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MARCH 2021

NEWSLETTER
At the end of February, the rains suddenly stopped and we had a three week hot and dry spell.We were sitting still on 829mm until we had a spell of 34mm in late March, taking us up to 863mm so far (annual average rainfall is about 600mm). However, this heavy rainfall seems to have been more local, and not in the catchment area of the Zambezi (Angola and Zambia), which has resulted in a very unusual river flow patterns (see graphs) . The local rains have caused a big rise in the water level in Kariba Dam, though, with the annual flood waters ( albeit probably a small flood) still to come.
Top Graph - Kariba - the rise is all due to local rains - the flood has yet to come. The lake is sitting at about 47% usable water, as opposed to 17% for the same time last year.
Bottom Left - The graph for Chavuma, where the Zambezi enters Zambia from Angola. The very small rise and flat curve indicates the lack of rainfall in the traditional catchment areas in Angola. However, they have had some late rains so the line is going up again!
Bottom right: The flow at Victoria Falls - the sharp rise is all due to local rain, but when the rains stopped in early March, the graph has flattened out. It should rise again with the advent of the flood, but not by much as it is appears to be a small flood.
Our old friends and long time supporters, Piet and Anthea Erasmus, who own the wine farm, Constantia Uitsig, in Cape Town, have once again come to the fore! Management at Uitsig has now decided to assist the Trust by putting Bhejane stickers on all their wine bottles to signify the connection between Uitsig and the Bhejane Trust and for every bottle sold, a small donation will be made to the Trust. This a fantastic gesture and much appreciated! Put the word out on the grapevine and buy some Uitsig wine!! 
 

ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK

This month we have concentrated on further security measures for our panels and pumps after a renewed onslaught by Zambians. This unfortunately comes at great effort and expense but is unavoidable.
The Zambians back in action - they are the most determined thieves! On the left they tried to get No 1 pump and failed, but broke off all the piping. On the right at No 3 pump, they broke up the concrete, cut and broke the welding and unfortunately stole the pump. Back to the drawing board!!
KAZUMA PAN NATIONAL PARK
I took a flight over Kazuma in a microlight - big thanks to Bud Cockcroft for this. The whole Kazuma was pretty wet, and the Depression held good water. It certainly is a beautiful area from the air. 
We will try to get in by road next month and start the borehole cleanup process, mowing the roads, etc
The Kazuma from the air - there is a lot more water then it looks like as the grass cover conceals it.
ROBINS
The rain having stopped in late February, the Robins area dried out quickly
With the area drying out, Onias was able to get to all the boreholes, clean around them and tidy them up, plus record the meter readings, so we are well set here for the dry season. We are ready for the influx of elephants!
 
