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Yearly Archive October 1, 2021

October Picture: Eastern black-backed jackal

Black-backed jackals exist in two subspecies, an East-African and a Cape version. The canines look a bit like a mixture of fox and wolf. Obviously the dark back gave the name to this jackal species. They are not endangered due to their excellent ability to adapt.


Usually jackals are hunting with their family at dusk. In areas without rivals they can also be seen during daytime, near human settlements – where they can perfectly live as well – they are nocturnal. Main food is meat, usually from smaller species up to mid-size antelopes such as impalas, but they also eat plants and berries and can live from human waste. They are effective hunters, but can be lazy if possible and follow lions to eat the leftovers.


Black-backed jackals live monogamous with their offspring that leaves the parents at about 2.5 years of age to form an own family. Usually 3-6 puppies are born, about half of them survives. Gestation period is two months, sexual maturity is gained at about the first birthday, the average life expectancy is about 7 years. Main enemies of small jackals are predators and birds of prey, for adults leopards.


In situ conservation in Nigeria: Interview with Zack Schwennecker

Some kind of firm partnership was established in the previous years between Charity Kalender and Save the Drill. The organization, which plays a big role in funding the conservation work for drills in Nigeria and Cameroon, is supported for the fourth time. Zack Schwennecker, 28, studied zoology at the Michigan State University. After graduating he started to work in Nigeria’s Afi Mountains. He told us how this has happened, what he is doing over there and how he deals with the tough everyday work.


Zack, you work for the Drill Ranch in Nigeria since 2015 – how did it happen that an American college graduate ended up living far away from home in Africa?

I have volunteered at Drill Ranch from March 2015-February 2016, October 2016-May 2017, July 2017-May 2018 and then returned in November of 2019 as the Project Manager. I followed in the footsteps of my cousin who volunteered at Drill Ranch on and off for 5 years. I grew up hearing of stories from her at our annual family reunions and that is what inspired me to study Zoology at Michigan State University. When I graduated from Michigan State, I had no plans for my future and not really a whole lot of options. My resume was not impressive. When my cousin floated the idea that I should come and volunteer with her at Drill Ranch it was an easy choice to say yes.


Your job title is “Project Manager” – this can pretty much mean everything and nothing. What exactly is your typical range of work?

There is nothing typical about our work and no 2 days are the same. Depending on our staffing situation, I have to do the veterinary work and all of the corresponding recordkeeping with that(600 animals!), accounting, national staff and volunteer management, construction and design, food buying, community/government engagement on conservation issues, legal/immigration for expatriate volunteers, and so on. And this is at 2 different project sites whose needs and operations run quite differently. When staffing is good, most of these areas are covered by either national staff or expatriate volunteers working with national staff. When it is bad, it may be a 14-16 hour day just to get routine work done.


When you came to Nigeria, did you expect your life to be like this? What has been the biggest problem for you personally since living there?

I had very little expectations coming to Nigeria, which I think has served me well. I have found that many people who have ambitions and dreams of working in Africa become disappointed with the realities of working here. It is not the glamorous work that can often be portrayed on National Geographic etc.. So I think arriving with very little expectations has allowed me to come in and see Nigeria for what it is and thus avoid some of the disappointment that many have working in such a difficult place.

The biggest challenge personally in the past 2 years my age. Nigeria, and Africa generally puts a lot of emphasis on seniority and being just 28(started volunteering when I was 22) means it is more challenging for me to earn credibility amongst peers and staff. With that being said, having been here 6 years I know a lot about the project, the country, and the issues we face which has helped overshadow my youthfulness a bit.


You are working for the Drill Ranch since a couple of years now despite of the difficulties you faced. How do you maintain your motivation / what is your personal drive to keep up your work?

I think anyone working with animals finds their motivation from the animals. When your success can often be so small and your failures often severe, just being able to see the animals thriving in their natural state, albeit in a semi-captive setting, is enough motivation for me to continue fighting for them. When you see an animal come in who has suffered severe trauma, often at the hands of human beings, grow up and forgive the past tragedies, the least any of us can do is go above and beyond what we thought we were capable of to help that animal.


