IntroductionThe aim is to establish a mobile, self-sustaining emergency wildlife response veterinary unit. The unit will be jointly managed by Liwonde Wildlife Trust (LWT), the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development (DAHLD) in Malawi.
The unit will offer nationwide in-situ rescue services for elephant, rhino and other animals. Injuries may include snares, gunshot wounds, wounds sustained from motor vehicles, or abuse. The wildlife veterinarian will be responsible for chemical, physical or manual capture and restraint of all wildlife cases, as well as for administering all veterinary medical care during and after capture. Whenever possible, animals will be immediately released back into the wild.
The unit will also deliver education programmes on human-wildlife conflict to the schools that border protected areas.
Researcher: Dr Amanda SalbRegion: Malawi
Organisation: Lilongwe Wildlife Trust
BackgroundWild animals in Malawi, especially rhino and elephant, are under considerable threat. The population of elephant has decreased from around 4 000 to less than 2 000 in recent years, principally as a direct result of commercial poaching and indiscriminate snaring. In addition, DNPW have culled hundreds of “problem” animals which enter human settlements from protected areas. Rhino became completely extinct in Malawi in the 1980s, and although some small populations have been reintroduced, several of these reintroduced animals have now been lost to snares and guns.
Neither DNPW nor DAHLD have suitably qualified wildlife veterinarians that can respond to emergency situations when rhino, elephant and other large species are found injured and distressed. The LWT has been assisting DNPW on an ad-hoc basis – between May 2013 and January 2014, LWC responded to seven emergency requests. These requests were to help find, immobilise and de-snare rhino and elephant in Liwonde National Park. The team successfully removed several snares and thereby reduced the suffering and saved the lives of several elephant and rhino.
Previously, DNPW have had to rely on private companies to fly in specialist overseas help. This is not a timely or sustainable option and can unfortunately lead to animals being left untreated for several days or weeks. There is an urgent need to equip, train and build wildlife veterinary capacity within DNPW/DAHLD. There is also the need to deliver educational activities on how to manage human-wildlife conflicts in the populated areas surrounding national parks.
- Fully equip a mobile veterinary unit, to be run by the LWT in partnership with DNPW and DAHLD, with the required vehicle and equipment by August 2014.
- Implement a business plan that generates enough revenue to self-sustain the unit with respect to future annual core operational expenses after July 2015.
- Provide rolling two-year training placement for a DNPW approved/seconded DAHLD veterinary employee to work alongside the LWT veterinarian on all in-situ emergency responses and all other wildlife veterinary procedures undertaken at the LWC.
- Provide a funded placement for DNPW approved/seconded DAHLD veterinary employee to attend a specialist game capture and immobilisation course in Zimbabwe.
- Provide training to school teachers and local CBOs on how to implement human-wildlife conflict education and distribute hundreds of teacher guides on the subject.
MethodologyA basic outline of an operation may be as follows:
- Identification of injured animal and contact of LWT/DNPW with details and location (including GPS if possible).
- Wildlife veterinarian and DNPW rangers are dispatched to location to assess situation and locate animal.
- When located, actions will be taken that best facilitate veterinary medical care. These may include chemical immobilisation or physical restraint, depending on the species and the problem.
- When possible, the animal will be tagged, marked or collared to facilitate further identification.
- When possible, all animals will be captured and treated on-site and released back into the immediate environs. When long-term care is necessary, select species may be taken back to the LWC for rehabilitation and future release.
When developing educational materials and programmes, LWT uses an approach very similar to the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation (ADDIE) model. Once developed, the LWT will implement the materials and micro-projects through specialist school groups, such as wildlife clubs. These clubs will then promote the programme throughout the rest of the school. This approach ensures school ownership of the programme which facilitates sustainable learning. LWT then monitors and evaluates the performance of each wildlife club. In 2013 alone, LWT provided outreach to over 150 schools and trained hundreds of teachers.
UpdatesQuarterly Report – December 2016
Over the past few years, through WERU and the LWC, we’ve received increased requests by officials to assist with transport/rescue of confiscated animals. To address this need, we’ve recently added a rescue component to WERU. We got off to an exciting start with a confiscated pangolin. With the help of in-country partners, we were able to transport and release this animal back into a national park. This story and more can be read in the report here.
The last three months have been filled with activity, including an exciting event when we assisted the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre with the anaesthesia of Centre’s male lion Simba.
LINK TO PDF in folder: O:\Creative Resource Team\02 CRT departmental folders\WS Trust\Projects\Malawi Mobile Wildlife Response Unit\Update Jun16
Objective 1: Continue supporting partnerships between DNPW, DAHLD, and WERU/LWT to develop in-country capacity to deliver the following: wildlife veterinary services, the collection and analysis of data of national and global importance regarding wildlife health, disease surveillance, and analysis of the effects of poaching activities on endangered and threatened species in Malawi.
- A paper titled “Zoonotic Pathogens of Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) in Malawi” was accepted for presentation at the 65th Annual International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association in Ithaca, New York in July 2016. This research was completed June/July 2015 by a veterinary student in cooperation with the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development.
- WERU was recently requested to look at population and poaching data for elephants and several antelope species in a national park to assess perceived versus actual impact of poaching in the park since the 1990’s. Law enforcement seeks to use the information to gauge extent of the poaching impact on nearby villages.
- WERU was asked by the new park manager for Kasungu NP to come up with a rescue and relocation plan to assist with incidences of human-wildlife conflict around KNP, specifically with predators like lions.
Objective 2: Continue to implement a business plan that generates enough revenue to self-sustain the unit with respect to future annual core operational expenses.
- The fourth “Primate Medicine and Husbandry, A Wildlife Vet Training” course was delivered in February, with two more courses scheduled for June and August. All proceeds from the course go exclusively to fund WERU veterinary activities.
- Between 22 and 25 March WERU vets taught the veterinary medicine component of a course in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation held at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. Students learned about all aspects of the rehabilitation process, from quarantine to release. Proceeds of this course fund activities at the LWC, including veterinary procedures.
Objective 3: Provide a training course in “Wildlife Forensics and Animal Health” – in partnership with
DAHLD – for park rangers in two National Parks experiencing heavy poaching activity.
- These courses are now tentatively planned for the end of winter. This coincides with the increase in poaching as animals are more drawn to predictable water points and the decrease in foliage increasing the likelihood of carcass detection by air.
Objective 4: Continue to provide veterinary assistance to any circumstances affecting wildlife health and management across Malawi within the 5 Points of Care.
- WERU started out the month with a meeting at the State House. Presidential aides requested Department of National Parks and Wildlife assistance in the matter of zebras fighting on the President’s lawn. A plan to monitor the herd and move offending individuals was made.
- From 22 March – 30 April, as the interim vet WERU provided all veterinary care for the animals at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. On 31 March, Simba, the resident male lion at the centre, required an anaesthetic to recheck bloodwork. No significant biochemical changes were found.
- Over the course of a week in April, WERU assisted Carnivore Research Malawi in attempting to capture urban spotted hyaena for satellite collar placement. Hyaena living in Lilongwe are especially at risk for human-wildlife conflict. Learning more about their movements could help CRM provide community members with information as to how to avoid conflict. On 14 April, a large female hyaena was captured on the grounds of the Natural Resources Collage and a satellite collar was placed.
- On 2 May, WERU was asked to come to Kuti Wildlife Reserve to check out a zebra with an oozing back lesion. Previous photos showed that the lesion was open and draining, but on the day of the visit, the wounds had healed significantly so no intervention was required. Kuti zebra are always a pleasure as they allow one to get very close for examination!
- DNPW had reports of a baboon repeatedly stealing chickens in a small village near Nathenje, just outside of Lilongwe. On 8 May, WERU joined CRM on a visit to the village to see if the baboon could be captured and translocated. In the ensuing excitement surrounding this visit to the village, the baboon snuck in, absconded with a chicken, and eluded capture. Villagers are monitoring the baboon’s movements methodically so another attempt at capture can be made in the future.
- On 11 May, a spotted hyaena cub that was hand-reared at the LWC was transported to an enclosure in Kasungu National Park. The release plan is for this hyaena to become acclimatised to the surroundings and once released, to be monitored via a satellite collar.
- While WERU was in Kasungu National Park for the hyaena translocation, a call-in for a lion was made with CRM on 12 May. Born Free Foundation donated a satellite collar for a lion in Kasungu NP. Lions are periodically heard and occasionally seen in the south and central areas of KNP; however a larger population is suspected to range in the north and along the Zambian border. Reports of livestock predation sometimes come in from surrounding villages. A collar would greatly increase our understanding of lion movements in the park. While no lions were captured at this call-in, CRM and WERU will be working together to place the collar over the winter.
