Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls - www.zambezibookcompany.com

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Seeing the light – Benefits to banning hunting in Botswana and Zambia

wildlifeextra.com
By Ian Michler

The recent decision by the governments of Botswana and Zambia to halt trophy hunting has been praised in some conservation circles in southern Africa. Ian Michler explains why.

Towards the end of last year the Botswana Government announced that trophy hunting will no longer be allowed on any state or community land from the end of 2013. The ban extends to what is known as ‘citizen hunting' for the pot and covers all species, including elephants. And then in early January this year the government of Zambia annulled the tender process for hunting concessions in 19 Game Management Areas (GMAs) and cancelled all hunting licences and quotas for at least one year. It also introduced an immediate and indefinite ban on the hunting of lions and leopards and committed to a thorough review of the hunting industry.

These are extremely sensible stands and both governments should be congratulated for their vision. Although taken independently, the decisions are based on similar factors that clearly indicate a further loss of support for trophy hunting as an effective wildlife management option.

Read the Full article here.

A Confusion of Stripes


Image by Peter Roberts
Written by Peter Roberts for the Zambezi Traveller
When it comes to the zebra’s stripes, it’s not all black and white...
The stripes of the zebra’s coat are one of the most distinctive and recognisable of all African animals. For many years scientists have hypothesised as to their purpose – temperature regulation, camouflage, or even to confuse predators - stripes were thought to confuse large carnivores. However, whilst recent research has provided evidence that the stripes deter biting insects, confusion over the zebra’s stripes is not just limited to their function, but also form.
Read the full article (there's much, much more!) in the March 2013 issue of the Zambezi Traveller here


The secrets of Hwange’s zebra

Image by: Peter Roberts
Written by Peter Roberts for the Zambezi Traveller

The Hwange Environmental Research Development programme of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, run by Dr HervĂ© Fritz of the Lyons University, has been researching the dynamics of the Hwange ecosystem, covering the National Park and the community and Forestry lands nearby, since 1999.

Elephants dominate the ecology of Hwange, accounting for over ninety percent of the Park’s large herbivore biomass. Medium sized herbivores, such as zebra, occur in much lower population densities than those recorded in most other African systems. The Hwange zebra population density is one fiftieth of the density recorded in Serengeti.

Monitoring changes in populations involves identifying and following the life histories of individuals, and with zebra the researchers have a key to identifying each animal – its stripes. The exact pattern of the stripes on each zebra are unique, much like the human fingerprint or a bar-code.

Working from photographs, researchers are able to identify and monitor individuals within the population, allowing the project to follow the life histories of some 250 zebra over nine years. Through this work the team has been able to build up information on survival rates, reproductive patterns and harem dynamics.

The project has identified high mortality rates for foals and two to three year olds and is currently working with the Hwange Lion Research project looking at predation and other causes of mortality.

The researchers have also identified interesting social dynamics within the Hwange zebra population. Zebra stallions maintain harems, and Hwange’s social structure has been found to be more unstable than elsewhere. In Hwange it is unusual for a female to stay with the same male for more than three years, and as stallions are known to kill foals sired from previous mates, the team is now investigating infanticide rates within the population to see if this increased social fluidity has an unexpected cost in foal mortality.

Read the full article in the March 2013 issue of the Zambezi Traveller here

Monday, 25 March 2013

Victory for Zimbabwe elephant calves

Five elephant calves captured from the wild in Zimbabwe have been saved from a life of misery in Chinese zoos.
Due to campaigning from the Asia for Animals coalition in partnership with Zimbabwe animal welfare and conservation organisations, the elephant calves have been sent to the Umfurudzi national park where they will be rehabilitated for a life in the wild instead of experiencing a life of misery in a Chinese zoo/safari park.
This victory is somewhat bittersweet, as sadly four additional wild caught elephant calves arrived into China in November 2012. One of these has already died. Asia for Animals coalition members are offering advice and support to the zoos housing the remaining three elephants in the hope that we can improve their living conditions.

Batoka Gorge Dam: to be or not to be?


The Batoka Gorge
Image Credit: Tom Varley

Written by Peter Roberts for the Zambezi Traveller

At the end of 2012 the Zambezi River Authority invited expressions of interest from companies interested in tendering for the development of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme, a joint initiative by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe and supported with funding from the World Bank. Sources expect the project to commence this year and reach completion by 2019.

Read the full article in the new issue of the Zambezi Traveller, available across the region and online here (external link, opens in a new window).

