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The Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Serengeti National Parks (SENAPA), and investors from the tourism sector are actively collaborating in protecting the tourism resources in the Serengeti National Park. The annual migration of more than a million wildebeest constitutes the most unique aspect of the ecosystem, but research demonstrates that approximately 40,000 wildebeests are annually illegally harvested.Without intervention, the number is expected to increase to 80,000 wildebeests, which would be 7% of the total wildebeest found in the ecosystem.
The main medium of illegal harvesting of wildebeest is the use of wire snares, which also trap endangered species such as elephants and lions. To address this threat, stakeholders agreed to set up a mobile de-snaring team that patrols Serengeti National Park and the surrounding protected areas, to find, remove and destroy snares. This project began in May 2017 and has to date removed more than 10,000 snares.
The project has met its goal, “to support the work of the de-snaring team by enabling the Serengeti vets to maintain an adequate supply of the drugs and medicines and to help train vet technicians enabling them to complete the Malilangwe Course on Chemical and Physical Restraint of African Wildlife”.
To this end the project has trained one Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) veterinary technician to attend the Malilangwe course. In addition, the project has provided veterinary drugs to enable numerous animals wounded in wire snares to be treated and released.
The total number of animals released alive from snares in 2018 was 213, and in 2019 (to October 2019) was 247 (The figures are not broken down by animals treated by vets for wounds, although all animals are checked for those requiring treatment).
This support has been highly regarded by TANAPA. TANAPA is otherwise constrained in its Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) budget and without this funding for animal treatment, and in particular, the rhino immobilisation and tagging operations, could not take place. As such the project has provided a vital contribution to the conservation of the wildlife of the Serengeti National Park. TANAPA is increasingly looking to FZS to provide this technical and logistical support for vitally needed training and supplies.
Mr Andrea Mbwambo was fully sponsored to attend the Malilangwe Course in Chemical & Physical Restraint of African Wildlife in Zimbabwe, 8-16 February 2019 (http://wildlifecaptureafrica.com/the-course/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CSkCZ_p4e0). This included all travel expenses, as well as the course fees, meals and accommodation while in Zimbabwe and medical insurance.
Mr. Mbwambo works for Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) in the Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) as a Conservation Assistant 1: Animal Health. He is responsible for much of the capture work in the park for the removal of wire snares which have broken free from the tree but remained embedded in the flesh of the animal. He also handles the capture and treatment of animals injured in road accidents, and together with the Chief veterinarian for the park, Dr Idriss Chuma, he is called out to any disease outbreak seen by field staff in the park.
“The Malilangwe course on February 2019 has helped me a lot! Although l had experience in wildlife capture based on hands-on training previously done at Serengeti National Park, I have now learnt new things like Boma Captures, Darting the Wild Animals by using Chopper and using the Net Gun. I also refreshed my knowledge on wild animal physiology and pharmacology of various wild animal capture drugs and other supportive drugs as well as physical restraint techniques.
And lastly, I got opportunity to network with veterinary professionals, biologists and conservationists. A few friends that I have made are Dr David Copper, Dr Chap Master, Dr Markus, Mr Josh and the nice Chopper Pilot Mr NJ; they are really good people that always actively participated in helping me understand well the training. I also learnt different handling and translocation of different wild animal species and interacted with other students from different areas over the World.
We shared knowledge, skills and a lot of things in social life. I am very thankful to FZS for sponsoring me financially and TANAPA for giving me permission and facilitation. I also personally thank Mr. Rian, Madam Lorna and Mr. Mwishawa (SACC Serengeti) and Dr. Chuma (SCO- Vet, Serengeti) for their support and encouragement.” By Mr Andrea Mbwambo
A consignment of capture drugs (Zoletil, Atipamezole, Butorphanol, Pentobarbitone) was purchased as well as other capture equipment (immobilization darts and CO2 cannisters for the long-range dart gun) as requested by the SENAPA veterinary unit specifically for carnivore and ungulate rescue work, mainly to remove wire snares. Removing wire snares from wildlife in the ecosystem (elephants, giraffe, lions, wildebeest, zebra, etc.) forms a large part of the SENAPA veterinary units’ workload, and they go through a large quantity of veterinary supplies in order to achieve this.
Importantly, Mr Andrea Mbwambo does by far the majority of this work in the park and surrounding protected areas. This work goes hand-in-hand with the de-snaring program which works towards actually reducing the problem. This is a joint initiative between the Tanzania National Parks, FZS and a group of local businesses, the SENAPA Investors, working towards reducing the number of snares in the Serengeti National Park.
Snaring can kill or maim thousands of wild animals each year, with animals dying a slow and very painful death. TANAPA fully manages the teams, through the Serengeti Operations Centre in Seronera, with technical and logistical support provided by FZS, and financial support provided by the SENAPA Investors, and other third-party donors such as the Footprints Network.
The cost of the Malilangwe capture course was higher than anticipated, and it is hoped that this discrepancy will be accepted as the course was the immensely valuable for improving the techniques and drug combinations that Mr Mbwambo uses to capture distressed wildlife.
This grant fits SENAPA needs for veterinary drugs and veterinary support as they arise, and this has enabled the project to provide veterinary drugs and expertise quickly when they are needed. It has helped to improve SENAPA efficiency by providing equipment and training and particularly to be able to respond to injured animals in distress.
The project has also shown how providing technical training and advice, along with key supplies from a relatively small budget in support of a bigger SENAPA budget, has had a positive impact in terms of animals treated and recovered, and improved morale and positive relationships which help FZS in delivering other aspects of law enforcement advice to TANAPA. This means FZS can maximize its impact from relatively small levels of investment.
The $10,000 raised by the Footprints Network was spent as follows: