Endangered Species Day 2022: Reflecting on Wildlife ACT’s Conservation Work

Today is Endangered Species Day 2022 and what better way to highlight the Endangered, Vulnerable, and Threatened species Wildlife ACT works with than by hearing from our team on the ground.

Our wonderful team works hard to perform real and essential physical conservation work on a daily basis. While working with and for these incredible Priority and Endangered Species, developing an innate passion and unique insight, is inevitable.

We hope that you enjoy their words of wisdom shared in our blog marking Endangered Species Day 2022.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - African Wild Dogs
Image by Wildlife ACT’s Priority Species Monitor on Hluhluwe, Tegan Goldschmidt

African Wild Dog

by Priority Species Monitor: iMfolozi – Chris du Toit

Family: Canidae
Scientific name: Lycaon pictus
Common name: African Wild Dog, Painted Hunting Dog, Painted Wolf
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Endangered

African Wild Dogs are the second most endangered carnivore in Africa with an estimated 5000 to 6000 individuals remaining in the wild. They face threats from numerous sources including habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, prosecution by humans, competition with other predators like Lions and Hyaena and many more. 

African Wild Dogs are extremely social creatures. Like other canids, they regurgitate food for their young. They take it one step further than other canids, as they will regurgitate food for other adults and will even return to feed sick or injured individuals as well.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Painted Dogs

African Wild Dogs have a special hunting strategy where the whole pack will hunt together, chasing after a prey species until it is exhausted. It is for this reason that they are one of Africa’s most successful hunters, with about 75% of hunts ending in a successful kill. They play a vital role in their ecosystems by keeping prey numbers under control. It is thus very important that we protect them as a species.

The African Wild Dog has been a focal species for Wildlife ACT since it was founded in 2008. To date, over 319 African Wild Dogs have been fitted with tracking and anti-snare collars, 215 individuals have been saved, treated and rescued from snares, and over 465 individuals have been relocated to new homes. 

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with African Wild Dogs HERE.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Cheetah

Cheetah

by Priority Species Monitor: Hluhluwe – Marumo Nene

Family: Felidae
Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus
Common name: Cheetah
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Vulnerable

The Cheetah is a large cat found in Africa and central Iran. They are the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 80 to 128km per hour. Cheetah are lightly built, with long thin legs and a long tail. This contributes towards their excellent speed capabilities.

Cheetah are beautiful animals and are not known to be aggressive. Closely monitoring this species on uMkhuze Game Reserve made me fall in love with them. They are so special and vulnerable, which is why we need to protect them. 

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Cheetah

Cheetah are at risk, as other predators will kill adults, but cubs are especially vulnerable and their survival is only around 5%. 

“Wildlife ACT has done so much work over 13 years that I’ve been a Monitor, including fitting numerous individuals with tracking collars to help save them from extinction.”

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with Cheetah HERE.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Vulture
Image by Operations Manager South, and Conservation Course & Training Manager, Megan Hudson

Vultures

by Operations Manager North, Research Coordinator & Vulture Conservation Programme Manager – Anel Olivier

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Endangered to Critically Endangered

Vultures are iconic to the African skies and these obligate scavengers often fly across countries and continents in search of food. By cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste, as well as abating the risk of pathogen spill overs to humans, Vultures provide a critically important ecosystem service. 

Each Vulture species is utterly unique. The White-Backed and Cape Vulture can dominate in numbers and seemingly aggressive antics, while the larger Lappet-Faced Vulture can boldly demand respect and claim the juiciest bits, while the smaller Hooded Vulture lurks around the outskirts, content with the easy pickings overlooked in the chaos by the multitudes.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Vultures

In KZN, with high numbers of livestock present, as well as the human populations’ direct reliance on the environment, this ecosystem service is crucial for human health and the economy of KZN.

Wildlife ACT’s Vulture Conservation Programme works towards Vulture population stabilization and habitat protection, education and community conservation, as well as improved advocacy. As active members of Project Vulture, the Zululand Vulture Project, the Bearded Vulture Task Force, and the South African National Vulture Task Force, our objectives and the work we do to achieve them, are guided by the Multi-species Action Plan to conserve African-Eurasian Vultures, and contributes towards the Biodiversity Management Plan for Vultures in South Africa. 

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with Vultures HERE.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Ground Hornbill
Image by Ryan Mitchell

Southern Ground Hornbill

by Emergency Response Manager: South, and Conservation Course Assistant – Mike Staegemann

The Southern Ground Hornbill is the largest Hornbill species in Southern Africa standing 1.1 m tall. They live in family groups consisting of the dominant breeding pair and their male helpers, all of which cooperatively raise the chicks. 

The group is led by the adult female which direct the foraging activities as well as initiate defensive behaviour when other Hornbills encroach into their territory. They have a distinctive appearance with most of their body being covered by black feathers, except their wing tips (primary feathers) which are white. 

The way to tell the difference between males and females is to look at their red face skin called a wattle. Males are completely red compared to females which have a patch of blue. The wattle is used to produce their territorial call which can be confused for a Lion’s roar and heard up to 3 km away. 

As their name suggests, Ground Hornbills will spend up to 70% of their time on the ground foraging for food. Their diet is varied and consists of anything the Ground Hornbill can catch and overpower, including insects, reptiles and rodents, to prey as large as scrub hares. 

