A record £2.85 million has been donated so far by readers and philanthropists to The Times and The Sunday Times Christmas Appeal to support charities working to tackle challenges made more acute by the Covid-19 pandemic. Readers can still donate to the appeal up to January 31, helping to push the appeal total over £3 million. By Kaya Burgess
Tusk has been chosen as one of the three charities supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Christmas Appeal this year. Journalists from the two newspapers have been visiting projects and speaking to conservationists supported by Tusk around Africa and coverage of Tusk’s work will appear across the digital and printed editions of The Times and The Sunday Times over the next month to drive donations to the charity, and will be added below as they are published.
Lion numbers have halved across Africa since The Lion King splashed over our screens in 1994, with only about 23,000 remaining in the wild. Listed as “vulnerable to extinction”, they now occupy as little as 8 per cent of their original range. The Zambian Carnivore Programme is one of several initiatives trying to protect lions, supported by Tusk, one of the three organisations in this year’s Times and Sunday Times Christmas Appeal. By Katherine Forster
A perfectly timed tackle from a surprisingly nimble black rhinoceros at centre back sparks a counter-attack. The ball is worked forward to a vulture in midfield, who uses her keen eyesight to spot the run of a cheetah on the wing whose pace terrifies the opposition defenders. This wildlife XI is actually made up of children who have been taught to mimic the posture, movements and talents of the animals that live alongside them while they kick a ball around the field. Teaching children to develop an affinity with and respect for their wild neighbours is a crucial early step in preventing conflict between humans and animals across Africa. By Kaya Burgess
Tensions over land and resources between Africa’s wildlife and its expanding human populations are being sorely tested by the pandemic, which has flattened the tourist industry and millions of jobs that rely on it. Before the pandemic, rangers in South Luangwa would find about 40 snares a month laid to catch bushmeat. That increased to more than 300 a month during the pandemic as people grew desperate for food. The crude traps, set down to catch small animals, end up snaring elephants and giraffes and pose a risk to lions and leopards, and teams of vets have to rescue the wounded animals. By Jane Flanagan and Kaya Burgess
Among the rubbish that washes up on Lamu island off Kenya are items that have travelled thousands of miles. But these — often beer bottles from India — have been joined by a new pollution menace. Each day, dozens of discarded facemasks and plastic gloves are found on the eastern coast of the kidney-shaped island, which is known for its laid-back lifestyle and rustic tourist development. The coronavirus-linked pollution has added to the threats to the area’s delicate ecosystem and one of its biggest draws: sea turtles. By Jeremy Kelly & Kaya Burgess
Vultures are never going to vie with tigers or pandas as poster boys for conservation. Quite apart from their appearance, they have peculiar habits, such as projectile-vomiting partially digested carrion at intruders, and urinating down their legs to neutralise the bacteria occasioned by wading through rotting flesh every day. In general we seem to find vultures — like hyenas — sort of ignoble, because they do not kill their prey, but feast from the predatory heroics of other animals. It is a strange mindset. More to the point, though, these birds are disappearing. Of the 22 species of vulture, more than half are endangered or critically endangered. By Rod Liddle
Tusk Ambassador Rory Bremner entertains us with his account of the Lewa Safari Marathon and its importance for Tusk project partner the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. In a year when the physical marathon had to be cancelled and conservation efforts were seriously impacted by Covid, he calls for more support to the Appeal.
Driving through the bush in his collared blue shirt and dark trousers, Amos Gwema appears an unlikely warrior on the front line of Africa’s war against poaching. His weapons of choice are not firearms and bullets but a coded list of the informants he has recruited and multiple mobile phones to manage their intelligence. Mr Gwema, 45, has little time for what he described as the “overmilitarised” strategy adopted by most African authorities to guard their endangered animals. By Jane Flanagan
An invisible danger is stalking the forest home of mountain gorillas but their human guardians are fighting hard to protect them. Although conflict and hunting almost wiped out the animals from Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, coronavirus is now regarded as the single biggest threat to the gorillas’ survival. Conservationists have helped numbers bounce back to more than 1,000. But if Covid-19 spills over from humans to their nearest animal relatives, the result would be catastrophic. By Jane Flanagan
Using harnessed tracking dogs to pursue poachers through national parks is standard practice. In Kruger National Park, however, once contact with the poachers is made, it is the reserve’s unique airborne, free-running canine unit that is called in by helicopter to complete the pursuit. By Catherine Philp
As dusk falls over the plains, Josphat Ledra knows that somewhere beyond the fence of his cattle pen a pride of lions will be on the prowl. This knowledge used to strike fear into Mr Ledra, 52, a herder of cows, goats and sheep in Laikipia in central Kenya, who had grown used to losing up to ten animals in every lion attack. This was before he had access to data from satellites and a smartphone app to help him track the lions and protect his livestock, provided by Lion Landscapes with support from Tusk. By Kaya Burgess
Resisting the urge to hurl a spear at a passing bush pig or a buck is still a struggle for Petero Tibategeza. Hunting in Africa’s oldest rainforest was his life for half a century. Mr Tibategeza, 62, was finally persuaded to surrender his traps and snares four years ago by his local association of reformed poachers in Nkuringo, on the edge of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park. By Jane Flanagan
As a child on the tiny African island of São Tomé, the only sea turtles that Hipólito Lima knew were those that his father would bring home for the family to eat. The son of a leading turtle hunter, he grew up normalised to a trade in which gillnets were dragged for turtles, the nests were raided for eggs and turtle mothers were captured and killed as they left the water to lay eggs. By John Simpson
Rafiki had led his family for 12 years until June, when he was mortally wounded by a poacher’s spear. His death caused an international outcry and fears that a priceless conservation asset would be lost if his distraught relatives scattered, or a wild silverback took over and killed his young. By Jane Flanagan