NEWSLETTER 94 – NOVEMBER 2015
1 – ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
We have included details of our AGM to be held later this month elsewhere in this newsletter.
Yes it is that time of the year again. A chance to look back at the Society and its activities, and to look for new members to take on board our committee. I would like to thank all those who have served during this past year, and look forward to the new-year. The AGM is being held at The Farmhouse, which is easily accessible to all members, so do join us.
2 – MATOBO PARK NEWS
Sadly, despite the best efforts of the Park Authorities, widespread veld fires burned in much of the Park.
The Park was not able to restock with the 150 wildebeest that were referred to in the last newsletter, but we understand that 50 zebra were introduced.
Rain is desperately needed, both to bring fresh foliage to those areas burnt, but also to bring the rivers back to life. Maleme Dam is almost dry!
However the hills do look remarkably green as the trees have come into their new leaf. So whilst the grass may be yellow and worn, the hillsides of course look fresh. As always, in any season, the Matopos is attractive. Just in this heat be prepared for those pesky Mopani Bees!
3 – NATIONAL MUSEUMS
The Natural History Museum continues with its busy, and interesting schedule. The Museum is also wanting to get curators into the Hills to visit sites and interact with the community. If you are able to assist by providing a lift at any time, please contact Dr Moira Fitzpatrick at the Museum, on (09) 250 045.
Friday Family Movies at 7pm every Friday evening $3/person.
Every Friday Afternoon during the school term there is Museum Conservation Club for the 6-13yr olds $2/child per afternoon
We hope to work with National Museums and Monuments to restore the Nsvatuke Site Museum in early 2016. This will form part of the Matopos Heritage Ride “legacy” and should be completed ahead of the 2016 event, which will pass through the area.
Any road engineers who can help with the access road?
4 – WORLD HERITAGE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
The Management Committee, under the chairmanship of the MCS, meets again in November. There has been ongoing discussion since the last meeting.
5 – WEB SITE
The web-site for the Society www.matobo.org has been updated , so make some time to visit the site.
Contributions are welcome.
Your committee acknowledges the earlier work done by Duncan Purchase in establishing the web-site, and for maintaining the site for some years.
6 – SUBSCRIPTIONS
You are reminded that subscriptions for the year 1 October 2015 to 30 September 2016 fell due on 30 September. Please ensure that your subs are up to date.
US$ 20 Individual/Family
US$ 5 Special Member (Pensioner/Student)
7 – NEXT EVENT
Date 29th November 2015
Venue The Farmhouse, Kezi Road
Meet 8:15am to leave by 8:30am, Churchill Arms Car Park
Travel All vehicles.
Details Provide own chairs, tables, meals and drinks. Don’t forget your hat!
Our AGM will be held at The Farmhouse at 10:30am on Sunday 29th November. We will meet at the “Top Camp”. Our speaker will be Kyle Good talking on Rhino conservation.
Members who wish to spend Saturday evening at The Farmhouse should contact the lodge directly. We have kindly been offered a special rate for the AGM. (Dinner, Bed and Breakfast is offered at USD 75 per person or USD 50 per person for bed only.)
8 – REPORT BACK
(With appreciation to Heather McDonald and Adele Edwards)
The outing to the Peeks’ Stone Hills sanctuary at Marula was on September 6 and attendance was good despite the cold weather and the quite heavy rain which had descended on Bulawayo and surrounding areas at the start of the weekend. We departed as usual from the Churchill Arms but as we arrived at the Plumtree road, a remarkable sight met us when we saw a great stretch of navy blue cloud looming over the south western sky. Travelling down the road – now a beautiful highway – we encountered more quite heavy rain. This was an unusual treat but by the time we reached Stone Hills it had cleared and the rest of the day was perfect. Of course the rain had wrought its magic, and was much welcomed at Stone Hills.
We drove through the splendid Matobo scenery to the lodge for a welcome cup of coffee/tea, then regrouped and Richard Peek led us to a spot where there was a cave painting to be inspected on the side of a kopje. There was a short climb and a narrow entrance to the low shelter so that we had to view it in small groups. What we found was a beautifully painted bit of pornography on the rock, which caused some ribald comments and a bit of discomfiture for Rob Burrett, who had at first glance misinterpreted the painting. Eventually he claimed the art was all to do with procreation! Most members then climbed up the kopje and enjoyed extensive views of Stone Hills and beyond.
