In an excellent example of teamwork between the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the Tikki Hywood Trust, and the Bubye Valley Conservancy, this pangolin was successfully released on the same day as it was found and confiscated whilst being smuggled across the border into South Africa, where it would have been killed for its scales. We are happy to report that this gentle and beautiful little creature was let go in an awesome (and secret) area where there is plenty of food and potential mates.
Pangolins are interesting little creatures. They are the only mammal in the world covered in scales, and they don’t have any teeth and cannot chew. The African pangolin’s tongue is as long as their body, and they use it to collect and consume about 200,000 termites and ants each day. Mothers carry their babies on their backs, and like other intelligent and sentient creatures (i.e. humans, elephants and dolphins), their teats are between their front limbs, rather than at the back. They are also one of the most hunted and smuggled animals on earth.
It is estimated that over 100,000 pangolins are poached from the wild each year and sent to Asian markets, where their meat is a delicacy, and their scales – which are made out of keratin, the exact same substance as rhino horn and human fingernails – are worth over US$ 500 per kilogram.
There are eight extant pangolin species, of which four occur in each of Africa and Asia. Six pangolin species are classified as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the other two are ‘Critically Endangered’ (both of which occur in Asia). As Asian pangolins dwindle, Africa has become the new target for the illegal market.
Zimbabwe has just one pangolin species – the ground pangolin Manis temminckii – but we also have the world’s strongest penalty for the illegal possession of any pangolin, which is a US$ 5,000 fine and nine years in jail (Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14). Zimbabwe placed pangolins on its Specially Protected Wildlife List in 1975.
For more information about pangolins, other endangered species, and animals simply in need of help (and how you can), have a look at the Tikki Hywood Trust website.
Article and Photos: Byron du Preez
After feeding on a kill with Emily and her pride, Winston goes for an early morning drink at Matombosa Pan – and gets a bit startled by the scolding of a Blacksmith Plover Hoplopterus armatus.
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. 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.
Sabi; Mazunga’s bully-boy!
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: email@example.com
The Bubye Valley Conservancy and Mazunga Safaris are members of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ)