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‘Stories’

September 14, 2021

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Categories: Stories

In January 2020, a helicopter capture operation was conducted to translocate gazelles from the Manga region to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim protected area in central Chad. By bringing back one male among the three captured gazelles, the rescue mission was a success, as a breeding group was created. With the birth of a second dama gazelle, we can hope that the group will progressively grow.

The joint efforts of the various stakeholders were rewarded with the birth of a second baby gazelle, a female. With so few individuals left in their original range, each birth is of vital importance and gives hope in the fight for the conservation of the species.

Since her birth, the little female is in good condition despite the very hot weather. The SCF teams are proud of this birth, proof that the work done is bearing fruit.

This was a key operation of the 2019-2028 dama gazelles conservation strategy. In order to prevent the extinction of these gazelles, the Chadian government along with the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), the IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, the Segré Foundation, Rewild, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, have partnered to carry out this operation. The current population numbers less than 100 individuals in the wild, indicating an unprecedented urgency for the preservation and transmission of the wild genes of these animals.

Experts are studying the possibility of translocating dama gazelles from zoos and other parts of the world to expand the group. In collaboration with the SCF team, they are working on the best way to prolong the benefit of this rescue operation, so that the group can flourish and strengthen the existing population.

 

June 5, 2021

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Categories: Stories

Today, June 5, 2021, World Environment Day, marks the official beginning of a decisive period. Under the theme of ‘restoring ecosystems’, this well-known international day represents the launch of the United Nations Decade aimed at restoring the biological systems that underpin all life on Earth. The United Nations calls all countries of the world to unite to protect and restore ecosystem services for the benefit of nature and people, and will run from 2021 to 2030, the target date for achieving the Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Scientists state that this is the last window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change. It is now essential to stop the degradation of the various environments on the planet, and restore them.

Covering an area of 10 million square kilometers, equivalent to the size of continental United States or China, and comprising more than 2,000 plant species and hundreds of animal species, the Sahelo-Saharan zone encompasses a range of ecosystems including; dunes, mountains, rocky massifs, wadis, and oases, that are extremely valuable for global biodiversity. This realm is extraordinarily richer and more varied than we are used to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spectre of climate change is also expanding this arid zone by 2 million hectares annually. This expansion of the desert region negatively impacts the diversity of these desert environments and species. The degradation of the Sahelo-Saharan vegetation cover is a visible phenomenon and relatively well known to the general public. What is not as well-known is the increasing disappearance of animals that are emblematic of a whole cultural and natural human history from the landscape. Experts are increasingly concerned about the extinction of wild antelope and bird populations that have already been reduced to very small numbers in their Sahelo-Saharan distribution areas. Poaching, overharvesting of natural resources, and human pressure in general continue to exert their toll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the Sahara Conservation Fund and its partners are doing their part, as best as possible, to save species such as the scimitar-horned oryx, the dama gazelle, the addax, and the North African ostrich, it is worth remembering, on this day dedicated to ecosystem restoration and at the beginning of a crucial decade for our not-so-distant future, that everyone has a role to play.

Keep in mind that all ecosystems deserve to be conserved, even the most arid, and that, like the Sahelo-Saharan zone, some environmental areas represent an immense ecosystem of global importance.

We ask that you be passionate about little-known species, whose extinction is taking place in silence. Talk about it with your friends and family. If you can, make a donation, even a small one, to field workers, scientists, NGOs of your choice. Keep learning about, but also from, nature. Stay informed and involved. Either way: take part in #generationrestoration now.

March 23, 2021

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Categories: Stories

The Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) continues to monitor breeding vulture populations in Niger in an effort to learn more about the ecology and threats of these highly threatened birds. Currently, monitoring activities are concentrated in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve in the Maradi region and the Koutous Massif in the Zinder region.

In early 2020, it was noticed that Rüppell’s vultures (Gyps rueppelli) in the Koutous Massif – which is not a protected area – seemed to initiate their breeding season well before those nesting in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve. This was confirmed during a mission to both areas in late December 2020, during which three Rüppell’s vultures were observed already sitting on eggs in the cliffs of the Koutous Massif, and no vultures at all in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve – likely because vultures are only observed in the Reserve during the breeding season. More studies are required in order to explain the phenomenon of early breeding in the Koutous, however it is interesting to note the difference in habitats and nesting sites between the two regions. Rüppell’s vultures are known to nest in cliffs and the tree nesting behavior is mostly considered « rare » by specialists – while it seems that it could be not that rare in the Sahelian region. further studies are still necessary to know more on the ecology and distribution of the Rüppell’s vultures of the Koutous Massif year-round.