We then moved off to another shelter and on the way there we all savoured the sights of the surrounding kopjes, and the evidence of a well-managed property. Some of the trees were bursting into their new foliage, in particular a spectacular Ficus ingens. The paintings at this shelter were much more extensive and Richard and Rob gave us fascinating interpretations of what they thought the artwork was all about. Richard told us that he and Bookey had found about 80 cave sites on the property, all discovered by them over the years, which is pretty impressive given the number of kopjes they have at Stone Hills. We spent a while enjoying the paintings and the immediate environs and then moved off to another spot for lunch.
The lunch site was under the most magnificent Ficus glamosa, which Richard thought was about 200 to 300 years old. It was like an enormous tent with the lower branches drooping right down to the ground making it a perfect and most beautiful place to have a lunch break. There was time for quite a lot of socialising and discussion about Parks, and inevitably Cecil the Lion, and the merits or otherwise of hunting. Rob gave us more insight into his ideas concerning the cave paintings, and then Richard spoke to us about various interesting aspects of Stone Hills, also sharing with us some intriguing insights into incidents with birds.
Moving off, it was time for some animals to be fed. Game blocks were set out in the paddock below the house and the animals soon came in – kudu, impala, giraffe, wildebeest, eland and even two magnificent gemsbok. While most of the food was put in containers on the ground, the food for the giraffe was put in half drums on stands high off the ground. Amongst the giraffe was a baby which only stood as high as its mother’s belly.
Our thanks to the Peeks for allowing us to visit their sanctuary and for Richard for sharing his time and his knowledge.
9 – SPECIAL OUTING BY POPULAR DEMAND
Date 7th / 8th November 2015
Venue Kumbudzi Ruins
Meet 9:00am, Camp Dwala
Travel All vehicles, trucks preferred
Details Provide own chairs, tables, meals and drinks. Don’t forget your hat!
The Society travelled here in May, and enjoyed an interesting field trip (see report back in newsletter #93 August 2015). However, not all of our regular members were able to attend, and so by popular demand, we are arranging an outing to Kumbudzi Ruins on Sunday 8th November. We will depart from Camp Dwala on Sunday morning, and return to Camp Dwala for lunch (but probably bring a sandwich as we may run late!)
Members are invited to make a week-end of it, by staying on Saturday evening at Camp Dwala, on a bring-and-braai basis. This will provide a good social evening for our members.
Accommodation, in chalets or own camping, can be arranged. Those wanting to travel out on the Saturday afternoon are asked to liaise with Adele (0712 366 917 or 09 280 029, or email@example.com) who will coordinate the accommodation at the camp for the week-end.
For those not staying out for the week-end, the group will leave Camp Dwala at 9:00am on Sunday morning. Please let Adele know if you are planning to attend.
10 – VELD FIRES
The 2015 “burning Season” has been one of the worst in recent years, with large areas of the Matopos being destroyed. The dry heat of October did not help matters, but it is clear that these fires are either deliberate arson, or neglect following the smoking out of bees. In either case, the authorities seem powerless to get this under control.
Custodial sentences for veld fire offences: Government has amended the Forest Act and people caught violating veld fire regulations will now receive mandatory custodial sentences, Vice President Phekezela Mphoko said in September. Officially launching the 2015 National Fire Action Plan Roll Out programme at Glenara Estates in Mazowe on 2nd September, the Vice-president said veld fires were threatening the country’s food security as large hectares of land were being burnt and negatively affecting crop and livestock production
11 – CALENDAR 2015 – 2016
Herewith the proposed dates for the 2015 field trips –make a note in your diary!
- Sun 29th Nov AGM (The Farmhouse)
- 9th – 13th March 2016 Matopos Heritage Challenge
- 3rd April 2016 Matopos 33 miler
12– MATOPOS CLASSIC
The Matopos Classic MTB event was held over the weekend of 28 -30 August and attracted 45 riders. This informal event provides first class riding amongst magnificent scenery, and again the riders were welcomed by the first flush of the Brachystegia tamarindoides.
