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Camera Traps Deployed for New Survey in Zambia!

After several gruelling days in the field, we are delighted to announce that 104 camera traps across 52 stations have been successfully deployed across the Zambia project areas for a brand new 2021 survey. The project spans Rufunsa Conservancy in the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project area, and Munyamadzi Game Reserve & Kazumba Game Ranch in the Lower Luangwa Valley.

View of the survey areas. Most of the lower Luangwa survey areas and all of Rufunsa are covered with Miombo woodland in hilly terrain.

Reaching the sites

Rufunsa has 28 stations of two cameras each, taking at least five long days in the field to set up. Many camera stations are over 2km from the nearest road, located in steep terrain. The most gruelling day working in Rufunsa includes a four-hour one-way drive to the western side of the Conservancy, where just two camera stations are deployed.

The LLZ field vehicle next to some of the tall grass we have to walk through to access camera survey stations.

In the Lower Luangwa Valley, sites are slightly easier to reach, albeit involving 4km treks from the nearest accessible road through 3m tall grass and in some places, deep mud. One camera station needed four hours driving followed by a four-hour walk where we came across a 3m cobra on the path!

Deploying cameras at Kazumba requires a 90-minute one-way drive from the Munyamadzi camp, with collection and drop-off of a Kazumba private scout required. Some roads are too rough to navigate, with sticky mud and deep elephant foot holes. The field ecologist Nicky would most days leave camp at 5am to return at 8pm during the 7-day deployment schedule.

Thanks to the hard and dedicated work of the field teams, all traps were successfully deployed to schedule ready to collect data!

Right to left: Scout Brighton (LZRp training exchange), Nicky and Boniface (Munyamadzi Game Reserve) finishing recording camera station metadata before concluding deployment at this station.

Results so far!

The first card checks include the first record of wild dogs during the survey, all with full bellies! The female photographed below may be pregnant or have pups at a nearby den, a theory supported by frequent sightings of the pack in the same area over the past few months.

Female mentioned in paragraph above; the group are other individuals in same pack.

Transect sampling

The early dry season distance sampling transects at Munyamadzi took place in the beginning of June a few days after the cameras were deployed. This involved refresher training for seven of the privately employed anti-poaching scouts and initial training for two women who did not make the cut for formal scout training in May. An additional four women were recruited into the teams to help carry equipment and water, all of whom were employed by Munyamadzi to cut grass for the camp roof thatching and were excited to be involved in the biodiversity monitoring activity.

One grid cell was not able to be sampled – a first for Munyamadzi – due to closure of the only access road. Despite several dangerous encounters with elephants by the transect teams and deployment vehicles, everyone remained safe and very pleased with their accomplishments.

Why do we sample these sites?

The goal of the project is to develop a robust biodiversity monitoring system for the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project area (LZRP) and LCFP, which supports BioCarbon Partner (BCP)’s objective of demonstrating enhanced biodiversity conservation. The camera traps allow us to monitor changes in population densities of key large herbivores, carnivores and Southern Ground Hornbill and to detect changes in population densities for these species within a realistic time frame.

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