Tag Archives: safari

Safari Night at the Explorers Club

Alison Nicholls-Safari Night at the Explorers Club

Alison Nicholls speaking about how Africa inspired her art, at The Explorers Club, New York City.

Last night I was fortunate to be sharing the stage at The Explorers Club during Safari Night, which was organized by Ann Passer and Alan Feldstein. There was wonderful music, singing and dancing from Cameroon and Tanzania, excellent food from various African countries, and speakers on topics covering the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia; clips from Born to Explore including a visit with the Hadzabe in Tanzania; the evolution of safari companies; panotriptychs of extraordinary conservationists; an update from Zimbabwe; discussion of neurosurgery in Tanzania and an introduction to remarkable Rwanda.

Richard Wiese showing clips from Born to Explore.

I spoke about the size of Africa and how living there inspired various features of my art – space, color and subject matter. I also digressed slightly into why no-one who goes to Africa should do a “walking with lions” experience. (Basically because you can only walk safely with young lions, as soon as they get older they are more dangerous. So what happens to them once they get too large to safely walk with tourists? They can’t be released as they are used to people and can’t hunt. The most likely end is a sad one – they are sold to canned hunting operations and shot. Their bones may even end up being sold to meet the increasing international demand for lion bone.)

I did end on a more amusing note though:
When I was planning to move to Zimbabwe from London, I was asked a question by many Londoners. Years later, when I was planning to move to New York from Botswana, I was asked the very same question by many Batswana (citizens of Botswana). The question was: “Isn’t it dangerous there?”

Everything is relative…
Take care
Alison

www.artinspiredbyafrica.com

From The Rocks by Alison Nicholls

From The Rocks 30×20″ acrylic by Alison Nicholls

If you go on safari to Africa and visit well-known game reserves or national parks, there is a very, very good chance you will see lions. In fact you may even see plentiful lions. This was the case on the last Art Safari I lead for Africa Geographic magazine in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. I believe we saw 30 different individuals in 4 days. I came away with an inordinate number of lion sketches. By the end of the safari we were actively searching for zebra because we hadn’t sketched those!

It is wonderful to see so many lions but it also gives many visitors the false impression that lions are numerous and there is no need to worry about their conservation. (Incidentally, there are many other aspects of a typical safari that can give visitors a very, very skewed idea of what real life in Africa is like, but that is for another blog post!)

Lion numbers (like those of many other African species) have declined precipitously across most of their range, particularly outside protected areas, even though many of these unprotected areas are vitally important for hunting, breeding and dispersal.

A century ago there were approximately 200,000 lions in Africa. Today there are less than 30,000.

There are now only 7 countries in Africa which have a population of more than 1000 lions.

Many of the lions I sketch are snoozing but we can’t fall asleep on our watch. We need to ensure that people and wildlife can successfully share the land they need in order to thrive. Its a huge task but there are some wonderful organizations working in the field towards this end. I have spent time with one of them – the African People & Wildlife Fund in northern Tanzania. Their Living Walls program protects livestock (from predators), habitat (from deforestation) and lions (from conflict with people). If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate to, you might want to check out their website!

Read more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.

From The Rocks (above) is available for sale as an original or as a limited edition reproduction. A percentage from each sale will be donated to the African People & Wildlife Fund. Please visit my Original Paintings website page for details.
Until next time…

Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.
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On The Edge by ANicholls

On The Edge by ANicholls

On The Edge
Acrylic on Canvas  24×30” by Alison Nicholls

During my visit to the Painted Dog Conservation project in Zimbabwe, I spent time with Esther van der Meer who was conducting research on the painted dogs (also known as African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus). We spent several days visiting waterholes both inside and outside Hwange National Park while she recorded details of kudu & impala, the main prey species for the dogs in this area. I was only present for a very small part of Esther’s research but I was interested in knowing her findings so after she completed and successfully defended her Doctoral Thesis, she sent me a copy. This painting was based on her work. Is the Grass Greener on the Other Side? Testing the Ecological Trap Hypothesis for African Wild Dogs in and around Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

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On The Edge shows Painted Dogs (African wild dogs, Lycaon pictus) leaving Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and entering the buffer zone – a mix of commercial farms, communal areas, trophy hunting & photographic safari areas which border the park. The right-hand side of the painting represents the national park while the left-hand side represents the buffer zone. The border of the painting consists of the spoor (tracks) of kudu, impala, lion, hyena, people and vehicles.

Painted dogs in this area are choosing to live in the buffer zone rather than in relative safety of the national park. Research has shown that both the national park and the buffer zone contain similar densities of the dogs’ main prey species, impala and kudu but the buffer zone contains more dense vegetation. This results in higher hunting success and shorter chases, leading to better fed dogs and larger litters of pups. Lions and hyenas, which may steal kills, or even kill dogs & their pups, are also less likely to be encountered in the buffer zone. On The Edge illustrates this with consistent numbers of impala and kudu tracks throughout, but more lion and hyena tracks inside the national park (right-hand side of painting).

Dogs use these seemingly sound ecological clues when making decisions about where to live and hunt. As a result they are abandoning safer habitat inside Hwange National Park, selecting territories inside or close to the buffer zone and thereby exposing themselves to increased human activity. This is illustrated in On The Edge by the people & vehicle tracks which are only found in the buffer zone (left-hand side of painting). Dogs in the buffer zone are being snared, shot and run over on the roads at a rate faster than they can reproduce, however they seem unable to take humans and the danger of being near them, into account when deciding to live in or near the buffer zone.

How can conservationists use this research to help dogs survive this Ecological Trap? Forcibly keeping dogs inside the national park would require a fence, which would restrict the movement of other species. Altering the vegetation density and lion/hyena numbers inside the park to entice dogs to stay there, would be a daunting task and would have ramifications for the entire habitat. One viable conservation option is to make the buffer zone safer for dogs and other species by reducing snares, limiting speed limits on roads and educating people about living with dogs – all of which are areas of focus for the Painted Dog Conservation project.

On the Edge was inspired by Dr van der Meer’s 2011 Doctoral Thesis Is the Grass Greener on the Other Side? Testing the Ecological Trap Hypothesis for African Wild Dogs in and around Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. 30% of the proceeds from the sale of the painting will be donated to the Painted Dog Conservation project to help make the buffer zone safer for Painted Dogs.

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On The Edge is an original acrylic on canvas, 24×30″, priced at US$3500 excluding taxes and shipping. Please contact me for details or visit www.NichollsWildlifeArt.com to see more of my African Inspired Art, including smaller originals, field sketches and limited edition giclées.
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.

Dr van der Meer is now working to conserve cheetahs in Zimbabwe. You can read more about her work by visiting the Cheetah Zimbabwe Facebook page.

Until next time…
Alison

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