13 – PAINTED HOUSES
The now annual “painted houses” competition 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.
14 – MATOPOS MOUNTAINEERING / CLIMBING
Following the “Rock Rave Event” on 30th and 31st May a new climbing route has been explored on the eastern face of Hambushamba. Silozwe’s western face is yet to be tackled.
The Mountain Club of Zimbabwe visited over the Heroes weekend.
15 – ROCK ART DAMAGE
The Mountain Club of Zimbabwe visited Bughwa Cave over the Heroes’ weekend, and sent in a very alarming report to your Society. The cave, which is rarely visited, and boasted some fine rock art, had been subjected to some extraordinary defacement. This was duly reported to National Museums, and the Inspector visited the site. Restoration is possible, and will be carried out. The team included staff from Matopo Mission and Camp Dwala, and went on to meet with Chief Mathe, and the Heads of schools in close proximity. It is hoped that the message of preservation will be understood.
The Rock Art of the Matopos is amongst our most significant cultural heritage in Zimbabwe, indeed globally as recognised in our World Heritage status. Consequently damage of this sort is truly alarming.
16 – LOCAL NEWS
Ndebeles to install king in 12 months: Head of the Khumalo family, Bruce Khumalo, has disclosed that a new heir to the Ndebele throne will be installed in the next 12 months – 121 years after the Ndebele Kingdom last had a king – adding the government was now seized with the matter. Khumalo, chairperson of the Khumalo elders, confirmed the latest developments while addressing thousands of people attending the annual commemorations of the death of Ndebele’s founding monarch, King Mzilikazi at Mhlahlandela, just outside Bulawayo, on Saturday, 5th September (Southern Eye, Monday September 7, 2015)
17 – RHINO NEWS
12 poaching groups in Kruger at any given time – Minister. 30th August, 2015. (Adam Wakefield) News24. Johannesburg
There are 12 active rhino poacher groups in the Kruger National Park (KNP) at any given time, with 749 rhino killed across South Africa thus far in 2015, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Sunday.
Briefing media on progress in stopping rhino poaching in Pretoria, Molewa said so far this year, there had been over 1500 poacher incursions recorded in the Kruger National Park, a 27% increase compared to last year. “So far during 2015, there have been 1617 positively identified poacher activities in the KNP. This implies that 3 incursions occur per day, anywhere along the thousand kilometre long KNP border,” the minister said. “This means that there are 12 active poacher groups at any given time somewhere on the two million hectares of the KNP. That is why our teams have made physical contact with heavily-armed poachers 95 times so far this year, close to three times a week.”
She said if were it not for the anti-poaching teams in the park, the numbers would be far higher. “To illustrate the escalation of the threat, let me remind you that for the whole of 2014, there were 111 contacts with heavily-armed poachers,” she said. Government have stepped up anti-poaching measures as a result.
“The total number of arrests inside Kruger National Park was 138 for this year compared to 81 arrests for the same period last year as at August 27 2015,” Molewa said. The challenge of poaching required the collective efforts of government, the private sector, communities, civil society and the business sector.
In terms of intensive protection zones for rhino, the minister said, as stated earlier in the year, the zoning approach embarked on in the KNP was bearing fruit. “We have now reached the stage where night airborne reaction with well-equipped anti-poaching rapid response forces is being implemented – a unique world class capability for a park,” she said. “In this regard, the KNP has received a donation of top-of-the-range monocular night vision equipment valued at R3.4m from the Peace Parks Foundation to support the ranger corps. The receipt of this equipment has contributed to a levelling of the playing field – as poachers become more and more sophisticated.”
The Mission Area Joint Operations Centre in the KNP was fully functional, with electronic means and “live-streaming of information” informing real-time decision making and faster reaction time. “Be that as it may, by Thursday August 27 2015, the number of rhino we lost to poachers was 749 for the whole country,” the minister said. “Of these, 544 were poached in the KNP. By last year this time the number of rhino lost to poachers were 716 for the whole of the country and 459 for the KNP.”
