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@@Paolo Amazing images - both of the SA coast and the dogs. Can you share any details of the whale photos? Were they taken from the clifftop or from an aircraft? What camera / lens combination were you using? Thanks.

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@@pomkiwi

 

The whales photos were taken from a small plane, a Cessna 182, with the window on the front seat open. We flew for a couple of hours or a little more.

 

The equipment used for those whale photos was a Canon 1DX Mark II with a 70 - 200 mm.

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@Paolo:

 

I was very interested to learn that you had been learning about "tomcat compound" while in Botswana. I would be very grateful if you could elaborate further. My personal view, which may be totally wrong, is that biobarriers are most unlikely to offer any realistic answer to human/wildlife conflict and are merely a fashionable academic idea that will divert resources from more practical conservation strategies. I have two reasons for thinking this way: 1) If territorial boundaries act like invisible fences, how often and at what cost would one need to apply the "tomcat compound" to maintain efficacy? 2) Certainly in European badgers, boundary lines are not defended and seem to act as information bands which allow contiguous groups to learn what's happening in adjacent territories. (Invisible fences would lead to inbreeding). The situation may be different in wild dogs, but I doubt it, given the typically enormous size of their territories and if the compound is designed to fool animals into thinking that the adjacent territory is occupied by another pack. I suppose, if the compound is designed to signal "lion", it might be more effective. However, I am expressing a theoretician's view and totally lack necessary facts. Thus, I would love to know what you discovered.

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@@douglaswise

 

I am a lawyer, not a scientist, so I doubt I can properly address your questions.

 

However an question 1), whilst I have no clue on the precise idea of maintainance costs, the impression I had visiting the laboratory is that production costs might not be that steep, and in reality a biological fence might be less costly to maintain that a proper, classical physical fence.

 

Re question 2), in terms of effectiveness, there is actual footage taken from from camera traps placed by BPCT's researchers showing the "tomcat compound" to be incredibly effective on leopards. Definitely, lots of progress still need to be made, but I do not share your view that these reasearches are distracting funds from developing other means of preventing human/wildlife conflict, particularly in Botswana.

 

I think Tico had sent us, on the wake of our visit, a very recent scientific paper on this "tomcat compound" (besides several other extremely interesting publications), but I cannot find it at the moment. I will forward to you privately once I will be able to retrieve it from my inbox.

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@Paulo

 

You truly had a memorable 2016. Thank you for sharing your and Anita's experiences with us. The photos from Tswalu are lovely and inspiring and stirred fond memories of our stay there in September 2015. From our own experience and reports of others, it does appear that June and July are, in general, the optimal months to find aardvark and pangolin during the daylight hours.

 

We can only dream of having wild dog sightings accompanied by the expertise you had in your guides. The shots of the dogs silhouetted against the pink sunset are dreamy in and of themselves!

 

Looking forward to more.

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@Paulo Thank-you for your reply. I have read suggestions that it is possible to get good viewing of whales from the cliffs around Hermanus. Did you have any experience of this or do you have a opinion? Thanks again.

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Posted (edited)

@@pomkiwi

 

Sorry, I have no experience about viewing from cliffsaround Hermanus. You can spot whales even from your terrace or room at Birkenhead House - whilst very nice to have a glimpse of whales whilst dining, I would not call it great viewing though, at least in our experience.

 

We did a boat trip as well, but it was in no way comparable to the flight in terms of quality and number of sightings. Really wordls apart.

Edited by Paolo
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@Paolo:

 

Many thanks for your reply (post #54).

 

I did find one paper on the "tomcat compound" that related to its chemistry, but not to its durability or its effects on different species. Apparently, it is the sulphur-containing compound, 3-mercapto-3-methylbutanol. The researchers isolated it from some leopard urine samples, but not from those of lions or cheetahs. Its potential for repelling wild dogs was not discussed. However, given that leopards tend to be solitary and given that the compound's potency is apparently linked to testosterone levels, it would not be surprising if "junior" male leopards were to avoid staying in an area where they detected fresh urine containing high levels of 3-mercapto-3-methylbutanol.

