Quest Overseas (Research)
(Information provided by Mike Lamb, Quest Overseas. Nov 2005.)
Quest Overseas has been working in Swaziland since 2001 sending 9 teams over the five years and raising over £100,000 to support their projects, directed towards the Lubombo Conservancy area in the east of the country.
Quest has worked with SNTC at Mlawula closely since 2001 initiating various infrastructure projects including help with developing and maintaining fences, information boards, nurseries, trails, a picnic site and many others.
Quest has also developed a research programme in Swaziland, which was developed after a detailed recce in the country. The programme encompasses four parks in the country, but within Mlawula two main issues have been researched.
The most significant problem that needed addressing was the devastating proliferation of the alien plant species Chromolaena odorata, Parthenium hysterophorous and Lantana camera. These are all non-indigenous plants to Southern Africa and were most likely brought over from Latin America on the ships arriving in Durban and Maputo harbours.
The major problem with having these invasive species in the game reserves is that they are unpalatable to indigenous African animals and so quickly dominate overgrazed areas and grow rapidly out of control. If allowed to grow uncontrolled the animals in the parks would simply die of starvation or be forced onto neighbouring farm land, neither is a viable option for the future success of the Conservancy aims.
Initial baseline surveys in 2001 proved successful in identifying the location of the worst effected areas of the alien plant invasions. In the following years Quest Overseas teams have surveyed accessible park areas, in badly affected areas, for the species on an annual basis therefore building up a profile of newly infected regions and also the success of different eradication techniques.
At the same time surveys have been completed on the rare cycads found in Mlawula which are at potential risk of extinction. Surveys identifying and mapping the plants have produced information which will hopefully help to protect the vulnerable and very localised species Encephalartos umbeluziensis.
Countless other surveys have been completed in the Lubombo Conservancy by Quest Overseas teams on cycads, tree species, grass species, mammal locations and abundance, bird identification and also on native weed species such as Dichrostachys sp and the round leafed teak.
As well as through research Quest Overseas is helping to aid conservation in Swaziland through environmental education, infrastructure improvements and community projects. To find out more about these or to read more about our research please see our web site www.questoverseas.com or contact our Science and Education Co-ordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.