Its Monday 24th November 2014 and Carnivore Week.

Hope you are all well after a relaxed weekend. Over here in the Luangwa there has been much action packed game viewing. We will hear from Zambian Carnivore Programme team who have been out with the Carnivore Week guests for the past week.

“Carnivore Week 2014 started off with a bang! We met the carnivore enthusiast guests on Saturday evening to introduce the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) and explain what we, as field biologists, do on a day-to-day basis in the field and how our research relates to larger carnivore conservation policies across Zambia. The next morning, we set off to show the guests how our work is done!

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We were extremely fortunate to stumble across a male leopard just after he dragged his puku kill up a tree. He lay recovering on a shady branch while the puku hung less elegantly on the other side of the tree. Kanga, one of the RPS Carnivore Week guides, knows this particular leopard, and he has recently been seen chasing his mother and her new cub off of their kills! ZCP evaluates leopard dynamics in and around the South Luangwa and Kafue National Parks through an intensive photographic survey to estimate population size and characteristics. This survey will provide the first descriptions of key Zambian leopard populations, allow a baseline for management, and help the Zambia Wildlife Authority to better evaluate and conserve this species, given that virtually nothing is known about these important populations.

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Next, we heard the signal for one of our wild dog collars in a dispersal group from the larger Hot Springs pack in the Nsefu sector. This dispersal group consists of four dogs, three of which are females from the Hot Spring pack and the fourth is a male they joined with post-dispersal. Hopefully this small group will breed next year. This particular dispersal group has 2x radio collar because one of the females was snared around the waist earlier this year and thus it is important for us to keep close tabs on these dogs to monitor for future snares. Packs that move often between the Game Management Areas (GMAs) and the national park are more likely to encounter snares and the additional collars allow us to monitor them more effectively.

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On Sunday evening, the guests returned to the park to see the dogs and were lucky enough to find them finishing off the last of an impala kill! Afterwards, they came across one of our collared lionesses in Chinzombo pride, a small pride of two females and a cub. The lions were also on an impala kill, which the collared female was reluctant to share with the rest of her pride.

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What a first day! Leopard, wild dog, lion – and all seen on kills! We could not have asked for a better start to Carnivore Week.

On Monday we set off in the morning and as we made our way through the GMA to the main entrance of the park, Thandiwe, a long-time ZCP field biologist, who is currently enrolled in an MSc programme at the University of Arizona, picked up the signal for Chinzombo pride. We were surprised because the previous evening the guests had seen these lions approximately 3 km away, at a location inside of the park. But over the course of the night, they had moved from Chichele Hill to Mopani Lodge and we found the three dozing in the shade. Like wild dogs, lions that move often between the park and GMA are highly susceptible to snares – especially in the dry times of year, when snaring is at its worst. After we left the lions, we drove into the park for a lovely sundowner and watched lightening in the distance – yet another sign of the impending rains!

 

Tuesday morning, we set off early with the guests and heard the signal for one of the collared spotted hyena in the main game area of the park but unfortunately could not find her. The one carnivore yet to be seen! ZCP only has one hyena collar in the main game area because our hyena study is not as intensive as the wild dog and lion work as spotted hyena are currently less threatened than the other two species. However, we are steadily enhancing the study as we suspect spotted hyenas are heavily impacted by wire snares.

 

We continued the drive through the main game area of the park and stumbled across one of the females from a large pride of lion that we (fittingly) call Big Pride. This particular lioness is the oldest member of her pride of 22 lions, estimated to be approximately 12 years of age, which is reaching the upper end of her life expectancy. She is one of the few lucky lions never to have been snared. Now, in her old age, she is slower than the rest of the pride, which is likely why she was found on her own. ZCP has known this lioness and monitored her and her pride members for almost 7 years”.

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We will continue with this captivating feedback from the Carnivore Week next week.

Till then, have a great week and keep your loved ones close.

 

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