- After Kasungu, WERU travelled with CRM to Liwonde National Park to do call-ins for spotted hyaenas. The goal was to replace a collar on the dominant female in one of the clans. On 14 and 15 May, four hyaenas responded to the call-ins, although the collared female was not among them.
- While in Liwonde, the park manager called WERU regarding a juvenile elephant with a snare on its leg. We rushed down and as is typically the case, the fading afternoon was our biggest challenge. Since LNP had a helicopter, the animal was quickly located and the darting took place from the chopper. The snare was removed and we were able to get back to base before dark. The snare had caused significant injury and there was lasting damage to the conformation of the foot. However, given that the youngster was still able to move and keep up with the herd, chances are good for the healing of this injury.
- On 18 May, the LWC was called by the Egyptian Ambassador because a serval cat was observed in a storm drain; WERU was called to capture the animal. Upon darting the cat, it was discovered that it had been severely attacked by dogs. It was transported to the LWC for further treatment and over the next three days, LWC and WERU vets provided intensive medical care for the serval. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries but his legacy lives on. This story brought increased awareness of the amazing urban wildlife that share our city streets in Lilongwe as well as the need to keep dogs confined in order to protect that precious natural gift in the very heart of the city.
December 2015 – Year Round-up
While Malawi has made great strides in the last year, the country’s wild animals still face considerable threats. Between July 2014 and July 2015, WERU responded to over 30 animal emergencies across the country. Recent reports have come in almost weekly of animals caught in snare and gin traps, from baboons to elephants. In the last two months, three elephant and a baby black rhino have been treated by WERU and its partners for snare wounds.
In the past year, WERU has also been asked by park officials to evaluate animals found dead to help determine possible causes of death – an often-critical part of legal proceedings in a suspected poaching or poisoning case.
A short training course is being developed to build capacity on the ground for rangers to gather data on wildlife casualties within the park. This information will be used to more accurately represent the scope of the poaching problem in parks and provide law enforcement prosecutors valuable evidence for their cases. The three-day course in Wildlife Forensics and Animal Health will target six scouts in two national parks and will focus on assessing animal health and injuries, sample collection and processing of evidence for prosecution.
Since 1 April 2015, WERU has participated in 9 activities. The following activities have taken place:
- The first eight-day course titled “Primate Medicine and Husbandry, A Wildlife Vet Training Course” was completed on 07 April 2015. Designed and implemented by Dr. Amanda Salb, this programme took place at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. Six participants from around the world learned about wildlife and rehabilitation medicine, focusing on the main species at the LWC, primates. Course participants were able to be hands on with the exams, which included vervet monkeys and a common duiker.
- On 14 April, four spotted hyaenas were translocated from the LWC to Liwonde National Park (LNP). These hyaenas had been captured in Lilongwe town as part of a months-long human-wildlife conflict mitigation operation. This op was a joint partnership between WERU, Carnivore Research Malawi (CRM) and the LWC. The hyaenas were housed in quarantine at the LWC until transport. They were released into a boma in the Park and subsequently released into the wild. Two of the hyaenas were fitted with tracking collars and CRM scientists are following them to monitor their adjustment to their new environment.
- WERU accompanied the translocated hyaenas to LNP and then spent the following week in the Park with CRM attempting to collar a hyaena in one of the resident clans. CRM researchers have been doing surveys in LNP and have found evidence of two clans. At that time, two hyaenas were observed and one had evidence of a snare around the neck. Unfortunately, the hyaena with the snare was wary and never came close enough to dart.
- Malawi DNPW contacted WERU and LWC for advice about a problem hippo near Senga Bay, Lake Malawi. WERU and LWC staff paid a visit to the location where a sub-adult hippo had broken through a fence. The hippo was living alone on an estate; the lack of other hippos in the area and the lack of connectivity to the lake made it necessary to address the situation. Currently, WERU and LWC are looking into translocation options for his hippo.
- On 30 April, WERU assisted LWC staff in a procedure to place a contraceptive implant in the resident lioness at the LWC, Bella. While under anaesthesia, she was given a health check and deworming.
- On 10 May, WERU once again joined CRM in Liwonde National Park for a week to capture hyaenas. The goal was to collar one adult female in the clan nearest to the centre of the Park and to remove the snare seen previously. We were successful in placing a collar on the dominant breeding female in the clan, but once again the snared hyaena proved elusive.
