TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Third edition July 2010 Uganda News NATIONAL MOURNING ENDS – AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT STARTS Monday saw the long awaited African Union Summit kick off with ministerial and panel of expert meetings, as the one week long period of national mourning came to an end. Security is very tight, as witnessed along the main road from the city to the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo, which leads along the area where this correspondent resides. Traffic police and roaming police patrol vehicles have been supplemented by elite army units and the presidential protection detail is out in force at the venue and the wider surrounding area to prevent any mischief by enemies of the country who may wish to disrupt the proceedings. Hotels in Kampala have also put up the ‘no vacancy’ signs, as every available bed between Entebbe and Kampala has been taken up to the delight of hotel operators, who stand to reap big from this major continental conference over the next ten days. In view of the events of 7/11 the issue of Somalia has been pushed up the agenda and information received is that an initial 20.000 troops will be sent there as part of the African Union’s present peacekeeping contingent while requests will also be sent to the UN to make this a mission of their own. Uganda may send as many as another 2.000 troops at an early stage to boost numbers on the ground, following President Museveni’s angry reaction to the al-Shabab background of the suicide bombers. It was also learned that an additional 5.000 recruits will be taken in to strengthen the Uganda Police in coming months, giving them a greater ‘range’ for surveillance and security operations in the capital city, urban centres and across the entire country. While the official theme of the summit focuses on women issues and child health, a range of security related as well as economic and political issues are ranked high on the summit’s agenda. The continental meeting will last until the 29th of July with heads of state due to arrive progressively over the next few days’ time. No cancellations by any delegation were reported at the time of going to press over security concerns, as has been suggested in sections of the local and regional media, giving a firm sign of solidarity with Uganda, which the nation gratefully accepts. SUSPECTS NABBED IN 7/11 BOMBINGS Security operatives arrested several suspects and conspirators thought to be responsible for or connected to the bombings in Kampala during the World Cup Final last Sunday, and in the process secured vital evidence including at least one suicide ‘vest’ ready for use but also other explosives and material. The arrests were made in a Kampala suburb and while showing some of the recovered evidence to the media police was tight-lipped over the identity or suspected nationalities of those arrested, although one source described them as ‘from African countries, not speaking English’. It was also ascertained that forensic and counter terrorism experts from American and British agencies are now in country supporting the Ugandan investigating team in particular in sieving through evidence gathered at the sites and carry out forensic tests using the latest technology but also once more going over the blast sites hoping to discover more clues. Sadly, the death toll continued to rise and is now standing at 76, as two more of the seriously wounded persons succumbed to their injuries. It was also confirmed that a Sri Lankan national, working in Uganda, was amongst the victims. Meanwhile have voices emerged partly blaming lax venue security at the Kyadondo Rugby Ground, where several thousand people had gathered and crammed into the venue on the night to watch the World Cup final. At other usually crowded places in the city, and most notably the city’s hotels, security measures, including front gate body checks, have been stepped up, although the leading hotels had maintained this level of vigilance throughout, checking cars on entry and searching patrons when approaching the main lobbies, using handbag scanners and walk through devices to ascertain the absence of suspicious objects. Shopping centres too have stepped up security at entry points while citywide pre-summit security for the upcoming African Union meeting has been deployed already on a large scale. Condolences from world leaders have been flowing into Uganda, offering sympathy but also logistical and material help for the investigation, while individual expressions of sorrow have also reached this correspondent from readers of eTN round the world. All those messages are gratefully accepted. A national memorial service is planned for later in the week as many of the victims have been individually buried already by their grieving families and friends. UGANDA CONSIDERS MORE TROOPS FOR SOMALIA The African Union mission in Somalia, presently short of the envisaged 8.100 troops, may soon see another up to 2.000 Ugandan personnel arrive, according to the latest reports released in Kampala. In an act of absolute defiance to the terrorists and their godfathers, an army spokesperson has late last week announced that Uganda is capable and willing to send more troops should other African nations not contribute to make up the gap between troops estimates and those on the ground. Presently it is only Uganda and Burundi supporting the African Union’s peace keeping mission, but more countries have signalled, in the wake of the terror attacks, to send troops and material, while the forthcoming AU Summit in Kampala, due to start this week, is also though to consider a change of mandate to permit the AU forces to engage militias before being attacked. Presently they are only able to defend against attacks but cannot pre-empt them, a flaw which has cost many lives in Mogadishu as the contingent has to wait to be fire upon before being able to open fire themselves. The summit is also considering a further change of rules, which would permit countries with borders to Somalia to contribute troops, opening the way for Ethiopian forces to return under an AU mandate. President Museveni last week also vowed to take the fight to the terrorist bases in Somalia and in the process it is also hoped that the pirates’ nests also become a target of the AU troops to support the aims of the naval coalition at sea, to stop this menace. Pirate ransom has in the past, according to reliable sources, also found its way into the coffers of Islamic militant groups, allowing them to purchase supplies and making it necessary to combat both menaces at once with greater determination. One thing so is clear, Uganda, inspite of the terrorists atrocities committed on the 11th of July, will NOT be intimidated but continue to do all the country can within its limited resources to join the international community in the fight against terror. In a related development it was also announced to the media in Kampala that as many as 12 suspects are now in custody and are being interrogated, including one suspect nabbed in Kenya and immediately handed over to the Ugandan authorities. EASSY NOW ‘ON LINE’ Following the landing of the third fibre optic sea bed cable in Mombasa, and the linking up with the switch stations in Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, East Africa now has an added fall back in case of cable failures to maintain today’s required high speed and high capacity internet connections. EASSY has reportedly the largest capacity of all three systems, with some 1.4 terra byte per second transmission speed available and went ‘live’ last weekend. Following the second failure of SEACOM’s cable two weeks ago off the East African coastline – following only weeks after a major failure in the Mediterranean – most telecom companies had to go back to the more expensive and less ‘extensive’ satellite back up links, which reduced speeds and in some cases brought business relying on the net to a near standstill. Latest reports now speak of the repairs at least taking until the 22nd of July, well over two weeks since the component failure, and according to suffering ISP users this cannot be soon enough. The bomb blast in Kampala last week also severed the main fibre optic connection when a high voltage mast was damaged and the cable cut, and interrupted microwave transmissions between Uganda and Kenya, driving home the recognition that multiple fibre optic cable providers are really needed and that – like with aircraft instrumentation – redundancies are an absolute MUST HAVE in this day and age. The three cable operators have also indicated talks to agree on emergency measures for cross connectivity to reduce outages in the future. The arrival of EASSY, incidentally the first planned but now the last completed network cable, will arguably also increase pressure on the telecoms companies to once again lower their internet tariffs, which have remained higher than anticipated, hindering the faster and wider rollout of internet use in particular in rural Africa. Offers as low as 25.000 Uganda Shillings a month, or just over 10 US Dollars, are misleading as the permitted capacity is only 500 MB, a laughable restriction considering that this is the capacity used by many in a few days when regularly surfing the net for research or even simply using such applications as Facebook, Skype or site which update automatically every few minutes. EASSY will spread its wings across the ‘wired’ countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda and it is understood that Southern Sudan too wishes to link up via their nearest connection route in Uganda, to provide ‘independent’ access to the net and not having to depend on connections via Khartoum, for reasons often explained here. MTN LAUNCHES 3.5 G NETWORK UPGRADE Uganda’s leading mobile operator MTN has last week announced the arrival of new equipment to upgrade their present 2G network to a full 3.5G network status, which would put it in line with France’s Orange, the first to introduce the enhanced technology and currently offering the fastest connections. According to sources in the telecoms industry the upgrade will not result in tariff increases for these services, putting Orange under pressure to lift their capacity restrictions, which have generally been considered a ‘nuisance’ and tool to siphon added revenue from the market. MTN and UTL, the operator with the first full 3G network in Uganda, are offering unlimited ‘open’ connectivity irrespective of the size of the monthly downloads while some of the other operators limit this and are subsequently not as successful in their marketing strategy. Celtel/Zain/Bharti/Airtel, the company of many names, has also recently appeared with a 3G signal on the airwaves, a sign that the battle for the wireless market is indeed heating up in Uganda. UTL too is thought to look at upgrade options for their network to bring it to the faster 3.5G standard while across the border in Kenya market leader Safaricom will start trials for their planned 4G network later in the year. With the arrival of the third fibre optic cable, and the resulting extra capacity of over 1.4 terra byte per second, a marketing offensive is now on the cards by all ISP’s in Uganda to tap into the growing potential of giving ‘mobility’ for web connections to more users as affordable prices. Watch this space. ELEPHANTS INVADE VILLAGES A group of elephants has invaded several homesteads and villages last week just outside Murchisons Falls National Park, in the process killing at least one person and injuring several others. Local