MATOBO CONSERVATION SOCIETY
NEWSLETTER 093 – AUGUST 2015
1 – MATOPOS RANKED IN TOP 50 PARKS IN AFRICA
SafariBookings.com conducted an in-depth analysis of 3,008 reviews to put to rest the question of which park was best for African safaris. With an overall rating of 4.89 out of 5, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania came out as the clear winner. Rounding up the top 3 were MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa, and Okavango Delta in Botswana. And included in the list was the Matopos National Park – OK at place 50.
In total, 138 parks of the 8 major safari countries were in consideration for a place in the top 50. The analysis was based on 3,008 park reviews collected through the SafariBookings website. Of them, 2,234 reviews were contributed by safari tourists from 63 countries around the world. The remaining 774 reviews were written by renowned industry experts, most of whom are guidebook authors working for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint. Go to https://www.safaribookings.com/blog/258 for more information.
The information on the Matopos was not entirely accurate, omitted the enormous rock art heritage and did not mention that it is a World Heritage Site. Obviously we have some work to do on promoting our Park! But all told, it was a positive report.
2 – MATOBO PARK NEWS
Fire breaks have been cut, and extensive cutting of thatching grass, and baling has been taking place. There is some debate as to whether or not this conforms to the mandate of our Parks, but in the absence of large grazers it does maintain some of the grassland. Cutting of reeds for thatching however exposes water to evaporation, and impacts on birdlife – factors that we do not believe have been adequately attended to.
The Park had an opportunity to restock with 150 wildebeest, but we understand that this has been deferred due to a foot and mouth outbreak in the donor area. We need to get grazers into the park to address the excess grass.
At the same time repair work has been carried out on some roads within the Park, and access to Toghwana via Mtsheleli is now possible. Repairs are underway on the tennis court at Maleme Rest Camp, and there are plans for a swimming pool in time. These are good recreational additions to the Camp.
3 – NATIONAL MUSEUMS
National Museums and Monuments continue to be active in the hills with management plans being drafted for a number of key sites. We look forward to their implementation.
4 – WORLD HERITAGE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
The Management Committee, under the chairmanship of the MCS, held its scheduled July meeting, which included some valuable and interesting discussion.
5 – www.MATOBO.ORG
The Matobo Conservation Society also has a Facebook page. So look us up and see what’s happening.
6 – SUBSCRIPTIONS
You are reminded that subscriptions for the year 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016 fall due on 30 September. Please ensure that your subs are up to date. Your committee has decided to maintain the rates at their current level, but will be writing to members who are in arrears, where after the members will be deleted from the records. It is important that we show our commitment by meeting our dues. Whilst we encourage new members, we seem to lose contact with others who remain in Bulawayo.
US$ 20 Individual/Family
US$ 5 Special Member (Pensioner/Student)
7 – NEXT EVENT
Date 6th September 2015
Venue Stone Hills
Meet 8:15am to leave by 8:30am, Churchill Arms Car Park
Travel All vehicles, trucks preferred.
Details Provide own chairs, tables, meals and drinks. Don’t forget your hat!
We will be travelling to the far western reaches of the Matopos, via Marula, to visit the home and conservancy of Richard and Bookie Peek. There is a fascinating “balloon tree” that we visited previously, but may be on the itinerary again. Richard will also give a talk on birdlife – and this is not to be missed!
8 – REPORT BACK
Our last outing generated a lot of attention, so much so that a second repeat will be organised in due course for those who missed the last one! On the Saturday prior to the field trip, Paul and Gavin set out to search for the Kumbudzi Stone Ruins – and their efforts were rewarded with the location of probably the largest set of ruins in the Matopos. And they were in fairly good condition. We ascertained that they were last visited by National Museums in 1972!
On Sunday we sallied forth again, met the convoy at Lumane Falls, and directed them to our newly discovered site. The attendees were rewarded with not just the ruins, but a fine view into the south eastern Matopos. The weather was superb, and the morning was completed with a series of talks from Paul on the likely history and nature of the ruins.
The convoy departed the site and drove to Kumbudzi dam for a delightful picnic lunch. The dam was full, with water lilies in bloom, against the backdrop of the magnificent Gobambeza Mountain, and surrounded by lovely Brachystegia tamarindoides (glouscesans) made for a most pleasant afternoon.
We received a report from Dr Jane Browning on the field trip to Camp Dwala. For a copy of the report from Jane, with pictures, or further information please contact the Secretary directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or Cathy Sharp on email@example.com.