Towards the end of February 2021, a second mission allowed the team to observe the first two chicks of the season in the Koutous. These individuals were found among the 13 active Rüppell’s vultures nests that had been previously identified. Rüppell’s vultures share their habitat with Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus), which have also begun to breed – a fact demonstrated by the observation of several incubating pairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egyptian vultures in the Koutous Massif

During the same mission, the first active nests of the season in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve were also recorded, including two Rüppell’s nests and one white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) nest – all being incubated. Unfortunately, this is a very low number and although it is hoped that more individuals will join the Reserve as the breeding season progresses, it may be an indication of a reduction in numbers for this Critically Endangered vulture population.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rüppell’s vultures in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve

Future visits will allow the team to collect more information on Niger’s breeding population of vultures, hopefully shedding more light on their ecology and their status. Alongside this, efforts are being made to raise awareness of the situation among local communities, water and forestry officials, hunters and other stakeholders. With this in mind, a guide for the conservation of vultures in Niger (in French) was produced by SCF and distributed to the main actors involved in the protection and monitoring of the birds. It is hoped that this will be beneficial to vulture conservation efforts in the long run.

Photos © Abdoul Razack Moussa Zabeirou

March 23, 2021

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Categories: Stories

The period between January and March of this year has been a busy one for the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Project (POROA). One of many notable activities to have taken place is the launch of a training session for the project’s Awareness and Education Unit on behavioral changes related to environmental education. The POROA’s Awareness and Education Unit is responsible for raising awareness among the populations of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, specifically regarding to the use of its natural resources and the preservation of its biodiversity. Once the Reserve’s new management plan has been implemented through the POROA, the unit will be responsible for promoting the plan and its associated regulations to users of the Reserve. The intervention of the Derbianus Conservation NGO team, known for its successful field awareness campaigns on the Derby eland and its conservation in Senegal, will allow the Awareness and Education Unit, its manager and facilitators, to refine the awareness messages disseminated through their Environmental Education Caravans and other field work. The team is represented in the field by Jan Svitalek, a specialist in the relationship between local communities and natural resources in Africa.

Training session in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve © Jan Svitalek

Furthermore, the POROA has spearheaded the training of 40 new guards for the reserve, in close collaboration with the Chadian authorities. The project orchestrated the construction of a training camp near the Reserve and participated in various phases of pre-selection and selection of candidates. The twelve-week training course is being conducted by Mellivora Systems and covers a wide range of topics, including terrain appreciation and knowledge, combat techniques and safety rules.

Pre-selection of candidates © Henry Bailey

The Reserve extends over 77,950 square kilometers in total, and although guards are already employed to protect it, the scale of this vast protected area makes their task difficult, particularly as they lack basic training and apparatus. Equipping the reserve with new, well-trained and well-resourced guards will therefore be a major step in improving its protection. The forty new guards will eventually be divided into six teams to ensure a permanent presence in the field, with the aim of countering threats such as poaching, bush fires and the degradation of large wadis where illegal logging and conversion to agriculture results in the loss of trees and woody vegetation contributing to desertification.

Finally, consultations and work on the development of the Reserve’s management plan are continuing, with a workshop on the pastoral and anthropological issues in the Reserve held from February 8th to 12th. The workshop allowed for the presentation of 22 new thematic maps of the Reserve in regards to these topics, with the participation of a member of the pastoral platform and a professor from the University of N’djamena. The scale of this task is unprecedented, especially given the immense size of the Reserve, and its success requires considerable dedication from the team and participants.

Fieldwork as part of the development of the Reserve’s management plan © Henry Bailey

44 days of dedicated field work were necessary and over 17,000 kilometers travelled, to develop the maps. This is all very good news for the project, which continues to see success, despite the ongoing difficulties faced by both the national and international communities in relation to the pandemic.

The project « Support for the development of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve and the sustainable management of its biodiversity (POROA) » is part of the support program for the preservation of biodiversity and wildlife and fragile ecosystems of Central Africa (ECOFAC VI) funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). The goal of the project is to preserve the biodiversity of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in an integrated and sustainable way.