area administration then alerted the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which immediately arranged to dispatch rangers and game wardens to intercept the animals and try drive them back into the park. It was learned that the elephants actually destroyed traditional houses in the process, a rare occurrence and subject to speculation now what may have prompted the rogue elephants to act in this fashion. Communities living near or next national parks, and communities along the traditional migration routes of elephant, often encounter groups or individuals straying from the park but rarely with such deadly consequences. Condolences to the family and friends of those affected. Kenya News MOMBASA HIT BY FREAK RAINSTORM A downpour of biblical proportions hit Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal city, last weekend, flooding sections of the city – a phenomenon considering that the city actually is built on an island connected to the mainland by the Makupa causeway, and being supposed to drain the water straight into the Indian Ocean. Some parts of the city were knee deep under water, gradually even displacing parked cars, and the ensuing floods did cause havoc for businesses at level ground, having hawkers and street vendors scramble to rescue their wares from being swept away. Traffic in and out of the city was also severely handicapped as few dared to ‘ride the waves’. The resulting water and flood damages are expected to be substantial and it was also learned that on the day all city tours and private visits to the city and Fort Jesus by tourists were reportedly abandoned at the time, as was the bazaar and main market closed, for both lack of business but also to secure property and stocks. ETHIOPIAN POWER PROJECT UNDER ADDED SCRUTINY BY KENYA The controversial Gibe III power project in Ethiopia is being subjected to an additional environmental impact study and audit of hitherto submitted reports. This fresh scrutiny is financed by the European Investment Bank, following persistent complaints by communities living around Lake Turkana, environmental watchdogs, international NGO’s and civic society in Kenya and abroad. Court action in Kenya is also pending from civic pressure groups representing the Turkana and other communities, who claimed they are likely to lose their livelihood should the project go ahead in its present format, putting the Kenya government on the back foot. Meanwhile has France signalled that they will be giving grants and loans worth 2 billion Kenya Shillings to support ‘green’ power which is presently under the final stages of planning for two wind power stations and a solar power station in the north of Kenya, where daily sunshine and strong winds will support the harvesting of renewable energy sources to the tune of nearly 1.000 MW upcoming capacity. Kenya has been seeking such support to expand their geothermal generating capacity but also introduce new wind and solar powered plants which would radically lower the country’s carbon footprint. Watch this space. KENYA AIRWAYS TO CODESHARE WITH INDIA’S JET AIRWAYS Information was received on Monday that KQ has signed an extensive code share deal with one of India’s leading private airline, Jet Airways, which will become effective at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday night. Kenya Airways is currently flying daily to Mumbai – formerly Bombay – and has been seeking to expand their presence in this important market for a while now. Jet Airways in turn has also been trying to add more African destinations beyond their present destination Johannesburg, but neither airline had until this point made much progress. The code share arrangement on the Nairobi to Mumbai route will however open up added destinations, which in India will be operated by Jet Airways, while Indian passengers can connect to the entire continent via Kenya Airways’ Nairobi hub, from where daily connections serve most destinations to Southern and Western African capitals. Frequent flyer benefits for holders of the respective airline cards will also be extended for ‘earning’ miles as will lounge access be part of the deal for frequent travellers. MORE DELAYS FOR B787 ORDERS? Information was received over the weekend that Boeing may have to push the delivery of their first B787 into next year, which could have a knock on effect also on orders placed by Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, both of which have a substantial number of the new generation wide bodied jet on order. The news were received with some incredulity by aviation sources in Nairobi and Addis it is understood, as the recent tests of the new airliner apparently went ahead smoothly, and Boeing giving no indication until now that other issues may further delay deliveries to airlines. If found correct the delivery timeframe of the aircraft to the two major airlines in the region, KQ and ET, could impact seriously on their ability to roll out network and frequency expansions and their planned fleet renewal programmes. Watch this space. KAA CONSIDERING SECOND RUNWAY FOR JKIA The Kenya Airports Authority has at last moved forward in their considerations for a second runway for Kenya’s main international airport, Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi. At peak hours the runway is almost fully utilised with take offs and landings, and any incident on the runway is presently shutting down East Africa’s main aviation gateway, leading to flight diversion, delays and cancellations of flights. The present ongoing upgrade and rehabilitation had left a second runway out of their scope to the chagrin of aviation experts, who have for years advocated for and demanded an alternative runway, but until a committee was formed last week to look seriously into this, KAA had taken no visible