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FEBRUARY 2022
NEWSLETTER
It has been a roller coaster ride with our rainy season! We had a very dry early to mid December, with the rains finally arriving in late December, and then a very wet January with over 350mm recorded, but from the 5th February till the end of the month we had one shower of 10mm!! The bush has dried out, the waterholes are receding and we are having to activate our pumping program early. And there is little rain predicted for the next two weeks.
Unless it rains soon we could be looking at a disastrous drought year. Lets hope it rains soon!
The Zambezi River is 60 % down for the same time as last year, and Kariba is dropping already
The partial blue line shows the river this year. - measured at 1082 cu m/sec this year as opposed to 2672 cu m/sec for the same time last year!
Lake Kariba at 22.3% full, and dropping  as opposed to 34.7% and rising last year at the same time, -  note - this refers to utilisable water not the total lake volume.
I attended a meeting held by the UNESCO/Zambezi River Authority on the Batoka Gorge Dam scheme. Some points of interest:
The dam wall was originally planned at 181m in height, but the plan has been dropped to 175m in consideration of the effect on the Victoria Falls tourism .The water will now come back to rapid No 8.  Kariba dam wall is 128m in height
EIA's and consultations have been completed
Construction should be completed by 2027 - contracts have been evaluated and are being awarded 
The project will employ 6000 people during construction, and apparently 4000 thereafter
The water level can be dropped by 21m out of flood season to accommodate some rafting
The annual value of the power generated is estimated against US$ 751m, against a rafting value of US$ 25m (?) 
The power generated annually will be 2400 MegaWatts, whereas Kariba generates  2156 MegaWatts annually. The dam will function primarily during the flood season, which would then allow Kariba to fill.
The surface area of the dam will only be about 25 sq km
The dam will have very little tourism value - being very narrow, confined within the gorge walls and with big water level variations
When the EIA was done, a lot of attention was paid to the status of the Taita Falcon, and the effect the dam might have on this rare bird. In 1990 it was estimated there were 31 falcons in the gorges, but in 2018  only 3 birds were found and in 2021 only one bird was recorded. There is no apparent reason for the decline of the Taita's
 
Bad news on Rhino security in Zimbabwe.  There are a lot of field staff and rangers in Zimbabwe who are dedicated to the protection of rhino, and the results are showing, as our rhino population is increasing annually. This also applies to the protection of elephants and pangolin. However, the bad news is that their efforts are being undermined by the judiciary. A case example - a South African Brent Lund and a local, Nyasha Mutendawafa, were caught red handed with four rhino horns in Lunds bag. The magistrate handling the case concluded there was a definite case to answer, so the pair bypassed the magistrate and took the case to the High Court where the judge dismissed the case on the grounds that "the prosecution failed to prove the rhino horns in question are from either black or white rhino" . It was not disputed they were rhino horns!  This has to be the most ludicrous ruling ever made, and one can only guess as to why the judge went out of his way to acquit the two very guilty dealers!!
Unfortunately, this is not the only case where the judiciary has released connected ivory or horn dealers on frivolous grounds, and does not bode well if dealers feel they can get immunity from prosecution if caught.
Bad news on Rhino out of Botswana:  TheOkavango rhino saga finally closes - the  last two known rhino on Chiefs Island in the Okavango delta were captured and moved out to safety. With great fanfare, rhino, both black and white, were reintroduced into the Delta a few years ago, and at great cost, but in one of the most disastrous episodes in rhino conservation, these rhino were eliminated by gangs of poachers,  The only protection the rhino had was the Botswana Defence Force who turned out to be totally inept. The Government has not disclosed the scale of the massacre but it is believed to be in excess of 200 rhino. 
Now the poachers have finished the Delta rhino, it is believed they are going after the rhino on private land in Botswana, and will also go back to ivory poaching
Unfortunately, Botswana's claim to be a wildlife haven is severely tarnished!

ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK

An interesting comparison, per kind favour of Google Earth! Obviously they had a time difference overlap on their photography, but it clearly illustrates the difference between the rainy season and the dry season in the Chamabonda!
                    April                                                                October
Of Interest, the migrant Black Coucals and Denhams Bustards are frequently seen on the vlei.
 
KAZUMA PAN NATIONAL PARK
Mike Jonasi has been transferred from Kazuma to Sinamatella. We are very sorry to see him go, but wish him all the best and thank him for all the effort he put into Kazuma - it was a pleasure working with him. We welcome Aleck Makamure who has taken over from Mike, and look forward to continuing our relationships at Kazuma
Kazuma is still far too wet to consider trying to get around!
 
