) was given a tree by
the club members to plant close to the house and of course the benefits of
(planting) trees was discussed within the communities.
member spend an approximately 25 uninterrupted days/month in our base camp
in Thuma F.R. and it is this continuous presence inside the reserve that
contributes significantly to the successful
protection of Thuma F.R. and its wildlife: our
view is that you
can't protect wildlife effectively from behind a desk in the capital city.
We are therefore proud and happy to announce that the
United States Fish and Wildlife service has approved our additional
proposal in which W.A.G. has requested funding for the
of improved accommodation and workspace structures for the Wildlife Action Group in Thuma Forest Reserve". This means that in the
coming months we can start the replacement of our old "grasshut"
accommodation and workspace structures by healthier, safer and more
durable structures. The structures will be constructed by using local,
largely traditional, construction methods which will have a minimum impact
on the environment and which will
make the structures fully blend in with the natural surroundings.
Thomas Toepfer and scouts on a hike
in Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve.
September Thomas Toepfer from the German organization Rettet die Elefanten
Afrikas e.V. (R.E.A.; i.e. "Save the African Elephant",
Forest Reserve and Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve. R.E.A. is
funding W.A.G.'s "Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve Eco-system Rehabilitation Project".
The main goal of
this project, which started in October 2007, is to increase the size of
the area in this part of Malawi where elephants and other wildlife
experience real protection (i.e. not only protection 'on paper'). The need
for this project has become clear in the last years since, due to the
protection elephants experience in Thuma F.R., the numbers of elephants in
the reserve have increased significantly; both by reproduction as by
immigration from the surrounding 'unprotected' reserves. Thuma F.R. has
now the second highest density of elephants in Malawi (only after Liwonde
N.P.) and in order to avoid too much (future) pressure by elephants on the
habitats in Thuma F.R. the need to expand the total area of protection in
this part of Malawi is obvious. And fortunately: R.E.A. is more than
willing to assist W.A.G. with this.
the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov)
who has been funding our conservation work in Thuma F.R. in the last 24
months through their African Elephant Conservation Fund, has decided to
continue to fund W.A.G.'s operations for another year. In one word:
those who understand German, an interesting interview with Kristina Raesel,
former volunteer and current chairlady of W.A.G.
Support can be
read on the website of journalist Ilona
the bush getting more and more open now, June
to December are the best hiking and game viewing months.
For more information about visiting Thuma F.R. please follow the link: Visiting
This month we
have made a start with the third consecutive annual mammal survey in Thuma
F.R. (see also January news for last year's Mammal Survey Report). During
the survey, teams of volunteers and scouts survey each of the 205 square kilometer
blocks, recording all signs (i.e. sightings, droppings, prints, burrows
etc.) which indicate the presence of the specific mammal species in those blocks.
For the months August-November we are still looking for volunteers who
like to participate in the mammal survey and other activities: for more
information please go to: Volunteer
May is also
the first month after the rainy season that the first drying parts of
Thuma and Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve will be burned through 'early
burning'. Early burning is an important management tool with which to
avoid the otherwise inevitable occurrence of extremely hot and destructive fires at the end of
the dry season. When implemented correctly, early burning contributes significantly to the preservation of wildlife areas (see also
Volunteer Roger painting a
map of Thuma F.R..
and April are key months when it comes to road maintenance inside the
reserve: the heavy eroding rains have come to an end but the soil is still
relatively wet and therefore soft enough to be tilled (when completely dry
the soil becomes as hard as concrete). The Wildlife Action Group Support
(our European branch: www.wildlife-malawi.com),
provided W.A.G. with the funding to maintain and upgrade approximately 2
kilometers of road inside Thuma F.R.. Villagers from the communities East
of Thuma F.R. provided the required labour and by that earned a welcome
(extra) income during these last 2 months before harvesting time when
their food supplies from the previous year are running towards their end.
these upgraded roads seem to have an attractive power on elephants. It is
well known that elephants like to use specific tracks to travel from A to
B within their home range. These tracks, which provide the easiest way to
move around, are often in use for generations and are part of the
collective knowledge of elephants in the area. The elephant, being of an
inquisitive nature and always open minded for new opportunities,
apparently has no problem including (new) manmade roads into their
elephant road infrastructure. They often use our roads when zigzagging
from one side of the road to the other while foraging, including the
'new' roads, notwithstanding the fresh smell of human labour (sweat!).
And we, well, we are of course happy to share, despite the occasional tree
that they like to push across the road.
to the left: Elephant
foot prints on the recently upgraded road.
has donated funds to W.A.G. to build a heritage
centre in Thuma F.R.. Volunteer Alice Mostert, who works for &Samhoud,
has been collecting data about the history of Thuma F.R. and the
communities that were once located in Thuma before it was gazetted a
forest reserve (in 1926).
In the heritage centre the story of the history
of the reserve will be told and information will be displayed about the
animal and plant species in Thuma F.R. and the overall importance of the
conservation of areas like Thuma F.R.. The primary target group will be
school children from the surrounding communities who will be invited to
visit the reserve and enjoy the bush.
The construction of the heritage centre will start after the end of the
rainy season this year.
and February are the wettest months of the year in Malawi. Especially this
year, a huge amount of rain has been fallen in the region. The bush is
swiftly growing towards its annual climax with grasses over 2 meters high,
and hearing takes over sight as being the most important primary sense in
the field. The abundance of food, water and cover makes it some of the
most premium months of the year for wildlife.
||In 2007 we
conducted the Mammal Survey in Thuma Forest Reserve for the second
consecutive year. Field staff and volunteers collected over 1,500 species
recordings and the data show a positive trend in the mammal species
distribution in the reserve over the last two years. A full account
of the results and conclusions are presented in the Thuma Forest
Reserve Mammal Survey 2007 Report which can be downloaded here.