action. Of the other main airport in the region only Entebbe has a second, albeit shorter runway to facilitate emergency operations and with Nairobi being the ‘main’ gateway in the region, the expansion cannot come soon enough for airlines and passengers alike. The feasibility study will take several months to complete and aviation sources in regular contact with this correspondent claim a second runway could at the very earliest be in place by 2015, if a decision is taken swiftly and funding can be secured. ‘GROGAN’S CASTLE’ NOW OPEN FOR TOURIST BUSINESS The border area between Kenya and Tanzania along the lake Jipe and Chala is significant for wildlife, neighbouring parks and game reserves on both side of the border. However, war history buffs too recognize the names for the valiant campaign fought by Colonel Von Lettow-Vorbeck on behalf of Imperial Germany, which had control over their then East African colony Tanganyika. The colonel, a wily fox, gave his Britsh East African foes many a bloody nose and many places along the border still remind visitors of those long gone days. A new accommodation unit is now finally open, Grogan’s Castle, which is located about 120 km from the Kenyan township of Voi and a mere 20 km from the Tanzanian border. The house comfortably sleeps 6 in one master bedroom and two twin bedrooms, but is ‘self catered’, i.e. visitors need to bring their own food and drink supplies. Staff is at site however to cook and clean, when guests are out on safari or visiting some of the other sights. Being off the electricity mains a backup generator runs for five hours a day, but guests can against a surcharge add more hours – a fair deal considering the cost of fuel and the distance from the nearest filling station. A dirt airstrip of about 1.200 metres length leads almost up to ‘Grogan’s Castle’ permitting guests to fly in and a vehicle can be booked from the owners for transfers and game drives. The Lake Jipe gate of Kenya Wildlife Services is also nearby, only about a quarter of an hour’s drive, giving easy access to this remotest part of Tsavo West but anyone going ‘out for the day’ with a picnic lunch will be able to explore a wide area with almost no tourist traffic, being able to enjoy the wilderness and solitude ‘exclusively’. Grogan’s Castle does not have a website up and running as yet but can be found on Facebook via the following link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grogans-Castle/114022361963426?ref=search In a related development it was also learned that KWS was due to release details during the course of the week of new concession sites in the wider Tsavo and Chyulu Hills area, with some sources claiming at least a dozen new accommodation sites would be advertised for potential investors. The new sites will be located in Tsavo East, Tsavo West and the Chyulu conservation area, aimed to add beds to areas where more and more tourists are expected in coming years to experience the African wilderness. KENYA’S ARRIVAL MARK NEW RECORD The first six months of 2010 have seen tourist arrivals boosted by a remarkable 20+ percent, a huge boost for the country’s entire tourism industry and the country as a whole. The previous ‘record’ was established in 2007 before the global economic and financial crisis struck Kenya too, but just released figures show that a new peak has been set in 2010, awarding Kenya’s massive and determined marketing drive abroad in existing, new and emerging markets. This also is a sharpish reminder for other countries in the region which have been hesitant to spend money on their respective tourist boards, as the success in Kenya proves that it is money well spent. Tourism in Kenya is a key to economic prosperity, job creation and retention and both direct foreign but also domestic investments into the sector. The results are all the more remarkable considering that several global cruise lines have taken Mombasa port calls off their destination list due to piracy concerns in the Indian Ocean waters. Industry sources in touch with this correspondent have now however pointed out that future growth will largely depend on more direct air connections in particular from emerging markets which in turn will depend on the speedy conclusion of the expansion works at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, which is creaking at the joints having reached full saturation point. Watch this space. THAI AUTHORITIES CONFISCATE MORE EAST AFRICAN IVORY It was learned over the weekend, that Thai customs and security organs have once again intercepted a major shipment of blood ivory, reportedly destined for another country in the region and most likely China, according to present information. The shipment is thought to be worth well over a million US Dollar. Poaching has been a scourge for wildlife in Eastern and Southern Africa, and numbers at hand for rhinos and elephants killed for their tusks and horns are simply getting out of hand, belying weak attempts by government officials and wildlife managers that their anti poaching efforts were sufficient. In an article attached to this weekly report by Gill Staden from Livingstone / Zambia detailed figures are provided on rhino poaching in Southern Africa, revealing the full extent of the illicit demand for such products by South and Far Eastern countries, where more needs to be done now to strengthen legislation and enforcement. CITES is also called upon through a special petition to halt the trade in ivory for good and remove any clauses from existing agreements for one off sales and special applications, in order to fully criminalise the trade and possession of blood ivory on a global scale. Readers can also get acquainted with the subject on a wider basis by visiting relevant Facebook sites which promote conservation and speak up