Archive for the
‘Stories’

February 9, 2021

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Categories: Stories

The Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) has recently participated in a new beautiful coffee-table book Erg/Reg by Italian photographer, researcher and documentary advisor, Ugo Mellone.

Ugo Mellone specializes in conservation research projects with the aim of raising awareness about threatened species and their habitats through photography. He made contact with SCF in May 2020 as he was aware the organization consistently carries out sensitization activities on this same matter at different scales. He was awarded with the Montphoto grant 2019 and had already returned from the Sahara with a number of impressive photos.

As always willing to promote the cause of this area’s natural and cultural magnificent heritage worldwide, SCF agreed to partner with Ugo on this multilingual (English, French, Italian, Spanish) publication. Meant for the general audience, the book focuses on a variety of landscapes and wildlife species in a region that some can still see as a simple barren wasteland. Fighting this prejudice is part of SCF’s mission – changing perceptions on how life can thrive in arid ecosystems and even recover from extinction also is. That’s why a written piece from John Newby, SCF Senior Adviser, along with some of his most interesting photos of SCF’s conservation activities in the field, have been included to the final product.

Nature and desert enthusiasts should also enjoy this book a lot, finding great comfort browsing through it, especially now that travel restrictions unfortunately prevent many of us from seeing all of that in real life.

The book is available for purchase online here.

SCF and Ugo are grateful to the European Union and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi for contributing the costs of publishing this beautiful and most timely book.

December 23, 2020

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Categories: Stories

The slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) Conservation Strategy 2020-2029 has been published in English and French by IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group.

The slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) is endemic to the Sahara Desert. It formerly occurred in sandy areas from Algeria west to the Nile Valley in Egypt. Numbers have been reduced mainly due to excessive, uncontrolled hunting and the species has disappeared from several areas, including most of those in the eastern part of the range. Currently the only certainty is that slender-horned gazelles are present in the two great ergs of Algeria and Tunisia, although a few individuals could persist in the Western Desert of Egypt and Libya, and no other localities have been confirmed. Numbers in the wild are estimated to be in the low hundreds. The ex situ population is very small and is descended from a tiny number of founders. The species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Since 2016, the slender-horned gazelle situation has been discussed annually at a special session in the margins of the annual meetings of the Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group (SSIG), involving the main stakeholders. The aim of the sessions was to update the species’ status and agree priority actions. In view of the precarious situation, it was agreed in May 2019 SSIG meeting in Tunis to develop a ‘Slender-horned gazelle conservation strategy’ to provide a framework to guide actions needed to conserve and restore populations, both in situ and ex situ, as well as to aid the development of National Action Plans. The roadmap was discussed further with government agencies and NGOs during the IUCN North Africa Regional Conservation Forum in Monastir, Tunisia, in June 2019.

We are grateful to the all those who participated in the planning sessions on slender-horned gazelle at the SSIG meetings as well as to those who contributed to the development of the strategy.

IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group

September 30, 2020

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Categories: Stories

Monitoring vulnerable and endangered species using field observation data is a key aspect of successful wildlife conservation. Proving this to be the case, data collected as part of SCF’s monitoring work may have highlighted a worrying trend in the Nigerien population of Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia).

Also known as the ‘aoudad’, the Barbary sheep is a species of Saharan ruminant found in mountainous habitats. In Niger, it resides in both the Aïr & Ténéré National Nature Reserve (ATNNR) and the Termit & Tin-Toumma National Nature Reserve (TTNNR) – both of which are protected areas that provide refuge for critically endangered species such as the addax and dama gazelle.

There is currently no official data on the total population size of aoudad, partly due to the difficulty in monitoring the species. Barbary sheep live in difficult-to-access areas, and it is problematic to assess their numbers using traditional survey methods such as observation vehicles. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in IUCN Red List and is included in CMS Appendix II. While no estimate is available for the population size of Barbary sheep in the ATNNR, it has been estimated at between 100-150 individuals in the TTNNR (Rabeil and Turmine, 2016). Field observations using camera traps indicate that the overall population in Niger may have declined significantly in recent years.

The main threat to the Barbary sheep is poaching, despite the fact that the species is protected in Niger under Law N° 98-07 of 29 April 1998, which established the Hunting and Wildlife Protection Regime. These regulations do not seem to have had a positive effect on the aoudad and SCF has reason to believe that not enough attention is being given to the species in Niger. Going forward, conservation efforts need to pay particular attention to the ecology of the barbary sheep in the country and action may need to be taken to ensure that the current negative population trend does not continue.


September 28, 2020

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Categories: Stories

Since 2015, under a joint initiative sponsored by the government of Chad and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the Sahara Conservation Fund has spearheaded the fieldwork of the ongoing Chad scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) reintroduction project. The immense success of the project’s first phase has led to the approval and funding of a second phase, which now enables the project’s partners to expand their scope to other Sahelo-Saharan species.

A New Phase

The recently completed first phase of the project reestablished a population of about 280 individuals scimitar-horned oryx in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad. The animals now peacefully wander the reserve under the watchful eye of local and international stakeholders.