On the Old Hunter's Road


On the banks of the Linyanti
Image Credit: Tom Varley
Written by Peter Roberts for the Zambezi Traveller
At the turn of the last century Victoria Falls had only just appeared on the tourist map. Only known to the wider world since 1855, when David Livingstone made their existence popular knowledge, to reach the Victoria Falls required an expedition of many weeks, if not months, travelling overland by ox-cart along rough tracks through thick bush inhabited by wild and dangerous animals. Explorers, hunters and traders all made tracks towards the Falls, and before long a wagon road ran from the south. The Old Hunters’ Road, as it became known, now forms the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Read full article in March issue of the Zambezi Traveller or online on the Zambezi Traveller website (external link, openins in new window).
Read more about the history of the Victoira Falls online here: To The Victoria Falls (external link, openins in new window).


Hell and High Water


Phillips Idowu (and Jack Dee in the background!) walking with local school children.
Image credit and copyright: Tom Dymond/Comic Relief Ltd/Rex Features

Written by Peter Roberts for the Zambezi Traveller

Six celebrities from the UK took on the Zambezi Challenge in January to raise money for the British charity Comic Relief. Former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, actress Chelsee Healey, DJ Greg James, Olympian Phillips Idowu and comedians Dara O'Briain and Jack Dee battled the rapids and dodged the rocks, crocs and hippos as they canoed and rafted over 111km down the Zambezi River over five days.

Read full article in the latest issue of the Zambezi Traveller and also available online on the Zambezi Traveller website.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Work On Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Project Begins (Zim)

It has been reported that construction of the access road on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River, linking the proposed Batoka Gorge dam site and the main Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Highway, has begun. The road, which runs through Chisuma Area in Hwange District, will see scores of villagers being relocated.

Media reports claim two companies have already started clearing land for the roads and have built office stations in preparation for the construction. The access roads are expected to be completed within nine months before machinery and materials for the hydro-electric project can be brought to the dam site itself.

Matabeleland North Governor and Resident Minister Thokozile Mathuthu yesterday said she was happy that the project was finally taking shape, saying that the relocation of villagers was of little significance compared to the magnitude of the project.

"This is a project that is going to benefit the whole country. It is going to benefit the industries and we hope it will also attract investors because once completed, we will have abundant power supply," she said. "Given the magnitude of the project, communities within the radius of the area of development are expected to be relocated." Governor Mathuthu said the locals would benefit through labour supply.

Source: allAfrica.com

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Livingstone's Legacy

Today is the 200th anniversary of David Livingstone's birth, in Blantyre, Scotland.

This year the Zambian town which still bears his name celebrates the missionary turned explorer's life and achievements with a series of special events.

Read more here.

For some interesting perspectives on Livingstone's life see the following links.

Dr Livingstone and the cult of Victorian celebrity
Daily Telegraph, 20 March 2013

Today marks the bicentenary of the birth of Dr Livingstone, the missionary-explorer worshipped as a near-saint. In reality he was a cruel parent and husband and, though he achieved much, owed his saintly reputation to the media.

Read more: The Daily Telegraph.

The African chief converted to Christianity by Dr Livingstone
BBC News, 19 Mar 2013

...200 years since the birth of David Livingstone, perhaps the most famous of the missionaries to visit Africa in the 19th Century. But as author and Church historian Stephen Tomkins explains, the story of an African chief he converted is every bit as incredible as Livingstone's.

Read more: BBC News.

In the footsteps of Livingstone
The Daily Telegraph, 13 Mar 2013

As Dr Livingstone's bicentenary approaches, the explorer John Blashford-Snell considers the enduring legacy of the Scotsman and his travels.

Read more: The Daily Telegraph.

Dr Livingstone 'lied in famous account of slave market massacre'
The Daily Telegraph, 02 Nov 2011

Dr David Livingstone may have lied about his famous account of a slave market massacre, a new study into a faded 140-year-old diary has suggested.

Read more: The Daily Telegraph.

Dr David Livingstone
To The Victoria Falls

A Scottish medical missionary and explorer would be the first to make two important discoveries regarding the Zambizi river. Dr David Livingstone was the first to realise that the upper section of the river became the Zambezi known from the east coast, and the first to see the magnificent Victoria Falls, naming them after his British Queen and making them known to the world.

Read more: To The Victoria Falls.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Zambian Tourism Minister clarifies hunting ban and confirms suspension of lion and leopard hunting

The Zambian Minister of Tourism and Arts, Sylvia Masebo, has confirmed in an interview with local media in Livingstone that the general ban on hunting which was annouced earlier this year covers 19 hunting blocks and does not affect privately owned game ranches. It is understood that these 19 hunting concession permits have already lapsed and will not be renewed.

"That ban was specifically for the 19 hunting blocks. As you may be aware, there are many other hunting areas in Zambia beyond the 19. There are some hunting areas where the licences are still valid. If you have a licence that has not expired, we have said we will wait until that licence expires.

"But for those licences that have expired, in particular affecting those 19 hunting blocks, yes that is where we did the hunting ban. What this means in effect is that those who are still having licences in those areas and those licences have not expired, we will respect that," Ms Masebo said.

Ms Masebo said Zambia has 19 official hunting blocks and 36 game management areas where hunting takes place at different scales. "We also have in Zambia game ranches which are privately owned where somebody even has a title deed. These private parks are fenced." Ms Masebo said the hunting continues in those game ranches because they are private. "That is the clarification I wanted to make that hunting in private parks that people own and have even got title deeds and are fenced, they can do hunting,".

The ban on hunting of lions and leopards is, however, countrywide to allow for a detailed population survey. "If we continue hunting, we will end up with a situation where there will be no lions in Zambia, and we said let us stop and carry out a census first. We said let us do a survey for us as Government to understand so that we make an informed policy directive," Ms Masebo said.

The Minister had previously stated that there was more value in game-viewing tourism than trophy hunting, which brought in just $3m (£1.9m) last year, and that the country did not have enough cats for hunting purposes. "Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry."

Recently Ms Masebo suspended the entire top management at ZAWA and ordered an investigation into the awarding of hunting concessions in the 19 blocks amid allegations of corruption.

Neighbouring Botswana is banning all sport hunting from 2014, while Kenya halted hunting for sport decades ago. [Sources: Zambian Daily Mail, BBC News. Image Credit: AFP]

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Dung Beetle Directions


Under stary skies...
New research in South Africa has indicated that dung beetles use the light from the Milky Way to orientate themselves when collecting dung. It has previously been established that dung beetles use polarised light from the sun and moon to orientate themselves on the ground and in flight, but researchers were intrigued as to how the insects managed to navigate on moonless nights.
Dung beetles are highly competitive when it comes to dung which, as their name suggests, is a major feature in dung beetles lives. Only about 10% of dung beetle species are 'rollers' - the rest are burrowers, or 'tunnellers', who live underground, or even 'dwellers' who spend their live, literally, in the shit. It is usually the males which collect ball shaped amounts of dung which they quickly roll off to a secure location. Dung balls are used as a food source for adults and young.
Fresh dung is usually found in random, but concentrated, amounts, and can attract a lot of attention from other dung beetles of the same, or other, species, all wanting a piece of the action. For a male with a suitable ball of dung, it is imperative he exits the stage with his prize as soon as possible, before other males attempt to steal his carefully selected and crafted dung ball. To maximise their chances, males retreat in a straight line away from the centre of attention - no easy task when pushing a ball of dung as big as yourself - backwards.
Using the African dung beetle, Scarabaeus satyrus, (one of an estimated 6,000 species of dung beetle in the world, 2,000 in Africa and 800 in south Africa), researchers found that rather than using specific individual stars for orientation, the beetles used the wider Milky Way as a reference to navigate their way around.
The study by Dr Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden is published in the journal Current Biology and used field experiments and even tests with beetles in Johannesburg planetarium. In the controlled tests the beetles performed equally well under a fully starlit sky and one showing only the Milky Way. When researchers strapped visors to the beetles to block out the sky entirely, they were completely disoriented.
"Dung beetles are known to use celestial compass cues such as the sun, the moon, and the pattern of polarized light formed around these light sources to roll their balls of dung along straight paths," Dr Dacke said. "Celestial compass cues dominate straight-line orientation in dung beetles so strongly that, to our knowledge, this is the only animal with a visual compass system that ignores the extra orientation precision that landmarks can offer... The dung beetles are not necessarily rolling with the Milky Way or 90 degrees to it; they can go at any angle to this band of light in the sky. They use it as a reference." Indeed, in the field, the researchers found the beetles run in to trouble when the Milky Way briefly lies flat on the horizon at particular times of the year.
Whilst celestial navigation has been shown in birds and some mammals, these are thought to be the first insects to be found to use these techniques; "This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom."
Previously it was assumed that insects could not use the stars because their compound eyes did not have the resolution to see points of light, but navigating using the plain of the Milky Way does away with the need to see individual stars. The question is how many other animals might use similar night-time navigation. The Lund researcher is sure there will be more discoveries to come. "I think night-flying moths and night-flying locusts could benefit from using a star compass similar to the one that the dung beetles are using," she said.
For more on Dr Dacke's research see here.
Article reference and abstract can see seen here.
[Image Credit: Current Biology, Dacke et al.)]










