Counting cats in the Matopos: The Mangwe Leopard project

Posted on April 25th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General by Alta

This post is the second in our series featuring Zimbabwean Conservation projects and organisations. This time round, we visit a recently completed project in the beautiful Matobo hills.

The Matopos or Matobo Hills, owes its name (meaning “bald heads”) to the granite kopjes that characterise this unique landscape. The hills cover about 3100 km² and is deemed extremely important culturally (it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003) as well as ecologically (it hosts over 200 species of trees and the world’s largest concentration of black eagles, to name a few).


But it’s not only a site of rock art, trees and birds – the kopjes and wooded valleys offer prime leopard habitat. Although these carnivores have long been known to occur here, until recently nobody really had any handle on the size of the population, their habitat preferences or movement patterns.

Tanith Grant’s project attempted (and succeeded) in addressing these gaps. Over three years, with the help of trained members of the local community, she collected information using telemetry, camera traps and other census techniques that ultimately enabled her to come up with the first population estimate of the predators in the Mangwe area.

This information, together with her spatial movement data, now allow the Zimbabwean Parks and Wildlife authority (ZPWA) to devise and implement better management strategies for the sustainable conservation of a top predator that is both ecologically and economically valuable and affecting.

Photos: Tanith Grant

You can find Tanith’s project on MAPA’s conservation layer for Google Earth. Click here to download the KML file and then double click on the downloaded file to open it in your “Places” panel in Google Earth. Search for “Mangwe Leopard Project” (like in the screenshot below) to find this project (remember that you can add your own project to this map!).


Also be sure to check out Rhodes University’s Wildlife and Reserve Management Research Groups’ website to learn more about some of the other research this group is involved in.

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Agricultural Research for development: Cirad’s work in Zimbabwe

Posted on April 17th, 2012 in Featured Conservation,General by Alta

We’re now into the third week of our drive to create a registry of Zimbabwean conservation projects.  As we pick up speed in the buildup to our visit to Harare, we’d like to share with you, in the next fortnight, some of the great work being done by conservation organisations and institutions in Zimbabwe.

The first of these featured organisations is the Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (Cirad). Cirad is a French research agency that has been conducting applied agricultural research for over twenty years in  Zimbabwe.  Since 2007, Cirad with three other institutions, namely University of Zimbabwe, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), and CNRS (another French-based research agency), have embarked on a research platform called “Production and Conservation in Partnership” (RP-PCP).

The objective of the platform is to address human-nature conflicts in the periphery of protected areas, including TFCAs.  Research themes addressed are community based natural resource management, agriculture and conservation, functional ecology and animal health and environment.  The RP-PCP with the support of the French Embassy in Zimbabwe and funds from research and development projects, promote post-graduate training (Msc, MPhil and PhD), mostly for Zimbabwean students and when possible for staff from technical services.  So far, the RP-PCP has supported 11 PhDs, 22 MPhil and 8 MSc (with 35% completed).

Land-use differences at the periphery of Protected Areas (photo: A. Caron)

Two examples of Cirad projects within the RP-PCP are their disease transmission projects at the wildlife/livestock interface in Gonarezhou National Park (Greater Limpopo TFCA) and Hwange National Park (Kavango-Zambezi TFCA) – both these projects can be seen on the MAPA conservation layer.

One thing these two parks have in common is that they are both located along international borders and within TFCAs wildlife/livestock interfaces are numerous in these TFCAs (sometimes with fences but often with no physical barrier between land-uses). One of the consequences of these interfaces is the transmission of important diseases (e.g. Foot-and-Mouth Disease, bovine tuberculosis, theileriosis) from wildlife to cattle and vice versa, threatening both conservation and development objectives.

Understanding and managing wildlife/livestock interaction and disease transmission on the periphery of these protected areas and TFCAs is thus particularly critical, and exactly what Cirad and its partners hopes to achieve by fitting GPS collars to both cattle and buffalos and surveying these ungulate populations for major diseases. This issue is important for wildlife conservation, livestock production (and therefore for rural livelihoods) but also for public health as some of these diseases such as zoonoses can be transmitted from animals to humans (e.g. brucellosis, rift valley fever).

Cattle in a dip-tank (left) and interviews with cattle farmers (right) (photos: A. Caron)

The sanitary aspect is only one of the aspects addressed through the RP-PCP. Human-Elephant conflicts, impact of tourism and hunting on the wildlife resource, perceptions of farmers on TFCAs and many other topics are tackled by research students (click here to see and download a leaflet).

Both disease transmission projects, as well as the Research platform have now been added to MAPA’s database and can be found on our Google Earth layer. To explore the great work Cirad does in Zimbabwe in Google Earth, download MAPA’s conservation layer for Google Earth, or visit their website.


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A more complete protected areas map for Zim

Posted on April 5th, 2012 in General,Get Involved! by Alta

Our Zimbabwe drive is now in full swing, and, with the help of Zimbabwe’s conservation practitioners, we’re steadily busy populating the MAPA database with Zimbabwean conservation projects.

Whereas our current focus is all about creating a map of conservation projects, the MAPA Google Earth layer and searchable map comprise a few additional “categories” of conservation effort, including critical habitats and, of course, protected areas.

In the last couple of months, in an attempt to get all parts of our conservation map as complete as possible, we’ve been updating the representation of Zimbabwe’s protected areas. We’ve even added a few slideshows as a special treat, like the beautiful Gonarezhou slideshow we shared with you in last week’s post, and the  slideshow of Matusadona National Park below. To see these slideshows in Google Earth, download and open the MAPA layer, click on the “Click here to see more” button in any of the protected areas bubbles, and look out for the orange camera icon, labeled “slideshow”. If you see that, you’re in luck.

Matusadona National Park (Photos: Peter Levey)

As always, though, the MAPA layer is in the hands of Africa’s conservationists. We’re not the experts on Zimbabwean protected areas….you are! If you have a particular interest in or knowledge of any of these areas, particularly if you run a project close to or in any of these parks, reserves and conservancies, we’d love to hear from you!

We’ve put together a cut-out map of only the Zimbabwean protected areas (click here to download this, and then double click on the downloaded file to open it in Google Earth). Please have a look at the bubbles and boundaries and let us know how we can represent “your” protected area more accurately and aesthetically.  To comment you can either click on the “add comment” or “send correction” links at the bottom of every bubble, or simply send us an email.

We’re thoroughly enjoying finding and putting together the puzzle pieces of Zimbabwe’s conservation story, and we hope that you can help us tell this part of that narrative as accurately as possible. Look out for the first project features next week and if you haven’t added your project yet, we hope you will soon!

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