March 23, 2021

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Categories: Stories

In December 2020, members of the Oryx Project team spotted three wild dama gazelles – one of the world’s most endangered species – visiting the Oryx Base Camp, almost on a daily basis. Then, in January, two of these individuals began to approach the enclosures where the Project’s three captive dama gazelles – a male, a female and a young female born on August 24, 2020 – are located. The team determined via observations that the wild individuals were females but aimed to find out more by setting up a camera trap near the enclosure. The photos obtained were later shared with the rest of the project team for consultation and confirmation.

Throughout January and February, the southern transhumance of nomads through the Reserve intensified. Their passage near the Oryx Base Camp disrupted the activity of the wild dama gazelles around the project gazelle enclosure, so much so that they eventually left. Despite this, one individual quickly returned, presumably attracted by the presence of the male in the enclosure. Given its persistence, the team thought it would be a good idea to devise a system that would allow the gazelle to join the group of three. To do so, they constructed an access point in one part of the enclosure, removed an area of fence and placed hay on the ground to further encourage the gazelle.

After roaming around the enclosure for several more days, the wild dama gazelle eventually decided to enter. The team on lookout quickly closed off the access point, opened the inner door the day after so that the group of four could interact, and moved away, aiming to limit the stress of the animals as they mixed.

After overcoming a brief period of nervousness, the new gazelle quickly integrated into the group.

SCF, the field team and the project partners are delighted with this success. But as the coming months are the driest and hottest of the year, maintaining these wild-born dama gazelles in captivity remains a delicate exercise. Everyone involved will therefore pay particular attention to the health of the group. Going forward, the field staff will rely on the experience they have already developed with the group of captive dama to ensure that the individuals are well looked after and are eventually in a position to strengthen the Reserve’s wild population of dama gazelles by successfully reproducing.

Photos © Marc Dethier

The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme in Chad is a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. Under the overall leadership and management of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, on-the-ground implementation of the project is carried out by the Sahara Conservation Fund. In 2019, following a highly successful first phase of activities, EAD generously agreed to develop and fund a second five-year phase of operations. Phase II of the project maintains focus on building the oryx population but also adds new Sahelo-Saharan species to the mix, including the Critically Endangered addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus), dama gazelle (Nanger dama), and North African ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus).

March 23, 2021

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Categories: Stories

In the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (OROAGR) in Chad, the Sahara Conservation Fund’s (SCF) field staff are continuing to develop the captive group of North African ostriches (Struthio camelus camelus). Wild North African ostriches were once common in the Reserve, but disappeared several decades ago. Individuals from this captive group will be reintroduced once the population is large enough, in accordance with the ambitions of the Oryx Project Phase II.

Thanks to the much-appreciated collaboration with the Chadian wildlife authorities and African Parks Network (APN) / Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve  – APN providing ostriches from Zakouma National Park in southern Chad – SCF was able to establish a group of 11 individuals at the site, now one year old and in good shape. In early 2021, similar translocation operations from Zakouma to OROAGR  added another 15 ostriches to the group.

These individuals were aged between one and three weeks old, and are currently being kept separate from the original group, in order to avoid any age-related conflict.

In addition to these operations, SCF has been participating since January in a field study on ostrich predation, conducted by APN. Members of the Oryx Project team joined the APN team to take part in the field work. The study is being carried out in Zakouma National Park – where the ostriches live wild – and involves the inventory and mapping both of the population and of nesting sites.

After being fitted with GPS tags, most of the ostriches from the original captive group at the Base Camp will be released into the Reserve in July or August, while some could be kept for breeding. For now, the birds are receiving the best possible care from the SCF team on site, being offered a balanced diet and all the appropriate vaccinations needed to ensure good health.

In addition, the team is closely monitoring the behavior of the ostriches on a daily basis, checking that they are feeding and drinking properly, and have everything they need to stay sheltered and warm at night. This is especially important during the cooler months, as cold weather can be dangerous to young ostriches. Moving forward, SCF and all the project team and partners hope that conditions will be met for the release of some ostriches before the end of the year – an exciting step and one which will be a first for this region of Chad.

Photos © Marc Dethier

The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme in Chad is a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. Under the overall leadership and management of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, on-the-ground implementation of the project is carried out by the Sahara Conservation Fund. In 2019, following a highly successful first phase of activities, EAD generously agreed to develop and fund a second five-year phase of operations. Phase II of the project maintains focus on building the oryx population but also adds new Sahelo-Saharan species to the mix, including the Critically Endangered addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus), dama gazelle (Nanger dama), and North African ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus).