Visit From Bush Baby…

323 copyStanley the bush baby popped in to see us last night, my last night at Chipembele 😥😪😢

Steve & Anna rescued him a few years ago and he pops by once a week for a visit a banana and a pear. He loves Steve so gave Steve a long cuddle then left and went back to the bush… he was playing on the floor with the dogs biting their tails and they were biting his tail. Beautiful !!!

Chipemebele

I am currently visiting Chipembele Educational Wildlife Trust located in the South Luangwa Valley.  I am staying with the founders of the charity Steve and Anna Tolan who are originally from the UK. They came to live in Zambia back in in 1998 to follow their lifetime dream which was to establish a conservation education programme for local children in a wildlife-community conflict area. They were fortunate enough to be given some land by the late Chief Kakumbi on which to build the Centre and used all their personal savings to finance it.312 copy
Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre opened in May 2001.  The charity encompasses a range of conservation and community projects but their key focus is their Conservation Education programme for children and the running of a small wildlife rehabilitation centre. Over the years they have rescued many orphaned and injured animals, including, primates, elephants, lions, and a hippo, nursed them back to health and then released them back into the wild.
 
OAT became involved with Chipembele after an initial visit a few years ago by my sister Sue, my brother in law Jonathan and their kids Jeff & Nicola.  
 
OAT has recently sponsored the  building extension of a primate rehabilitation facility and going forward we will be contributing generally to their amazing work. 321 copy
 
Please click on the website to read about this fantastic organisation. I have only been here a few days and I have loved every minute of it so far.

This is Douglas the resident Hippo, rescued as a tiny baby…
 
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He is free to return to the wild when ever he wants and does spend some of his time hanging out with a local pod of wild Hippos, but at this stage always returns to Mom & Dad. We are hopeful that one day he will stay with the wild Hippos as this is where he belongs. 320 copy
313 copyDouglas is gorgeous, and I am sure was as cute as hell when he was tiny but now he is a big Hippo!
He is definitely letting me know who is boss around here, he has stood on my toe, bumped me around a bit on a morning walk (much to Steve’s amusement) and regularly shows me his teeth and tonsils. Oh and by the way, HE STINKS!
 
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315 copy I have also been spending time with the baboons and vervet monkeys who are really cute but very cheeky! Antics so far have included stealing the lemon out of my Gin & Tonic, biting me on the back of my leg and general jumping all over me! 
 
Heading out with Anna today giving away donated shoes to school children ……. looks like about a thousand pairs of shoes. 👍😀

One final P.S. before I sign off … Here are some pics from earlier today  of Dougie saying thanks to us for fixing the water pump and giving him Fresh water to drink and Fresh water to swim in – You gotta love that hippo!  😀😀😀😀😀😀322 copy
 

Tracking

221I spent the last 2 days and nights in the South Luangwa bush with an amazing organisation called ZCP (Zambia Carnivore Programme). ZCP is a non-profit Zambian registered trust dedicated to the protection of large carnivore species such as African Wild Dog, Lion, Leopard, Hyena and Cheetah. For more info click into their website :

www.zambiacarnivores.org

I went out for 2 days and nights with an experienced team including a vet and an armed guard and our mission was to find the 3 prides of lions that live in a particular area of the South Luangwa valley and look for a suitable female to dart and collar for monitoring purposes.

It is vital to study the movements of these now sadly endangered species as they need protecting on so many levels.

We eventually selected a pride at 6pm last night but unfortunately they were all in hunt mode so it was just not possible. The pride consisted of  2 large males and 6 females who were on the hunt, and 2 adults who stayed put to look after the 6 cubs which were between 2 and 4 months old…so so cute!!.

The very professional team I was with decided we should follow the hunt as close as possible (for study and record keeping proposes) so we did.  By close I mean we were 15 metres away and could here the heavy breathing / growling noise that lions make when on the ‘Prowl’ … Phew! it was amazing.  At one stage one of the one large males paused and looked directly at us.  He was quite literally next to the car door no more than 10 feet away and I can assure you this look sends a SHIVER down your spine right through to your Sphincter ha ha… and my window was open as it’s just so damn HOT here. It was 32 degrees at midnight last night… unbelievable !

302 copyAnyway we eventually lost the pride after an hour of following them as they move so fast through very difficult terrain which is impossible to cross by Land Rover. We could hear them for a while and tried to follow the calling growls they make but they were just too quick. Anyway we decided to stop at midnight and set up camp and our team leader advised we sleep on top of the vehicles as it was too dangerous to sleep in tents on the ground. The moon was full last night and this means most predators can see well and therefore all go out hunting which would have made us very venerable on the ground.