against the trade in wild animal products like teeth, hides and skins, besides rhino horns and ivory. Join up yourself to such petitions and sites to express your solidarity with the endangered African wildlife. Also call upon airlines flying from Eastern Africa to the South and Far East to step up their own vigilance and monitoring and check more robustly on air cargo’s in order to avoid such shipments even leaving the continent … how often do the Thais need to come to Africa’s rescue and confiscate such blood cargo before this lesson is learned. Also read this related article on the loss of wildlife over the past 40 or so years, in particular in the Masai Mara, where a UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) claims as much as 60 percent of the game has since disappeared … frightening prospects considering the plans of the Tanzanian government to build a major highway right across the migration routes of the big herds of wildebeest and zebras… http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Maasai%20Mara%20has%20lost%20half%20its%20animals%20%20/-/1056/960138/-/tmtmc1/-/index.html Tanzania News ARE MINING INTERESTS PUSHING FOR THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY? Information unearthed during the week is adding to the disquiet in conservation circles, as unsavoury connections are now beginning to emerge of the ‘god fathers’ of the hugely controversial project, big business backers and the political elite in the country. Tanzania has in past years climbed into the top of the African gold producers, now ranking a startling third already on the continent, and more concessions are waiting to be exploited. Several of those are in an area between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria, and the endpoint of the new highway at Musoma is intriguingly located in the exact same neighbourhood area, where such mining concessions owners are waiting to go ‘active’. Enroute to Musoma the planned road is taking a ‘right turn’ at Mto wa Mbu, leading along the escarpment, passing Mt. Ol Donyo Lengai, a presently active volcano, and then pass an area of another mining concession for soda ash, which India’s Tata Corporation wishes to exploit and which also met stiff resistance of conservationists and the tourism sector. Lake Natron is the only breeding ground for the East African flamingos, which come there annually to make nests of mud along the lake shores as few predators are able to withstand the hot and humid climate. Proponents of the project, in large part the same lot as the proponents of the highway project through the Serengeti, point to the soda ash plant across the border in Kenya, which was established decades ago and where breeding of flamingos, thought to have existed until the plant was established, is now all but absent due to the disturbances caused by the extraction of the mineral, the processing and the shipping, and the establishment of a sizeably human population needed to run the operation there. Planning for a major highway and bringing for the first time a direct road connection to two hitherto almost inaccessible areas, is bound to raise the speculation of back ground connections and will raise the stakes too for the tourism and conservation fraternities in both Kenya and Tanzania. Big mining concerns are not exactly knows to be using environmentally friendly methods when it comes to extracting minerals and in particular gold from the African continent but are equally used to run roughshod over environmental concerns. As a fitting example, the Niger delta in Nigeria is now one of the most polluted waterscapes and shorelines in the entire world, since for decades now the oil companies and government have stood by, apart from showing some pretence of mitigation and spill prevention, and let millions of spilled barrels of oil devastate entire stretches of these formerly rich, diverse but fragile ecosystems, now of course on their bio deathbed. Going by recent public comments made by ‘experts’, i.e. paid mouthpieces of BP, about the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill, who are claiming that within a few years there would be no side effect left, they are in total disregard of the massive scale of shore pollution already seen, the complex issue of crude oil still deep underwater and the still ongoing problems of the decades old Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Yet, we will surely also hear from equally unprincipled mouthpieces for the mining companies holding concessions in those areas, that neither the road, the extraction of soda ash, the extraction of other minerals and gold, nor the processing of gold – considered a highly toxic process – will do any harm to the Tanzanian environment nor displace the animals in the Serengeti. Many of these issues are swept under the carpet right now, this being an election year in Tanzania, and with easy funding beckoning on the horizon for those singing and dancing to the tune of big business, a re-election campaign surely looks almost certain to succeed when funded and ‘oiled’ by such windfalls. Elections are slated for 31st of October this year and while parliament was announced ‘dissolved’ by the president the official notice is only due for publication by August 01st, then providing for a three months election campaign. But how about telling people the truth during that campaign about this project, and other controversial ‘proposals’ across Tanzania – oh yes, I forgot we are dealing with politicians, a profession the late Ronald Reagan equated to the oldest profession without any hesitation. An environmental impact study for the hugely controversial highway routing must by law be carried out in Tanzania before a decision about it can be made, notwithstanding the fact that the same project was already