ROBINS
We are continuing our program of cleaning around signs and under solar panels.
We have also started to divide the Deteema Dam Picnic Site into two areas - one side will be for campers, while the other side will be for game drive/day tripper clients. We have previously had problems where campers have blocked out the whole site, excluding any other visitors.
SINAMATELLA
We welcome Mike Jonasi as Area Manager this month, and he is assured of our full support  He has a big task ahead of him to restore Sinamatella. The outgoing Area Manager, Mr Mutandwa, is going to West Nicholson
Report by Stephen Long
Rainfall and Game Water.
  Well, what a difference a month makes! January was the second-wettest month we have recorded in the last thirteen rainy seasons, February went to the other extreme and was not only the driest February but was the second-driest of any rainy-season month. It only rained twice and the total for the month was just 19mm, so from way over average at the end of January, we are back to average now…….
Average sounds good - and it would be if the rain had been spread throughout the season - but with most of it falling in January we have problems. Firstly, the pans that filled up so nicely in January are already drying and secondly, all the grass that grew in January is already way past its peak and will be very low in nutritional value well before the end of the dry season. Of course, we might still get good rain in what’s left of the season and all will be well – and as I write this, a couple of days into March, the clouds are gathering, we saw lightning in the distance last night and the weather forecast is for scattered thunder storms. We have our fingers crossed.
     In spite of the dry weather and the drying out of the roads, we didn’t do very much game water work in February. Partly this was down to low finances and a lack of fuel but it was also simply because there wasn’t very much to do (and I’m not complaining about that!). We spent a little time cutting back bush growth on the dam wall at Mandavu, most of a day trying to locate and repair a leak at the Sinamatella wind pump and we also tidied around some of the nearby pumps. A few of the pumps had been turned off for the rains but at the end of the month we started turning them back on again as water levels were dropping fast. Other than that, our game water work has taken a back seat to a whole lot of other work, some of which I’ll mention later….
Wildlife
   We are still waiting for elephants to return in big numbers. Early in March I was passing through Baobab ridge late in the afternoon and I met plenty of elephants there as we often do at that time of year. Baobab ridge is sandy and has a good range of vegetation so it is more attractive to elephants than the low-lying, muddy, slippery Mopane lands that cover most of Sinamatella sector. Strangely though, as the ground dried out, there was still not much sign of elephants in the Park. There’s no reason to suppose that the elephants have actually somehow disappeared  and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them in big numbers in the coming months. That though, isn’t the case with another common species that is also mysteriously absent – Yellow-billed Kites.
    Yellow-billed Kites are an intra-African migrant that usually arrives in late July to August, breeds in Zimbabwe and then flies north in March. In a normal year we see plenty of them at Sinamatella, especially at Shumba and Masuma, but we noticed that there were fewer than usual last year and there have been fewer still this year. I can’t say why this should be but I don’t think the weather is likely to be responsible and I’ll be keeping a special eye out for them when they return in a few months’ time.
    In Camp, our tame pair of Red-billed Hornbills, affectionately known as ‘Dumb and Dumber’ went into breeding mode in early February. First, Dumb started behaving like a chick, begging food from Dumber and rewarding him when he supplied it with a rude squawk and a flutter of the eyelashes (OK, I might have imagined the eyelashes). Presumably Dumber’s response to the food–begging was acceptable because mating took place and on the 15th February, Dumb walled herself up in the nest box. She is still there with poor Dumber working hard to keep them both supplied with food. The eggs should hatch by about the 10th of March then he’ll have to work harder still - which won’t be easy for him unless we get rain to bring out the insects in the sort of numbers that he would like.
    Miscellaneous 
    By now you may have noticed that there are no photographs this month. Back before Christmas, Sue (who take most of our photos) slipped and fell while pushing a Land Rover (!) and broke her arm. She spent New Year in hospital having a plate inserted to hold the break together and she’s recovering very well but she found that travelling on our very bumpy roads was a little uncomfortable so she stayed in Camp through February. Normal service should be resumed in March.
     Hwange Conservation Society donated a battery and the cost of repairing a starter motor which will make our lives a little easier and save some of that push-starting (and potential arm-breaking!) that we are so familiar with. Many thanks for that.
   I mentioned under the ‘game water’  heading that we had been busy with other things. We are very happy to welcome our new Parks Area Manager, Mike Jonasi to Sinamatella and we have been supporting him in his efforts to get on with some long-overdue jobs around the Camp and the picnic sites. We have repaired the large gate at Masuma Dam which was bent beyond use by an elephant some time last year, we tried to get water flowing properly to the ablution block at Sinamatella Campsite (but were mostly unsuccessful due to lack of resources – taps, pipes, cement, paint etc are all needed), we took staff out to Shumba to tidy up and slash the grass, we cleared litter from around Mandavu Dam, we repaired the water pump for Mandavu picnic site, we helped with repairs at Sinamatella school and fitted a pipeline and tap at the tourist office so that a new lawn could be planted. We also had to help the Electricity Supply Authority when parts of the overhead electricity line to the camp fell down and, most time consuming of all, helped the Water  Authority rep at Sinamatella to improve our water supply. That involved lengthy repairs to two pumps and some days spent chipping years’ accretions of lime out of the pipes and tanks. It was hard work but worth the effort – we now have water almost 24hrs a day which is a huge improvement on the situation before.
   