- In another hyaena operation with CRM in Lilongwe town, we finally captured the adult female seen in March on a camera trap. It had appeared that this hyaena had a snare around her neck. Upon examination, it was observed that there was not currently snare in place, but obvious evidence that a snare had been there. There was scarring with hair loss around the neck and the snare had damaged underlying tissues, giving the neck a slightly indented feel. There was also scarring on the front right foot consistent with a previous snare. Fortunately, none of the injuries appeared to have affected her fitness; she was in good condition and was lactating.
- Dr John Knight, a consultant veterinarian with the Born Free Foundation, paid the LWC a visit 17-22 June to examine the lions being housed at the LWC. WERU once again joined LWC staff to be a part of the operation. Dr Knight brought out a portable digital x-ray (not available in Malawi) and endoscopy to assess the lions’ condition. He also provided WERU personnel, LWC staff, and members of the Malawi veterinary department with valuable instruction and mentorship.
- The second eight-day course on primate medicine commenced on 23 June. Each of the six participants represented a different country and had varying backgrounds. Students participated in exams on vervet monkeys, barn owls, and a python.
Between January and April 2015, WERU has participated in six activities. Since this is the rainy season in Malawi, restricted access to national parks reduces the number of animal related operations possible. The following activities have taken place:
- In January, the LWC asked WERU to assist with darting a wild male baboon for release. He had joined one of the LWC baboon troops destined for release in January. Since he was an integral part of the troop, it was desireable for him to join the rest of the troop being captured for release. However, he would not come into the holding area for capture and transport. After 3 days of waiting in a hide for a good opportunity, the WERU vet was able to dart the baboon. He was given an exam, collared, and released with the rest of the baboon troop in a national park.
- Also in January, WERU, CCM, and the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre attempted to translocate the four problem urban hyenas housed at the LWC to a national park in the south. While two animals had collars placed, the transport was aborted due to heavy rains and impassibility of the roads. The translocation is scheduled to take place in April.
- WERU was asked to give a presentation to the Malawi Veterinary Association at the Annual General Meeting held in Lilongwe. The talk consisted of an update of WERU activities, with a special emphasis on desnaring and human-wildlife conflict response. Attendees were also interested in increasing opportunistic wildlife disease surveillance.
- In February, Dr Joseph Nkhoma attended the Course on the Physical and Chemical Capture of Wildlife in Malilangwe, Zimbabwe. Course participants learn practical information specifically about the capture and restraint of wild animals in Africa from wildlife veterinarians and professionals in the region. The curriculum includes lectures on physiology, pharmacology, safe drug handling, dart gun training, and information on captures of specific species. Students participate in hands-on capture practicals for a variety of species including buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, and lion.
- Once again, WERU partnered with Carnivore Conservation Malawi (CCM, formerly Wild Dog Conservation Malawi). This time, a breeding female urban hyena was collared near the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre. CCM researchers are monitoring the behaviour and activities of these hyenas around Lilongwe, identifying urban landscape use by these hyenas and hoping to identify geographic areas of potential human-wildlife conflict.
- In March a young female elephant was shot by a poacher. She was severely lame and we suspected a fracture. A vet had offered to come up from South Africa to help the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust’s WERU team with his portable x-ray machine. She had been eating, drinking and moving around for almost three weeks when her condition declined sharply and she died despite medical intervention. At the post mortem it was found that the shoulder had been shattered beyond repair. The home-made bullet was likely made from melted battery terminals.
Since 1 October 2014, WERU has been involved in the following:
- A camera trap in Thuma Forest Reserve recorded an image of a mature elephant bull with a snare around its trunk. Scouts were sent out to search for the elephant but unfortunately it could not be located. Scouts will continue to look for him on foot and by using camera traps.
- WERU presented an update on its activities to the Wildlife and Environment Society of Malawi in Lilongwe, with a special emphasis on desnaring and human-wildlife conflict response. Most of the attendees were urban Lilongwe residents who did not have previous knowledge of the threats that snaring presents to wildlife. Photos of elephants with snare wounds were particularly impactful.
- Once again, WERU partnered with Wild Dog Conservation Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust to capture and relocate hyaena that had been identified as problem animals in urban areas in Lilongwe. Two hyaena were captured and transported to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, joining the other two problem animals located there. All four hyaena will be translocated to a protected area in January 2015.