September picture: Grant’s zebra

Zebras basically are well known animals, but many do not know a lot in detail about Africa’s wild horses. It is not too difficult though, there are three zebra species: Grevy’s zebras, Mountain zebras and plains zebras. Mountain zebras have two subspecies, while there are five living subspecies of plains zebras: Grant’s zebras, Burchell’s zebra, Chapman’s zebra, Crawshay’s zebra and Maneless zebra. In Kenya there are two different kinds of zebras with Grevy’s zebras and Grant’s zebras.


The calendar picture shows a young Grant’s zebra foal, which nicely allows to display differences to other zebra species and subspecies. First of all it is the mane that ends brownish and not as black as other zebras. Grant’s zebras stripes are pretty broad, which in this case can be seen on the neck but it will be more obvious when the animal is grown up. Plains zebras have so called shadow stripes between the black and white main pattern, which in case of the Grant’s zebras are just a few or are not existent at all. This foal has some on the upper hind leg. Also characteristic is that the stripes go down until the hoofs, while some species/subspecies nearly have white legs.


IUCN lists plains zebras as such as “near threatened” since five years. The general category is a bit surprising as the subspecies have huge difference in the number of animals. In total there are about 500.000 plains zebras but nearly 400.000 of them are Grant’s zebras, so this subspecies is not endangered at all. This is totally different particularly with the Chapman’s zebras, Crawshay’s zebras and Maneless zebras that all would require higher protection. However, a DNA research in 2018 suggested that plains zebras probably have no subspecies and are just one species with regional differences, e.g. that the stripes of northern zebras are wider and southern zebras show more shadow stripes.


When thinking of zebras in Africa many imagine a picture of hundreds or thousand animals. However they live in small families, which merge together into large formations. One herd always contains of one stallion with a few females and their offspring. Young stallions merge to bachelor groups until they are experienced enough to challenge an adult stallion to take ove his herd. If he succeeds he chases the offspring away or even kills them to have own offspring as soon as possible. It takes eleven months until the foals are born, another eleven months they are fed by their mothers. Sexual maturity is gained at the age of three for females and at the age of five in case of stallions.

August-Picture: Augur buzzard

Next to the jackal buzzard the augur buzzard is one of only two larger species of buzzards in Africa. He lives in ranges usually starting from 1.500 meters – as well as here on this picture, which was taken at the Aberdare national park. Despite of this augur buzzards are no endangered species. His range is from Ethiopia down to Namibia wherever there are regions at such a height.


The body size of the bird is about 60 cm, while the wingspan goes up to 1.50 meter. Seen from below augur buzzards are nearly completely white with the exception of the black-framed feather tips. Heard and upper side are mainly blackish-gray with a slight part of white. There also are melanistic bird in the nature, which are entirely black on the upper side.


Mostly these birds live in monogamous pairs, one nest is being bred more often. Regarding the nutrition augur buzzards are not picky and take what they can get. Researches of the stomach content of dead birds showed that reptiles – from lizards to snakes – mostly make up to 60% of their food. Next to them smaller mammals like rats, hyraxes and hares are on their list, while also chicken and other ground living birds of their sizes such as francolins can become a victim.

June-Picture: Common Impala

Impala are well known antelopes, which basically are spread in large parts of Africa. Within the group of bovids they form an own subfamily consisting of two species. One of them is the rare and endangered black-faced impala, which mainly lives in Namibia, while the common impala is having a wide range in Eastern and Southeastern Africa. The German name of the common impala translates back to black-heel impala – in fact the species has a black spot on their hind heels.


Juvenile male. The black spots on the hind heel can be seen well on this picture. Picture taken at Zoo Osnabrück


The pictures shows a few months old male impala. He is grown fairly tall but his horns are still small. Female impala remain without horns. Characteristics are the slim body and the large black-and-white colored ears. When the young male turns about one year old he will be kicked out of his herd and will be looking to join other males of his age to form a vital bachelor group. They offer another protection against predators and at the same time they learn to fight. It takes about four years until they are old, powerful and experienced enough to challenge a proven male to ideally take over his herd. Females have an easier life, they remain within their herd of birth and become sexually mature when they are about 1.5 years old.


Female Impala


For antelopes of their size impalas turn relatively old. In the nature males reach an age of about ten years, while females live about 14 years. In zoos singular animals are supposed to have turned 25 years old. In the wild they have numerous enemies who want to prevent impalas from turning this old. Most dangerous for these antelopes are leopards, followed by African wild dogs. Also other carnivores are dangerous for them but lions, hyenas and cheetahs do not have them high on their list as favorite food. Juveniles also are endangered from the air since birds of prey can take the small impalas up into the air. Despite of all the dangers the numbers of common impalas is estimated to be about two million.


Young but fully grown male impalas in their final stages in their bachelor group.

Donation Handover for the Reticulated Giraffe Project

Everywhere in the world covid is causing its cahnges, and also the donation handover picture is a little bit different than it used to be. Nonetheless the supported projected say thank you for the support. Representing for the Reticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya’s Samburu National Park, EEP studbook keeper Jörg Jebram of Opel-Zoo Kronberg sent this picture. His suggestion led to chosing this project, which was supported with 500 Euro by the income of the Charity Calendar “Wildlife of Kenya 2021”


“Wildlife of Kenya 2021” collects more than 1.000 Euro profit

This year’s calendar campaign “Wildlife of Kenya 2021” has finished. A plus of 1.129,84 Euro is the result – the profit was already wired to Rettet den Drill and the Recticulated Giraffe Project in Kenya’s Samburu national park.


The highest cost factor of the calendar project naturally is the production of the calendars itself. By far the second highest aspect is the shipping – calendars have an uncommon format for shipping companies, which is why 4,90 Euro apply for national deliveries. In a lesser extent the cardboard packaging – a special calendar format is used here – is the next bigger factor. Next aspect are the side costs of the money transfers, which is nothing but the fees PayPal takes for their services. Of course also the state wants his taxes, while this year a little bonus was the VAT reduction from 19 to 16% due to the covid crisis. Under the bottom line this results in the final amount of 1.129,84 Euro profit from income of 1.955 Euro prior taxation. No money is kept for administration or own profit! Thanks a lot to all purchasers and supporters of Charity Kalender!


January-Picture: Lion

On safaris lions belong to the animals everybody wants to see. In Kenya this happened pretty reliably, in the wildlife sanctuaries Solio Ranch and Ol Pejeta, as well as in the Masai Mara where this picture was taken.


As in zoological gardens, the chance to see lions in action is rather small as lions sleep about 20 hours per day, regardless if they are kept in captivity or live in the wild. However, this does not mean that you can detect these carnivores easily as the grass is pretty high and there are many bushes in Kenya – many places to hide. This experienced lion lay alone close to a bush. The probability to find further lions nearby is high since lions are the only cats to live in a pack and not solitary. A male who loses his family to a younger rival usually dies shortly after as consequence of the fight, or based on the fact that he alone has problems to catch pray since his lionesses have been hunting for him previously. For this reason a male lion barely reaches an age of ten years in the wild, while a male zoo lion can reach twice this age.


In this scenario no other lions were to be seen for a long time until suddenly there was movement in the high grass on the other side of the car. Two lionesses lay there well hidden with cubs. The male cat obviously was not disturbed by the car that separated him from his pack. Quite in contrast, he turned around and rubbed his back on the around – in this moment the lion king rather seemed to be a playful kitten.


Not fully clear is the status of the lion. Formerly he would have been determined as panthera leo nubica – the Nubian or East African lion. Latest DNA analyses only split lions into two species: panthera leo leo and panthera leo melanochaita. Latter species is home in southern and eastern Africa and thus also would be the species living in Kenya. The subspecies leo exists in central and West Africa plus the Asian version in India. It remains to be seen whether or not this is the final taxonomy. Safe is that the white lions as shown in some zoos are no own species but only an intended color variation.