New lion blood line introduced to iSimangaliso Wetland Park

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Lisbeth
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New lion blood line introduced to iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Post by Lisbeth » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:22 am

New lion blood line introduced to iSimangaliso Wetland Park

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South Africa's very first world heritage site is aiming to bring lions back, after a 44-year absence.

On Friday 9th September, three male lions arrived at their new home in the uMkhuze section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

The lions, from the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, are genetically distinct from the pride of 13 lions presently residing in iSimangaliso, all of which are from the same blood line and will remain in the bomas for several weeks and then be released into the wild during October to acquaint themselves with the existing pride.

This introduction is part of the plan to bring lions back to iSimangaliso after 44 years of absence. Forty-seven years ago the last lion was shot by conservation for going “rogue” from what was then an unfenced park. The first introductions took place in December 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The first family of four lions - translocated from Tembe Elephant Park - were released in December 2013 and comprised an adult female and three sub-adult offspring. Their arrival catapulted iSimangaliso to ‘Big 7’ status. This was followed by the coalition of two males (brothers) and three females during the course of 2014.

In order to slow down the breeding rate of the lions, the females underwent partial hysterectomies. This requires the removal of one horn of the uterus. Lions breed prolifically and this action should halve the number of litters, obviating the need for translocations to other parks in the short-term. Since December 2013, two sets of cubs swelled the ranks and the total number of lions at present is 13.

“This historic introduction brings iSimangaliso closer to achieving its conservation vision: the full restoration of eco-systems functioning, and the re-establishment of the migratory patterns of historically occurring animal populations – from the top of the Lebombo mountains to the sea – as they occurred in the times of Shaka and before fencing fragmented the landscape and constrained animal movements. It is a reversal of the historic decimation of game for apartheid military bases, commercial plantations and other agriculture,” says iSimangaliso CEO, Andrew Zaloumis.

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Zaloumis explains that the reintroduction of lions back into uMkhuze is the result of 15 years of hard work by iSimangaliso staff. It follows the settling of land claims, the removal of thousands of hectares of commercial eucalyptus and pine plantations and the construction of over 350km of "Big 5" fencing.

Much of this work has been undertaken by community SMMEs, creating significant employment in an area marked by unemployment and poverty. Fencing was done by agreement with communities, involving negotiations with seven traditional council chiefs and dozens of isigodi’s (wards).

“In addition to the ecological benefits, the introduction of lion has boosted tourism arrivals to the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso. The pride of lion are regularly seen along with the two packs of painted dogs,” adds Zaloumis. All adult lions are fitted with satellite collars to monitor their movements for biological and safety reasons. They are tracked daily by Park staff supported by Wildlife Act volunteers with the information feeding into Park management.

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A translocation is the culmination of the efforts of numerous parties and iSimangaliso expresses its sincere thanks to the combined contributions of all who continue to assist conservation.

“In particular,” says Zaloumis, “we acknowledge the donation of the lions by Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the Bateleur Society for aircraft and flights and Mr and Mrs Van Langelaars for their donation to fuel costs and the many participants in iSimangaliso’s eco-series events whose contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Fund has covered the cost of immobilising drugs and collars. Thank you also to the conservation staff of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT who are also a significant part of the success of the project.”

iSimangaliso can now proclaim itself as the most diverse park in Africa – all key terrestrial animals have been introduced including lion, cheetah, wild dog, rhino, tsessebe and oribi. Marine life includes protected whale and sharks populations, coelacanths, turtles as well as a myriad of species on our coral reefs.
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Lisbeth
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Re: New lion blood line introduced to iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Post by Lisbeth » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:43 am

Rewilding iSimangaliso: Lions, cheetah and wild dog projects bloom in time for summer holidays

South Africa's first World Heritage Site iSimangaliso Wetland Park is celebrating a number of success stories related to its rejuvenation and rewilding of certain species in the park - and reason enough to put it on your summer bucket list this holidays.

Having recently suffered through a hard-hit period of drought the park has confirmed the boosting of its lion coalition through three male lions, collared and released from their holding boma into the uMkhuze section.

Added to this there have been a number of successes related to its endangered cheetah and wild dog populations.

“The rewilding of iSimangaliso through major eco-systems restoration and the introduction of historically occurring species like lions, cheetah, wild dog, elephant and buffalo is resulting in more sustainable conservation and economic turnaround of the park with meaningful empowerment and benefits to local communities. The introduction of lion has boosted tourism arrivals to the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso,” says iSimangaliso CEO, Andrew Zaloumis.

The release of the lions from the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, sees lions that are now genetically distinct from the pride of 16 lions presently residing in iSimangaliso, all of which are from the same blood lines. This introduction boosts the establishment of a viable population in iSimangaliso after the last lion was shot by conservationists some 47 years ago for going “rogue” in what was then an unfenced park. The first lion introductions back to iSimangaliso took place in December 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The first family of four lions - translocated from Tembe Elephant Park - were released in December 2013 and comprised an adult female and three sub-adult offspring. Their arrival catapulted iSimangaliso to ‘Big 7’ status. This was followed by the coalition of two males (brothers) and three females during the course of 2014.

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All iSimangaliso’s adult lions are fitted with satellite collars to monitor their movements for biological and safety reasons. They are tracked daily by Park staff supported by Wildlife Act volunteers with the information feeding into Park management.

'Introduction brings iSimangaliso closer to achieving its conservation vision'

"This historic introduction brings iSimangaliso closer to achieving its conservation vision, the full restoration of eco-systems functioning, and the re-establishment of the migratory patterns of historically occurring animal populations – from the top of the Lebombo Mountains to the sea – as they occurred in the times of Shaka and before fencing fragmented the landscape and constrained animal movements. It is a reversal of the historic decimation of game for apartheid military bases, commercial plantations and other agriculture,” says Zaloumis.

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The park has also announced a litter of 14 healthy pups as part of its endangered wild dog (or African Painted Dog) population in the park. As little as 1 400 fully grown adult dogs left globally, the two packs that have been established in iSimangaliso’s uMkhuze form a vital part of South Africa’s metapopulation.

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uMkhuze's reintroduction of the cheetah is yet another success story, despite initial challenges. Cheetah are categorised as vulnerable by the IUCN with a population of around 1500 adults in South Africa.

'A good chance of seeing these on a game drives within the park'

Today, fifteen individuals live within this area some of which have tracking collars to assist management.

There is a good chance of seeing these on a game drives within the park, especially while the vegetation is still so sparse. Recently, no fewer than four individuals were spotted, while the previous weekend a visitor at the Mantuma Rest Camp captured photographs of a magnificent cheetah within metres of the huts.

“The success of the lion, wild dog and cheetah introductions is very rewarding for staff more so because they have overcome early setbacks that placed them in jeopardy. Snaring, though largely under control in the now fully fenced uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso, remains along with rhino poaching, one of the daily challenges facing our rangers” Zaloumis concluded.

For over a century, the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso has protected wildlife and biodiversity, through flood and drought, political upheaval and disease.

"This remarkable 37 000 ha portion of the World Heritage Site has endured and displayed the utmost resilience. uMkhuze was renowned as one of the two last remaining bastions of black rhino in the 1960’s before the campaign to repopulate other protected areas. Today it boasts the ‘Big 5’ and so much more," says Zaloumis.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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