- WERU assisted wildlife managers in Majete Wildlife Reserve by replacing a satellite collar on the only breeding lioness in the park. This collar will help managers to keep track of any births, as it is hoped that she may become pregnant again soon.
- WERU joined forces with Cluny Wildlife Trust to assist the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Rhino Protection Team with the fitting of satellite transmitters on black rhino in Liwonde National Park.
- Post-mortems were conducted on three occasions where wildlife was found dead in Kuti Wildlife Reserve. In one instance, a male nyala was found dead with a puncture wound in its thorax and after analysis, it was determined that it was likely to have been gored by another antelope. In two other instances, WERU conducted post-mortems on the reserve’s adult giraffe who died unexpectedly, as well on a troop of 20 baboons that were found dead. In both instances, there was no obvious cause of death, but in the case of the baboons, by ruling out other causes of death, poisoning is the likely culprit.
- WERU teamed up with veterinarians from the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre (LWC) to anaesthetise the centre’s male lion, and collect samples for analysis to determine what was causing his intermittent runny nose.
- Also at LWC, WERU assisted the centre’s veterinarian, Dr Sophie Bosch, in baboon health checks.
At Kuti Wildlife Reserve, a female ostrich was bitten by a dog on her left leg. WERU was able to sedate her and drain the wound and she has since made a full recovery.
In order to generate revenue, an eight-day course titled “Primate Medicine and Husbandry, a Wildlife Vet Training Course” has been scheduled for April, June and August 2015. In addition, WERU is developing an agreement with the Silent Heroes Foundation so that WERU supporters in the US can donate money to cover operating expenses.
Dr Joseph Nkhoma, a DNPW approved and seconded veterinarian, who was chosen to work alongside Dr Amanda Salb on all in-situ emergency responses and other veterinary procedures undertaken at the LWC, has been accepted to attend a capture course in February 2015. Dr Nkhoma assisted Dr Salb with the anaesthesia and diagnostic sampling of the adult male lion at the LWC, but it has been challenging for him to respond to WERU emergency response activities. This will be discussed during a joint meeting between DNPW and DAHLD, where WERU will present activities undertaken in 2014 and plans for 2015.
WERU met with Children in the Wilderness representatives and collaborations will be explored for 2015. In order to foster a more direct outreach in communities next to protected areas, Dr Salb will give presentations to Eco-Club members in schools around Liwonde National Park and Kuti Wildlife Reserve, both protected areas with human-wildlife conflict issues.
WERU has acquired all of the necessary equipment, including capture medications and a veterinary tranquiliser projector. Born Free Foundation in Kenya has donated the use of a Land Rover Defender for use as the project vehicle. Since mid-July 2014, WERU has been called out nine times. The following activities have taken place:
- WERU partnered with Wild Dog Conservation Malawi (WDCM) and DNPW in Kasungu National Park twice to look for a lion that had been spotted there. Since little is known about the status of the lion population in Kasungu, WDCM wanted to place a collar on the lion. While the lion was not located, hyaena and leopard were sighted; the population of these species are also not known in the Park.
- WERU again partnered with WDCM to help capture and relocated two urban hyaena that were identified as problem animals in the area of Lilongwe.
- Assisted wildlife managers in Majete Wildlife Reserve in replacing a satellite collar on a male lion that tends to chase the rhino trackers while they are on patrol.
- The President of Malawi’s zebra stepped into a couple of milk cans and needed to be darted so that the metal could be removed and the wound treated.
- Over the course of two weeks, WERU travelled to Liwonde National Park three times to attend to three snared elephants, one rhino who was the victim of bull/bull conflict, and a hyaena who appeared to have a snare around its neck.
In order to generate enough revenue to eventually self-sustain the unit, WERU hosted three short courses on primate medicine and rehabilitation in January, April and June 2014. WERU is also accepting veterinary student externs for 2015. While these are not paid placements, the externs are encouraged to fundraise for the project prior to their externship which should help bring in revenue and build awareness about the project in veterinary schools.
In addition, Dr Joseph Nkhoma, a qualified veterinarian employed with DAHLD has been identified by the DNPW and seconded to respond to WERU call outs. Dr Nhkoma graduated as a Veterinary Surgeon in 2001 from the University of Zimbabwe and has worked in a variety of settings including mixed animal private practice, for animal welfare organisations and with government institutions dealing with animal health, policy and welfare issues.