215We got up at 4am and went out to track the pride again and found them all lying on the river bank with full bellies and blood on their paws. They obviously made a kill but we couldn’t see a carcass anywhere.

What a Great experience that was … would love to do it again and complete the mission of fitting the VHF tracking collar… better luck next time.

Looking forward to a good night’s sleep tonight …Feeing as rough as a Giraffes Knee right now.

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Independence Day! 24th October

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By the way its Independence Day in Zambia today – check out what my friends at Game Rangers International have been doing…







Happy day at Lilayi Elephant Nursery

In celebration of Independence day in Zambia, education officer KELVIN CHANDA and the amazing team at Lusaka Conservation Project, gave a lesson to 112 children at Lilayi Elephant Nursery.

216Many of these children may not otherwise have the opportunity to see elephants in the wild, however in the future they will be asked to vote and make decisions about Zambia’s wildlife and protected areas!

This will hopefully have inspired them to support conservation in the future. The Lilayi Elephant nursery and The Lusaka Conservation Project are all part of Game Rangers International who we, the Olsen Animal Trust, are very proud to support.

I had the privilege of spending my first two months in Zambia with GRI and I was so impressed with everything they do. Check out their website and links to their various projects…

- Game Rangers International

Leaving Zambian Carnivore Project
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Leaving ZCP today and off to spend time at CHIPEMBELE, another non government conservation organisation in the valley run by husband and wife team Anna and Steve Tolan. Cant wait to meet them, and their resident orphaned hippo – DOUGLAS!

www.chipembele.org

Catching Up

Mnkhanya Community:

206As promised here are some photos which will give you an idea of what I have been up to in the Mnkhanya Community recently.

Phew…that last week was so hard on so many levels. Firstly emotionally, living, sleeping & eating with people who live way below the poverty line is emotionally crippling to say the least.

I’m not joking but I’ve cried everyday since being in the community just because of how desperate people are here. People walking miles everyday for water in 40 + degrees heat wearing no shoes because they don’t own any.

Secondly the heat is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, the Luangwa valley in Oct (the Hottest month I am told) is unbearable and you simply cannot escape it. Everything you touch is Hot even the water out of the drinking well was Hot.

It’s a Beautiful place but only in the National Park, the poor community villages are a completely different ball game.

Isaac Banda is the MCRB’s (Mnkhanya Community Resource Board) Executive Officer. He is a great guy and has been my right hand man showing me around and introducing me to everyone across the Mnkhanya Chiefdom. Isaac is also the ‘Boss Man’ for all the village scouts who are the guys who carry out the anti-snaring patrols. He is also an advisor to Chief Mnkhanya. 213
The anti poaching – de snaring patrols down the rivers were exhausting in the heat but also uplifting as we found snares on every patrol (nasty snares but fortunately empty).

One thing I have come to realise of late, is that animal conservation and human preservation go hand in hand. Human / animal conflict needs to be addressed as does education in conservation. Thank goodness there are people and organisations who support the likes of The Mnkhanya Community which is supported by the High Five club set up by the amazing Dr Cheryl Mvula. Their work involves supporting schools, woman’s groups, school feeding programmes and water projects (water wells and bore holes) within the Mnkhanya community, Cheryl and her husband Manny are both advisors to Chief Mnkhanya.

Cheryl is also the founder of ZPP (Zambian Primate Project) mentioned earlier in my blog which is an OAT supported project.


If you feel you would like to help the Mnkhanya community, then please click on the website link below and join the High Five club for just £5 a month which I can assure you goes a long way in Africa!!



SLCS (South Luangwa Conservation Society):

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Back to Civilisation now (almost…) and based at Croc Valley Camp for a few days while I spend time checking out the work of South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS).

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This is another NGO run by CEO Rachel McRobb and they are involved in anti-poaching, human-wildlife conflict resolution, de-snaring wildlife and they also have a wildlife emergency rapid response unit.

www.slcszambia.org

Anti Poaching Sniffer Dogs:
Rachel introduced me to loads of her team including the 3 sniffer dogs who I was cuddling and playing with. The dogs are treated like royalty and have the BEST of everything including top of the range food and their own swimming pool.
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They get walked twice a day when they are not working and also have there own large room (not a kennel) with a fan each. They are all so lovely and friendly, well two of them anyway. The unfriendly one is totally blind but is actually the best and most successful one when it comes to sniffing out ivory and bushmeat and weapons. It was amazing and touching to see how well they are all looked after.

Going out with the sniffer dogs tomorrow on a ‘job’…… road blocks are being set up based on information received.

