|Rare and Endangered Species Trust||Photo album|
REST (Rare and Endangered Species Trust) was founded in the
year 2000. The objective of REST is to research and provide logistic support
for Namibia's endangered species. The Trust was established with the primary
focus being the Cape Griffon Vulture (Gyps Coprotheres) , Namibia's most
endangered species. In its efforts, REST is gaining support from around
Southern Africa and the world. Host advisory board includes Dr. Chris Brown,
head of NNF (Namibia Nature Foundation) and acknowledged expert on Namibia's
Cape Griffon vultures; Dr. Peter Mundy of Zimbabwe and Dr. Steven Piper,
co-authors of an encyclopedia on vultures; Dr. John Mendelson in charge of
GIS satellite monitoring and Dr. Ara Monajem from Swazi land; and Prof.
Gerhard Verdoorn of Birdlife South Africa who graciously contributed many of
the Cape Griffon photos.
To initiate and support the scientific and practical study of rare and endangered species in Namibia and to help develop and facilitate solutions to community, national and international problems with these species.
The first five years have been a busy time at REST; setting up the trust, developing host infrastructure, securing funding , and launching host research and education programmers. All of this has presented us with some challenges but with generous support from friends, sponsors, funders and the local community establishment have achieved some amazing results, made new friends along the way, and taken some valuable steps to conserve the Cape Griffon vulture.
REST is a non-profit
organization founded in September of 2000. Its founder has no formal
conservation training but saw a desperate need for a species on the brink of
local extinction. She was advised from the beginning to get the support of the
trained experts and learn from them which she did. Many of the world’s top
vulture experts are now on her scientific board and give advice on major
environmental decisions. REST began by helping only the plight of the Cape
Griffon vulture, but after a few years it became apparent that there were a
few species that needed specific support in Namibia. Thus the start of the
“Forgotten Five” began which has developed into the Forgotten 5 +1. These
animals represent biodiversity within the entire land ecosystem of Namibia.
REST has recently developed new headquarters on a small farm 47 km south of Otjiwarongo. We were officially opened in August 2010 when we were almost 10 years old. We still have many plans but we have developed a beautiful centre with a variety of conservation and research structures with emphasis on fun interactive education facilities for visitors from the community and abroad.
Our new centre consists of a number of building and activities for the visitor. Upon entering the driveway you will drive a short way through the nature bush to the student and staff housing. There is public parking here or you can continue up the hill to the visitors centre. All guests are greeted by our daily host. You may visit the lab, hospital and office building and receive a map for a self guided tour of our new sensory trail. This trail is for all visitors but with sponsorship from Natural Encounters it is specifically designed as a "touch and feel" experience that can cater to the needs of the physically challenged. We are still developing the trail with the help of PAWS volunteers at our neighbor’s organization – the Africat Foundation. The first part of the trail is wheel chair friendly.
When they are finished the visitor is guided up to the educational centre. Once inside you realize that you are actually inside the Nedbank aviary housing all of our non releasable raptors. They live amongst the natural cliffs facing the education centre. This is a perfect opportunity to photograph the birds.
Most visitors then walk with us a short way to our wildlife hide. Once a week we feed hundreds of wild raptors here. Most visitors are whitebacked vultures, up to 40 lappet faced vultures, 1-3 Cape Vultures and usually some marabou storks and tawny eagles. The warthog and jackal often visit at the same time. We have a brown hyena and wild leopard who feed there at night and we hope to set up a night viewing light as funds become available. A special private feed can be booked in advance if you would like.
Our new centre is all solar powered. Our systems are very basic lights at the moment but we hope to upgrade as funds are donated. Our water is solar pumped to a tank on the mountain and then runs naturally to all of our outlets below. Luckily we have excellent cell phone coverage for phones and internet.
visitors. It focuses on
the ecological importance of raptors and scavengers in order to maintain a
healthy environment and to build overall awareness of conservation issues
these animals face.
REST’s Board of Directors knows many of the stakeholders in the country. We attend farmers meetings in districts across the country and attend local and national agricultural shows with our live educational non releasable Cape vulture – Nesher.
