Elephants face extinction

ATC News by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

The latest updates from the Conservation Action Trust

Elephants face extinction
Conservation Action Trust
Elephants Face Extinction if Ivory Trade Not Banned

International Business Times | 08 August, 2014 | Hannah Osborne |

In order to save elephants from extinction, all ivory markets across the world must close and any government stockpiles destroyed, the Wildlife Conservation Society has said. A report by the US-based conservation group said corruption, organised crime and poor law enforcement means the ivory trade will… Full Story →

Public protector requested to investigate SANParks

SA Breaking News | 19 August, 2014 | Allison Thomson |

The Public Protector has been requested to investigate the sale of 260 rhinos by SANParks to hunting companies. On the 20th July 2014 the Sunday Times published an article about the relocation of 500 rhinos out of Kruger National Park… Full Story →

World Elephant Day 2014 VIDEO


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My favourite foods on my roadtrip to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi – July 2014

As a matter of principle and for the reason that I love food, I try and experience local foods whenever on holiday.  Regardless of the German’s dislike of the “stranger” foods and of course he wont touch it.

On our recent road trip from South Africa, through Zimbabwe, Zambia and onto Malawi, I tried to taste some local foods. As we also live in Africa, food are not much different and very similar to other African destinations. The following were my favourite foods. 

  • Spinach served at a truck stop in Bube Village, Zimbabwe
  • The best drinking yoghurt in Chirindu, Zambia, made by  zambeef
  • Along the road towards Senga Bay, Malawi, little fried potatoes which gets made  next to the road by the local villagers and served with salt and some sort of hot chilli.
  • Dried little fish at Salima in Malawi, with a little salt
  • Catfish fillet with a papaya salad at Cool Runnings in Senga Bay
  • Zitumbuwa – Fried banana fritters
  • Beef fillet with a spicey peanut sauce at Mumbo Island

I of course wanted to try the dried mice served on a kebab stick which they sell next to the road in Malawi, but the German would not let me. I might have only tasted a little toe.

zitumbuwa  spinachmouse kebab cat fish cool runnings fried potatoesbeef fillet with peanut sauce zambeef yoghurtdried fish


Our long awaited and very carefully planned road trip from Thabazimbi RSA through to Malawi and back down to Hwange, Zimbabwe was here.
The German (other half) has packed everything very meticioulasly, (like only a German can), and away we go, early on Saturday, the 28th , making a pit stop at Lephalale for breakfast and then off the Alldays and then Musina to reach the border post of Beitbridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Well, and this is where the fun started. The border post was absolutely chaotic and being the main border post between the 2 countries, with millions of Zimbabweans working in South Africa, due to the economic and political problems in Zimbabwe, it is a nightmare. Thousands of mostly Zimbabweans waiting, with us maybe number 4001. Within a blink of an eye, 4 African gentlemen were upon us, with friendly smiles and “sir, let us help you to pass quicker. A very small fee”. I am not going to elaborate, as we did pay a bribe, but in the end it was a huge amount and after 40 minutes on the South African side and over to the Zimbabwean side, which took another 2 hours, with these gentlemen, who I know started to call ‘Tsotsies”> (slang for thieves and scammers), trying to extract more and more money from us, until I told them in no uncertain language (and not very ladylike), to take a flaming hike. And with no hassles after that, besides the German now in a mighty bad mood, we crossed border into Zimbabwe.

Time to leave
It was now getting dusk, so we decided to stay at the nearest lodge/motel/hotel or anywhere we could find. About 80km from the border we found Bubi and the Bubi Village Motel, which is basically a truck stop and after $60 dollars passed hands, we had a room, with a bath and lots of hot water. Although it is a truck stop, it was very clean and we manage to have a plain but very eatable supper of Beef Stew and Sadza (local name for porridge and which we call pap in South Africa). The road from Beitbridge to Bubi is covered with burnt out truck, busses and motor vehicles and it is not advisable to travel at night on this road further than Bubi.

Runde River

We left the following morning early to reach Masvingo to visit the Ancient City (Zimbabwean Ruins). At $15 per person, it is not really cheap for us South Africans, however, it is really worth the effort as it is very interesting and if you are interested in history , it is a must see. As it was obviously to the whole Zimbabwean nation by now, myself and the German had ‘show us the money”, written on our foreheads and we picked up a guide, or he rather picked us up on top of Hilltop , the enclosure for the King , appointed himself as our guide, with this limp and walking stick and off we went after him. By choice or no choice, we were stuck with him. As by now I was fed up with forever just having to give hand outs, I refuse to pay more than what we would have paid for a registered guide at the reception office. In hindsight, we were happy he latched onto us, as at least we now understood more of the ruins. We visited the Main Enclosure as well and this is where the King’s wives as well as all the other females lived. Only his sister was allowed to live in his enclosure. It is a beautiful ruin, no less beautiful than any other ruins which one might find anywhere else in Europe. As a person who loves history more than modern day life, I loved visiting the Ancient City. And poignantly when we were in the Main Enclosure, we could hear the faint sounds of drums, like it was resonant in the stones in the walls of the City. And I would not be surprised if it could be. However on this occasion, it was merely a nearby village where they had a ceremony and were using their traditional drums.

