Researcher: Jaelle Claypole
Region: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Hwange National Park has been materially affected by the economic crises which have continually beset Zimbabwe over the past few years. In order to assist the Park in continuing its vital conservation work, a research coordinator and ecologist will help Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) in its anti-poaching efforts and will ensure a concentrated white rhino monitoring and security plan as well. She will also aid NGOs in continuing their work in Hwange National Park.
By closely analysing animal populations and trends, recommendations can be made with respect to conservation and management practices. This will benefit the wildlife in terms of protection or conservation of species.
Because the PWMA works with a limited budget and resources, research such as this is hard to undertake. With an in-house researcher in the area research may be conducted where once was not possible. All data collected will be passed on to National Parks for their use and analysis.
As data on specific species are collected in the area this will be passed onto specific research groups where a more detailed report or analysis may be done. This will broaden their study range, and data as well as save them unnecessary costs in having to conduct their work.
Finally, by helping with conservation and management recommendations, animal species will be protected so that future generations of Zimbabweans may enjoy the wildlife in Hwange National Park.
The researcher will:
- Liaise directly with the researchers presently in the area i.e. National Parks, Lion Project, Wild Dog Project, CIRAD/HERD, and share information;
- Specifically collate wildlife population statistics related to various animal types, again in association with other research groups in the area;
- Liaise with all guides and act as support to them in the compilation of wildlife statistics, movements, feeding and breading habits to share with all independent researchers;
- Coordinate and interact with the various safari camps within the Park and propose conservation and research initiatives;
- Liaise with other likeminded organisations to aid conservation and research in general;
- Set up specific research topics relevant to the management of south-eastern Hwange National Park.
Projects that will benefit/be involved:
Hwange Lion Research Project: Established by Dr Andrew Loveridge in 1999 to analyse the consequences of sport hunting on lions in Hwange National Park, this is one of the most extensive studies in Africa with a total of 51 collared lions.
Leopard Research Project: Leopard monitoring is being done in conjunction with The Zambezi Society, part of a countrywide leopard project. It is designed to determine the distribution and status of leopard in Zimbabwe.
Anti-poaching Activities: This involves the safeguarding of the wildlife in Hwange National Park and is done through various anti-poaching patrols along the eastern and southern boundaries of Hwange National Park, which stretch approximately 80km in the relevant section. In 2007 Wilderness Trust funded an anti-poaching vehicle which has been of great benefit in terms of being able to patrol larger areas.
CIRAD/HERD: This NGO has been collecting data for many years on the distribution and abundance of herbivore species within Hwange National Park, sharing the information with PWMA. Due to logistical reasons data collection has not been carried out a regular basis. With an in-house researcher on the premises these can now be repeated three times a year.
White Rhino Monitoring: The best possible protection for the recently introduced white rhino is to continuously monitor them, requiring locating the introduced and the current population of white rhino. Wilderness Safaris assists in these monitoring exercises with National Parks and all data collected is conveyed to National Parks and is entered in the National Database for future use.
Painted Dog Research Project: This project has been in operation for over 20 years in Hwange, gathering data on populations of wild dog. For logistical reasons they rarely access the eastern boundary of the Park. Therefore sightings of packs will be noted and be conveyed to the Painted Dog Research group for analysis and data capturing.
Bird monitoring of large raptures, seasonal birds and any other endangered species (such as Ground Hornbill sightings) will be carried out.
24-hour game censuses are being conducted for WEZ (Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe) seasonally, once in the rainy season (November – February), and once in the dry season (July – October), providing a general trend in seasonal variation in animal populations, densities and distributions.
The Hwange Research Coordinator and Ecologist is Jaelle Claypole. She is currently enrolled at the University of Pretoria to complete her MSc in Wildlife Management.
Annual Report 2011
Monitoring and statistical analysis are key to obtaining information to be used for wildlife management. In the past, Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA) conducted such research, but due to the political and economical turmoil experienced in the last decade, they are no longer financially and logistically able to complete projects of such magnitude.
The Research Coordinator for Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe, Jaelle Claypole, has therefore established various projects over the last two years including monthly rhino monitoring exercises, monthly full moon 24-hour pan counts, road strip counts, spoor transects, assisting with Lion and Leopard Research Projects (run by independent researchers), assessment of game water supply, measurement of borehole depths throughout the season, darting and snare removal, assisting with anti-poaching, vulture counts, environmental assessment of camps and various other projects.
The arrival of a new vehicle for ecological work and research in the south-eastern section of Hwange National Park (HNP), thanks to the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, has meant that all research can now be carried out to its full potential which ultimately benefits the wildlife.
At the beginning of the year, Claypole attended a Dangerous Drugs course on the chemical and physical restraint of wild animals. It couldn’t have come at a better time as the numbers of snared animals sighted in the south-eastern area of HNP were increasing. Again, thanks to the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, and the assistance of PWMA and Wilderness Safaris staff, a number of animals were given a second lease on life in 2010.
Statistics analysed using pan count data have shown that animal concentrations in the south-eastern area of HNP have increased over the last few years. For this to continue, it is imperative that correct and improved wildlife management practices be the main focus and objective, something which the research coordinator will be following closely.