Beyond the KNP, poaching had decreased across South Africa. This was evidence law enforcement authorities, led by police, were playing a key role in stabilising poaching in the rest of South Africa, Molewa said. Regarding the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP17), the minister said her department invited interested parties to register to participate in preparations for the summit. COP17 is being held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from September 24 to October 5 next year.
Rhino horn trade
On the feasibility of whether or not it was possible for there to be a trade in rhino horn, Molewa said with committee of inquiry set up to investigate the matter, it was conducting its work and would report back in due course.
Molewa said during the department’s May report-back, they had gazetted the Biodiversity Management Plan for white rhino for public consultation. “The plan is aimed at ensuring the long-term survival in nature of the species through the implementation of conservation management measures,” Molewa said. “Parts of the plan are already under implementation. As I announced in my May briefing, a number of animals would be sold to the private sector as part of our interventions to increase rhino numbers.”
SANParks had begun the translocation and delivery of white rhino from the Kruger National Park to private land owners, with 150 to be delivered over the course of 2015. “As part of evaluating the effects of sales and poaching, SANParks will conduct another rhino survey during September 2015. During September 2014, a Rhino survey using peer-reviewed scientific methods recorded 8 001 to 9 290 white rhino in the Kruger National Park,” the minister said. “Elsewhere in South Africa, the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that provincial reserves have 4 400 white rhino while private owners have 5 300.”
The total South African white rhino population remained relatively stable since 2012, in the face of escalating poacher activity. “As you all know, as poachers go for the bigger animals, young ones are left orphaned; and we continue to take care of these rhino,” Molewa said. “Since 2012 a total of 26 orphaned rhinos have been rescued from the KNP; eight of these were during 2015. These orphans will ultimately be released as part of family groups in semi-intensive and free-ranging areas.”
War on Poaching
22 poachers killed, 900 arrested in 2015: At least 22 poachers have been killed this year in combat action with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers, while 900 others were arrested, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has said. Addressing a Press conference yesterday, Muchinguri-Kashiri said of the 22, 16 were locals while the others were foreigners – Herald, Thursday October 8, 2015.
18 – RAINFALL
Some good rain fell in early September, with as much as 40mm recorded in the eastern hills, and 50mm in the central area but as little as 10mm in the west. However, the outlook looks gloomy as reported on below. Since then it’s been unrelenting heat and whenever clouds drift in from the north, so a south-easter blows in.
Normal to below normal rains expected: Sadc countries are likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall during the October 2015 to March 2016 rainfall season, the Meteorological Services Department has said. The MSD will also give the national rainfall forecast tomorrow. According to climate experts, the period between October and March is the main rainfall season over most parts of Southern Africa. “SADC is likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall for the period October to December (OND) 2015 and the January to March (JFM) 2016. “However, most Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) northern Angola, south of Tanzania, north-eastern Zambia, northern Malawi, northern Mozambique, the islands states of Seychelles and eastern Madagascar are more likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall. Only northern Tanzania is more likely to receive above-normal to normal rainfall in OND,” reads a statement from the MSD – Herald,
19 – SNAKE BITE ANTIDOTE IS RUNNING OUT
The world is running out of one of the most effective snakebite treatments, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, warn experts.
Medicins Sans Frontieres says new stocks of Fav-Afrique, which neutralises 10 different snakebites that can occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, are desperately needed. The last batch will expire in June 2016 and there is no comparable replacement. Manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur says it has been priced out of the market.
Alternatives are available but MSF says they are not as good. Fav-Afrique is the only anti-venom that has been proven safe and effective to treat envenoming from different types of snakes across Sub-Saharan Africa, it says. Sanofi said it will share the anti-venom recipe with others.
The company stopped producing the serum last year and has since switched to making a rabies treatment instead. Sanofi is believed to be negotiating for another company to produce Fav-Afrique, but these talks are not expected to be finalised before late 2016. This means that a replacement product could not be expected to reach the market for another two years, says MSF. The absence of a broad, safe and effective anti-venom until then will translate into countless deaths, it says.
Lives at risk
Polly Markandya of MSF said: “Most people who get bitten by a snake aren’t exactly sure what kind of snake it is that bit them and so having an anti-venom that works against a variety of different species is really important. “We are worried that without that anti-venom available, people will die unnecessarily.” Alain Bernal, a Sanofi Pasteur spokesman, said the company had offered to transfer the anti-venom technology to others, adding: “Nothing has materialised yet.”
The World Health Organization says snakebites are a neglected issue that needs more attention and investment. Each year, an estimated five million people worldwide are bitten by snakes, out of whom 100,000 die and 400,000 are permanently disabled or disfigured. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 30,000 people die from snakebite every year and an estimated 8,000 undergo amputations.
20 – GLOBAL WARMING UPDATE
Next two years hottest, says Met Office, By Roger Harrabin, BBC 14 September 2015
The next two years could be the hottest on record globally, says research from the UK’s Met Office.
It warns big changes could be under way in the climate system with greenhouse gases increasing the impact of natural trends. The research shows that a major El Nino event is in play in the Pacific, which is expected to heat the world overall. But it also reveals that summers in Europe might get cooler for a while as the rest of the globe warms. The scientists confirm that in 2015 the Earth’s average surface temperature is running at, or near, record levels (0.68C above the 1961-1990 average).
Met Office Hadley Centre director Prof Stephen Belcher said: “We know natural patterns contribute to global temperatures in any given year, but the very warm temperatures so far this year indicate the continued impact of (manmade) greenhouse gases. “With the potential that next year could be similarly warm, it’s clear that our climate continues to change.” An external reviewer, Prof Rowan Sutton, from the University of Reading, confirmed: “Unless there’s a big volcanic eruption, it looks very likely that globally 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be among the very warmest years ever recorded. “This isn’t a fluke. We are seeing the effects of energy steadily accumulating in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, caused by greenhouse gases.”
The scientists say that the combination of the effect of increasing CO2, coupled with long-term natural ocean trends, leaves the climate system looking “very interesting”. They suspect major changes may be under way. Prof Adam Scaife from the Met Office said: “It’s an important turning point in the Earth’s climate with so many big changes happening at once.” Two trends affecting weather patterns in the near and medium term are in the Pacific Ocean. El Nino happens when a Pacific current reverses on average every five years or so, bringing downpours where there is normally drought and drought where there is normally rain. El Nino tends to push world temperatures upwards.
This growing event is now looking similar to the 1998 El Nino, which bleached corals and brought havoc to world weather systems. The current event could increase drought risk in South Africa, East Asia, and the Philippines – and bring floods to southern South America. One good outcome might be the end of the crippling, four-year California drought.
The second natural change is a shift in the decadal temperature pattern in the North Pacific known as the PDO. It has been in a cool phase, which the Met Office says has contributed to the pause in the rise of average surface atmospheric temperatures over the past decade. Now, it is entering a warm phase, which will typically make the world hotter.
But there’s another factor at play. These two warming events will be partly offset by the North Atlantic temperature pattern (AMO) switching into a cool phase. The scientists say they have recently learned more about how these great ocean patterns temper or accelerate human-induced warming, but Prof Sutton said: “The bit we don’t understand is the competition between those factors – that’s what we are working on.”
So the researchers can say that changes in the Atlantic mean Europe is likely to get slightly cooler and drier summers for a decade – but only if the Atlantic signal is not overridden by the Pacific signal. And they cannot be sure yet which influence will prevail. The Atlantic cooling could lead to the recovery of sea-ice in adjacent Arctic areas.
The Met Office is being ultra-cautious after being castigated for what some said were over-confident decadal forecasts in the past, when natural ocean trends were less well understood. When asked when the pause in surface warming would end, they stressed that from their perspective there was no real pause in the Earth’s warming because the oceans continued to heat, sea levels continued to rise and ice continued to melt.
Prof Scaife said: “We can’t be sure this is the end of the slowdown, but decadal warming rates are likely to reach late 20th-Century levels within two years.” And Prof Sutton warned: “If greenhouse gas-driven warming continues unabated, the long-term effects on global and regional climate will dwarf those of short-term fluctuations like El Nino.”
