Archive for Limpopo

Are The Dog Days Over…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

In 2009 I was lucky enough to spend time with a pack of African wild dogs and their one month old pups at their den site deep in the Limpopo river forest. The time spent with them still rates as my favourite wildlife experience and the photographs that I took feature heavily in my new African wild dog book Underdogs. This is why it was so hard to receive the news that the pack was found dead from deliberate poisoning recently.

Andrei Snyman of Botswana’s Northern Tuli Predator Project reported that the pack had been found dead at their new den site agonsingly soon after the alpha female had given birth to a new litter of pups. To make matters worse, a male leopard, African wild cat and African hawk eagle were also found poisoned after feeding on two carcasses laced with Temic – a highly toxic poison. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident and claim that they lost livestock to the animals (although it cannot be said which species was responsible for the predation).

The incident spells the end of the line (for now) for the Tuli wild dog pack – once a much celebrated success story following their high profile cross-border translocation from South Africa. The incident also threatens the viable future of the wild dog in the Limpopo Valley following on from the removal of the Venetia Limpopo pack just across the river in South Africa in 2010. With wild dog numbers so low and populations so sparsely distributed, sub-populations like the Limpopo Valley population are essential for the future of the species as young wild dogs can disperse to form new packs and keep the gene pool healthy.

This news came to me just days before my African wild dog book Underdogs arrives in South Africa. The story of the Tuli pack features in the book and I am really proud to be supporting wild dog conservation through sales so please do visit my website to order your signed copy. Every copy sold will make a real difference on the ground to those few wild dogs remaining and to the people dedicating their lives to protecting these charismatic yet marginalised predators.

Order Underdogs on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Land of Giants photo safari picked as one of Wanderlust Magazine’s top trips for 2012

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Wanderlust, the world’s leading travel magazine, has selected my Land of Giants photo safari as one of their top trips for 2012. A feature in the December 2011 issue details their 50 best new trips for 2012, which includes this exclusive photographic tour to Africa’s Limpopo Valley led by myself and carnivore expert Peter Neville.

Peter and I are offering just six guests per trip the opportunity to join us on this safari combining specialist photographic guiding with expert carnivore insight. Being home to Africa’s true giants – big cats, great herds of elephant, huge baobab trees, large birds of prey, the striking kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), the ostrich (the world’s largest bird), the massive eland (the world’s largest antelope) and the giraffe, world’s tallest mammal – the Limpopo Valley is rightly known as the Land of Giants.

There are two dates for this photo safari to the Limpopo Valley in June and July in 2012. Check out my website for the full itinerary, trip information and how to make a booking. I hope to welcome you to Africa’s Land of Giants in 2012…

Find out more on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Dr Neville, I presume?

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Okay, so my first meeting with Peter Neville overlooking the mighty Limpopo didn’t quite have the historical gravitas of Stanley’s famous meeting with Livingstone on the banks of Lake Tanganyika in 1871 but that doesn’t make it an insignificant one. In 2009 I was in the Limpopo Valley photographing African wild dogs for my book Underdogs (a book that Peter has since penned the foreword for) and he was in the valley leading a safari with guests from all over the world. It was abundantly clear that Peter shared the same enthusiasm and passion for this Land of Giants as I. If his continuing support for African wild dog conservation efforts in the area didn’t prove it, then the fact that he returned each year with guests to share with them the splendour of this overlooked corner of Southern Africa certainly sealed the deal.

Thankfully, Underdogs and African wild dog conservation are not where our professional dealings ended. Our passion for the Limpopo Valley and mutual understanding of the importance of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area have inspired us to combine our collective guiding skills with my wildlife photography experience and Peter’s knowledge of animal behaviour. As a result, we are proud to be able to announce our 2012 safari dates. A full itinerary and contact details are available on my main website.

Highlights of the trip include the chance to photograph many of the natural world’s true giants all in one valley – big cats, great herds of elephant, huge baobab trees, large birds of prey, the striking kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), the ostrich (the world’s largest bird), the massive eland (the world’s largest antelope) and the world’s tallest mammal, the giraffe. On top of that, the valley boasts a bird list of around 400 species.

The sandstone hills and ridges that line the valley are not only home to leopards and black eagles, they also bear the evidence of the valley’s rich bushman past through rock paintings and archaeological artifacts. We will be exploring these hills and working on elements of landscape photography while watching animals on the plains below. The African sun washes these sandstone rocks with a golden hue at sunrise and sunset and makes landscape photography a true pleasure at this time of year.

The Limpopo’s riverine forest supports great herds of elephant and our final destination hosts the greatest concentration of African elephant on privately owned land. The chance of seeing and photographing rare and endangered animals like the African wild dog also makes this a particularly special place to visit. So why not join us?

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

New photo safari dates announced for 2012

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

I have teamed up with carnivore expert Peter Neville to offer just six people the chance to explore the ‘Land of Giants‘ – the wonderful Limpopo Valley between South Africa and Botswana.

There are two options for this photo safari in 2012. The first trip runs from the 19th to the 25th of June. The second trip runs from the 30th of June to the 6th of July. A full itinerary and booking information can be found on my website.

Join us as we travel through the valley photographing Africa’s giant wild inhabitants – big cats, great herds of elephant, huge baobab trees, birds of prey, kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), ostrich (the world’s largest bird), eland (the world’s largest antelope), giraffe (the world’s tallest mammal) – and the famous river and stunning landscapes that support them.