210Today Rachel received a call from someone saying a male buffalo had been spotted limping due to a snare around its leg. She mobilised the rescue team and we all went out and found it. It took 30 mins to get close enough to dart it. Once darted, he went down after 8 mins which is when we got close enough to cover his face with a cloth and then we went to work removing a horrible snare which was down to the bone … Very Nasty !

😔😔😥🐃🐃🐃

Once done, the reverse agent was given and he got up pretty quickly and ran away… A great feeling seeing him free and on the road to recovery. So So impressed with what I’ve seen of SLCS so far… They are so well structured and very well organised by a very focussed and determined CEO.

Mnkhanya Community

Said goodbye to Manny and I am now living with the local scout community in Mnkhanya village – very basic, mattress on the floor with a mosquito net, a bucket of cold water each day to wash and a hole in the ground for you know what.

202 copyAnyway its really HOT at night so I’m battling to sleep right now but I can live with that. I’m really enjoying having 15 kids in the village hanging around me most of the time. Got some great photos which I will share when I can.

I am here to spend time with the community, courtesy of Chief Mnkhanya, to get an understanding of the challenges they face regarding Drinking Water, Animal-Human conflict (lots of elephants here raiding crops at night etc) and I will be going out on patrol with the anti-poaching guys walking down the river/s looking for and removing snares.

Planning on a movie night   with the kids in my “hut” tonight…

… lollipops  …and

… the Lion King on my solar charged  PC…

More details to follow when I get back to civilisation..

A stroll in the bush

Sorry for no recent updates but the internet over here is simply not good enough to cope with a basic text email never mind uploading a photo. However, my friend Jos has done some great sketches…talented lady, check out her website!
I spent the last week or so in Luangwa National park which is in the eastern province of Zambia. I was camping with Manny Mvula which has been amazing experience.  Manny used to be a senior guide (game ranger) in Luangwa National park so going out on driving and walking safaris with him was a privilege for me to say the least. Here is a‘snippet’ of what I have encountered, photos to follow as and when. For those of you who didn’t click on the link to Manny’s Elephant encounter posted previously, you simply have to check this out!!!
My nights…
– Elephants keeping me awake at night feeding off trees around my tent an bumping into the tent poles.– Hippos passing through camp at night Bellowing and Farting as they pass my tent (very very noisy and smelly)
– Lions Growling and Hyenas calling (Whooping) as they pass through camp
My days (walking with Manny)…
– One day we were charged by a male leopard
I have to say was so scary, intimidating and BEAUTIFUL all at the same time… the noise that came out of his mouth was Stunning… a combination of  a growl, a hiss and a spitting noise all coming from the deep back part of his mouth, the noise just echoed so deeply from his throat that it rattled your bones… it’s hard to explain but you’ll know what I mean if you’ve experienced this sound.
On another day we were out with an armed guard (ZAWA Scout) when we came across a lioness who walked right in front of us (30 metres away). She just looked at us and kept walking. My instinct was to walk the other way (sensible option) but Manny decided we should follow her (not a sensible option). We lost her in the long grass but continued to track her and then 30 mins later we found her back in the pride all lying under a tree hiding from the unbelievably HOT sun. 43 degrees here most days and the temperature is still rising. There was a male, 3 females and 5 cubs.  At first they didn’t see us but then they smelt us and all sat up and just stared at us. We were approx. 100 metres away which in lion terms is 10 seconds away if they decided to attack… just enough time to throw 203someone else in front of me before I climb the nearest tree and scream for my Mom he he… you only need to outrun someone else in your group not necessarily the lions he he. Anyway we slowly retreated and they just sat there and watched us walk away… A great and heart pumping moment. Seeing a pride of lions from a safari vehicle is one thing but seeing them on foot is completely different.
201copy – On the same walk (approx. 4 hour walk) we came across what we thought was 2 male buffaloes.
They didn’t see or smell us at first so Manny decided we should make a noise so not to startle them. We made some noise and the two of them looked up and just stared at us, they were really close, approx. 30m away. Anyway we slowly started to walk past them trying not to get too much eye contact but keeping a look out just in case…when all of a sudden another buffalo that we hadn’t seen EXPLODED out of a nearby bush and charged us. Our armed ZAWA Scout guard stood his ground but we were204 running away in all directions looking for cover … I dived behind a tree and under a bush waiting for the gun shot which I pleased to say never came. Well trained and very brave guard! The buffalo had turned away at the last second.  We crawled out from under the trees and bushes and continued on our way giggling and laughing like little girls as we went… loads of adrenalin in our veins he he.
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