Little Toms - cleaning under the panels
SINAMATELLA
Report by Stephen Long
   As I write this, our wifi is refusing to send any but the very smallest e mails so I am unable to include photos in my contribution for the newsletter. No doubt we will be back to normal next month
Rainfall and game water.
  The 2020/2021 rainy season really has been a tale of two seasons. The rain was relentless in November, December and January  so that by the end of January the season total was already the highest we have recorded. Following that, February, and now March as well, were a long way under average. It rained just twice in March for a total of 30mm.  
   That leaves us in the very strange position that we have had the wettest season for many years but the prospects for the coming dry season are not good. The natural pans are drying fast and at this rate they will be dry somewhat earlier than usual, leaving the animals dependent on our pumped water supplies for longer than we would want.  I’m not expecting any great difficulties through the dry season but what a change this has been – from thoughts of floods in January to virtual drought in February and March. A bright spot in the outlook is the rivers, which all still have plenty of water in pools and under the sand – even flowing gently in some cases……
  As usual at this time of year, we have been getting the water points ready for action once the elephants return in numbers. All of our pumps are protected from inquisitive elephants by trenches but the trenches only work if they are well maintained. After all the rain this year maintenance was needed everywhere so that was a major part of our March game water work. Along with that rather uninteresting job  we also turned on most of the pumps that were turned off when it was raining, cut back masses of grass, fixed a few leaks and undertaken general maintenance
    Wildlife
    March was another very slow month for animal sightings. Elephant movements really are a mystery (to me at least). We were seeing reasonable numbers of them right back in January but they seem to have gone away again and we saw very few in March. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of something down at the other end of the size scale – stinkbugs. Every year as their food plants start to dry up, the stinkbugs swarm around Sinamatella looking for places to over-winter. When they have had a good breeding season there can be very large numbers of them and with the vegetation being so prolific this year they’ve obviously had an exceptionally good season.  Towards the end of the month some evenings were almost unbearable as thousands of bugs crept into the house under closed doors, around the edges of closed windows and through any other little gaps they could find. Once inside, they seemed to have no idea what to do apart from to beat themselves to death on the lights, get tangled in our hair, find a cup of tea to dive into or a shirt collar to crawl down or if none of those ideas was appealing, to crawl into the fridge through a crack in the door seal and die in amongst our food. Interestingly, the stinkbug swarms have come a little over a month earlier than they did last year – perhaps reflecting the apparent end of the rainy season which has also been around a month earlier.
    Returning to news of slightly larger wildlife, checking on Baobab Pan one day, Sue and I spotted a medium sized crocodile lurking in the middle of the water. This is the first croc I’ve seen there in the ten years or so that the solar pump has been running at Baobab and I have very little idea where it might have come from. The nearest other crocs are in pools on the Sinamatella river but that is some kilometres away, the other side of a steep ridge. Wherever it came from, it has chosen a good home because even more  mysteriously than the crocodile, some potential food for it appeared in the Pan a few years ago in the form of barbel (catfish).  With no competitors or water-borne predators they have grown big and increased in numbers and for the moment they have some room to escape the croc because the pan is full but every year by the end of the dry season, Baobab is reduced to a small muddy pool and when that happens it’s hard to see how the fish will survive.
       Miscellaneous  
       In mid-month Rangers on patrol found an elephant carcase in the Deka Safari Area. The tusks had been removed so a group of us went out to investigate. We borrowed two metal detectors to check for bullets in the carcase but unfortunately both of them malfunctioned so we could not be sure that it had been killed by poachers but after careful study of what was left of the elephant we decided that it had probably been shot in the head but had not died immediately – indeed it may well have been shot many kilometres away and taken days to die. The circumstances in which the tusks were removed are a mystery. Perhaps the poachers tracked it until it collapsed or perhaps the people who took the ivory were there for some other reason, found the carcase and stole the tusks. Whatever happened, nobody should have been there so patrols have been stepped up in the area for a while.
    
RHINO MONITORING & PROTECTION UNIT

Report By Nick Long
The teams managed a total of 20 patrols this month, divided into 42.5 km Rhino monitoring patrols and 538.79 km anti-poaching patrols. As can be seen, we mostly concentrated on anti-poaching as we found from the previous month’s patrols that there was not much chance of finding any rhino until later in the season.
During the months patrols the teams managed to make 4 arrests of poachers. First, in the middle of the month we came across 2 suspects who we caught walking in a protected area. We arrested them and after some questioning we ascertained that they had been checking on their snare line which they showed to us and we removed, although we suspect we weren’t shown all of them. One of the poachers was a man who we had arrested in 2019 and he was back in the bush as soon as he was out of prison late in 2020. They both appeared in court and the second time offender was sentenced to 13 months in prison while his accomplice was fined $20000 ZWL which he had to pay by mid-April.
Towards the end of the month we went back to the same area where we arrested the first 2 guys as we had noticed quite a bit of activity while collecting their snares. As we patrolled we heard some chopping in the distance and we started to proceed in the general direction of the sound. While we slowly moved towards the noise we had heard the stick leader tell us to take cover and 2 poachers walked into us and were arrested by us without much difficulty. After some questioning we found that they had an illegal charcoal kiln just outside the Park and were preparing another one for burning. We destroyed the working kiln as best as we could by letting air into it which allows the wood to burn instead of smoldering. The two of them were taken to ZIMPARKS investigation branch upon which we found that one of the suspects had lied about his identity - he was in fact an ex ZNA member who had been dismissed from service. They both paid a fine of $1000 ZWL directly to ZIMPARKS.
The charcoal kiln that was burning.
Many people seem to believe that charcoal making is a relatively minor crime but the damage that is done in cutting down so many mature Mopane trees is enormous – the land is ruined as habitat for most animals and it often leads to massive soil erosion. Huge areas outside the Park have been affected and we believe it’s time to take it more seriously.
POACHING
Hwange Investigations Unit have had another successful month! They recovered a live pangolin, plus two lots of ivory poachers, and 7 drums of illegal cyanide at Beit Bridge. A great all round effort and they still keep producing the results!!
In a sting operation in a Bulawayo car park at a shopping mall, Investigations arrested three suspects and recovered two tusks they were offering for sale. The suspects tried to flee in their vehicle when they realised they had been set up, and crashed into the private car Investigations were using for their cover. This did not endear them to the officers!
An extremely lucky suspected poacher was picked up in the Matetsi area, after being attacked by an elephant. He gave a story about having gone to a camp (though no-one at the camp recalls seeing him) looking for a (non existent) person and then was walking back to his home area (outside of Matetsi) when the elephant attacked him out of nowhere! Parks were not buying his story!!
Amos Gwema, winner of the 2020 TUSK Ranger of the Year Award, has been using some of reward funds to support a wildlife initiative launched by the Shangano community near Sinamatella. Amos helped fund an arts festival featuring wildlife themed plays and poems - a great program and well done to Amos for supporting it!
GRATEFUL THANKS

