Prior to the ground surveys, Philipp Henschel (Panthera NY) held a short training session with the survey team leaders from KNP and UNP to illustrate the recognition of tracks of the various large carnivores (LC’s), and to explain techniques to properly document tracks encountered in the field. Each survey team leader received a LC track recognition form to aid the identification of spoor during fieldwork. All ground teams also received a number of falcon tubes filled with silica gel to permit the collection and appropriate storage of fecal samples, if fresh LC scats would be encountered. The aim of collecting genetic material was to deliver an unmistakable proof for the occurrence of the respective species in the area, and to possibly develop genetic fingerprints for individual lions and cheetahs, to try and determine the minimum number of individuals using the survey area. The ground team leaders in UNP additionally received one passive infrared camera trap for each survey circuit, in case they encountered fresh kills made by LCs, or other situations where it appeared highly likely to obtain photographs of a LC species.
Aside the seven multi-disciplinary ground survey teams equipped and instructed to record LC signs, a team led by Philipp Henschel surveyed parts of UNP that had appeared relatively rich in larger game during the aerial survey specifically for LCs. The team conducted spoor searches along roughly predefined survey circuits, always following game trails, dry riverbeds, old park roads and other features that are commonly used as travel routes by LCs. These circuits incorporated habitat features that could be expected to attract larger herbivores, such as water reservoirs, floodplains, saltlicks and marshes, or other sites with high herbivore abundance that have been spotted during the aerial survey or were indicated by the ICCN guards. The LC team carried eight passive infrared camera traps during each survey circuit, which were to be mounted along trails where LC spoor had been found, or at otherwise promising features that attract suitable prey and might also attract the target species as a consequence. For each LC spoor encountered, the GPS position was recorded, alongside a qualitative description of the spoor and a digital photograph. Genetic material was stored in falcon tubes with silica whenever fresh material was found.
RESULTS & DICUSSIONS
H. Vanleeuwe, D.Moyer, C. Pélissier, P. Henschel, A. Gotanègre
A total of about 3400Km of transects were flown of which 2500Km in UNP, 270km North of UNP, 500Km in KNP and 130km North of KNP. All observations of human and animal signs were recorded (Fig 3).
Figure 3: Human and animal presence from aerial survey, Oct 2008
Results show that most human activities at UNP occurred in the Northwest and at the fringes of the Park boundary, and for KNP it occurred in the South and at the fringes of the Park. The main human impact observed from the air consists of cultivation, fires and human trails. The aerial survey established an overview of human presence vs. animal presence in both Parks. UNP covers 10,000km2 and logistical and financial restraints forced us to identify a sub-section for the ground survey that could be covered by 4 teams. The aerial survey helped identify the area with least human disturbance for the UNP ground survey (Fig 3).
For 3000km of flying 1375 recordings were made of which 850 were observations of human signs (Tab 1).
Table 1: Human signs at UNP and KNP, aerial survey Sep 2008
Cultivated land, > 1000 ha
Cultivated land, 100 - 1000 ha
Cultivated land, 10 - 100 ha
Cultivated land, < 10 ha
Several observations represent clusters of signs such as 159 observations of habitations representing ~20,185 huts, 12 observations of dugouts representing ~271 canoes and 19 observations of humans representing ~338 people. Proportionally, KNP had more huts, fires and roads than UNP, whereas UNP had more cultivation (almost all in the Northwest). A total average of 77km2 of cultivated land was encountered along 2500km flown over UNP and 11km2 along 500km flown over KNP.
Elephants were found in the papyrus swamps in the extreme Northeast of UNP and outside the NP boundaries. Of 1,375 recordings made, 525 were animal recordings of which 432 in UNP and 93 in KNP (Tab 1).
Direct observations of animals were generally very low and proportionally similar for both Parks, but indirect signs of animals such as game trails and den holes were much more common at UNP than KNP.
For UNP, 46 recordings represented direct observations of 110 animals and 386 recordings represented indirect observations of some 714 game trails and den holes. For KNP, 14 recordings represented direct observations of 55 animals and 79 recordings represented indirect observations of 84 game trails and den holes (Table 1).
Elephants Elephants were observed in the papyrus swamps Northwest of UNP and the number of fresh elephant trails suggests that there may be several large groups. In Sep 2007 ~100 elephants were photographed in this area by the NGO BAK. This is confirmed by the complaints of elephant crop damage by the people around the swamps and by a 3-month study conducted in this area by Jean Mululwa, the new ICCN Conservator at Lusinga.
The report of Mululwa (2008) mentions a recording of 275 elephants at the patrol post Mukoney on the 22nd of June 2008 and at the same time other large groups were seen at 3 other sites. Most of these elephants are said to be resident and some would have been blocked there during their annual migration, following the Lufira valley (UNP), when people settled in their movement corridor. Mululwa (2008) explains that the swamps are largely inaccessible to people and that there was no human-elephant conflict until Mai-Mai settled on islands in the swamps which elephants use during the heavy rains. Pushed from the islands by guns on one side and rising waters on the other, they now move using the 2 corridors Kimwenze – Kapando – Mwebe or Kabiofwe – Kende – Kasenga – Mukoney, causing crop damage underway. Settlements that lay along these corridors are the illegal villages Bwe, Lwakinga and Kitompwa inside UNP, and Kissakula, Kabwa, Bukulu, Tampa and Kyalaba outside UNP. The politico-administrative authorities and the customary chiefs are in the process of removing those villages along the corridor outside UNP, but government support is needed to remove the illegal villages inside UNP. Mr Mululwa (2008) suggests providing Buyaba, the name of this area, with the status of an Elephant Reserve.
Other animals (*photos)
DRC’s only remaining population of plains zebra persists near Lusinga station. Yellow baboon and oribi were most common in UNP and southern reedbuck and oribi were most common at KNP. Fortunate observations include 1 group of *20 sable antelopes and up to *11 wattled cranes at KNP and *15 zebra, *2 hippopotamus, *8 puku, and 1 shoebill (in the papyrus swamps) at UNP.