Some of our projects and activities have been completed, or their focus has altered.  Below are the details of such projects, arranged alphabetically by topic.

Antelope

Although we have no active small antelope projects running at present, previous  in situ research in the eastern section of Matobo National Park included: monitoring of the antelope populations, investigating home range size of common duikers (Sylvicapra grimmia], and determining habitat use by common duiker, steenbok and klipspringer.  Ex situ studies were also conducted on a collection of small antelope housed at Dambari Field Station.  Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, this collection has been closed and the animals have been rehomed at other facilities in Zimbabwe or released into safe natural habitats.  Outputs from some of the research conducted can be viewed on the publications page, and more articles are in preparation.

The duikers and mini-antelope (Cephalophinae and Neotragini) were the focus of DWT’s antelope project. These groups are extremely diverse and entirely African, totalling more than 35 species on the continent. The majority of duikers are forest dwellers and found in Central and West-African regions, but three species occur south of the Zambezi River. Mini-antelope (e.g. klipspringer

[Oreotragus oreotragus], dik-diks [Madoqua spp.] and steenbok [Raphicerus campestris]) are widespread across a range of habitats from forest to semi-desert.

Until fairly recently, small antelope were largely overlooked in many habitats because they typically constitute a small proportion of the biomass and are usually secretive and difficult to study in the wild. However, because of their selective feeding habits, relative longevity and sedentary nature, they are involved in important ecosystem services, including nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Nicky Pegg’s PhD work on small antelope in the Matobo ecosystem demonstrated the important role that these animals play in limiting bush encroachment and promoting woody plant diversity. Small antelope are also important prey species for large mammalian predators and some raptors, and are often significant components of bushmeat markets throughout Africa.

Matobo Resource Assessment Project

A survey of ecosystem goods utilised and available and the state of the ecosystem in nine administrative Wards in the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site in southern Zimbabwe was carried out between August and November 2014.Data were collected in each Ward via a two-day facilitated workshop with community representatives, followed by a three-day rapid assessment of natural resources.

Workshop attendance and participation was good in all Wards, enabling the collation of a large amount of qualitative and quantitative baseline information. A wide range of ecosystem goods were utilised by local communities for medicinal and traditional purposes, food and domestic use, livestock production, construction and income generation. Many beneficial ecosystem goods, such as thatching grass, woody plants and medicinal flora and fauna, were reported to be declining and harvest levels were high. Communities expressed concern about human-wildlife conflicts, particularly with crop-raiding animals and livestock predators. Environmental degradation was identified in some areas, with siltation of water bodies and invasion of rangelands and croplands by invasive weeds such as Lantana camara raised as priorities for conservation efforts.

Communities utilised resources available locally (in community areas) as well as those from nearby protected areas (e.g. the Rhodes Matopos National Park) and distant localities elsewhere in Zimbabwe. Some resources that had been used in the past were reported to be locally extinct, and communities were concerned by the erosion of cultural values and rejection of indigenous knowledge systems that safeguard resources in their areas.

Suggested priority actions generated from workshops and rapid assessments included improvement of water resources and water quality, eradication of Lantana camara, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict and rehabilitation of grazing rangelands.

It is intended that the results from this survey and a series of follow-up workshops with communities will assist stakeholders to develop and implement locally-relevant, sustainable and culturally-sensitive projects to improve the functioning of the ecosystem and the quality of life of the inhabitants of the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site.