We have had an amazing period of support from all our friends, new and old, out there, and we really appreciate all this support. Our heartfelt thanks to (in no particular order):
Patrick Jacquemin for his donation to help our operational costs, and to put in a new borehole and pump, which will go in early this year
Mark Unwin and the Clarkson Family Trust, for yet another generous donation.
Lion Recovery Fund and Rhino Recovery Fund  - a big thanks to Peter Lindsay and Markus Hofmeyr for the great support they have just offered the trust
Morne and Michelle Muller of Surgical and Opthalmic Supplies for their pledge of support for this year
Piet Weller, through Lionel and Annelise Finaughty for the offer to sponsor a wateroint in Kazuma in memory of Wessels Weller
Larry Norton for his offer of a percentage of sales of prints to go to the trust ( details will be in the next newsletter)
Frank Zindell of the Educasa Foundation and a longtime supporter has made a very generous donation, which is very much appreciated.Thanks to Stuart Danks of Simply Africa for facilitation
Dr Mark Bristow and Hunters and Guides for the financing of our Rhino Monitoring and Protection Unit. Mark came out and pledged assistance for a further three years!!! They have also just confirmed funding for a second RMPU unit.
Elka Lenherr-Toedtii for her generous donation towards a complete borehole/pump setup
Simon and Portia Rowlands for a very generous donation towards s complete borehole/pump unit
SATIB and the Southern Africa Conservation Trust for their support on insurances - thanks to Brian Courtney
Ian Gloss of Victoria Falls Liquorama for his continued assistance
Pieter and Anthea Erasmus for their continued support, and for the use of their vehicle 
Michel Buenerd of Le Pic Vert, and Le Pal Nature Foundation, for funding their eleventh borehole and pump in Sinamatella/Robins area!
Antoinette van Wijk of Holland for her sterling fund raising effort
Nicholas Duncan and the SAVE The African Rhino Foundation of Australia – a staunch supporter.
RAM Petroleum
Jim Goddard of JRG for monthly diesel donation
Ricky Forster and Forster Irrigation of Bulawayo 
John Karasellos of Hisspan Motors for his continuing assistance and support.
Hwange Conservation Society (UK) - John Gillon - for their generous support
Inke Kreling-Boysen for her generous donation

Thanks to our Board of Trustees for all the hard work they are putting in - Ian Gloss, Dave Carson, Dan Jones, Stephen Long and Trevor Lane
 
A big thanks to Ministry and Parks Staff :
 Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, the Hon. Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu
The Director General - Mr Fulton Mangwanya
The Chief Conservator - Mt Arthur Musakwa
The Cluster Manager (Mat North) - Matabeleland - Mr Samson Chibaya,
Area Manager - Zambezi --Mr Marvellous Mbikbiyana
Area Manager, - Robins and Kazuma - Mrs N Moyo
Area Manager - Sinamatella - Mr Mutandwa
 and all their guys on the ground for all their support and assistance.

To my wife Liz for her continual support in all my comings and goings!!

Apologies if we have inadvertently left anyone out!! Your help is much appreciated 

DONATIONS

Bhejane Trust relies on donations to continue it’s operations, which includes our daily operating costs, as well as specific projects. 

PLEASE HELP!! 

Donate to help us save our wildlife heritage - any donations would be gratefully accepted . Donations can be through our “PayNow” button (below) or direct to our bank account:

Bank details :

Bhejane Trust,
FBC Bank,
Sawanga Mall
Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe
Branch Code : 8512
Swift Code : FBCPZWHAX
Account No : 2245093780275

Bhejane Trust office address:
231 Sopers Crescent,
P.O.Box 210
Victoria Falls,
Zimbabwe

Note - we do not have postal codes in Zimbabwe (00)

CONTACT DETAILS

Trevor Lane : trevor@bhejanetrust.org         +263 777 057 024
Stephen Long : stephen@bhejanetrust.org 

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trevor@bhejanetrust.org

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Bhejane Trust · 231 Sopers Crescent · Victoria Falls · Zimbabwe

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