RHINO MONITORING & PROTECTION UNIT

Report By Nick Long
During the month of February the team did a total of 26 patrols with a total distance of 394,30 kilometers, these are divided into 13 patrols rhino monitoring with a distance of 204,50 kilometers. Almost no rhino sign was found during these patrols, they must be deep in areas that we don’t normally patrol and will be spread out a lot more as they have access to plenty of water and food at this time of the year. Also at the beginning of the month it rained frequently and this means any spoor the rhino leave gets erased by this rain which complicates things further, this should become better soon as things are starting to dry up quickly.
The other 189,80 kilometers were anti-poaching patrols. During these patrols a total of 19 snares were found. These snares weren’t set but the owner had left them curled up the trees they are tied to. We have seen this quite a lot at Sinamatella and it seems the owner would have basically stored them for the duration of the rainy season and would come back when the bush dries out. This tactic seems to be an easier way for the poachers as they don’t have to take the snares while he is away and he doesn’t need to reset them when he comes back, it also means they are very hard to find and there isn’t a risk of animals being caught leading to their presence so the poacher can just come back year after year and repeat the process.
Some of the snares recovered
 
POACHING
Amos attended a TUSK Symposium in Kenya, where he made a presentation to the delegates, and finally got to hold his TUSK Ranger of the Year Trophy - He was previously unable to attend the award ceremony last year which was cancelled due to Covid.
Amos Gwema has been promoted to cover the whole of Matabeleland and Midlands on wildlife scurity, and deputising for him in Hwange is Cosamu Mwaseba - welcome Cosamu and congratulations to Amos.
Cosamu was off to a good start, with the arrest of two people in possession of ivory in Hwange.
The sad news on poaching is that two Black Rhino have been lost this year in Matopos, but both of them outside the Park. The Park is overpopulated with Black Rhino which is forcing some out to where they are vulnerable. There are follow up operations underway to track down this syndicate
Three people were arrested in Bulawayo in a sting operation trying to sell a fake rhino horn. However, one suspect escaped and it is believed this suspect might have had a real rhino horn, from Matopos. Follow up operations are continuing.
Specialised Police Units are also  searching for a poaching syndicate who have shot a white rhino in the Bikita area, partially burying the carcass to avoid its detection. 
In an encouraging development, two person were arrested by community members near Hwange National Park when they were seen loitering near the Park Three syringes of what is suspected to be cyanide were recovered, plus 10 oranges! Well done to the community!
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 of Les Animaux for his generous donation
Mark Unwin and the Clarkson Family Trust,his generous donation.

Ray Haakonse for his support
Adrian Clayton and NorthStar for their support
Frank Zindel of the Bright Light 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
Friends of Hwange and Dave Dell for sponsoring the borehole and new battery system at Masuma
Lion Recovery Fund and Rhino Recovery Fund  - a big thanks to Peter Lindsay and Markus Hofmeyr 
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 certain prints to go to the trust.
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!!! 
Simon and Portia Rowlands  - donation to refurbish attendants accommodation at Shumba
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 donated equipment.
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
Ricky Forster and Forster Irrigation of Bulawayo for donated pumps and continued assistance
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
Mike Karasellos for grading and mowing roads in the Chamabonda
Craig Gobey and Zambezi Sands Drilling for their assistance
Brendan Malloch-Brown - for his support with our new container office, refurbished by Brendon.
Michelle Sindall for her donation ( which finally reached us a month late!!)
Sandy Elsworthy for his donation
Machaba Safaris for their hospitality and assistance
Patrick Williamson for helping on updating maps
Jeff Weingarten - donation 
Richard Scripps - donation
Meikles Trust - Jeanne Moxon
Tony Wild of the Wild Cub Society (an NFT) for his donation
Colin Baker for the donation of tyres

Thanks to our Board of Trustees for all the hard work they are putting in - Ian Gloss, Dave Carson, Dan Jones, Stephen Long, Jerry Gotora 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
Area Manager - Zambezi --Mr Marvellous Mbikbiyana
Area manager, Sinamatella - Mike Jonassi
Area Manager, - Robins and Kazuma - Mrs N Moyo
Kazuma Wildlife Officer - Aleck Makamure
 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, and for doing instagram!!

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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