Malawi: Final entry 2019

Back in Lilongwe, we spent a wonderful last day at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center, located in the heart of the 5 million capital of Malawi.  Our partner LWT not only showed us the public areas, but also the vetinary and quarantine facilities, as well as the pre-release primate enclosures. Having been involved with post-release behavioural studies in the field, this was a great opportunity to get the full picture of LWT’s work.

None of our expeditions would be complete without a summary of the work and the data that we have collected. Here are the preliminary results for group 2:

  • We completed ten driving transects in different areas of the reserve with a total number of 45 animals recorded.
  • On the hippo walking transect, which was completed five times, we counted an average number of 135 individuals.
  • Three successful elephant observations and quite a few hours spent with picture comparison sessions resulted in four new IDs: Henry, Niels, Toto and Chassis. 203 individuals in total are mow registered in the elephant ID database thanks to our citizen scientists.
  • Fifteen elephant dung samples of all age classes (6x adult, 3x subadult, 4x juvenile, 2x calf) were collected and processed. Within these, the team found 112 seeds that still need identification.
  • Primate observations were performed five times. Although the vervet monkeys were difficult to track this time, the survey teams completed 21 focal samplings of 20 min each.
  • Excluding the roost bat survey run on the last night at the office, a total number of 30 bats were caught during eleven harp net and nine mist net hours. The catches include eight different species representing three different families (Vespertilionidae, Pteriopteridae, Rhinolophidae).
  • Team 2 also completed the mammoth task of a vegetation survey at camp including the bush area behind the tents. It took hours to measure 73 trees within 5 squares of 10 x 10 meters along the transect line.
  • Insects were processed in three sessions. We collated 600+ individuals from three live trap samples into eleven different orders before sizing individuals.
  • And last but not least, we set up 23 camera traps in the northern part of Vwaza and collected them after seven days. In a joint team effort, we went through all SD cards including species identification in a six hour morning session. Apart from the “usual” elephant, kudu, bushbuck and other diurnal species, we found very good pictures of caracal, spotted hyena, bushy mongoose and serval.

A month of data collection is over and the time has come to say goodbye. A big thank you goes to the LWT and CRA scientists Mandy and Karen and the research assistants Pili, Dominique and Leigh-Anne who not only trained and supported us, but also inspired us in many ways. Thank you Emmanuel and Felister for keeping us well fed, the camp guards for keeping us and our research equipment safe and maintaining the camp facilities. We also thank all the NWPD rangers for guiding us in the bush and watching our backs in elephant terrain, while we were collecting data.

And last but not least, thank you to all you expeditioners for joining in hands-on conservation in a remote and challenging place in the heart of Africa. Thank you for putting your time, sweat and money into a research project that wouldn’t happen without you. Thanks for coping with heat, dust, insects, elephants at camp during the night and very early breakfast times while all the while keeping up your good spirits. We hope you’ve enjoyed your time at Vwaza as much as we did and take back home unique memories of a truly authentic Africa experience. And to the two of you – you know who you are – get well soon!

Safe travels back home everyone. Stay tuned for the expedition report with final results. And please don’t forget to share your pictures.

All the best, I hope to see you again some time, somewhere on this beautiful, fragile planet of ours.

Malika

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