9 – PARK CLEAN UP DAY
A hardy few travelled out to Maleme to tackle more litter and cactus on World Environment Day. We were joined by the Area Manager, Sharon Mustswaka, and a good number of Maleme staff. We had to clear areas tackled last year as there had been some regrowth – this is likely to be ongoing for several years. However, we also extended the area being cleared and good progress was made – but much remains to be done. Hopefully some form of bio-control can be introduced in the future. The Society extends its appreciation to all who were involved in this worthwhile project.
10 – CALENDAR 2015
Herewith the proposed dates for the 2014 field trips –make a note in your diary!
- Sun 6th Sept Stone Hills
- Sun 29th Nov AGM (venue to be advised)
- 28th – 30th August Matopos Classic MTB
- 9th – 13th March 2016 Matopos Heritage Challenge
- 3rd April 2016 Matopos 33 miler
11– MATOPOS CLASSIC
The next major MTB event will be the Matopos Classic over the weekend of 28 -30 August. Contact the Secretary if you need more detail. There has already been keen interest in this less formal, semi-social event, which also raises funds for the Society. Last year the participants were rewarded with the magnificence of the spring leaves of the Brachystegia tamarindoides, and we hope to enjoy the same again this year.
12 – PAINTED HOUSES
The now annual “painted houses” completion has been held, with pictures of the winning homes on display at the National Gallery. We recommend that you pop in and view the houses. The owners have taken great pride in the work, and the results are commendable.
13 – MATOPOS MOUNTAINEERING / CLIMBING EVENT
About 50 people attended the “Rock Rave Event” Climbing on 30th and 31st May. Twenty-seven routes have been marked onto a portion of the north east face of Siloti, and bolts have been fitted for safety purposes.
This promises to open a new recreational activity in the hills, and your chairman was subsequently able to visit both Silozwe and Hambushamba with the “sticky fingers crew”.
The Mountain Club of Zimbabwe visited over the Heroes weekend.
14 – THE MATOPOS 33 MILER ULTRA-MARATHON
We reported that 482 participants took part this year. In fact the number was 503. Plenty of time for you to prepare for the 2016 event!
15 – NEW SIGNS
With the exception of Bambata Cave, all signs have now been erected. The erection of the new signs was made possible through the generous donations of Market Force, National Fencing (Vernon Hammond), and Stray Dogs Furniture (Mark Swannack and Elton Lightfoot).
16 – RHINO NEWS
First Rhinos in Massive African Airlift Released in Botswana
(With acknowledgement to Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic 7th May, 2015)
It’s the first stage of the world’s largest rhino airlift, meant to protect a dwindling population of the animals.
Ten rhinos have been safely released in northern Botswana, after a long journey that entailed a cargo plane, a crane, dozens of soldiers, and six weeks in quarantine.
The animals were captured from an overpopulated park in South Africa and were moved to an undisclosed location in a sparsely populated reserve in Botswana last week that is better protected from poachers.
The first ten were released on April 28, after touching down in the largest aircraft ever to land at Botswana’s Maun International Airport, an Ilyushin 76, according to Dereck Joubert, one of the project’s leaders.
“It was a great success and we are all feeling euphoric from the amazing experience,” Beverly Joubert, another project leader, said via email.
The Jouberts are National Geographic explorers-in-residence who are collaborating on the airlift with the tourism groups Great Plains Conservation and andBeyond. The husband and wife team work as wildlife filmmakers and conservationists based in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
Dereck Joubert says the bold project is necessary because rhinos reached a tipping point last year, with more killed by poachers than were born in the wild. An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 black rhinos and 20,000 white rhinos remain in Africa, with another one killed by poachers every seven and a half hours. Their horns are hacked off and sold in China and Vietnam on the black market for medical treatments that western scientists say don’t work.
Getting the rhinos from the airport to deep into the Okavango Delta was no easy task. Already packed in crates, the rhinos were loaded onto trucks and escorted by 60 soldiers, to deter potential poachers.
Along the way, a wheel came off one of the trucks and the two-ton rhinos had to be moved into another truck via crane. The convoy had to cross several rivers, while a helicopter was sent ahead to scout for poachers. The heat was a relentless 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), which meant the team had to make sure the animals didn’t overheat.
By sundown, the rhinos were released into their new homes, less than 24 hours from the start of their journey from the staging area in an undisclosed part of South Africa. There, the rhinos had been monitored for disease for six weeks and fitted with microchips to monitor their locations. But under the watchful eye of the Botswana military, the rhinos “finally ran free,” says Dereck Joubert.