Malawi: New bat species for Malawi!

On our last expedition day for group 1, a primate group went out for observations in the morning and the rest of the team collected all camera traps. Back at base everyone helped going through thousands of pictures before lunchtime, using all available laptops, extracted animal pictures in the first step and finally ran them through the ID process. Even more, everyone helped a lot over the last couple of days putting datasheets into the computer so that we have a pretty complete picture of what the first team has achieved. Here is a summary of the results:

Large mammal transects

  • 18 driving transects were completed, the total number of sightings is 44 of nine different species.
  • Seven walking and five hippo transects, the average number of hippos counted along the lake transect was 108
  • Overall most animals were recorded in the southern part of the reserve most likely (because that’s where all the water is)

Elephant observations

This activity was performed 15 times. Every day a team went out to find elephant herds and to take ID pictures. Back at base, the pictures were used to identify individuals by comparing them with ID identification sheets of 94 elephants on the existing database. A great result is that six new elephants could be added: four females and one male. It was the observer’s privilege to name them, the new additions are now Carily, Sabra, JuMaddy, Kylie and Elias.

Elephant dung survey

Elephant dung was picked up from different locations within the reserve for further analysis. 229 seeds were extracted, washed and dried for identification. So far only four of them could be identified.

Primate observations

Six times a team of two to three people followed “our” troup of vervet monkeys for behaviour observations. Focal observations of one individual at a time were performed 29 times for 20 min each. The focal, continuous and proximity observations help to bolster an existing database that was started in April this year when the monkeys were released into Vwaza Wildlife Reserve.

Biodiversity studies & insects

On four occasions light traps were put out. The samples collected included 900+ individual insects that were processed by organising them into family groups, measuring and counting them in three sessions. 11 insect orders were represented within the samples, the largest number that has ever been found.

Camera traps

24 camera traps were out for nine nights each in the southern half of the reserve. We found animals on 1500 pictures, identified 23 different species, including 7 carnivores and one big cat: a leopard. Other species were genet, civet, serval, caracal, proqupine, spotted hyaena, honey badger, water mongoose, ground hornbill, duiker, hippo, elephant, yellow baboon, vervet monkey, bushbuk, guinnea fowl, kudu.

Bat surveys

Over six bat survey nights a total number of 34 bats of eight different species were caught in the mist and harp nets set up 30 min before sunset and closed after three hours. Two species were recorded for the first time in Vwaza: Laphotis botswanae (only recorded once in Lillongwe National Park) and Myotis bocagii. On top of that the team caught and identified a new species for Malawi! A Kerivoula lanosa, also called woolly bat, in one of the harp nets on a study site pretty close to camp. The only record of this species in Malawi is from the 1980s!

Quoting scientist Karen: “the results are insane!”. Thank you very much, team 1. Over to you, team 2!

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