Ancient City


ancient city


ancient city
We decided to make a quick detour and visit Lake Kyle and the little chapel at the dam wall with a very sad history.
A girl and her parents visited the chapel on the road to Mutare, which the Italian Prisoners of War built. It is quite beautiful and the girl,fell in love with this chapel. She begged her father to build her a small chapel exactly like the chapel the Italians build for her wedding day. Stone by stone and little coloured window panes, the little chapel at the dam wall took shape with seating for 12 people, in anticipation of the daughter’s wedding. Sadly she never lived to get married in her little chapel, build with so much love by her father, as in 1970, she died in a car accident. Her parents were heartbroken. But the little chapel has seen many young couples married there since, as her father left it open, so other could have the joy of the little chapel.
little chapel
We left Masvingo to travel through to Harare in order to make up some lost time, spent at the by now hated Beitbridge. As the German did not want to stay in Harare, we travelled on to Chinhoy looking for accommodation close by as I wanted to see the Chinhoy caves. The Chinhoyi caves were discovered in 1887 by famous European hunter, Frederick Selous. Before that, it was thought that the caves were used by outlaw Nyamakwere who threw his victims’ bodies into the ‘Silent Pool’. He was eventually killed by Chief Chinhoyi, who lent his name to the nearby town.

Chinhoyi Caves
Chinhoyi Caves

Chinhoy is a bustling African town and we stayed at the Chinhoy Motel at the caves. Expensive for South Africans with African amenities. One can see the way it used to be in its hay day and one can imagine people around the pool and bar and wide stoep. But now, the rooms are all rundown with nothing changed since perhaps the 70’s. And what a disappointment that we could not see the caves, as one: they don’t accept ZAR and two: no electricity and the generator not working, so one could not go down the caves.

By now, I was slightly peed off with Zimbabwe, as not only were we ripped off financially wherever they could with inflated exchange rates, but all of a sudden, I was now also informed that our ZAR currency, which by the way is their official currency together with the US Dollar, is not accepted as the government said our rand is to low against the US Dollar for their liking. The CHEEK! Although most of the Zimbabweans are friendly, the feeling I have of Zimbabwe is of a country which is in a time bubble, stuck in the 1970’s.
We left Zimbabwe, to travel on to Zambia, not with a feeling of “yes! We would love to visit again”. But rather a sense of sadness, that a country can deteriorate like that under a Government who is only there to look out for their own pocket, leaving the rest of its people and land to rot.
Another forgotten place


We recently did a road trip through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and travelled 5661km. So in lieu of that I leave my few tips for those interested in doing a self drive through these countries.

  1. At all cost try and avoid Beitbridge Border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.  Not only is it extremely busy, but you will most probably be “scammed”.  As soon as you stop, the “runners” are on you to assist and they will scam you out of huge amounts, under the pretext of “helping you”.  In fact, avoid all “runners” at any border post.
  2. Upon leaving South Africa, ensure you have your Interpol Clearance for your vehicle, obtainable at the SAPS.  It is worth it to spend a few hours in getting it, as you will be spared another bribe to pass the border out of Zimbabwe towards Zambia and further.
  3. Make sure you have US dollars when you travel through Zimbabwe, as they not only inflate the exchange to any amount they want, but at most places they now refuse the ZAR, even though it is their official currency.
  4. When changing money at any of the borders with the “black market” guys, make sure you keep track of your money and do your own calculations, as well as only deal with one person.  Most of the time, you will get a good rate, but they tend to flock around you and in the end you are bound to lose some money.
  5. Keep your vehicle papers together, as it quite confusing at the border posts, as they tend to send you from pillar to post and it can become quite stressful.
  6. Make sure you have all the correct markings and equipment on your vehicles, i.e reflective strips, triangles, fire extinguishers etc, as you are bound to be stopped and asked.  Specifically in Zimbabwe, as they are always ready to fine.
  7. Carry your drivers licence with you at all times, as there are numerous Police Checks on the road. 
  8. Keep to the speed limit, specially close to the villages and through the villages.
  9. Be careful of the bicycles in Zambia and Malawi.  Hundreds of them and should you bump anyone on them, you will be in for huge amounts of money, as well as a big fine and possible lock up until everything has been sorted out to their satisfaction.
  10. Make sure you put fuel in where you can, as lots of filling stations are sometimes without fuel.





Major blood ivory haul seized in Mombasa

this saddens me beyond anything.

ATC News by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome


(Posted 06th June 2014)

Reports began to emerge yesterday morning of a major blood ivory haul found in Mombasa’s Tudor estate and one of the suspects taken into custody, setting the social media alight once again with both congratulations to the Kenyan police and other security organs involved in the raid and the expression of sheer horror that at least 150 elephant had been slaughtered over the growing greed for the so called ‘White Gold’.

During a swiftly organized media briefing were reporters then told that the ivory, 228 tusks and 74 pieces cut to the size to facilitate packing, was in the process of being prepared for shipment, with a range of related materials and documents found on site. A KWS officer suggested that some of the ivory could have come as far as from the Eastern Congo as…

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26 hours of road tripping

Africa far and wide

I have missed travelling so much! With my husbands work pressure and due to political unrest in the central region of Mozambique, we have been constricted to Mafambisse and Beira! So when we made  our first trip up to Malawi over the weekend, I felt like I was a bird being let out of a cage!

Suddenly that excitement of exploring somewhere ‘new’ came flooding back. That feeling when you haven’t seen a good friend for a very long time and on seeing them again, you realise just how much you have missed them! Travel for the Ashtons is back! And a big adventure too.  My family, the 5 remaining guinea pigs, pet tortoise and 4 dogs will be moving to Malawi in 3 weeks time.

We will be camping in our own house for a few months while we wait for our furniture to arrive. And that will only happen once…

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Happy 80th Birthday to Dame Daphne Sheldrick!

Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival: Our Blog has MOVED!

In the fall of 2013, the Wildlife Film Festival welcomed Dame Daphne Sheldrick to Jackson Hole to accept our Outstanding Achievement Award. During Dame Daphne’s time in Jackson Hole, she shared incredible experiences, stories, and knowledge, impacting many who attended. You can see Dame Daphne’s keynote speech at the Festival below:

A volunteer at the Festival, Zach Montes later went on to work with the Sheldrick family in Kenya:

“When I approached Dame Daphne Sheldrick to have my copy of Love Life and Elephants signed at last years Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, I never expected that six months later, I’d literally be walking in her footsteps (and the much larger footprints of the elephants that constantly surround her. Thanks to the generosity of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work with the venerated Sheldrick family in Kenya. For two unforgettable…

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Whats wrong with wearing Lipstick in the bush??

I always wear lipstick, mostly red. Now..I dont leave my lipstick home when I go to the bush. Goes into my little bag and thats it! When I feel the need to put it on, I do. My hair might not have been brushed for the whole week, but I will have lipstick on.  Even if an Impala is going to be a meal for the lioness stalking it, whilst we are watching, I will put lipstick on.  I mean, what is wrong with that? 🙂 I do however, constantly get disgusting looks from other half when I do, as he gets irritated.  Unfortunately that is his problem  I reckon I have to look my best for this big occasion. Our favourite Game Ranger/Guide at our favourite and special Private Game Reserve, always asks me on our regular visit “Did you pack your lipstick?”. Of course I did!..sometimes I give him a little dirty look when he asks the question. I also put lipstick on when we stop for our sundowners. Its a special time of the day. Watching the sun going down in Africa and sipping a Gin&Tonic with a slice of lemon or a glass of Merlot. Just the way I like it. The lips have to be red for this of course as I cant celebrate this wonderful moment, not looking my best.  So next time you come across a woman at a lion kill putting on red lipstick, you know its me. A little wave will be okay. I will then know you have read this. Have a great day


Brood Parasite Hosts
The Arrow-marked Babbler sometimes finds itself foster-parent to a young Levaillant’s Cuckoo, sometimes called a Striped-breasted Cuckoo which it rears together with its own chicks. The Levaillant’s Cuckoo (Clamator levaillantii), a resident breeding species in Africa south of the Sahara is a brood parasite, using the nests of bulbuls and babblers including the Arrow-marked Babbler.

We have currently a brood of Cuckoos being fed and reared by the much smaller Arrow-marked Babblers in our garden.  I feel quite sorry for the Arrow-marks. The Cuckoos are extremely demanding and they want their food.  No excuses.  its lovely though to see them and its very entertaining.  But the NOISE! 




I am an African
Not because I was born there
But because my heart beats with Africa’s
I am an African
Not because my skin is black
But because my mind is engaged by Africa
I am an African
Not because I live on its soil
But because my soul is at home in Africa

When Africa weeps for her children
My cheeks are stained with tears
When Africa honours her elders
My head is bowed in respect
When Africa mourns for her victims
My hands are joined in prayer
When Africa celebrates her triumphs
My feet are alive with dancing

I am an African
For her blue skies take my breath away
And my hope for the future is bright
I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community
I am an African
For her wildness quenches my spirit
And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats in the wind
My blood pulses to its rhythm
And I become the essence of music
When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun
My senses drink in its rainbow
And I become the palette of nature
When the stories of Africa echo round the fire
My feet walk in its pathways
And I become the footprints of history

I am an African
Because she is the cradle of our birth
And nurtures an ancient wisdom
I am an African
Because she lives in the world’s shadow
And bursts with a radiant luminosity
I am an African
Because she is the land of tomorrow

And I recognise her gifts as sacred