Clarification on the proposed fundraising raffle
The intended raffle was the sole initiative of a professional hunter who has dedicated his career to conservation and the better understanding of wildlife. This fundraising initiative had nothing whatsoever to do with either the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) or the Directors of the Bubye Valley Conservancy. The ecological research conducted on the Bubye Valley Conservancy is independent and unbiased, and completely separate from the management of the Conservancy.
The Bubye Valley Conservancy is proud of their immense conservation achievements through some of the most difficult times in Zimbabwe’s history. They are also honoured that the professional hunters who work here would spend their personal time and effort independently attempting to raise funds that will ensure continued unbiased research on such a globally significant lion population.
By 1994, when the Bubye Valley Conservancy was formed, all of the lions (and rhinos, and elephants, and buffalo etc.) here had been eradicated by cattle ranchers. Lions were reintroduced in 1999, and today, less than 20 years later, the Bubye Valley Conservancy now boasts one of Zimbabwe’s largest lion populations, with close to 500 lions, at one of the highest densities in Africa. It is also no coincidence that the Bubye Valley Conservancy protects the world’s third largest black rhino population and is home to important populations of many African wildlife species. Scientific research is critical to understanding and managing these important wildlife populations.
Tuesday 05 January 2016
In the early hours of the morning, the Mazunga pride killed and ate a wildebeest right in front of the research base. All that was left was the skull and spine on the road, and a few bones in the bushes. We haven’t seen this pride in a while, so it great to see that they’re still around.
At sunrise this morning we tracked Winston from Mutobwe Pan north into the paddock where he rested under a mopane tree. Despite being one-up, he is still in excellent condition, though hasn’t eaten for a few days – so will hopefully make a kill soon.
After spending some time with Winston, we left him and went to find Emily and her pride, who were also resting in some shade in an attempt to escape from the heat. The pride was looking good – the young cubs are growing fast, and the subadult males are looking magnificent. If Geronimo was still around to back up Winston, then they would have had pushed them out already. No doubt the incumbent dominant males will make that a priority.
Article and Photos: Byron du Preez
The sun sets on a King
It is with great sadness that we report the death of one of our favourite lions. Geronimo, Winston’s brother and coalition partner, died of injuries sustained during a fight with other lions.
Geronimo was a key study-animal in the Bubye Valley Conservation Research project, where he featured prominently in two doctoral research studies. He was first spotted at the end of 2011, when he and Winston took over the Matombosa area, displacing Asambe and Mpofu and pushing them eastwards. Geronimo was first collared in March 2012, and was recollared several times over the years to maintain a continual spatio-temporal data set. Winston and Geronimo dominated the area around the research base for the last four years, and we saw and photographed them on an almost daily basis (not to mention the hundreds of photos recorded during three camera-trap surveys), and heard them roaring most nights. Geronimo also had a temperature logger, an activity logger, and an audio logger fitted to him… There are not many, if any, lions that we know more about!
Geronimo could sometimes, however, be quite a frustrating lion; he liked his personal space, and would always be the first to get up and walk away when he saw us. This was particularly challenging whilst trying to dart him. We often joked about his lack of courage – but the truth was that he had plenty, and was just plain better than us.
It’s not easy to describe just how much Geronimo meant to the research and the researchers, but they say that a picture is worth a thousand words…
The leftmost picture in the panel above is one of the first photos taken of Geronimo when he was about four and a half years old and had just taken over Matombosa with Winston. He was so cocky and confident, and we knew straight away that he was one to watch. The photo in the middle was taken just last month, and was one of our favourite moments spent with those two. We sat with them for hours that day, all comfortable with each other’s company. Finally, the last photo is of Geronimo walking away, as he did on so many occasions before – only this time he isn’t coming back…
We will miss you, old friend. Famba zvakanaka.
Article and Photos: Byron du Preez
One of the last photos of Winston and Geronimo together.
Article and Photo: Byron du Preez
Pride Male; at the aptly named ‘Shumba’ Pan
Since lions Panthera leo were re-introduced to BVC in 1999 the population has grown rapidly. Today BVC is home to approximately 20% of Zimbabwe’s lions. This is not just the largest continuous population of lion in Zimbabwe but also the densest. Due to the importance of this population for the species’ conservation, and the unique management challenges associated with a large fenced population of lion, a long-term conservation research project was established 2009.
The BVC lion research project Cruiser – kindly donated by Harris Junell
Seventeen lions were initially introduced to BVC in 1999. Ten years later, in 2009, when carnivore population surveys were initiated, the lion abundance was estimated to be at around 280 individuals. It has continued to grow. Today there are estimated to be in excess of 400 lions on BVC, which is the largest population in the country.
Black rhinos Diceros bicornis were first introduced to BVC in 2002, and the population growth rate was accelerated by continual translocations from other areas that were unable to protect their rhino populations as poaching escalated during the mid 2000’s.
Sabi; Mazunga’s bully-boy!
In the face of the renewed rhino-poaching onslaught in Zimbabwe, only the big privately owned conservancies are able to maintain positive rhino population growth rates.
Our global impact: Click on this link to listen to the BBC interview with Bubye Valley Conservancy’s General Manager, Blondie Leathem, regarding successful conservation in modern Africa…
A Legacy of Conservation
The Bubye Valley Conservancy is one of the most amazing conservation successes of recent times. Up until the ’90s this former cattle ranching area had systematically eradicated wildlife for competing with, transmitting disease to, and preying on the livestock. However, BVC is now dedicated to conservation; and since its formation only 20 years ago, currently boasts one of the world’s largest black rhino populations, Zimbabwe’s largest lion population, and a flourishing elephant population.
The 3,740 km2 conservancy (larger than the King Ranch in Texas) is situated in the lowveld region of southern Zimbabwe. This is one of the hottest and driest areas of Zimbabwe, with summer temperatures regularly exceeding 40 degrees C. Mean annual rainfall recorded over the last 45 years is just 347 mm, and the area is therefore not suitable for agriculture. Although the annual rainfall is low, BVC represents a high nutrient ecosystem that supports large numbers of medium sized herbivores, particularly blue wildebeest and zebra, and as a result, high densities of predators can potentially be sustained.
The Bubye Valley Conservancy; the wildlife at Chamakundawa
If you would like to book a safari at the Bubye Valley Conservancy, please contact one of the following operators representing Tracy Safari Adventures, a registered booking agent:
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Contact Tracy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bubye Valley Conservancy and Mazunga Safaris are members of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ)