Thursday, 19 December 2013

ON THE FLY


Who needs the Met Department?
With a lightning reaction, my husband whips out his hand and squashes a fly in his fist.  He does this at table, which is not only highly unnerving, but means we often find stunned insects waving their legs in the salad.   But Rich takes no notice of our objections – out shoots the hand and within a few minutes, three flies are on their way to a better life.

“Three in row,” Rich announces in a satisfied voice, “so we’re going to have rain.” And we do, later that afternoon:  our first shower, only 5ml and not nearly enough to make a difference, but the flies were right, just as Rich had been taught at his father’s knee.  When they are so slow and sluggish that you can catch them on the wing, it’s a sure portent of rain (however little it might be).

Thursday, 28 November 2013

FOR RICHER OR FOR POORER


Kinglsey and Rich - Birds are one of many of Rich's vital interests
What about Rich?” Jude asked me the other day, after she and Kaye had received a CD we sent them of some of his photographs.  Let’s hear more about him". Well, writing about my multi-faceted husband is no easy task. 
I met him when I was seventeen (a very good year) and he was eighteen –temporarily stationed at The Vumba National Park as a game ranger.  We were friends immediately, having so much in common, but it was clear to me that he couldn’t possibly be my intellectual equal.  After all, he had failed his school leaver’s exams no less than three times, whereas I was studying English and French at “A” levels.  “Be nice to Richard when you meet him,’ I admonished a sharp- tongued school friend, “because he’s not very bright.”
I have had some reason to retract that opinion.  In fact, if I were to expand on the multitudinous abilities of this volatile, impassioned, forthright and often quite impossible man, I’d be writing a book and not just a brief blog post.
Most of us can do one thing reasonably well, but not much more.  If you can write, you generally can’t do maths (ask me).  If you’re an artist, chances are you won’t know how fix a tractor or work a lathe.   And a poet wouldn’t have a clue about developing a thriving wildlife sanctuary from an exhausted piece of bush.
But Rich is all those things –  he turned our dream into reality on Stone Hills, and has explored every facet of it as a scientist, an artist, a photographer, a poet and a genius at fixing all things “bent and buggered”, including the many wild animals who come into our care.

He’s actually quite bright too.   To my drop-jawed astonishment, I met him on my first day at the University of Rhodesia in 1974 where, coincidentally, we had both begun our degrees as mature students – mine in law and his in biology (he finished up as top student of his year).

I’m a very lucky girl.

__________()__________

Here are some of his recent photographs – Rich entered the competition in the final volume of Handbook of Birds of the World – to find the best of the best as it were – and out of almost 12,000 entries, two of his photos were included in the 200 chosen.










Tuesday, 19 November 2013

MOVE OVER JANE!

Rich has always wanted to know more about the feeding preferences of our animals during the winter months, and particularly in the drought.   How have the hundreds of dassies survived on Dibe Hill, for example, when there isn’t an edible leaf left on the trees nor a scrap of grass for them to eat?
Certainly, the rock dassies (procavia) pick up the feed scattered around the kudu drums, but that wouldn’t be enough to sustain them.   And yet, some of the adults are as fat as they were in summer, leading me to suspect them of upping their protein intake with a bit of infant cannibalism. 
Having seen them savaging the poor kudu, and stealing bonemeal from the birds – nothing would surprise me about these  consummate survivors. Move over Jane Goodall and the murdering chimps!
Linda, Amy and Bookey (imitating a stork)
As it turned out, my dark imaginings were (unfortunately) put to rest by the arrival of Amy Scott – an ecologist from Melbourne – who recently volunteered with us for a couple of months.  She spent painstaking hours following giraffe and both species of dassies as they fed, making some very interesting observations, including the fact that, if they are really pushed, all will eat the leaves of poisonous evergreens with no apparent ill effects.
Amy loved fossicking around, as I do, and it was with her that I discovered the new brown hyaena den in the Nukutidza area in a little explored part of the sanctuary.
We managed to find a perch high up on a kopje about 250 m away from the den and saw quite a bit of activity in the late afternoons.
Sadly, Amy had to go back to work, but before she left, Linda Moyo arrived – a third year student from our University of Science and Technology – who will be with us for some months on attachment.   Linda studies wildlife management and has taken over the dassie and giraffe project.  She’s been helping out with feeding –  keeping daily records and also bumping along in the back of the tractor and hefting 50kg sacks – quite a feat for a city girl who can’t be more than 5 ft high!
Linda Moyo, well and truly in charge of teaching Morula students ecological lesson
She’s been a great hit with the Conservation Club children at Marula School too – and will be able to do some really valuable work with them while she’s here. 

I don’t imagine that there are many African girls following the same path – so perhaps we have a Zimbabwean Wangari Maathai in the making.  We certainly need one!

Friday, 1 November 2013

LIGHTNING VISIT


PROMISE OF RAIN?
Sometimes October brings early rain – but not this year.  The veld is so dry that when a bolt of lighting struck around 300 metres from the house last week, it sparked off a grass fire.  Luckily, though, there was no wind that day and it was brought under control very quickly by some very skilled (and quick to action) visitors and sanctuary staff. We know there have been good rains to the South East of us in Maputo, South Africa... We can almost smell it, let us hope for a reprieve from this prolonged drought.

Here are our visiting fire fighters.   Damien Mander (of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation), his wife Maria and baby Leo, plus two other members of his team had just arrived for a night's stay when the fire started.   Together with Rich and our crew, they got stuck straight in - wielding blowers and beaters - and helped us to avert a catastrophe.
Thanks, guys!

UPDATE - OUR FEEDING PROGRAMME


Food is still arriving – another 30 tonnes last week, and the animals learned very quickly to wait for deliveries at the feeding stations all over the sanctuary (with the exception of our consistently uncooperative sable).

What still amazes us is that the money we raised, (plus the donations of feed from Centra and Mac Crawford), is just the right amount needed to buy food till the end of the month. We calculated according to what we 'thought' we'd need - an educated guess, really. And it is exactly right. 

Thanks again to all those who made this possible.  

Photos by Richard Peek (c)


Saturday, 5 October 2013

NOW LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE!

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Zoe "life" in Greek has regained condition and health thanks to the feeding regimen.
Two and half months ago, this kudu cow was close to death – we could hear a nasty bubbling sound coming from her lungs, from starvation or perhaps pneumonia.  In a spirit of optimism, we called her Zoe (“life” in Greek) but we didn’t expect her to survive for very long.  Fortunately, the calf in the photo wasn’t hers, as she could never have sustained him.  We even contemplated putting her out of her misery – but thank goodness we didn’t!

Here is Zoe today – not fat by any means, but 100% improved.  Her coat shines, and she’s one of the first at the food, butting away the other females.
Thanks to all who donated to the appeal, Zoe is doing wonderfully well, as are so many of our animals,  who would otherwise be struggling to survive.

Zoe in July before we started supplementary feeding



Wednesday, 25 September 2013

THE POWER OF MANY

If we ever wondered in the past whether we, and others running similar projects, were alone in our dedication to wildlife and its preservation, we are wondering no longer.

Thanks to the power of Facebook – we have now discovered that there are hundreds of you who feel exactly the same as we do – and what a wonderful revelation that has been. 

People show their support in so many ways – some make donations, some donate their time and expertise, others give unstinting support and encouragement by passing the message all around the world.

Kaye and orphan baboon Betty at Chipembele
Our friends Jude and Kaye from Australia have done a lot for wildlife over the years, and helped us raise the funds for the drought appeal.

We met them first in 2011 when we visited our friends Anna and Steve Tolan at Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust in Zambia's South Luangwa Valley.

Jude and Kaye were there on their own account working to raise awareness about all that Chipembele had achieved in their (then) 10 years of operation. 

Since then we have become firm friends and they have contributed with assistance to a range of projects, campaigns and fundraisers. 

Their unstinting help to raise the funds for our drought appeal was invaluable, we couldn't have done it with out them.

And it’s not just these two who make a difference, although we believe they are unique, it is the people who write to us and those who have made donations to help us feed the animals. It is the advice, camaraderie and encouragement received through Facebook and in emails, and the amazing community spirit we have been so privileged to be part of. The Final Tally and Thanks names the donors, but what it doesn’t do is adequately state our deep and abiding gratitude and feelings of respect for you all.

Postscript:  A special thanks to Ken Goosen (or Sir Kenneth, as he likes to be called).  Inventor, artist, poet and probably the most practical man on earth (and he has some serious competition from Rich!)  Always on the look out for ways to assist, Ken has provided new feeding drums for the giraffe and countless other items and helpful advice over the years.   

 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

WE MADE IT!


22 September 2013
THANK YOU!
We are overwhelmed at the wonderful generosity of friends and supporters from all over the world. We have raised ALL the funds required to buy 53 tonnes of feed and further in-kind donations of 15 plus tonnes from Centra, Front-Line Farming and Mac Crawford will see us through to the start of the rains in November.

Please come and see our final tally and thanks here
www.stonehillswildlife.blogspot.com.au/p/tally.html

With gratitude,
Bookey and Richard Peek
Stone Hills Wildlife Sanctuary



Thursday, 19 September 2013

CALLING DR DOOLITTLE!

Trying to herd the sable onto the feeding station
Or failing him, anyone who can talk to the animals.  We need to get the message to our sable that if they continue to refuse the food we offer them, they will be in serious trouble.  Some of them, particularly the mothers and calves, are already looking horribly thin and ragged and yet,  no matter how we try to tempt them with game blocks, cubes, lucerne or loose feed - they ignore it all.  We are now at a complete loss - so if there is anyone out there who feels that they can somehow reach the ears of these mystifyingly stubborn animals  - please do!

Advice Line...
If you can give advice please email: Bookey at stonehillswildlife[*at]gmail.com 

Sable Antelope (Bull) in his prime
Photo taken near Kafue River in Zambia, 2004. Wiki Commons.
Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.   
Attribution: Paulmaz at the English language Wikipedia
*remember to replace [at] with @

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

OUR SAVAGE QUEEN



Stone Hills belongs to Sheba.  Hardly a day goes by when the scouts don’t pick up her spoor somewhere on the sanctuary, and frequently close to the house.  Leopards are under major threat countrywide from over-exploitation by hunting and poaching, so Rich radio collared her some time ago in order to obtain crucially important data on her movements and habits.  The battery in the collar has now run down, so we will be trying to recapture her and remove it when her latest cub becomes independent.  Whenever we locate one of her kills, we put up trail cameras to try and get as much information as possible.

Sheba is a seriously efficient hunter, and an excellent mother.  Her cub is about 6 months old and she is presently teaching the cub to hunt, focusing on easy prey. Here’s the cub on the carcass of a kudu calf killed very close to the laundry a couple of weeks ago.

Everything is right about that - BUT it was Patience’s calf, and Sheba has followed up by killing Vicky’s calf two nights ago.   Just because we knew and loved them is of course irrelevant (though it hurts like hell), but the real issue is that our kudu are some of the most vulnerable antelope in a drought, as you can see from the way they look in earlier pictures on the blog.  We have now been feeding them up since June – and they have responded amazingly well.   The calves were also looking good and the oldest was so tame that she would eat out of our hands.  Very few of the youngsters make it, though, mostly falling prey to leopard or cheetah - just as our two did. 

It’s sad, but exactly as it should be – one dies so the other might live.  Both species are vulnerable in different ways and both should be protected.  There is no right or wrong involved, just the simple necessity of survival in a harsh world.

A brown hyaena visits the kill

Civet -  another noctural visitor, rarely seen.
 __________()__________
 Please help us help us feed Patience and Vicky and all the 800+ diurnal animals
Donate Today

Friday, 13 September 2013

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF...



The day starts before 6 am, with a couple of mighty bangs on the bedroom window.  The yellow-billed hornbills are hungry and that's their way of making sure we know it. The kudu and impala are already at the house  - waiting for breakfast, as are the bushbuck, birds and dassies. Feeding in earnest has begun, and it's a team effort. At 7.30 am, Head Scout Mafira, Mthabisi and Sean load up the tractor and do the drop offs at 10 different feeding stations throughout the sanctuary.  This takes them about three hours.

The next shift begins at 3.30pm when Rich feeds the warthog and giraffe; Khanye takes care of the kudu, and Big Fight spreads out the contents of six bags at a spot close to the river, which is primarily intended for the eland but is now being enjoyed by an assortment of zebra, impala, wildebeest and baboons.

Meanwhile, I drive down to where the gemsbok are waiting, and having checked that the zebra aren't planning an ambush, leave their food on piles of cut grass, and then drive away quickly as they won't come in if we are close.

4 pm sees me at the kitchen giving Ted (yellow-spot dassie) his bowl of apple on my lap, feeding mealworms to the elephant shrews, and filling the drums outside our dining room window for the kudu - who are insatiable.  By this time, the impala have come in again - and I ferry buckets of food to both them and the kudu until late at night.

Rich drops off game blocks at different places - just to make sure that everyone is getting something, and has spent hours trying to induce our infuriating sable to come into feed.  They are just as hungry as everyone else, but for some reason, show no interest in anything we offer them - even lucerne.  They have never been fed before, so - we hope - it is only a matter of time.  No new photos this time, but when Rich stops running, he'll start taking them again!

__________()_________

Read more stories from Stone Hills

IT’S A GREAT START!

FIRST DELIVERY!

TAKING THE LIFE OUT OF THE WILD

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

WE ARE IN TROUBLE

We need your help, please
Donate Today

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Message from David

Dear all,
I'm sure a number of you may have heard of me through my mother's books and some of you may have even seen me through my dad's documentary, but I'm the kid that wallows with warthogs (the youngest Peek). 
I want to extend a personal thank you to all of you for your donations and support - it's great to know that we have friends globally and that there are so many people that care for the environment and for a piece of Africa that many of you have not even seen. 

You are all heroes in your own right. Thank you.
David Peek

Wonderful People

Centra and Front-Line Farming donated 13 bags of feed to us a couple of weeks ago.

They have followed that up with a most amazing offer – 5 tonnes of beef survival mix per month for the next three months!

They are very supportive of causes like ours – and Stone Hills is lucky enough to  be the recipient of their generosity.

Zimbabwe certainly has its problems, but there are some wonderful people here who truly have the interests of wildlife at heart.



Friday, 6 September 2013

IT’S A GREAT START!




The lengthy and expensive process of buying in and distributing feed all over the sanctuary is in progress.  What a joy it is to see our animals crowding in for  food that people from all over the world have helped us to provide.  We would never have been able to do this without your help.


We have now received 22 tonnes of mixed game blocks, lucerne, beef survival ration and cotton cake, which is being stored in our old manager’s cottage – out of reach of marauding baboons (until one of them figures out how to pick the locks).

All of these contain as much as 30% protein -  essential to enable the animals to digest dry matter, which has very little nutritive value, but is all that now remains on the veld.

We are working on distributing 750kg a day at ten points around the sanctuary, using mostly on flat rocks to keep it out of the dust and avoid erosion.  First, we put down a base of dry grass and molasses, and then spread the feed on top of it.

 Our eland will be calving shortly, so maintaining their condition is a priority.
With the money already raised – over $11 thousand dollars  (still can’t believe it!) - plus the very generous donations of feed from Centra/Front Line Farming and Mac Crawford, we are now able to reach animals in every part of the sanctuary.

We need only another 15 tonnes to hit our target of 68 tonnes - something that seemed at first to be an impossible dream, but thanks to your generosity and overwhelming support, is now very nearly a reality.

15 tonnes will cost US$4,500 – and this will take us through to the end of November, by which time we are assured by those in the know that the life-giving rains we so desperately need will have arrived.
 
Please, if you can spare it, keep helping us to ensure that Stone Hills’ wildlife survives.

Go here to DONATE NOW


_________()_________
With thanks to our many donors and to sponsors...





Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A good friend

Mac Crawford of Kabot's in Bulawayo mixes his own nutritious feed for his cattle and game.

He's supplying us with 15 bags a week, absolutely free of charge.  Thank you, Mac, for that and for everything else you do to help us and the farming community.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

An extra boost


Frontline Farming donated 13 bags of mixed feed for horses, pigs and dairy cows.  Our zebra, warthog and eland (as close to bovine as we get) are all very grateful - as we are!

PS:  The dairy feed will only go to those animals that can absorb the urea.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

FIRST DELIVERY!


Oh! what a beautiful morning
Oh! what beautiful day
Ten tonnes of feed was dee-livered
And Rich brought a truckload of hay!





Monday, 26 August 2013

TAKING THE LIFE OUT OF THE WILD

 Why Stone Hills is So Important

Nature is not the only detrimental impact on wildlife in this area, we report the following incidents because we believe it is important to be the voice for the wildlife. The stories are sad and make us angry too - but it is the reality of life in the bush. We share them so that others are aware of the great impact people have on wildlife, as well as the animals' struggle with the drought.



This sable bull took refuge in a dam on a neighbouring property very close to our boundary when he was chased by poachers and their dogs.   They were throwing rocks at him when one of our scouts heard the dogs barking and alerted us. By the time we arrived, the bull was up to his neck in water and he was bleeding profusely from one eye.  Rich managed to tranquillise him and pull him onto the bank, but it was too late, as he was already blind in both eyes and suffering from severe shock.  A second sable bull was later found dead in the bushes close to the dam.  Our scouts followed up and apprehended the poachers, who were then arrested and fined in the magistrates court.

This sort of thing is happening all over the country.  Yesterday, I received a phone call from an African lady who has a farm in the Plumtree area (close to the Botswana border) and is influential in local government.   A few days ago, poachers and dogs entered her farm and chased a kudu cow to the point of collapse, then tore her to pieces.  She died on the lady's fence.  The only positive result of this tragedy is that she is now lobbying for a restriction of the number of dogs allowed in each household.   Many rural families have four or more of them, mostly used for hunting or left to find food for themselves.


Our scouts patrol the fence line every day in order to check for poaching and also to stop up the holes dug by warthog and bushpig.   Very occasionally, though, a stray dog does manage to get in, and a couple of months ago, one such stray savaged our precious Mary bushbuck a few metres from the house.   The vet came quickly, but she died under anaesthetic with her head in my arms.   She was in her 23rd year.



Dogs are not the only threat to wildlife -  wire snares and poison are also in widespread use, plus unethical trophy hunting and armed poachers who target the larger mammals, such as rhino and elephant.
  Wildlife sanctuaries and conservancies like ourselves are engaged in a continuous battle to protect our animals – whether it be from man or from starvation. 
We MUST win and with your help, we will! 

                                             ________()_________

Help us help the wildlife - Donate Drought Appeal

Friday, 23 August 2013

All creatures great and small

Rock elephant shrews are insectivores with a penchant for pumpkin cake and a passion for mealworms.  If we are not on time with their daily rations, they come and find us - wherever we are.  We've had them staring up at us as we were lying on the bed, jumping up on the arm of the sofa, and even waiting impatiently, arms folded, outside the loo.


Then there's the little spiny mouse who used to nibble Rich's toes to remind him to put out the pumpkin seeds.   And the Tiny fat mouse whom we don't yet know personally,  but whose name is irresistible.

We've raised and released numerous bush squirrels - each one of them adorable and a very different character.  They're also having a tough time with the drought,  but we have a good supply of seeds and mealworms that should see them through.  Every one of them is important!


SURROUNDED!

Monkeys on the roof, dassies in the dining room and kudu in the garden (all thirteen of them, lying there chewing the cud and occasionally coming to stare at us through the dining room window), and it's an absolute circus in the afternoons, when the house is surrounded by giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, eland, gemsbok, impala, warthog, baboons, zebra and guinea fowl - all waiting for food.

This is Chumley, a heterohyrax with a bent back leg. He arrives in the house every morning at breakfast, demanding a handful of cabbage leaves. Many of these animals (including Chumley) have never been near us before, but they knew where to come for help.  And now, thanks to all our wonderful donors, we are able to start giving them what they need.

No hope of a peaceful dinner when Patience is watching us!  She has a four month old calf and is struggling to feed it.  In fact, she's so hungry that when I put out mealworms for the nightapes, I found her eating them.   And it wasn't a mistake - she took them on the following night too.


You can help, please go to our donations page here

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Support from Australia



We've just done a radio interview with Ian Henschke on 891 Mornings with Ian Henschke, which will be aired tomorrow (22nd August) between 9 and 11 am.  Thank you, Adelaide!





Update 27 August
Thanks to 891 ABC Adelaide on the "Mornings with Ian Henschke" programme for broadcasting the great interview with Bookey this morning. Many of our supporters make the connection for Adelaide to Zimbabwe for a story to be told on local radio. A warm welcome to any South Australians who have found us here as a result of the 891 interview.
 

PS: Bookey's books mentioned in the programme can be found at this link