Zambezi River level update

[image credit: peter roberts]

Zambezi River level from just above the Victoria Falls (taken from the Victoria Falls Hydrological Station), 12 March 2013.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam Petition

Sign the Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam online petition here.

See earlier post for background here.

Half of Africa's Lions Facing Extinction

PANTHERA PRESS RELEASE
A new report published 5 march 2013 by cat conservation charity Panthera concludes that nearly half of Africa's wild lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20-40 years without urgent conservation measures. The plight of many lion populations is so bleak, the report concludes that fencing them in - and fencing humans out - may be their only hope for survival.
Led by the University of Minnesota's Professor Craig Packer and co-authored by a large team of lion biologists, including Panthera's President, Dr. Luke Hunter, and Lion Program Director, Dr. Guy Balme, the report, entitled Conserving large carnivores: dollars and fence


, was published recently in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.
Panthera's Dr. Luke Hunter explained, "These findings highlight the severity of the lion conservation crisis today and the limited choices we have to ensure a future for the species. No one wants to resort to putting any more fences around Africa's marvelous wild areas, but without massive and immediate increases in the commitment to lion conservation, we may have little choice."
Panthera's Dr. Guy Balme stated, "We have shown that it is possible to keep both humans and lions in African landscapes by reducing lion-human conflict, but it requires extensive resources. As the numbers of people and their livestock continue to grow in Africa, it is essential to scale up these programs to avert losing many lion populations."
Today, it is estimated that fewer than 30,000 lions remain in Africa in just 25% of the species' original natural habitat.
Read full Panthera Press Release here.
Viw abstract and download article here.



Sunday, 10 March 2013

German's 'forgot' Victoria Falls

When Leo von Caprivi negotiated the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty with Britain, swapping the vibrant trading islands of Zanzibar for a narrow strip of swampland connecting German East Africa (modern day Namibia) to the Zambezi River, he apparently forogt one of the world's greatest natural wonders, the Victoria Falls.
Von Caprivi succeeded Otto von Bismarck as the German Chancellor in 1890. His administration warmed toward Great Britain, and a few months later he signed an agreement trading the islands of Zanzibar to the British in exchange for Heligoland, an island group in the North Sea. Bundled in the deal to Germany negotiated a bonus, a little strip of northern Bechuanaland, no wider than 20 miles across in some places, specifically aimed to give access to the Zambezi River. This, the Germans thought, would give them a navigable route to the Indian Ocean and Germany’s East African territories (modern-day Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi).
Like Livingstone's dream to open up the heart of Africa to Christianity and commerce from the Indian Ocean, their ambitions were dashed by the nature of the Zambezi River. Rapids and swamps above the Victoria Falls make the river difficult enough for navigation, but the Falls themseves, followed by the twisting Batoka Gorge, not to mention Kariba Gorge and Cahora Bassa, put pay to any such ambitions. Even today, with Kariba and Cahora Bassa Gorges drowned beneath mand-made lakes, the river remains stubbornly impassable to navigation. Even the planned Batoka and Devil's Gorge dams will leave one unsurmountable obstacle - the Victoria Falls.
Von Caprivi's political rival Bismarck huffed that the Heligoland trade had been a bust, and that Germany had traded away its "trousers for a button." Count von Caprivi died in 1899, but the problems caused by his accidental strip live on.


Birdlife Botswana launches Flamingo partnership


image credit: birdlife botswana
Mining extraction company Botash has joined hands with Birdlife Botswana in a three year relationship supporting the conservation of the flamingo breeding areas in the Makgadikgadi salt pans and the development of the reserve into a viable tourist attraction.
Botswana Ash (BotAsh) has become the first corporate entity to support Birdlife Botswana in their aspirations to develop a flamingo reserve. The salt mine is located on Sua Pan, close to the breeding areas for the flamingoes, one of the largest sites in Africa (other associated sites located within the Makgadikgadi include Mosu, Mokubilo, Mmea, and Mmatshumu).
Botash has also committed to release its staff to help educate the communities on basic entrepreneurship skills, book keeping, marketing, customer service, desk office, to prepare them for the envisaged opportunities. Birdlife Botswana will also teach communities tour guiding and other tour operating skills.
The Makgadikgaid Salt Pans are home to some of the world's largest concentrations of flamingos and the aim is to make the area a tourist hotspot. Besides the beauty of flamingoes, there is also the Old Khama Ruins, the Fossil Tree, Kokonje Island and Lekhubu Island, which are currently open access areas.
With 580 bird species, Botswana is among the fifty most species-rich countries in the world. Specialised bird-watching tourism contributes US$80 billion per year to the global tourism industry.
Read full article here.




Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tongabezi Lodge speaks out against captive lion interactions

Tongabezi Lodge, located on the north banks of the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls near Livingstone, Zambia, have joined the handfull of tourism operators in the region to speak up on the issue of captive lions being used in lion walks and other tourist-animal interactions.
In a post of their Facebook group (here), Tongabezi outlines some of the many reasons why they have decided not to take bookings for captive lion interactions. Guests can still book directly, if they choose.
There are two toruism operators based in Livingstone, Zambia who use captive bred lions in tourism interactions - the ALERT/Lion Encounter project (which is based in Zimbabwe and operates lion walks in Gweru, Victoria Falls and Livingstone), and Mukuni Big 5 Safaris, which has captive lions, cheetah, and, almost comically, offers a 'complimentary caracal'.
And if this wasn't bad enough, the ALERT project source their lion cubs from South Africa, thus supporting the captive lion breeding industry there which feeds the canned hunting industry there, and Mukuni has white lions - inbred for their recessive genes.
To find out what these operators are up to, and the crazy excuses they offer to support their use of captive animals, view the ALERT website here, Lion Encounter site here, and the Mukuni Big 5 Safaris site here.
Visit the Tongabezi website here, and show your support by booking yourself a holiday!
And to read more about why captive lion interactions are such a hot topic, click here - you'll also find info on this site about white lions here.





Friday, 8 March 2013

Zambezi River level update


credit: peter roberts

Zambezi River level from just above the Victoria Falls (taken from the Victoria Falls Hydrological Station), 7 March 2013 - compare with previous images here.

The figures from the Katima Mulilo Hydrological Station (below), located upstream of the Victoria Falls and the Caprivi Swamps, indicate that whilst for a while the Zambezi was on a record rise for the time of year, the river has started to level off, although the river may still rise in response to rainfall within the huge area of the upper catchment.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Botswana committed to ecotourism

The importance of Botswana’s natural resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage was recognised the government in 2002 with the conception of the country’s National Ecotourism Strategy, a framework that positions Botswana as a leading sustainable tourism destination and has resulted in the development of the Botswana Ecotourism Certification System, a voluntary, tourism industry-wide program run by Botswana Tourism.

The Botswana Ecotourism Certification System, outlining more than 240 performance standards, is designed to encourage and support responsible environmental, social, and cultural behavior by tourism businesses, and to provide a quality, eco-friendly product to consumers. This comprehensive, three-tier system enables companies of all sizes to attain the entry level of 'Green' certification. From there, companies may continue to evolve their operations to the 'Green+' level and finally to the 'Eco' level of certification. This highest level of certification acknowledges the full spectrum of ecotourism, including involvement with local communities in tourism development, nature conservation, environment management, and interpretation of the surrounding environment to the guest.

The private sector of Botswana’s tourism industry has embraced this voluntary program. Since its inception in late 2010, the number of Botswana eco-certified camps and lodges has grown to a total of 15 properties. Thirteen of the 15 properties have attained 'Eco' status, the highest certification level: Banoka Bush Camp, Chobe Game Lodge, Jao Camp, Kalahari Plains Camp, Kwetsani Camp, Little Vumbura Camp, Savuti Camp, Xigera Camp, Zafara Camp, Jacana Camp, Meno A Kwena Tented Camp, Mombo Camp; Camp Kalahari and Tubu Tree Camp have attained 'Green+' certification, the mid-level certification; with Vumbura Plains Camp attaining 'Green', or entry level, certification.