Under the overall leadership and management of  the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the new second phase is expected to last 5 years and will focus on both continuing to build up the existing oryx population and on introducing other species to the reserve. Current phase 2 plans include starting new populations of addax (Addax nasomaculatus), dama gazelle (Nanger dama), and North African ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus). So far, the addax are the first new neighbors for the oryx  recently joined by the tallest bird in the world: the North African ostrich. 

Bringing in the Birds

African Parks Network, a collaborator of the project, and SCF, are hopeful that this project will result in an abundant ostrich population in Central and Northern Chad. Members across both organizations are extremely happy to work and make progress together on the ostriches. In addition, Marc Dethier, the SCF oryx project manager, claims that the experience gained on animal translocation, and the “work synergy” within the oryx project team enhances the quality and speed of the work they do together.

Despite the immense size of the adults, ostriches are surprisingly delicate and conservationists have struggled to safely transport them. Following best practices established by involved veterinary experts and other organizations, Marc and the APN team  flew fifteen day-old ostrich chicks to the reserve from the Zakouma National Park. The SCF team in Chad plans to release the chicks when they are 18 months old and are better able to defend themselves from predators. Before being released, GPS tracking devices should be fitted on the birds in order to collect data and track their movements. 

The ostrich chicks first met the oryx when project leader Marc Dethier placed the feeding troughs of each group in front of each other, separated by a fence. As the two species grew more accustomed to each other, and as the chicks grew taller, they were permitted to cross the fence to meet their new neighbors in person. Reports say that the two groups are getting along very well!

Released ostriches will have access to food and water at least in the beginning. Close monitoring of their health and behavior will determine if the ostriches adapt well to their habitats. So far, the translocation and conservation efforts of this project have proved successful with low mortality rates and good overall health of the birds.


September 25, 2020

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Categories: Stories

It is with great sadness that the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) mourns the deaths and remembers the lives of the eight victims of the mass shooting that took place on August 9, 2020 at the Kouré Giraffe Reserve, Niger. One of the victims of the attack was Kadri Abdou, President of l’Association des Guides de Girafes of Kouré, also known as the Association pour la Valorisation de l’Ecotourisme au Niger (AVEN). SCF often conducts fieldwork in the Kouré area in collaboration with Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to preserve the last West African giraffes. Both organizations have worked with Mr. Abdou as a guide and remember him fondly.

SCF has extended its condolences to Mr. Abdou’s family and has collaborated with GCF to provide support to them, including providing cattle and farm tools.

SCF and partners, despite the tragedy, remain unified by the collective desire to move forward and create a positive impact in terms of wildlife conservation and humanitarian assistance.

Abdoul Razack Moussa Zabeirou, a project officer working with both SCF and GCF, has recently met with local stakeholders and representatives from ACTED and the Association pour la sauvegarde de la girafe au Niger (ASGN) to discuss initiatives and needs of the local population.

Despite earlier plans to participate in the annual giraffe count, SCF has re-evaluated its plans in light of the new security circumstances and most likely will not participate in the census this year. As an alternative, a workshop involving the Government representatives and all stakeholders has been proposed in order to discuss the existing data and revise the Niger Giraffe Conservation Strategy. In addition, joint conservation work with AVEN is being shaped in order to provide income for the local guides and their families, as tourism revenue has been greatly impacted.

SCF condemns the senseless violence but refuses to be cowed by the attack. Now more than ever, we need to continue to collaborate with other conservation and humanitarian organizations to work towards a brighter future.


September 20, 2020

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Categories: Stories

The exciting second phase of the Chad scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) reintroduction project has seen more than a few high points and low points since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the immense success of Phase 1 and the reintroduction of about 280 scimitar-horned oryx to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad, Phase 2 called for similar conservation measures to be taken for addax (Addax nasomaculatus), North African ostriches (Struthio camelus camelus), and dama gazelles (Nanger dama).

Given the urgency facing dama gazelles – a species that is literally on the verge of extinction – SCF decided to try to implement the most immediate recommendation from the Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama) Conservation Strategy 2019 – 2028, capturing individuals from the tiny population in the Manga region of Chad. These individuals represent a particularly genetically diverse population of wild dama gazelle. Genetic diversity is known to be the most crucial quality for the conservation of this endangered species as it increases the population’s chances of surviving disease and a changing environment. In January four dama gazelles (three females and one male) were successfully captured thanks to a remarkable teamwork in the field. 

COVID-19 Challenges

However, international and domestic travel restrictions have prevented veterinarians from visiting the four individuals since their capture several months earlier. Without immediate medical oversight, particularly rapidly increasing temperatures this year in the area have resulted in the deaths of two of the four gazelles.

In response to the COVID-19 challenges, though, field staff have implemented new ways to use internet to connect far-away veterinarians with the remaining individuals. Between long-distance, small-scale medical interventions, drug administration, and diet adjustment, reserve field teams have gained invaluable knowledge about caring for dama gazelle, a species known to be particularly difficult to manage in captivity. 