shot down in flames by an EIA report some 14 years ago. Maybe the new EIA will do the same, but also maybe it will yield to the pressures of those who think that exploitation of every last inch of the earth in he name of progress and ‘prosperity’ justifies that we are destroying our environment, faster than ever before. The Serengeti is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but in the grand scheme of big money and big business this status is but a little nuisance, an obstacle to be elbowed aside so that billions can be made by a few – after all, future generations can still watch the ‘old films’ … The extinction of the North American bison herds comes to mind, as I close, and I am just wondering if the great herds of wildebeest and zebras will not long from now be condemned to near extinction too … but what the heck, as long as the ministers can get re-elected and keep their snouts in the feeding trough, that is after all the only thing which matters to them, or is it? Rwanda News RWANDA BEATS NEIGHBOURS IN INTERNET SPEEDS A recently published report sends out positive signals for visitors to Rwanda, wishing to stay connected to their home, businesses and friends around the world. Rwanda has according to a study released by the global industry leader in communications applications been ranked 87th worldwide and 3rd in Africa, for both uploads and downloads, way ahead of Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and even Uganda, although the fibre optic cables have a longer distance to cover from the landing platforms in Mombasa. Rwanda has progressively developed an ITC backbone and made internet and phone use a government priority over the past few years, an investment now paying off very handsomely. Tourists will therefore not need to worry and phone and internet connectivity extends right into the Volcanoes national park way up the mountains, from where ‘live’ broadcasts and video streams can be sent when encountering the prized mountain gorillas, LESS any flashlights that is which are prohibited by park authorities to minimise disturbance for the animals. ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT UNDERWAY Tuesday saw the launch of the official campaign for the forthcoming presidential elections in Rwanda, in which four candidates are taking part. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that incumbent Paul Kagame will win handsomely. Potential visitors have been reassured that the campaign across the country will not interfere with tourist itineraries and such tours will suffer of no restrictions moving from place to place between Kigali and the key national parks. Visit http://www.rwandatourism.com for regular updates from Rwanda. Seychelles News NEW COAST GUARD BASE DONATED BY UAE The United Arab Emirates have given a 15 million US Dollar grant to the government of Seychelles to construct a new coast guard base dedicated to anti piracy missions, fully equipped with state of the art radar and surveillance systems and backed up by added relay stations across the archipelago. The UAE also pledged to give additional five patrol boats and a helicopter, used to carry out visual surveillance and identify any surface traffic approaching the Seychelles extensive waters, but also to offer close air support should this be required by the patrol boats. The two countries already have an existing defence cooperation in place but the latest support by the UAE will undoubtedly further raise readiness by the Seychellois coast guard and navy to deal even better with pirates daring to threaten the sea lanes within the 200 nautical mile economic exclusion zone around the islands. Bilateral ties between the UAE and the Seychelles have intensified in recent years and investment, in particular in the country’s hospitality industry have been significantly raised as a result of the warm and friendly relations. HELICOPTER SEYCHELLES GETS NEW ‘AGUSTA’ Last week saw the arrival of a brand new Agusta 109C helicopter, hot on the heels of news that Helicopter Seychelles and Zil Air were in merger talks aimed to streamline their respective operations and save cost by combining departments under one roof. Reportedly the ‘who is who’ in Seychelles aviation circles were at hand to witness the handover of the new heli to the company after it completed its epic journey from the UK over the past two weeks. Ordinarily such deliveries are made via ocean vessel but several factors came into play ultimately deciding to fly the new equipment directly into the Seychelles. At the handover ceremony the two companies also announced a timetable for their merger, starting already in August with a single reservations and operations department, before engineering and training then follows suit, after meeting regulatory requirements required to make such changes ‘legal’. Company administration, i.e. finance, human resources, sales and marketing will also come under one roof before the end of September in was learned. The company at the same time also announced plans to retire three of their present four Bell Jet Ranger helicopters, which have been in service for about 15 years now, and acquire new state of the art Eurocopter EC 120 models instead. This type of heli is already in use by Zil Air and reportedly popular with clients wanting a fast track transfer from the international airport to their resorts, especially when located on some of the more outlying islands. TAKE A BIT OF SEYCHELLES HOME Last week saw the official launch of the ‘Seychelles Gift Pack’ now available at the duty free shop of the international airport on Mahe but also selected locations across the islands. At a cost of Seychelles Rupees 1.495 the buyer will get a carved replica of the famous ‘coco de mer’, crafts, spices, teas, homemade jams, soaps and other ‘goodies’, all produced by Seychellois in the Seychelles. The idea found favour with the Seychelles Tourist Board whose CEO Alain St. Ange was at hand for the launch by the promoters of the new ‘souvenir product’. Next time anyone of you is holidaying on the archipelago, this surely is a ‘must buy’ on anyone’s list … LE MERIDIEN BARBARON HOSTS ANTI PIRACY SYMPOSIUM One of Mahe’s leading hotels has last week hosted over 50 experts from around the world for an anti piracy strategy meeting, and Seychellois president James Michel officially opened the meeting on 13th of July. The Seychelles, together with other Indian Ocean island nations is faced with a clear and present danger by the ocean terrorists vis a vis their main economic activities, tourism and fishing and has been one of the most proactive countries supporting the naval coalition based around the Horn of Africa and currently deployed into the Indian Ocean waters. All nations along the East African seaboard have suffered from the fallout of piracy, by loss of revenue in their harbours, increased insurance and security costs and, most notably in the tourism industry, a progressive move away from the Indian Ocean waters by cruise lines, keen to avoid any incident involving their passenger vessels. The two day meeting took stock of the current status of the naval coalitions’ work, discussed mandates, rules of engagement and other countermeasures to contain the ocean terror inflicted on the Indian Ocean sea lanes by lawless Somalis and after presenting the meeting resolutions to their organizations and home county governments more action and funding are expected to find their way into operational coffers. The Seychelles have of late substantially boosted their own involvement, besides regularly hosting naval vessels in Victoria, but – as president Michel pointed out – substantial cost to the treasury of the country. South Sudan News INDEPENDENCE IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE With less than 6 months to go towards the scheduled referendum, in which the Southern Sudanese population can at last decide on their own destiny, more and more hints begin to emerge over the direction the campaign is set to take. While officially the SPLM, running the Southern government in Juba and being a coalition partner in Khartoum, is still guarded as to the position they will recommend and campaign for, individual senior members of the Juba administration have given their own opinions more openly, all of them for independence. Egypt has made overtures and promised economic aid worth up to 300 million US Dollars, thought to be inducing second thoughts amongst the ‘Southerners’ and the Khartoum regime too has cranked up project promises, having literally wasted the chance of build goodwill over the past five and a half years since the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – was signed between the erstwhile foes. Few in the South however appear fooled by such last ditch efforts to ‘buy us’ as one regular source put it, adding ‘we will take projects and funding but will vote for freedom anyway when our time comes’. With the odds overwhelmingly in favour of an independence vote fears are also rising that the process may face disruption by elements infiltrated into the South and surveillance and patrols are being stepped up to prevent any such attempts. Meanwhile are expedition and adventure safari operators standing by to see this process completed to then apply for and get licences and permits for operations in the Southern Sudan’s national parks, which are presently being strengthened through bilateral assistance but are not as yet receiving significant visitors numbers. This is something the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism hopes to change, when the political processes towards independence have unfolded and been completed and they can present their natural attractions and the spectacle of the big migration of the white eared kobs between Boma National Park and the river Nile to prospective visitors. Watch this space. And again today, in closing, some material from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ by Gill Staden / Zambia: Zambia’s Leading Hotel – The Royal Livingstone Hotel – The Royal Livingstone Hotel in Livingstone has once again been crowned Best Hotel in Zambia. This is the result of the 2010 polls conducted by World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony in Johannesburg on Wednesday 7 July, attended by 1200 senior industry leaders. The winners were selected with the help of thousands of industry professionals worldwide who have been voting online. “Because of their global reach and reputation, World Travel Awards are unique and regularly referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of travel and tourism”, said Graham E. Cooke, Founder and President of World Travel Awards. The awards, established 17 years ago, are committed to raising the standards of customer service and overall business performance throughout the international industry. Situated near the Eastern Cataract of the Mighty Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi River, The Royal Livingstone Hotel forms a spectacular sanctuary, surrounded by lush lawns, flora and fauna that make the hotel blend in well within the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The hotel is home to a wide variety of animals, including Impalas, Zebras, Giraffes and others. It is popular for its diverse bird life owing to our environmental programme that aims to preserve and protect the natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds. The hotel is the location for viewing an African sunset from our renowned Sundeck, in addition to offering guests a chance to experience the best of Zambia, owing to its pristine location and superlative