On the 23rd May 2018, two of the Lilayi Nursery orphans, Njanji and Kakaro, graduated from the Lilayi Elephant Nursery and began the 10 hour trip to the Kafue Release Facility to undertake the next stage of their rehabilitation. As the oldest orphans of the nursery herd, at 2 years 7 months (Njanji) and 2 years 4 months (Kakaro), they are starting to outgrow the nursery facility, both physically and socially. Moving the pair to the Kafue Release Facility will allow them to integrate into a bigger herd of 12 orphans, all of whom are older than them.

This is a significant stage in their rehabilitation as they move into a much more spacious and wild environment, where they will learn important behaviours from the older orphans, along with anti-predator skills which are vital for their successful release. Njanji and Kakaro will also be reunited with Muchichili and Nkala who were translocated from the nursery in November 2017.

After arriving safely at the release facility, Njanji and Kakaro met their 12 new companions through the fence on the 24th May and then joined the herd for a bush walk; the start of an extremely important stage in their rehabilitation, exposing them to sounds, smells and sights that they have not experienced before.

Of the 12 orphans at the release facility, ten are milk-weaned orphans who are feeding independently, but still require the security of the boma overnight, and two are release phase elephants who come and go, joining their surrogate siblings as and when they choose. Through January to March, the two release phase orphans, Chamilandu and Batoka, stayed overnight in the boma only five times, and on the other 85 occasions, spent the night out. This shows their gain in confidence and the will to live independent lives roaming in the wild. These older elephants are all monitored by satellite collar to understand their movements when they are out of sight and to correlate these with evidence of wild elephant presence. In the past year, the incidence of wild elephant and orphan herd interactions have significantly increased and the oldest female Chamilandu, at 12 years old, has been witnessed being mounted by a wild bull.

Three orphans, Mulisani, Kasewe and Mkaliva, remain at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery. This will be the perfect opportunity for Mulisani to establish his dominance as the oldest male, as he has struggled with his confidence since he was rescued.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild has supported the Elephant Orphanage Project since 2010. Since we first started support, we have donated £40,000 to assist with the rescue, rehabilitation and release of the elephants. In May 2018, we donated a further £7,500 to continue helping them with their efforts; £5,000 towards elephant care and £2,500 to support the wage of Aaron, who has been one of the elephant keepers since 2012. We are also working to raise a further £2,500 to support Aaron and if you would like to help, please donate here: https://www.actionforthewild.org/support-us/donate  

Action for the Wild has been supporting the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) since 2012, having donated £23,744 to date. Our donation of £4,970 in 2017 was put towards an otter workshop in Laos in early April 2018.

The workshop in Laos marks IOSF’s fifth in Asia, having already held successful workshops in Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China.

Otters are one of Asia’s most overlooked medium-sized mammals and yet they are at the forefront of the illegal wildlife trade, together with tigers and leopards – for every tiger skin found there are at least 10 otter skins and one haul in Lhasa found 778 otter skins!

Laos, Myanmar, and China are a major hub for this illegal trade. In some parts of Asia, otters (particularly Asian small-clawed otters) are taken from the wild for the pet trade. This trade for both fur and pets is seriously threatening the survival of otters and in some areas, they have become locally extinct.

In Asia there are very few scientists working on otters and their habitats. IOSF is therefore working to provide this series of training workshops to train more people in otter field techniques. 36 people attended the Laos workshop and most came from Laos, with six trainers from Sumatra (Indonesia), Taiwan, Sri Lanka, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

There are two IUCN-listed vulnerable species, Asian small-clawed and smooth-coated otters, in Laos, and, during the second day of the workshop, participants went into the field  and to their surprise also found Eurasian otter spraint and tracks. IOSF believes this is the first time it has been recorded here and it confirms the presence of the species in Laos.

As part of the workshop, a Laos Otter Network was set up, which will be linked to the IOSF Asian Otter Conservation Network. Priorities for future work were identified as:

  • Field surveys to obtain more data on distribution and species;
  • Social surveys to assess human/otter conflict and gather more information on distribution of otters;
  • Illegal trade to look further at the scale of the problem in terms of furs, body parts and pets;
  • Education and public awareness.

Results from the workshop highlighted how fundamentally important it is to do base line surveys in this country; to prepare and implement a practical conservation plan for the future.

Action for the Wild is pleased to be supporting the N/a’an ku sê Foundation again in 2018, pledging £4,936, which will bring our total support to £29,145 since 2012. Our past donations have been put to use by the N/a’an ku sê Rapid Response Unit and research teams helping to purchase collars for tracked animals, such as cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena, or purchase valuable research equipment.

Between September 2017 and February 2018, the Rapid Response Unit received 27 conflict calls. The majority of the calls concerned leopards, although other conflict situations involving cheetah, brown hyena, caracal, genet, baboon and African wild dogs were reported. On occasion, the carnivores have been captured and, where willing, the farmers have released them back on site with or without a collar, however sadly, on occasion, the farmers will shoot the carnivore before the Rapid Response team can intervene. This is not the ideal situation, as it does not solve a potential conflict situation, as, due to the spatial and social behaviour of leopards, another leopard will invariably move in to take over the vacant territory.

Some farmers are willing to collar a carnivore and monitor its movements on their farmland. If the carnivore then comes close to their livestock, they can implement better protection measures until the carnivore moves on. The Rapid Response Unit at N/a’an ku sê is continuing its daily routine of updating farmers about one cheetah and four leopards who are currently GPS collared. In addition to the daily farmer updates about the collared carnivores, the Rapid Response Unit has been on the road conducting farmer outreach. The unit covered close to 2,000 km during February 2018, travelling back and forth to conduct outreach, training, and to initiate a new population density and ecological survey at a new site focussing on leopard, cheetah, and spotted hyaena conflict that the farmers have been experiencing within the conservancy.

Action for the Wild’s funds have also been used to purchase a radio collar for a spotted hyena male, Mbembe. Since the start of the spotted hyaena study in July 2016, the research team have identified 17 individual spotted hyaenas and their movements in the area belonging either to two family clans, or being nomadic males through the use of motion-sensor cameras. They have also recorded and mapped out 24 confirmed kill and 13 confirmed scavenge sites from the local spotted hyaenas, and cross referenced it to the estimated densities of the main prey species in the area.

In January 2018, the team designed and built a ‘hyaena-exclusion’ kraal (overnight pen) using only materials available on most farms. The idea is to prove that reinforcing existing kraals, or even building new ones, with a proven hyaena safe design, can effectively reduce livestock losses to spotted hyaena depredation without costly livestock guarding. A kraal was built at the end of January using only old fencing materials and designed based on observed spotted hyaena behaviour. The first two trial nights proved that the north clan could not access the enticing bait within. In February 2018, the testing of the ‘hyaena proof’ kraal continued with several designs including using thorn branches along the base, and shade netting to mask visual cues and determine the hyaenas’ reaction to the different deterrents. The tests have thus far proven that, although spotted hyaenas are tenacious and determined, once they learn that they cannot get into the kraal, their attempts become shorter and less frequent, thus proving the kraal’s effectiveness. A meeting was held with several stakeholders to explain the conflict mitigation work and findings; a positive first step in working with the south farming community.

In 2018, N/a’an ku sê aim to collar and release an African wild dog through their Mangetti research project, with the aim of gathering crucial data on this endangered species and further develop conflict mitigation strategies to halt the decline of the species. Our 2018 funds will enable N/a’an ku sê to purchase one GPS Iridium collar for an African wild dog, 10 camera traps for use across the research sites, and one laptop for the Mangetti research site to download GPS coordinates and analyse camera trap data on African wild dogs.

One of our chosen projects for 2018 funding support for Action for the Wild is the work of Free the Bears in Laos. In March, we made our pledged 2018 donation of £5000, bringing our total donated to date to Free the Bears to £36,000.

Our donation will be put towards improving the quarantine facilities at the new Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary in Laos, through the construction of two outdoor play areas within the existing quarantine area, and the purchase of enrichment items for within this area.

Bear rescueThis donation is all the more vital as bear rescue numbers 54 and 55 arrived at the sanctuary in March. The two moon bears were rescued from a province in northern Laos. According to the owners, they are between 2 – 3 years old and have only ever been fed bananas.  They are sadly stunted, emaciated and the size of an 8-9 month old bear.  On arrival at the sanctuary, they received a full health assessment and will commence rehabilitation. 

Our sponsored outdoor playpens will enable the quarantined bears to get exercise, enrichment and their first experience of an outdoor environment. These outdoor areas will be more open to the elements whilst still being partially covered by the roof of the quarantine structure and allow the bears their first forays at using bathing pools, climbing structures and natural caves, whilst being open to the sights and sounds of the sanctuary and offering more space.

The sponsored enrichment items, such as hammocks, feeders, enrichment balls and kongs will go a long way to making an instant impact on the psychological and physical welfare of these animals.

In 2017, Action for the Wild donated £5,000 to help build a brand quarantine facility for a new bear sanctuary in Laos

Free the Bears has been working with the Luang Prabang Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO) to provide a safe sanctuary for bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Laos since 2003.

Over the past 15 years, over 50 Moon bears and Sun bears have been confiscated from poachers and wildlife traders, or have been donated by people who had previously kept them as trophy pets. In 2017 alone, 10 bears were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, whilst efforts to end the practise of bear bile farming in Laos continue to move ahead

At the end of 2016, 25 hectares (60 acres) of land was purchased, which will eventually house up to 150 rescued bears, as well as allowing for the short-term housing of other selected species that are commonly seized from illegal wildlife traders.

During 2017, Free the Bears achieved a number of significant milestones all aimed at advancing the development of the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary (LPWS).  A new bear house and 2,000m2 enclosure was completed in September 2017 to re-home 7 Moon bears from the overcrowded Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Unfortunately, the arrival of a further 10 rescued bears in Laos during 2017 means that efforts need to be redoubled to increase the holding facilities for bears at the new sanctuary to reduce pressure on the old centre, thus a new cub hand rearing / nursery area is also under construction to care for the rescued cubs.

Action for the Wild helped cover 50% of the costs of construction of Phase 1 of a brand new quarantine facility for the new sanctuary.  The team have built the foundations, frame and roof of the quarantine facility, a relatively simple but highly effective structure designed initially to be equipped to be able to house the bears rescued from the first closure of a bear bile farm in Laos. The addition of these facilities continue to expand Free the Bears’ ability to assist the Lao Government in protecting bears and other animals threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. This first stage of the quarantine facility has been completed in preparation for the arrival of around 20 bears from the first bile farm closure in Laos, hopefully in early 2018.

An area of the Leuser Ecosystem the size of 75 football fields, in Cinta Raja, was illegally turned into oil palm plantations more than 20 years ago.

With help from the £5,000 donation from Action for the Wild, the Sumatran Orangutan Society’s target was to cut down at least 9,000 oil palms, and then restore the land by planting thousands of rainforest tree seedlings, reclaiming vital habitat for orangutans and the countless other species that share their forest home.

Between 22-28 February 2017, more than 11,000 oil palms were cut down on the land at Cinta Raja that was being reclaimed from illegal encroachers.

In April, the field cabin and seedling nursery was built, ready to begin the second phase of the project – ecosystem restoration. The tree nursery has capacity for 30,000 seedlings to be nurtured before planting

With the support of the local community, more than 40,000 indigenous rainforest seedlings have been nurtured in the organic tree nursery. Planting began in June 2017, and the total number of trees planted to date is 33,000, representing 30 species, over 30 hectares.

There are 6 camera traps installed in the Cinta Raja restoration site. As the seedlings here are only around 6 months old, they have not seen orangutans and other larger species returning to the site yet. However, the camera traps have captured images of pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques, leopard cats, and palm civets!

When an area of rainforest is destroyed by people or companies who want to use the land to grow crops, no matter how many trees are planted, the most essential element of successful rainforest restoration is the true, deep engagement of the communities who live next to the forest in becoming its protectors, and defending its borders from future threats. So, just as they plant and nurture trees, the team in Sumatra are also putting down deep roots in these communities, transforming them into conservation ambassadors, and guardians of the ecosystem.

The Orangutan Foundation is working to save orangutans by protecting their tropical forest habitat, working with local communities and promoting research and education.

In 2017, Action for the Wild donated £6,000 for a veterinarian’s salary and associated costs necessary to perform a number of orangutan rescues and veterinary procedures.

The Lamandau Wildlife Reserve operates an orangutan soft release programme and receives orangutans translocated from threatened areas, such as community land and fragmented sections of forest.

The Orangutan Foundation’s main priority is habitat protection and they operate 8 guard posts within the reserve, and run a forest restoration programme to reinstate currently degraded areas of the reserve affected by forest fires. In 2017, 22,000 tree saplings were planted out in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

The Orangutan Foundation is supporting over 300 reintroduced orangutans with regular health check-ups, monitoring and protection. They employ 30 full time staff to work within 5 release camps and currently have 10 orangutans in the soft release programme.

In 2017, 14 orangutans and 28 other animal species were rescued and handed over to the Foundation and translocated onto the reserve. The rise in animals handed over after being kept illegally as pets is thought to be a result of habitat loss, forcing humans and animals to live in close proximity to each other.  It is hoped that the number of orangutans in such situations will decrease with workshops to raise awareness of the laws protecting these threatened species, and support of the new Head of Wildlife for Central Kalimantan.

The number of rescues of stranded orangutans this year has been lower than previous years, however, habitat loss is still ongoing and stranded orangutans continue to need help, with a December rescue involving a female orangutan stranded in a patch of forest within a tourist beach resort.  This is the first time an orangutan has been rescued from a nearby beach, but luckily, for this orangutan, she was taken by boat to the protected Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. As soon as the cage door was opened she clambered straight up the nearest tree and disappeared into the forest canopy.

Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild began supporting the Red Panda Network forest guardian scheme in 2014, joining forces with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) European Endangered Species Breeding Programme to help fund Forest Guardians to work within and protect the red panda project area. In 2017, the Red Panda Network sponsored 72 Forest Guardians, and of these, EAZA funding is supporting 8 of them.

Expanding the Forest Guardian Team and Anti-Poaching Network

The Forest Guardian team now has 72 members and the community-based red panda monitoring and outreach programmes have expanded to new locations in Eastern Nepal. Members receive capacity building opportunities including red panda monitoring, anti-poaching investigation and nature guide trainings. Forest Guardians also play a key role in an anti-poaching network which has patrolled and investigated 23 Community Forests in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor. They locate and dismantle snares and report poachers to local enforcement agencies.

Restoring Habitat and Improving Local Livelihoods

In 2017, 58 local families received 4,850 native seedlings which can be sold and provide alternative income generation opportunities. Over 4,000 seedlings were planted in Community Forests of Taplejung district. These young plants will help restore degraded forest identified as core red panda habitat. Three locally managed nurseries were also established containing fodder and red panda food species.

Threat to Red Pandas – Unsustainable Herding Practices

Livestock herding is one of the major drivers of red panda habitat loss and degradation in Eastern Nepal. Livestock not only degrade habitat quality as they graze in the forest but directly compete with red pandas as they eat bamboo and other red panda food species. In 2017, 57 livestock herders and Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members attended two red panda conservation workshops. Sustainable herding practices are also supported by providing fodder seedlings to local herders. This will encourage stall feeding of livestock and reduce the need for forest grazing. Herders in Eastern Nepal have received 1,600 seedlings.

Through its Tiger Health Programme, Wildlife Vets International provides clinical services, on-site training, disease investigation and some research activities for a variety of wild tiger projects in different countries.

In 2017, ACTION FOR THE WILD donated £5,000 to start producing a web-based information service, the ‘Wild Tiger Health Centre’, which will disseminate up-to-date information on tiger health issues, provide basic online training and establish connectivity between tiger vets

Wildlife vets in range countries who are tasked with dealing with wild tiger issues do not have access to relevant information necessary for their job.

The website will include modules on basic tiger biology, disease in wild tigers, field anaesthesia, clinical aspects, sampling and testing for health screening, pathology, parasitology, toxicology, mitigating tiger-human conflicts, translocation, principles of reintroduction, rehabilitation of injured and orphaned tigers, literature relevant to veterinary aspects of wild tigers, and a contact list of experienced vets and biologists that are willing to help others.

Throughout 2017, progress has been made on an offline version of the website, in the hope that the website will become live by mid 2018. Wildlife Vets International intends to populate the website progressively, but will start with a review of disease in wild tigers. Developing a “one-stop” web based hub for information will go a long way to supporting the field vets and increasing their capabilities, confidence and usefulness to tiger conservation.

One aspect of VulPro’s conservation work is a conservation breeding programme, which continues to grow in success and experience each year. The 2017 breeding programme success rate increased by 30% compared to last year; producing 10 fledglings out of 16 breeding pairs, compared to 2016’s 5 fledglings out of 15 breeding pairs. The 2017 offspring will remain at VulPro for another 8 months inside the rehabilitation enclosure before being transported to their release site at the Nooitgedacht Cape Vulture Breeding Colony in the Gauteng Province, South Africa.

The 8th November 2017 was an amazing day for both VulPro and vulture conservation; 35 conservation bred and rehabilitated vultures were released from their Nooitgedacht release enclosure. This is the largest release of its kind on a global scale; a first for Africa and for the species. All of the vultures have been fitted with wing tags and tracking devices to monitor them post-release.

Prior to release, the birds were kept in a large enclosure on top of Magaliesberg Ridge, the highest point of Magaliesberg Mountains, for six months to acclimatise them to the conditions. By acclimatising them to the area, it is hoped that these birds will join the wild Cape vulture breeding colony nearby. This colony became extinct in the late 1960s, but in 1991 the first Cape vulture pair bred here again. There are now 150 breeding pairs in the colony.

The release group included 32 Cape vultures, two white-backed vultures and one lappet-faced vulture. Both captive bred and rehabilitated birds are still around the breeding colony. Some have left, even as far as the Botswana border and returned to the colony.

Data from the release will determine the way forward for VulPro’s conservation breeding programme and future releases and thus, data will need to be analysed before further release plans are made.

See the fantastic moment of the release here:

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