Educational talks about vultures and poisons are given approximately once a week at REST headquarters or around Namibia to school children, environmental groups and farmers groups.
Vulture Friendly Farms
Farmers who embrace the discontinuation of poison use on their farms and adopt other alternatives to protect their livestock are being awarded a beautifully designed sign to be posted on the landowners’ gate to demonstrate to the community that they practice ‘vulture friendly’ land management. These attractive and eye catching signs are sponsored by the Global Environmental Fund of the UNDP.
SOS-Save our Species Campaign
In 2004 REST launched the Save Our Species (SOS) Campaign school art competition which aims to raise the awareness of the plight of rare and endangered species with young Namibian children. Local school children were provided with information on our five ‘flagship’ species, as well as paints, brushes and cotton school bags produced by a local woman’s group. The children were then asked to paint their favourite species on the bag.
The second phase of the campaign focused on students at primary and combined schools in Grades 3-to-7. Seven towns were selected that fall within the key agricultural and farming areas covered by the overall Poison and Vulture Awareness Campaign. The Disney Wildlife Fund supported this special work reaching an additional 7,500 children.
By educating, informing and involving children in these towns, the awareness of the plight of rare and endangered species is raised in the minds of future generations of farmers and land users. Participation in the competition by children at these schools has helped bring the message to approximately 10,000 children. Awareness and education of a wider Namibian and international audience was reached through the production of the winning designs printed onto 2000 eco friendly cloth shopping bags which are sold throughout tourist and grocery shops in Namibia. This is a perfect alternative to the plastic bags usually used at the shops which increase litter and are not environmentally friendly.
In addition information is being produced on vultures in general and the important role that these serene and noble raptors play in the eco-system – maintaining a disease-free environment. Vultures, because they eat together in large numbers are particularly important as they appear to be the only species in the world that may be completely immune to diseases such as Anthrax and Botulism (both diseases found in Namibia) and can consume an infected carcass within an hour, preventing this disease from spreading further.
Assisting Farmers – Predator ID
A laminated predator ID sheet has been developed to assist farmers and staff in identifying the predator responsible for preying on their livestock. This increase in correct information has allowed farmers to act ethically in determining their response and has begun to decrease poison use.
Assisting Farmers – Livestock Protection Collar Project
As a previous cattle rancher, the director was able to understand the needs of local farmers and develop a reusable laminated predator ID sheet to assist farmers and their staff in correctly identifying the predator responsible for preying on their livestock. This correct information has allowed farmers to act ethically in determining their response and has begun to decrease poison use and the indiscriminate elimination of innocent creatures that were previously mistargeted.
Education: Getting the Word Out
Worldwide recognition is coming through our large volume and safe capture techniques, fitting the first vultures in Africa with satellite transmitters and developing a translocation of Cape vultures from South Africa to Namibia in order to provide a proper breeding base. This strong research base now allows us to realistically predict where land based conservation efforts will be needed and the direct results in behaviour of birds when their numbers drop so dramatically.
Communication at a local level is through a strong network of meetings with conservancies and farming unions. By specifically targeting land manager education some very good information has been published. This information is used in conjunction with posters and information sheets that are already in production about the vital role of raptors and scavengers in the environment. With the use of posters and brochures it is believed this will dispel preconceived negative notions of raptors and redefine their image in a positive light. These posters will also serve to educate school children, the general public and tourists as to the important role raptors play in the environment and Namibia’s role in that protection.
Worldwide Media Support
The local, regional and international media has given REST a lot of support in all areas of its work. We have developed good partnerships within the print, radio and film industry and this relationship is proving essential is disseminating our information across the world. International film organizations such as BBC, Animal Planet, and the 50/50 News Program have filmed at REST within the last two years. We are very excited to have an updated website and are currently working on links to You tube, Twitter and Face book.
The continuing partnership with organizations like De Wildt in South Africa and the fact that REST is now advising researchers and conservation groups all over the world can only assist in the global knowledge base and developing research on vultures.