Read more here.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Zimbabwe targets rural tourism development projects ahead of UNWTO

A United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) official last week held discussions with the government on the Tourism Assistance programme for Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Government and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) are working towards boosting the country’s tourism brand name, 'A World of Wonders' in advance of the UNWTO General Assembly scheduled for August this year.
UNWTO director of technical cooperation, Harsh Varma visited Harare and held meetings with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, followed by consultations with other stakeholders.
The Standard reported a decision was made to first take up the complete spatial planning for two Tourism Development Zones at Kariba and Masvingo, as financial resources were still being mobilised for the Tourism Master Plan. It is understood that these two projects could be developed as quick-win projects for showcasing before the UNWTO General Assembly scheduled for August this year.
Several aspects related to the spatial planning process for the two projects include overall physical planning of the two tourism zones, specifying the tourism resources, detailed area demarcation, a comprehensive inventory of tourism resources, their qualitative assessment and a detailed marketing strategy bringing out the unique features of each zone.
Central to the spatial planning process was the development of community-based and rural tourism in both the zones. This would include identification of communities, development of a programme of homesteads, involvement of women and youth, promotion of arts and craft, local cuisine, festivals and other activities.
It was agreed that the formulation of a five-year implementation action plan for the key performance areas, actions and outcomes was imperative. The cost, time frames and responsibilities for executing the action plan would also be clearly specified.
It was noted that the endeavour would be to initiate implementation of the project by the end of March and complete it by mid-July this year.
It was also agreed that consultants at national level with expertise in the field of tourism would be utilised while also deploying international consultants in some disciplines so as to give project outcomes an international flavour, based on the best practices and success stories from other destinations.
A budget of US$210,000 was drawn up for international consultants, while other charges and expenses brought the grand total to US$301,400.
Read full report here.









Saturday, 2 March 2013

Time to stop the slaughter

Tackling the illegal trade in wild animals is a matter of global urgency
The Guardian, 1 March 2013

The grisly trade in wild animals is underpinned by slaughter, smuggling and money-laundering. It's time to get serious.

Illegal trade in wildlife has now reached a scale that poses an immediate risk to wildlife and to people. Over the past five years, we have seen a dramatic spike in the poaching and illegal trade in elephants and rhinos. In 2011 an estimated 25,000 elephants were poached across Africa and in South Africa alone 668 rhinos were lost to poachers in 2012.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was born 40 years ago on 3 March, 1973 in Washington DC. It sets the global controls for trade in wildlife, and the 177 countries that have joined CITES will meet from Monday in Bangkok, Thailand to take stock of of the situation, step up enforcement efforts and send clear political signals on putting a stop to illegal wildlife trade.

Read more here.

Zambezi River Levels

From the Victoria Falls Bush Telegraph (link)

The water levels on the Zambezi at the Victoria Falls respond to rainfall across the whole Upper Zambezi catchment, but flow patterns are also hugely influenced by natural wetland areas such as the Caprivi Swamps, which intercept and absorb floodwaters and then regulate the water released downstream. Data from the Victoria Falls Hydrological Station, located just above the Falls (along Zambezi drive) show that as at the end of January the Zambezi River was 10 centimetres higher than last year, but 10 centimetres lower than the highest level recorded in recent years (2007).

However, data from the Katima Mulilo Hydrological Station, upstream of the Victoria Falls and the Caprivi Swamps, showed a far more dramatic rise in river levels in late January, with the river rising to higher than average for this time of year and following a similar rise to 2011 when river levels rose early and quickly (but then subsided into a lower than average maximums). Indeed rises at Katima Mulilo can be up to four times that experienced at the Victoria Falls, emphasising the regulatory effect of wetlands and their importance in controlling natural flood patterns. The Caprivi Swamps absorb and store excess floodwaters, much like a sponge, releasing them slowly and steadily downstream. The corresponding reduction in flow can be up to seven times higher at Katima Mulilo than at the Victoria Falls, as the swamps slowly release stored water, reflecting the importance of the Caprivi Swamps in regulating flow downstream to the Victoria Falls and preventing dramatic, and destructive, flood events. Without them, the Falls would experience even more dramatic fluctuations in level, rising quicker and higher than presently, and accordingly dropping quicker and more dramatically, and the rapid below even more treacherous.

At the same time as increasing in volume, the speed or flow of the river increases. The flow at the Victoria Falls Hydrological Station as at 3rd February 2013 was 1,459 metres cubed per second, which is about 44% higher than the flow recorded last year on the same date when water levels were also significantly lower by comparison.