Read more on my website www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Run, Fatboy…Run!

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Photography, Poaching, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

The Limpopo Valley along South Africa’s northern border with Botswana and Zimbabwe is home to a small number of lions. Yet, there is enough prey and natural habitat to sustain more. So why do they fare so badly here? The truth is that this small population sums up a continent-wide problem – Africa has lost almost 90% of its lions in the last 20 years. Hunters are permitted to shoot them for sport, game reserve managers can euthanise those that are supposedly surplus to requirement and management plans for the species are largely insufficient and geographically patchy.

‘Fat Boy’ is the pride male of a small group of lions living within the eastern section of South Africa’s Mapungubwe National Park, which lies within the Limpopo Valley. When Fat Boy disappeared over the border into neighbouring Zimbabwe and word spread that a licence had been applied for by a local hunter to shoot the lion, it was feared that the Limpopo Valley had lost another pride male. The problem with losing a dominant pride male is that while there may be other males ready to move in to the territory and take over, the new arrivals are likely to kill any young cubs to assert the dominance of their own genes. What’s more, sub-adult male lions are also pushed out of the pride’s territory to fend for themselves, often pushing them to the edges of protected areas into the human conflict zone and forcing them into a life on the run.

Thankfully, Fat Boy returned from his foray into new territory unscathed. However, a farmer in the Limpopo Valley was recently fined R55,000 after being found guilty of baiting and illegally shooting a male lion on his land (unfortunately for the farmer the lion was wearing a GPS collar). And while that R55,000 has been invested straight into the Tuli Predator Project who have worked hard to protect these lions for years and who took an active role in the prosecution, the outcome should be seen as less than ideal. A financial settlement with no sentencing surely sets a precedent that the life of a breeding adult of a vulnerable and declining species can be simply paid-off?

This settlement may not be ideal but it is not surprising. Fuelled by the ‘Big Five’ marketing concept and the opportunity to make money from international safari-goers keen to see these big cats, many landowners across Africa have bought and sold lions purely with their own economic interests in mind. But, in an ironic twist, has the inception of the ‘Big Five’ and the marketing machine popularising Africa’s wildlife lead to a micromanaged and financially selfish approach from landowners that has damaged the lion population forever?

With lion numbers falling, Africa brimming with development and protected habitats being cut-off by human infrastructure, lion specialists Susan Miller and Dr Paul Funston are aiming to establish a better understanding of the impacts of micromanagement (such as inbreeding) on lion populations on small reserves in South Africa. But will landowners and reserve managers be prepared to enter into a metapopulation model, for example, or will ownership of ‘their’ lions get in the way of mapping a recovery for the species? And can the lion even make a recovery like that other great icon of African wildlife, the Elephant or, as a predator, will it continue to come second to human needs in a booming continent?

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

The translocation of Rory – an update

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

A while ago I blogged on the darting and translocation of Rory, a young African wild dog, from South Africa’s Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve to his new home in KwaZulu-Natal. After some rather downbeat posts recently on the trade in wild dogs and on their endangered status, I thought I would give you an update on how Rory is doing as well as the video of his translocation that I shot earlier this year.

As an outsider joining an established alpha pair, Rory couldn’t have fitted in to his new pack and surroundings any better. The alpha female gave birth to eight pups this year and Rory has been the main babysitter and provider of food after hunts, regurgitating meat for the mother and for her litter. His care and responsibility towards them has ensured that all eight pups have made it through their first six months alive and well.

But it’s not all been hard work and responsibility…Charl Senekal, the reserve manager at Hlambanyathi Game Reserve where Rory was moved to, has noticed that the pack has taken to regularly chasing leopards up trees – a curious and dangerous game given the violent death of most of Rory’s family at the hands of predators.

The video shows the lengthy darting and translocation process that took place earlier this year to move Rory to KwaZulu-Natal. Four of the five darts fired made contact but, as is the case with such darting procedures, things don’t always go to plan. Two of the darts were ineffective and it was the fifth and final dart that had the desired effect. It is never ideal to have to intervene to such an extent in the lives of wild animals but with so precious few African wild dogs left and with their plight on our watch, it is sometimes a sensible and necessary decision. And in this case, with Rory playing his part in the survival of eight young dogs at Hlambanyathi, there can be little doubt that decision has been justified.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Why mining at Mapungubwe must be stopped…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

This is the first time on my blog that I have used another person’s photography but those of you who have visited this site before will know how strongly I feel about plans to mine coal near to the wonderfully unique Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. This female leopard was found on the main road outside Mapungubwe National Park by carnivore researcher Wendy Collinson. Wendy is currently monitoring wildlife casualties on the road network surrounding Mapungubwe National Park and the De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. The road network cuts through the proposed Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area and serves border posts with both Botswana and Zimbabwe, and so an increase in disturbance by non tourism or conservation related traffic to and from the proposed Vele colliery would be hugely detrimental to the region’s sensitive wildlife.

Wendy has yet to confirm whether the leopard hit on the R572 road is a beautiful female known to researchers as Leila. Leila was fitted with a GPS collar so that her movements could be monitored in an area where predator conflicts with farmers are common but the carcass found had no tracking collar.

South Africa’s self-governing environmental guardians the Green Scorpions swooped on the colliery site recently, gathering evidence that mining company Coal of Africa Ltd had acted outside of the legal permissions granted earlier this year. It’s hoped that current investigations by the environmental department will provide a lifeline for this awe inspiring and culturally significant landscape.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com