“Leopard Village”: Community Ecotourism & Resource Center in Muhokya

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Updates from the Field

Friday
Jun202014

Lion Karli's radio collar removal

We recently removed the radio collar from young male lion Karli, who has moved too far for us to monitor regularly.  

 

Karli initially lived in the area between the Main Kabatoro park gate, Katunguru park gate, and Mweya Peninsula.  
However, he has since crossed the Kazinga channel.  He most likely did this by swimming across it since the only other way is via a narrow, very heavily trafficked bridge next to a busy village.  Swimming across the channel is also very risky, since hippos and crocodiles inhabit it.  

 

He is now living in a steep, thorny, bushy area along the channel that is impossible to reach with our vehicle or safely on foot.  The only way to track his movements is via boat, and we don’t have regular access to one since it is so costly.  

 

Karli likely moved across the channel in order to avoid the dominant coalition of three males (Papa, Rudi & Omukama). Those three males frequently patrol the entire northern sector of the park.  One reason they do this is to push younger male lions out of the area so that they don’t mate with their females. Karli has no chance against them, unless he is able to form a coalition of his own with other young males and attempt a take-over!

 

Karli was in fairly good condition when we tranquilized him to remove the collar.  This means he’s adapted well to hunting in a closed, riverine thicket habitat (like a tiger would!).

 

We will redeploy the collar for use on an animal we are able to reach more easily.

 

We will also keep our eyes open for Karli, to see if he ever moves back across the channel!

 

James tracking lion Karli via boat along the Kazinga Channel.Location where we tracked lion Karli and tranquilized him to remove his radio collar.Lion Karli's new home range across the Kazinga Channel.

Some photos taken of Karli while he was tranquilized to remove the collar:

Monday
May262014

Camera trap images

We placed two camera traps at a hyena den in early March and have been receiving incredible images from them.


The cameras allow us to collect information we would otherwise not be able to obtain from our typical observation techniques.  They help us understand how the animals use the habitat of the park, the general ecology and biology of the wildlife, and how different species interact with each other.  Perhaps most importantly, the cameras enable us to observe wildlife without disturbing them, which is particularly helpful with gaining insight into the more elusive animals.

In terms of the hyenas, the photos are useful in identifying the number of individuals in the hyena clan, which we can estimate based on their unique spot patterns.


It’s also been very interesting to be able to see the various types of animals in the hyena den area, including lions, leopards, snakes and an aardvark.

The lion images are of particular interest since they provide us with a bit of insight into how active the lions are near the hyenas.  With the female hyena now collared, we should be able to gain further insight into the interaction between these two species in the coming months.

Thank you to Förderkreis für Ugandas Tierwelt ("Friends of Uganda Wildlife") in Germany for their very generous donation of the camera traps.

Below are some of the images we have gathered so far:

 

 

Wednesday
Mar262014

More hyenas!

A couple of weeks ago during a late night monitoring drive, we encountered a clan of eight spotted hyenas.  This was a very exciting encounter, since the park’s hyena population has suffered a severe decline due to human-wildlife conflict, and there are very few remaining.

After several long nights of close observation and patient waiting for the optimal moment, we were able to tranquilize the clan’s dominant female in order to fit her with a radio collar. 

We are grateful to have the opportunity to regularly monitor this hyena and her clan in order to learn more about their territorial range and complex social behavior. 

Why are these animals so special?  Well, spotted hyenas live in complex social groupings called clans, which can be comprised of up to 90 unrelated individuals.  Clans are made up of different matrilineal kin groups, and these matrilines form the stable core of clans.  This level of sociality among unrelated individuals is unique among carnivores. 

The impressive cognitive ability of spotted hyenas is demonstrated through many different complex social behaviors, including: the ability to distinguish between kin, fellow clan members, and non-clan individuals; recognition of their own rank positions and that of other clan-mates within the clan dominance hierarchy; application of this knowledge of social rank in activities such as feeding, mate selection, and social companion choice; and expression of reconciliation behaviors. 

Another unique trait of the spotted hyena is that females are socially dominant over males and are also bigger and more aggressive. 

We will keep you updated about what we learn about her and her clan!

Sunday
Mar092014

Celebrating International Women’s Day

We celebrated International Women’s Day with a group of Kisongora women we are working with in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, just north of Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Since this community is situated between two national parks, it is important from a wildlife conservation perspective to work with them.

Following a similar approach and philosophy that we took with Leopard Village, we are working with the women, many of them widows, on livelihood development.  The initial focus is involving them in the region’s tourism. 

We have had several workshops with them on handicraft development.  We thank the Mweya Safari Lodge for purchasing some of the crafts to sell in their gift shop, which shows their strong support of local community development. 

In addition, the women have built a traditional Kisongora hut and are prepared to show visitors about their pastoral lives.  We have brought a few small groups of tourists there, and they have really enjoyed the experience. 

The view from their community into Queen Elizabeth is really beautiful.  The women are motivated, very polite, warmly welcoming and enthusiastic about the opportunities these new ventures can bring to their community. 

We are also very enthusiastic about working with them!

Kisongora women's craftsInternational Women's Day celebrationInternational Women's Day celebration

 

(Thank you to Oliver Blume for providing the first two photos above!)