21 – JULY WAS EARTH’S HOTTEST MONTH ON RECORD
July was the hottest month on Earth since records began, averaging 16.6 C (61.9 F), according to US scientists. That is 0.08 degrees higher than the previous record, set in July 1998 – a significant margin in weather records.
Scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a report that they expect 2015 to be the hottest year on record. Nine of the 10 hottest months since records began in 1880 have occurred since 2005, they NOAA report said. Scientists say global climate change and the impacts of the El Nino weather phenomenon are behind the record temperatures. The first seven months of 2015 have already set an all-time temperature record for the period.
“The world is warming. It is continuing to warm. That is being shown time and time again in our data,” said Jake Crouch, physical scientist at NOAA’s National Centre for Environmental Information. “Now that we are fairly certain that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, it is time to start looking at what are the impacts of that? What does that mean for people on the ground?” Mr. Crouch said.
The seas have also been soaking up a large amount of heat, the NOAA said, with record warming in large expanses of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. When scientists looked at both sea and land for the year to date, they found combined a combined average temperature of 0.85 C above the 20th-Century average. The NOAA calculated the rate of temperature increase for July at an average of 0.65 C per century.
Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the UK Met Office, said: “A strong El Nino is under way in the tropical Pacific and this, combined with the long-term global warming trend, means there is the potential to see some very warm months throughout this year – as the new figures for July appear to show. “This is consistent with the Met Office’s global temperature forecast which predicted that a record or near record year is very much on the cards for 2015.”
Analysis: Matt McGrath, BBC Environment Correspondent
That July was an extremely hot month shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. It’s normally the warmest month of the year for the world as a whole. According to the Met Office, the UK had its warmest July day ever on July 1, when temperatures hit 36.7 C near London. There were record heat waves in many countries including Spain, while the African continent had the second-warmest July on record. While the impact of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a key driver of rising temperatures, another important factor is El Nino. This natural phenomenon, which appears as a large swathe of warm water in the Pacific every few years, is known to push up global temperatures. In recent days there have been reports that this year’s El Nino will be particularly intense. As a result, many experts believe that 2015 will be the warmest year on record by some margin.
22 – APPEAL
Dear Conservation Partner,
We are reaching out to ask for your support for the “Help Rural Zimbabwean Children Visit National Park” campaign on Indiegogo.
The majority of children from communities that surround the Rhodes Matopos National Park, in which we run or environmental education programme, have never been inside the Park and yet they live within 10km of its boundary. This is because of their inability to afford transport to and drives through the Park, as well as park entry fees. We would like to organise a trip for 85 children from 5 surrounding schools to the national park. Apart from getting to see the biodiversity in the Park, the children will also have the opportunity to network and share ideas on natural resources with the children from the other communities. However, none of the schools have buses, so we have to hire transport (which is a substantial chunk of the budget). Please follow the link to the Indiegogo site and donate if you can. $10 will cover one child’s transport and (subsidised) Park entry.
How to help:
Contribute – even small contributions raise their popularity and give them more visibility on the site: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-rural-zimbabwean-children-visit-national-park#/
Additionally, you may:
- Post to Facebook – in the end, the more people hear about us, the more we are likely to meet our target.
Our Facebook page is Dambari Wildlife Trust.
- Help us with other ideas of possible funding sources.
The Dambari Team
Matobo Biodiversity Monitoring Programme
Dambari Wildlife Trust
P.O. Box 3863
Tel: +263 9 280030
Mobile: +263 776 316865
23 – MCS APPAREL
You are reminded that the Society has a stock of fleece sleeveless jackets, in olive green with orange MCS logo. They are ideal for the cool mornings and evenings. These are available at $20 each. We still have stocks of hats and caps (at $10 each). CD’s are also available.
24 – AGM
Final reminder, don’t forget the AGM on Sunday 29th November at The Farmhouse.
25 – CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
As we are unlikely to issue another Newsletter before the end of the year,
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS A HAPPY NEW YEAR.