"Ultimately conservation is about people. If you don’t have sustainable development around wildlife
parks – then the people will have no interest in them and the parks will not survive." NELSON MANDELA
AfriCat UK is a registered charity whose vision statement is "Conservation, Environmental Education, Research and Community Enhancement". We predominantly support and raise awareness of the AfriCat Foundation (a registered Namibian not for profit organisation) and The Namibian Lion Trust formally AfriCat North now independent and seeking registration as a charity.
The AfriCat Foundation is committed to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s wildlife. Its' mission is to make a significant contribution to conservation through research and education. The AfriCat Foundation is based at Okonjima Lodge, a private, 200km² nature reserve and is ideally located off the B2 between Windhoek and Etosha National Park.
The Namibian Lion Trust for Lions, for Life and for our future is dedicated to Panthera Leo. It is committed to the long-term conservation of lions working with local communities to reduce human wildlife conflict. It has developed a range of practical strategies that includes education, research and livestock management techniques and support. It is based on the western borders of Etosha and is based near the Hobatere Lodge.
This year AfriCat UK is joining forces with UK IT consulting company 2 Aardvarks to support National Aardvark Day as a new study is getting underway at Okonjima the home of the AfriCat Foundation in Namibia. The study is to look at how the aardvark is adapting to cope with changing weather patterns. For those that are unsure, the aardvark is a very interesting nocturnal animal living in sub-Saharan Africa. Not often seen, even by those living and working in the African bush. They live in burrows and eat ants and termites. An aardvark has a large tail, a bit like a kangaroo; a nose a bit like a pig, with kind of rabbit ears and is bigger than a badger! The aardvark is an ecosystem engineer making it a keystone species. Without the burrows dug by aardvarks many other species would struggle as they take over the burrows and the termite/ant populations would get out of control. The worrying thing is that aardvarks are having a tough time in drought conditions and droughts are increasing due to the impact of our changing climate. It is hoped that such studies will help with ideas for how to support the aardvarks in the wild.
You can help the research team with a donation that will enable them to buy the following equipment; a camera trap – complete set up including SD and protective housing costing around £180, a temperature logger for recording burrow temperature which is an important factor for aardvark activity £20 and an VHF ear tag £180 for tracking aardvark. A Namibian student will be working under Dr Sarah Edwards guidance gathering data and supporting the project. Interesting and challenging work being in the African bush at night with other predators out looking for their dinner too!
As a part of 2 Aardvarks support for National Aardvark Day they will be making a generous donation to support the work of the project by providing additional equipment.
Introducing The Namibian Lion Trust formerly AfriCat North as a new independent charity. The Namibian Lion Trust will be working with the local farming conservancies on the western borders of Etosha National Park to enable lion’s livestock and people to thrive. AfriCat UK is supporting them and we need your ideas for help in securing funding for the Lion Guards, the lion research programme and the local school.
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AfriCat UK is keen to support World Wildlife Day as it is vitally important to ‘join the dots’ and work together to sustain ‘all life on Earth’ this year’s theme for World Wildlife Day. 2020 is known as a “biodiversity super year” and is regarded as a make or break year for the environment.
Several international meetings and global events are planned throughout the year to put biodiversity at the top of the global sustainable development agenda and set the tone for environmental action in the coming decade. As individuals concerned with conservation and the environment, we all have a voice and can influence decisions and decision making to make the world a better place for the wildlife we love.
Biodiversity can be described as the “infrastructure” which supports all life on earth. It is important both in terms of its own intrinsic value and in terms of what it provide us with – so called ecosystem goods and services. We depend on these goods and services for our health, cultural, social and economic needs.
There are four broad categories of ecosystem service, namely:
The sustainability of communities and economies is dependent on the above and the loss of species and/or change in species composition threatens ecosystem health, which in turn often has a negative impact on sustainability.
The loss of biodiversity has been widely reported and we are all aware that some of our most iconic species (lions, tigers, rhinos, elephants, polar bears, cheetah to name but a few) are at risk of going extinct. But these iconic species are far from the only ones in trouble. In 2018 the Living Planet Index, which measures the world’s biodiversity by tracking population trends of vertebrate species from terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats, showed a shocking 60% decline in wildlife populations in just over 40 years. Indeed, current extinction rates are estimated to be between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the background extinction rate and accelerating. Sadly, this decline is being driving by a single species – us! It is the first time in earth’s history that a single species is having such a powerful impact on the planet – we are literally overrunning it. However, there is hope, we can put things right provided we do not leave it too late as the evidence shows by the increased biodiversity as a result of the grassland management programme in Okonjima Nature Reserve.
As mentioned above, one ecosystem service is the regulation of the climate. Many areas of the world are experiencing prolonged periods of drought and higher average temperatures. Much of sub-Sahara Africa has been experiencing a prolonged period of drought. Okonjima and the conservancies have seen first-hand the devasting effects of drought. With fences and a less nomadic existence, animals (domestic or wild) cannot move to find fresh grazing. The land and its plant life rarely get a chance to recover. The number of lions killed has spiked as farmers watch lions taking their weakened livestock.
Another recent example of how biodiversity loss and climate change can adversely affect the planet are the bush fires in Australia. Scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would result in Australia’s bush fires increasing in both frequency and intensity. Nobody could fail but to be moved by the recent horrific images all over social media and the news of the devastation the bush fires in Australia have caused. It is estimated that as many as half a billion animals will have been either directly or indirectly affected by the bush fires. Worse many of Australia’s animals and plants are endemic and found nowhere else. Recovery is not possible if all forms of a species in an area has gone.
The koalas were in trouble before the fires as their habitat was being reduced due to deforestation to make way for agriculture and/or logging. Now it’s believed hundreds were killed by the fires together with thousands of hectares of their habitat. Deforestation and fires not only mean the loss of plant species but the loss of viable habitat for other species and affects the ability of ecosystems to regulate our climate.
Closer to home in the UK weather patterns are also becoming more unpredictable and extreme with flooding events increasing in frequency. Likewise, the UK is also experiencing biodiversity loss on a large scale. According to the State of Nature Report 2019, the UK is at risk of losing a quarter of its mammal species and 15% of species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain with intensive agriculture and climate change being identified in the report as the main causes for the loss.
There are of course many reasons why our climate is changing but it is widely agreed it is our actions that have accelerated these changes. Deforestation globally and highlighted with what happened in the Amazon this year is one contributor to our changing climate. Our oceans can help the planet and play a vital role in taking up CO2, but the health of our oceans is now severely compromised due to pollution (primarily plastic) and overexploitation. Ice too holds carbon as does seaweed both of which are declining due to man’s influence.
It is perhaps no surprise then that the UN has chosen the theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day as “Sustaining all life on Earth”. We are not yet at the point of no return and there are many success stories where we have managed to turn things around but we need to act now. The clean up of the River Thames, which was once considered to be biologically dead is one such example, and the gradual increase in the number of mountain gorillas over the last 30 years through intensive protection efforts is another.
Individually and collectively there are many things we can do to help halt the decline of natural systems. For example:
We may be the first generation to fully appreciate the damage and strain we are putting on the planet we call home but so far, the evidence suggests our efforts to halt the decline are failing. Without a dramatic mind shift and a new global deal for both nature and people to halt the rapid and severe decline of the natural systems that support us there will be no happy healthy future for us. Together AfriCat UK believes we can make a difference and help to rebuild a planet that sustains all life.
The community, teachers and children are delighted with their new school. Members of the community were actively involved in all stages of its development and members of AfriCat UK are looking forward to visiting it in March. However there are still funds needed to pay the wonderfully named company called ‘The Cowboys’ who completed the project and deferred their full payment to give AfriCat time to raise the additional funds needed to meet the costs of the solar panels and water.
Given the logistics it made sense to complete the school which consists of the classrooms, the ablutions block, the kitchen, the storeroom, library, computer room and communal meeting space. Water needed to be sourced and installed - not easy in an area prone to drought with no mains water system. Likewise, solar panels needed to be installed to provide electricity. The buildings are robust, and the school can be left secure during holidays. The government funds the teacher’s salary and usually some very basic resources including some food to give the children a midday meal - hence the need for the kitchen. The children may need to stay with local families or walk an hour or two each way.
Donations can be made via Virgin Money Giving to the Onguta School appeal. All funds raised will go to Namibia as designated funds for the school.
The Conservancy is in a remote drought prone area on the western borders of Etosha National Park. The members of this community are primarily subsistence farmers living off the land and their livestock. This land is open country and home to a range of other animals including lions and elephants. Remarkably Namibia is one of only two lion populations in Africa that is increasing. There are now fewer wild Lions left in Africa than Black and White Rhinos.
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