  

Friday
Feb282014

Lioness Fiona

We are sorry to report that Lioness Fiona and her cubs were found dead together near the end of last year, and the entire pride has now disappeared.  
 
Fiona was approximately 15 years old at the time of her death.  She had spent most of her life in the Mweya Peninsula area of the park.  However, shortly after her most recent cubs - Haraka and Saba - were born in October 2012, Fiona moved into the crater / Busunga area of the park, where cattle are grazed in large numbers by pastoralists from Nyakatonzi. 
 
Unfortunately, this is a major human-wildlife conflict hot zone, where livestock often enter deep into the lions’ hunting grounds and therefore get killed since they are easy prey.  Many lions have been systematically poisoned in this area by livestock owners over the years.   Our community outreach activities have been successful in other areas near the park, however, due to our limited funds and manpower, we are not currently able to provide any conservation outreach to the communities in the Nyakatonzi area.
 
We had, however, been monitoring Fiona extra closely for several weeks, costing us extra funds and time, as she and her cubs came into frequent contact with the livestock grazing illegally deep inside the park.  We worked with UWA to try to chase Fiona and her cubs away from that area within the park and to monitor the illegal livestock grazing. Unfortunately, we ultimately discovered their bodies one day at the end of last year.  We were not able to determine with certainty whether Fiona and her cubs were poisoned or shot, but given the events taking place the weeks prior to their deaths, and subsequent forensic findings, we do not believe their deaths were from natural causes.      
 
In addition, male lion Nubi has not been observed for quite some time nor have we been able to pick up the radio signal from his collar. Other crater-group members, including Fiona's daughter and her two cubs, disappeared too at the same time from this terrain.
 
To learn more about lioness Fiona and human-carnivore conflict, read this Oakland Zoo blog entry by clicking here
 
Here are a few photos and a video of Fiona and her cubs taken a few months before their deaths:

 

 

Monday
Feb102014

Hyenas!

The park’s hyena population has declined significantly the last several years to due human-wildlife conflict.  Therefore, it is always exciting when hyenas are seen.  James recently observed these two hyenas near one of the park’s crater lakes.

Monday
Jan062014

Oakland Zoo Conservation Speaker Series - January 15th

If you are in the San Francisco area on Wednesday, January 15th, come to the Oakland Zoo to learn more about our work!  For details, please click here.

 

Friday
Jan032014

Lioness Nzinga

We received reports a few weeks ago about a sick lioness that was spotted behind the small church on the Mweya Peninsula. 

She was badly injured, emaciated and dehydrated.  We administered basic veterinary care to her in the hopes that she can recover enough to hunt on her own or establish a relationship with one of the resident males.  

We are interested to know where this lioness came from since she is not a member of any of the prides we follow nor had we previously seen her.  In a densly human-populated environment where the lion population is under constant threat, the recovery of even one lioness can be important for the overall population. 

We’ve named her Nzinga, after the 17th-century African warrior queen, and we will continue to monitor her.

Thank you to UWA Senior Warden Tushabe and his staff, as well as the manager of the Mweya Safari Lodge, for providing support to us during this activity.

 

Update: Sadly, our efforts were not enough, and Lioness Nzinga died a few weeks later. 

Thursday
Dec122013

Uganda Carnivore Program is one of Oakland Zoo’s 2013-2014 Quarters for Conservation partners

We are exceedingly grateful to the Oakland Zoo for selecting us as one of their 2013-2014 Quarters for Conservation partners. 

“Quarters for Conservation” is a program in place at many zoos across the United States.  At the Oakland Zoo, visitors receive a token upon entry, which they then place into the bin “voting station” display of one of three spotlighted conservation projects.  At the end of August, each of the spotlighted projects receives a generous funding gift, determined by the distribution of tokens, or "votes", along with whatever additional money zoo visitors might place into the bins as well. 

The spotlighted projects change each year.  This year, the Uganda Carnivore Program shares the spotlight with San Francisco State University’s Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Project and The Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya.

In addition to the token bins, there is an informational display about each project at the zoo’s main entrance.  Zoo volunteers often staff the displays and help educate zoo visitors about each of the projects.    

To read more about the Oakland Zoo’s Quarters for Conservation project, please go to their website by clicking here. 

If you live in, or will be visiting, the San Francisco Bay Area, please stop by the Oakland Zoo!  Your visit will help support our work in Uganda, along with the work of many other important conservation projects throughout the world that the Oakland Zoo supports.

Thank you to the Oakland Zoo and its visitors for your exceptional support!


Wednesday
Nov202013

Leopard Village hosts “Friends of Queen” November meeting

“Friends of Queen” – a consortium of businesses and individuals committed to the conservation of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park – held their November meeting at Leopard Village.  It was a great opportunity for the community members we work with to show the Leopard Village tourism site to area lodge owners, tour operators, Uganda Wildlife Authority wardens and rangers, and local business development leaders. 

Before the bi-monthly FoQ business meeting commenced, the community led the FoQ members on a tour of the site and then performed a selection of traditional dances.  We hope this helps promote Leopard Village as an authentic cultural and wildlife conservation ecotourism site to visitors to Queen Elizabeth.  

If you’d like to visit Leopard Village and support our community-run, socio-economic development project, please contact us so that we can help you arrange a visit!