service. The Royal Livingstone Hotel is a member of the Sun International group that operates hotels and resorts around the world. Here guests can indeed experience “A Million Thrills. One Destination.” Feeding the starving animals in Lake Kariba This is an interesting email with details of getting food to the animals on the islands in Lake Kariba. The water has been so high that all the grazing has been flooded and the animals have had nothing to eat. So, rather than let them starve to death, the Zimbabwe community was mobilised to get bring food for them. STATUS REPORT Trucks Produtrade and Alro (collecting from Stuart Tippett in Marondera) load and must leave Harare by Tuesday 15th to Kariba Ferries Load Ian’s ferry on Wednesday 16th at 9am Depart for Bumi on Wednesday 16th when loading complete Unload at Bumi on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th (Richard please liaise with Ferries and have team ready for unloading) Ferry returns to Kariba on Thursday 17th Truck One – Produtrade What we have is Nigel Philp’s Produtrade truck with 7 tonnes of wheat screenings and 3 tonnes of Randby’s Special Mix. This leaves +/- 20 tonnes of space on the truck – need to secure hay/mix for that please – put the word out please. Truck Two – Alro We also have Adrian’s Alro Truck and a full load of Hay from Stuart Tippett just past Marondera, we will contribute cash for fuel to Alro for the extra 180 km to fetch the hay from Stuart Tippett. Adrian, we will need poles and tarpaulins to keep the hay in. Stuart says bales are 15kg each – unlikely to have 30 tonnes due to size and likely outcome is 20 tonnes. These two loads should ensure that we are secure with food for the animals on Starvation Island for 6 weeks. The team at Bumi are also checking other islands nearby and assisting where they can. Thanks again to everyone – amazing support and we all appreciate the efforts. Glen Stutchbury The voracious illegal trade in wildlife continues … The latest statistics from CITES on known elephant and rhino poaching in Africa make for alarming reading. So far this year 124 black and white rhino have been poached in South Africa, five elephants were killed in four days in one park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 27 elephants killed in Chad. And, three weeks ago, 10 elephants were gunned down in one spot on the Zimbabwe border in Gonarezhou National Park. Ivory seizures have also reached a new high; 296 tusks were seized by the Thai authorities at Bangkok in April representing the deaths of at least 148 elephants and, in the same month, another 2,194kg of tusks were discovered at the port of Hai Phong in Vietnam. “This alarming but tiny snapshot of poaching and trafficking incidents from Africa hardens our resolve to continue our vital anti-poaching and park protection work on the continent,” says DSWF CEO, Melanie Shepherd. “This continuing abuse of Africa’s rich biodiversity and the ongoing, barbaric trade in ivory and rhino horn has to stop and DSWF wholeheartedly supports CITES praise for Interpol and those governments and agencies which have increased their enforcement efforts.” To breed or not to breed? An exciting development for PDC and the future of the painted dog Until recently, Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) – whose work DSWF has supported since 1995 – has been firmly against breeding from its Rehabilitation Facility dogs. However, a number of concerns about the genetic diversity of the wild populations and the viability of the pack-size of dogs released from PDC have caused the team to reconsider this stance. “Maintaining the genetic diversity of the wild dogs is a top priority particularly as research has highlighted physical deformities associated with population decline and inbreeding,” explains project director, Dr Greg Rasmussen. While the most significant threats to the dogs are still poaching with snares and traffic accidents data also shows that a pack size of between six and ten is critical for success, something that has to be taken into consideration when creating release packs. “Packs should be of at least seven and ideally 11-12 to allow for initial expected mortality,” says Greg. One of the issues faced by the PDC Rehabilitation Facility is that very often there are only two or three potential release candidates which creates the dilemma of whether to wait for more individuals to arrive or to release them as an under strength pack. Both options are far from ideal with experience proving that the older the dogs are at release the longer they take to learn to hunt which compromises the success of the release. “Having yearlings bred at the facility to add to the legitimate dogs would not only reduce the time for such dogs to remain in the facility, but also increase the release pack size. Resolving both of these factors would greatly enhance the success of any release,” adds Greg. With the Hwange National Park population under threat of collapse due to extensive poaching outside the park and collapse in both prey and environmental conditions inside the park it has been suggested that new areas – ideally fenced for additional populations (metapopulations) be created to house at least two or three release packs. PDC has now secured access to Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, which will be fenced to provide the first release site for any pups born at the Rehabilitation Facility in conjunction with any legitimate dogs that are in the facility. If this new proposal works then the conservation value of the PDC Rehabilitation Facility will be immeasurably enhanced. “This is an exciting development for PDC and for the future of the painted dog,” says Greg. The new packs will be monitored by PDC in collaboration with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.