GAMBELLA NATIONAL PARK
The collaring programme got underway, meetings with communities were set up and there was interest from tour operators eager to sell its accommodation offerings despite them being so basic at this early stage of Gambella's development.
The park team facilitated visits by several delegations during the quarter including: the Minister of Tourism, the vice president of the Gambella region and regional ministers involved in land use planning in the Gambella region.
Infrastructure development continued. The hangar was completed at Puju Camp, the first operating base for the protected area, to accommodate visiting aircraft and work on the airstrip was ongoing. Sign posts were installed at strategic points on the road from Gambella Airport to Ongogi and Pugnido (access roads to the centre of the park) and a plan was implemented with EWCA (the Ethiopian Wildlife authority) to manage the camp.
A start was also made on hiring administrative staff for the project.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
A total of 56 satellite collars were fitted to amongst others, lion, giraffe, elephant, Nile lechwe, roan antelope, hartebeest and white-eared kob in order to track their range and guide the development of the land use plan inside Gambella. An aerial survey confirmed almost double the number of previously recorded elephant and giraffe numbers. Other notable wildlife sightings included that of a hyena caught on a camera trap and a shoebill wading through the Duma Wetlands.
Hydrology research continued to establish the impact of the damming of the Alweru River on the Duma Wetlands. Water from the river and the wetlands is currently being diverted for use in commercial agriculture operations upstream from the park. The Duma Wetlands is home to the only Nile lechwe population outside the Sud Swamps in South Sudan.
A poached elephant was located in the south east of Gambella about 12km from the South Sudan border, estimated to be 8 to 10 weeks old. A second carcass was subsequently discovered in the same area with its ivory intact.
The communications and monitoring expert from IGAD (the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in the Horn of Africa) visited the areas of Abobo and Ongogi to evaluate African Parks' work with communities. Initial results were positive.
Discussions began with EWCA to offer Puju Camp to the public. The tented camp comprises four self-catering accommodation units.