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We did a boat trip as well, but it was in no way comparable to the flight in terms of quality and number of sightings. Really worlds apart.

 

@@pomkiwi

 

Just to clarify. The above statement refers to our experience in mid-July, which is early whale season. It might well be that in "peak" season (say, September), a boat trip is more productive than what was the case for us and may give some really nice close-up views..

 

Having said that, the freedom afforded by a plane in scouting much larger areas, choosing which pod to follow, going from one groupof whales to the other etc... is unmatched.

 

Hopefully we will be able to have a better grasp of the seasonal differences after our next visit this coming September.

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@@Paolo Thank-you for the clarification. I think that the experience of whale watching from a boat will always be very different from that of watching from a high viewpoint (such as a plane or cliff). My experience from a boat is that there is the benefit of being close to the whale (hearing and smelling) but that the ability to really see the animal is lacking. The opposite is true from a high vantage point. I was interested in whether the experience from land was in any way comparable to that from an aircraft.

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Extraordinary photos, @@Anita ! The Dogs (pups!) are wonderful of course, but the whales are truly special.

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Wrapping up our 4 nights in Northern Botswana which was largely but not totally about African Wild Dogs.

 


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Posted (edited)

Liwonde and the Malawi Elephant Translocation - July 2016

African Parks's ground-breaking project of moving 500 elephants (as well as several other mammal species) from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve has received a great echo and exposure on the mainstream media (not last thanks to the participation of Prince Harry for a few weeks). A good source for learning about it is the dedicated website https://500elephants.org/, that provides also many links to articles appeared in several newspapers.

 

The translocation has been so far a resounding success; in the first phase that took place in July/August 2016, 261 elephants (all from Liwonde) and 1,500 heads of other species (Buffalo, Greater Kudu, Sable, Common Waterbuck - from both Liwonde and Majete) were moved to Nkhotakota. This year (2017) the plan is to move further 250 elephants (I think 50 from Liwonde and 200 from Majete) as well as other animals. The link I provided above should give more details on the operations.

 

When Peter Fearnhead, African Parks's CEO asked us whether we would be interested in attending to some of the captures, it was a no brainer changing our travel and leave plans, and indeed it felt a great honour. But nothing could have prepared us to the exhilarating experience of gently "shepherding" from the air elephant herds through the Shire river or witnessing the moving moment of a cow waking up from her sedation and immediately looking for her calf or feeling the immense power of a 6.5 tons bull shaking a truck in his awakening or the incredible professional skills of the capture team.

 

I have already mentioned in the introductory post of this thread how spending time with Frank, our helicopter pilot, or Andre and Kester, the veterinarians (as well as further discussing conservation and other subjects with Peter) was a great privilege in itself. We found very interesting that, in the course of discussions with the team, it was apparent that the capture/translocation techniques have become so advanced and are constantly improving to the point that in the future there might be other elephant translocations on even larger scale, potentially of thousands of animals. This might open the door to "human induced/assisted migrations", which in the future (I hope not) might be the only practical response to the loss of the ancient migratory routes, particularly in countries like Malawi where the wildlife areas are just isolated "islands" in a sea of fast growing human population.

 

Overall, we took part (basically as spectators) to the capture of 12 females and calves, 3 mature bulls and 2 young bulls, as well as many dozens of female waterbucks. The latter was in my view as heart-thumping as the elephant captures, since the waterbucks, corralled through a series of camouflaged temporary bomas were shooting at times less than one meter from us standing, with nothing but the expertise of the capture team separating us from those "antelope bullets".....

 

It is kind of inevitable that with all the excitement and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the elephant translocation, one might not give too much attention to Liwonde itself - but this would be a shame, since, albeit fairly small (548 sq km) it is indeed a beautiful park. It was actually my second visit, the previous one having been in late August 2002. In subsequent years, Liwonde had then experienced plenty of problems, in particular deforestation on its margins, intense poaching and serious human/wildlife conflicts, and was definitely a protected area in decline until African Parks took over in 2015. Now, with the erection oa a new boundary fence, training and employment of rangers and better funding the signs are looking good again, and Liwonde's wildlife is rebounding.