REST has had strong links to Kerri Wolter of VOLPRO in South Africa for years and now we are together joining with the Johannesburg Zoo in a new reintroduction program. It is very exciting as we will take birds that previously were born and stayed in a zoo environment and put them back in the wild. REST first successfully did this in 2006 and the birds have remained and attempted breeding in the years following. The group is also working strongly with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and all stakeholders to develop a national working plan which will implement all future conservation efforts.
Namibian Poison and Vulture Awareness Campaign
The goal of the Poison and Vulture Awareness Campaign is to formulate and apply existing information on the use of poisons and alternative methods for problem animal control, and to format this information into a working national monitoring system. The system incorporates strong cooperation between conservation, land management, and business groups in the development of resources and the education of people. The campaign is funded by the UNDP Small Grants Scheme.
REST’s current assessment is that poisons are having the single largest fatal impact on raptors and scavengers. Poison use has become both a socially and economically acceptable option in Namibia, and it is believed that most land managers use poison as a quick solution to problem animal management. The discontinuation of poison use will only occur when:
Poison use is monitored on a national level.
Education objectives are achieved by informing land use managers of the negative impact of poison use in both the short and long term.
Education objectives are achieved by providing farmers with safe, effective and inexpensive alternatives to poison such as noise and scent collars that can be made locally. This has the added benefit of stimulating local job opportunities and providing more locally made products.
Volunteers and students from around the world have been involved with the REST. Students assist at REST as part of their course work and often continue to do projects for REST once they return home. Many return to REST as volunteers for longer periods of time. Daily work is quite varied. We work as a family doing whatever needs to be done that day. This can include everything from animal handling and painting new walls to moving rocks to build a new roost for birds. Everyday tends to bring new challenges and jobs. Once a week we feed the wild vultures and the day is spent monitoring birds coming in and out.
We try to find out what people enjoy doing most and let them concentrate on that work. Many volunteers bring building, artistic or computer skills that are necessary and valuable.
In addition, REST has been approached by a number of establishments to provide training for identification of vultures in both Namibia and South Africa. We provide this training at private and government institutions.
Housing consists of one two and one three bedroom home with shared kitchens, solar showers and flush toilets. All beds and bed linen are provided. Volunteers and students pay a minimal fee of US$100 per week which covers the costs of fridge, stove gas and other equipment. REST provides a trip into the local town of Otjiwarongo for each person at least once every two weeks.
Our cell phone reception is very good and so connecting to the internet via cell phones is easy. The lights are very basic, but it is possible to recharge phones and laptops if you bring a car cigarette charger or buy one locally.
REST recommends that you bring all personal toiletries plus a towel, hat, comfortable, closed walking and working shoes and sunscreen.
Washing is done by each person by hand. For a fee, washing can be arranged by one of the staff.
REST is involving local Namibians in efforts to develop poison alternative items to scare predators away from livestock. Specifically scent and noise collars, which are non-lethal but very effective as they make the predator unsure of its environment. Trials of noise and scent prototypes are currently underway. The plan is for a local self-help group to develop a small sustainable business producing these collars to sell at agricultural shows across Namibia.
Activities: The members of the Trust are concentrating on the Cape Griffon Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) initially, as it is Namibia's most endangered species. Establishment are focusing on the following:
Identifying the current population of remaining birds
Developing for distribution, information on vultures and vulture feeding restaurants
Building a vulture restaurant & hide at REST headquarters which is available to the public for education purposes
Finding funding for satellite collars which will provide vital information to the birds' foraging, behavioural & social patterns
Testing all remaining Cape Griffons for contaminates & heavy metals, and to determine the sex of the birds
Developing a pamphlet for communal and commercial farmers on poisons and their relationship to raptors
Developing a check field-list for communal and commercial farmers in relation to predation on their land
Giving public talks on poison and vultures to a variety of school and community organizations
Coordinating the Flight for the Plight, and international hang gliding and paragliding event to raise funds for the vulture
REST Founder & Director:
PO Box 178
Tel/ 00264 67 306226
Accommodation in the area:
Activities in the area:
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