Wildlife Monitoring and Research

Background

In 2016, Munyamadzi Game Reserve partnered with Lion Landscapes - an independent conservation and research NGO affiliated with Oxford University's prestigious WildCRU.  Lion Landscapes designed, provided en-situ training to the anti-poaching scouts and implemented the programme in late 2016.  The monitoring system was designed to be cost effective, using only ground-based methods implemented by local scouts and Munyamadzi management, and yet be based on the latest methods and provide accurate publishable data. The programme is supervised by Lion Landscapes, implemented by our ecologist Nicky, the general manager Thor and the anti-poaching scouts.

What do we monitor?

We monitor all mammal species from the size of a duiker upwards, and Southern Ground Hornbill. We are particularly interested in the endangered or vulnerable species living on Munyamadzi e.g. African wild dog, lions, and Southern Ground Hornbill. We also monitor the occurrence of illegal activities such as the poaching of firewood, fish or wildlife.

Rationale

The monitoring of wildlife population trends and the occurrence of illegal activities provides direct ‘measures of success’ for our conservation management activities, and allows us to constantly respond and improve our conservation efforts. Monitoring data also provides us with a better understanding of the population dynamics and species presence in the area.  Monitoring trends and distribution is incredibly important but this requires long-term data collection (i.e. over the life of our stewardship of Munyamadzi) and consistency.

Objectives

  1. To detect changes in populations of mammal species (i.e. herbivores and carnivores), Southern Ground Hornbill, and the occurrence of illegal activities.

  2. To adapt and improve conservation management efforts in response to the data provided.

  3. To constantly build the capacity of the Munyamadzi team to manage the wildlife and land in our care

How it's done

Distance transects

Carried out on foot twice a year - early and late dry season - using the Distance Sampling method.  Scouts receive refresher training before each batch of transects so they are up to scratch on how to handle the equipment. Three or four teams of at least three scouts each complete up to two 3 km transects per day, this takes approximately a week, and record live sightings, fresh tracks, dung and other evidence of species.  All species equal or above the size of the smallest antelope are monitored but species of special interest include lion, leopard, ground hornbill and wild dog.  Data are collected on Android devices using CyberTracker, once downloaded into SMART the data are sent to Lion Landscapes for analysis.

Camera Trap Survey

Currently, we do not have enough camera traps to implement a formal survey however we have enough to place at strategic points to increase our database of large carnivore photographs.  This allows us to identify individuals, social groups and, to some extent, spatial use.  The cameras also pick up on smaller cryptic species, such as serval, caracal and aardvark, allowing us to increase our knowledge of what wildlife is present at Munyamadzi.

Expected outcomes

  1. Robust data that can detect changes in a key species and illegal activities over time and in response to management practices

  2. Publishable data that is accepted by peer reviewed journals and all stakeholders

  3. Better understanding the wildlife populations, trends and individuals at Munyamadzi Game Reserve

In future

We plan to add a few more aspects to our wildlife monitoring and research programme over time and when funding is available.  The main ones for now are:

  1. Collaring large carnivores to better understand their space use in the Lower Luangwa Valley

  2. Working with our neighbours to implement robust monitoring and data-based management over a wider area.

  3. Assessing community benefits from the operators' presence in the area.

Get involved

Volunteer

We rely on volunteers to help us process the data from this programme and assist in skills transfer to our scouts.  If you are interested in gaining field experience in applied conservation science, consider volunteering with us.

 

Donate

This programme is mainly funded by Munyamadzi but in order to increase our impact and add projects, we require additional funding.  You can donate to Lion Landscapes through Houston Zoo using the button below; send us an email afterwards so we know where your money should go.  Houston Zoo Tax ID for US citizens is 74-1590271.

  1. Sponsor running costs for one batch of transects: $260

  2. Buy a camera trap with protective steel case and lock cable: $300

  3. Sponsor a GPS device: $200

  4. Sponsor data sharing via Dropbox for one year: $100

  5. Collar a lion (includes vet fees, collar, data download for one year): $7,000

  6. Sponsor additional training and capacity building for our scouts: $50

  7. Sponsor community meetings to assess community benefits: $100 / meeting

If you are interested in providing in-kind support, please contact us.

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One of Munyamadzi's residet pride females
Two juvenile hyena cubs with clan members
Scouts recoding an observation during 2017 late dry season transects

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