Happy Birthday!

As a result of the hard work of the field teams and the long-distance experts, SCF is thrilled to announce the birth of a dama gazelle calf on August 24th. This birth gives SCF great hope about the potential of a local, captive breeding program to rebuild the population.


April 15, 2020

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Categories: Stories

February was the start of a new breeding season for vultures in Niger and time for the local SCF team to start monitor these globally threatened birds of prey.

During a joint mission with the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) in the framework of the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project, our team spent 20 days in the Koutous mountains of southeast Niger monitoring the nests of Egyptian vultures.  Seven new territories were identified and a total of 11 Egyptian vulture nests recorded. A breeding trio (composed of 2 males and 1 female according to the observations made) was observed on one of the territories – a particularly rare and interesting fact. Numerous cliffs and ledges in the massif offer favourable habitats for Egyptian vultures and many territories remain to be discovered. The population of Egyptian vultures in this area appears to be much larger larger than initially thought.

Rüppell’s vultures have also been observed nesting on the cliffs of the Koutous. These large vultures, which, according to locals, had disappeared from the area for years, seem to prefer the most isolated areas of the massif. A total of 12 nests were counted, including 7 with young chicks that were generally less than 3 weeks old at the time of the visit in late February.

At the same time, nests in the Gadabéji Biosphere Reserve in the Maradi region of central Niger is probably a refuge for vultures and was also monitored during the same period. Unlike in the Koutous massif, vultures in this area have so far only been observed during the breeding period. Thus, 14 vultures of 4 different species (8 Rüppell’s vultures, 1 lappet-faced vulture, 4 White-headed vultures and 1 White-backed vulture) were recorded. 10 active treetop nests, mainly in Balanites or Sclerocarya trees, were recorded. In two of them, Rüppell’s vultures were observed incubating.

Upcoming missions will allow us to collect more information on the breeding populations of vultures in Niger so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 15, 2020

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Categories: Stories

In mid-January, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Government of Chad, with implementing partner the Sahara Conservation Fund, released 15 addax into central Chad. These addax were the first of their species to roam this part of Chad in more than 40 years. Shortly after release, the addax split into several groups. First, a solitary female separated from the 14 other animals, circling back to their release site. This addax has moved over 650 km in the weeks since release. By contrast, most (>70%) addax have moved at least 700 km over the same period.

Today, the reintroduced addax are in four different social groups. Eleven animals form the largest group, which has remained fairly settled some 20 km to the southwest and southeast of their release site. This group has also returned to the release site multiple times. The solitary, ‘close-to-home’ female remains alone, as does another solitary female that has roamed much more broadly, covering more than 950 km. Finally, a third pair of females has broken away, traveling west from their release site by roughly 30km. These addax have moved less than 600 km to date. They remain separated from the others.

These movements broadly echo the first release of oryx into the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in 2016.  The majority of oryx remained together, but several females split off, moving great distances across the landscape for the first months after release. With daytime temperatures in Chad already into the 40s°C, the team will continue to closely watch the addax to see how they cope. 

 

Katherine Mertes

 

 

April 15, 2020

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Categories: Stories

In one of the most ambitious and challenging missions it has ever undertaken, the Sahara Conservation Fund led an international team in the safe and successful capture and translocation of three Critically Endangered dama gazelles from western Chad to holding facilities in the centre of the country.

The operation, which took place in January with strong support from the Chadian authorities, was carried out using ground, light aircraft and helicopter support. The team carrying out this vitally important initiative was made up from staff of Chad’s Wildlife Service, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the Zoological Society of LondonFossil Rim Wildlife Center, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology InstituteGulf Breeze Zoo, and Noé Conservation. Capturing individuals from the Manga population was also the highest priority under the Dama Gazelle Conservation Strategy 2019-2028 (Al Ain Zoo, IUCN/SSC ASG & RZSS, 2019). SCF is extremely grateful also to the Fondation SegréRewild, and the Zoological Society of London for their support.

Veterinarians, Charlotte Moueix (DVM, MSc.) and Julie Swenson (DVM, Dipl. ACZM), and handling team Adam Eyres (Fossil Rim Wildlife Center), Justin Chuven and Ricardo Pusey (Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi), played a determining role in capturing the gazelles by darting them from the helicopter and then assuring their safety during transport by plane, helicopter, and finally moving them to their new home’s fence in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve.   

The tiny western Chad population of dama gazelles, thought to number less than twenty, is undoubtedly the most at risk of extinction from poaching and habitat loss. Saving animals from this genetically rich group is seen as a major priority in strategies to improve the species’ status. Since all the gazelles initially captured were females, a fine male from the central Chad population was also darted and brought into captivity to form a small breeding group.

In thanking all its partners, SCF also extends its gratitude to SVS-Tchad, Mission Aviation Fellowship and Tropic Air Kenya for the pilots and logistical support without which this mission would not have been possible.

 

 

 

 

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