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Ground Hornbills

Like many species, one of the key threats to the Southern Ground Hornbill is shrinking or diminishing suitable habitats. Additionally, although individuals are relatively long-lived (living up to 50 years), they are slow breeders, typically only rearing a single chick every second year. Which makes the protection of nesting trees and each nesting season of vital importance. The species is also an indicator of natural and anthropogenic threats to the environment. 

Currently, Wildlife ACT alongside our partners Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, have been working to increase important monitoring efforts of Southern Ground Hornbill in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. This is being made possible through a new ringing project and the help of sightings by our monitoring teams as well as tourist sightings. 

So far we have been able to work out the current status of the Park’s population and their territories, which include the key foraging areas for the groups. Additionally, during the nesting season, the monitoring teams will listen for territorial calling to allow for the identification of possible nesting areas. The protection of these sites is fundamental to the conservation of the species in the area.   

African Elephant
by Operations Manager North, Research Coordinator & Vulture Conservation Programme Manager – Anel Olivier

African Elephant

by Priority Species Monitor: Tembe – Kayleigh Webber

Family: Elephantidae
Scientific name: Loxodonta africana
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Endangered

Elephants are ecosystem engineers. They modify their habitats through seed dispersal and through their feeding behaviour, which other animals may rely on to thrive. These incredible mammals also have the ability to store water in their pharangeal pouch, during times of water scarcity. 

Elephants are intelligent, social beings with complex family structures. I love watching their interactions with each other, they are very tactile.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Elephants

Elephants have long been hunted and poached for their ivory tusks, which continues to this day. As the human population grows, there has been a substantial loss of suitable habitat for many animals, including Elephants. 

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with Elephants HERE.

by Operations Manager North, Research Coordinator & Vulture Conservation Programme Manager – Anel Olivier

White Rhino

by Operations Manager South, and Conservation Course & Training Manager – Megan Hudson

Scientific name: Ceratotherium simum
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Near Threatened

The story of the Southern White Rhino recovery in South Africa is a well-known. They were once dwindling on a handful of individuals, before being saved in successful numbers through the action of a small group of passionate Zululand conservationists and the continued process of stringent protection and careful management. 

Wildlife ACT have been actively involved in initiating, operating, and funding local and international Rhino monitoring projects, as well as developing and implementing anti-poaching measures and technology in the field today, ensuring effective use of limited resources. 

White Rhino

Our work includes the deployment of technology, equipment and expertise to effectively monitor and conserve Rhino, helping to detect poaching incursions before Rhino are shot. In parallel, Wildlife ACT continues to build on our education programme to connect school children to wildlife and conservation efforts, encouraging the youth to explore nature and get exposure to careers and local economic opportunity in the sector.

This remarkable, prehistoric animal has been around for millennia, and continues to show how effective conservation can be and is one of the many reasons why we have so much faith in the conservation efforts of today to continue protecting this species. 

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with White Rhino HERE.

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Black Rhino

Black Rhino

by Emergency Response Manager: North – PJ Roberts

Scientific name: Diceros bicornis
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Critically Endangered

The Critically Endangered Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) remains under intense pressure from targeted and organised poaching for their horns. However, significant effort is being made to not only reduce the impact of poaching on the population, but to go one step further and expand their range and numbers. 

One such profound initiative is the WWF-lead project known as the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (WWF-BRREP) which has reintroduced Black Rhino into 14 protected areas since 2004. 

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Black Rhino

As a trusted monitoring partner, Wildlife ACT has supported the post-release monitoring and training efforts in every newly-introduced population since our inception in 2008. These iconic animals remain incredibly elusive in many landscapes, as their generally favoured dense habitat, conceals them from searching eyes. 

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with White Rhino HERE.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle
Image by Mark Stickler

Hawksbill Sea Turtle

by Conservation Safari Coordinator – Linay Laas

Scientific name: Eretmochelys Imbricata
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Critically Endangered

The Critically Endangered and decreasing population of Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) continue to face MAJOR THREATS of turtle shell trade, egg collection, hunting for meat, destructing of habitat, oil pollution, entanglement and ingestion of marine debris and fishing gear, and hybridisation with other species.

This special creature is a fundamental link in marine ecosystems throughout tropical oceans and seas, helping maintain the health of coral reefs and seagrass beds, removing prey species like sponges from crevices and surfaces of reefs and providing access for reef fish to feed.  

Endangered Species Day 2022 - Hawksbill Turtle

Wildlife ACT’s volunteer model and partnership with North Island and various Seychelles conservation organisations and Environmental Department, enables research, intensive monitoring, and ecosystem restoration, helping to secure a brighter future for this wonderful turtle species.

Find out more about Wildlife ACT’s conservation work with Hawksbill Sea Turtle HERE.

Contribute towards Endangered Species Conservation by volunteering with Wildlife ACT!

Not only will you be performing real and vital conservation work on the ground, your booking fee will contribute towards crucial conservation efforts. Wildlife ACT is 100% dependent on funding from paying eco-volunteers and public donations in order to perform the work that we are doing monitoring endangered species.

Complete our online application form and join us in the field:

Wildlife Volunteer Application Form

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