 

We could appreciate Liwonde and its scenic beauty both during our helicopter flights (we even saw bush pigs from the air - quite amazing, since all my sparse previous bushpig sightings had been on foot) and boating on the Shire river. To quote Craig Reid (Liwonde's Park Manager), the Shire is "the essence of Liwonde", and indeed the multitude of hippos and crocs, the incredibly rich birdlife, and the languid, very "tropical" atmosphere are conducive to a very compelling experience.

Hence, whilst I will now post images ofhe elephant captures, I will then add some photos of Liwonde in general in a following post

 

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Edited by Paolo
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Posted (edited)


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Edited by Paolo
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Posted (edited)

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Edited by Paolo
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@@Paolo I just love your photos of what was an historic event. I'm going to Liwonde next year and am looking forward to it. It was a great thing because it proved that elephants needn't be culled where the population is too high.

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@Paolo:

 

Did you gather the per elephant cost of the translocation? If so, I'd really like a ball park figure.

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That must have been a fantastic experience!

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Great stuff @@Paolo, a "once-in-a-lifetime experience and really building up the anticipation for our visit in June (105 days to Nkhotakota but I'm not counting :))

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@@douglaswise

 

Sorry, I do not have that information. (I wrote you a PM)

 

 

That must have been a fantastic experience!

@@egilio

 

Indeed. Actually, it was beyond fantastic.

 

@@AfricIan

 

Thanks! I will read with interest your impressions of Nkhotakota in due course.

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@Paolo:

 

I have a particular interest, but little current expertise, in the economics of wildlife management. I am seriously contemplating a two week visit to Majete in November or December and am currently in correspondence with Craig Hay, the Park Manager. If all goes ahead, I will hope to become better informed. Before then, my wife and I will be visiting the Northern Cape - in part to fish, but mainly to visit the 110 sq km of the private game reserve of Tutwa Desert Lodge where I will be able to discuss my interests with managers. I will also be visiting a separate game breeding ranch and Augrabies to meet their managers. This will give me insights into the economics of predator and elephant free reserves. I am hoping my solo visit to the Big 5, 700 sq km, Majete Park will represent a continuing learning experience.

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among so many wonderful images my favourite has to be the Burchell's Sandgrouse in Post #41. Stunning.

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I am a still bit drugged out (not too much) so take this with a pinch of salt,and forgive the (possibly more than usual) incoherence but half of those translocation shots are the best thing you've done Anita, for me. Not even my sort of thing either! Outstanding photography, unique scenes and you really, really caught some moments there. I'm afraid i haven't even read Paolo's text yet.

 

Man, you saw some stuff and got some photos and stories this year - you had some opportunities, mind, but you didn't waste them. Look at those whale shots. Loved it all though.. Hope you didn't have to do a "Crossroads" sort of deal for it. ;)

 

Happy 2017 tripping to you both.

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Posted (edited)

@@pault I had to look up the "crossroads" reference and still couldnt explain to Paolo so he might ask you on that one! Thank You for your very generous comments- I agree that those translocation photos are very very special ( to me) I could have done that for all of 45-60 days of translocation.. The photos don't describe the experience of looking trough just 2.5-3 inches of opening between almost shut doors of a giant wake up box which just about clasped around my lens and peering through it into the world of these elephants. Whoever said photographers miss a lot, obviously didn't envisage this set up :-D

 

Hope you get well soon and back in full swing

 

Thank you everyone for your kind words.

Edited by Anita
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@@pault

 

Indeed, as Anita points out, the "Crossroads sort of deal" reference remains a mystery to me.

 

I'm afraid i haven't even read Paolo's text yet.

 

Really??? How come!?! That is quite an offence, sir! :P (Anyway, considering this is largely a photographic thread, this time you will be forgiven :) )

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