The main objectives of the project are:
- To provide international volunteers with an opportunity to become involved in conservation issues within the Greater Kruger Park environment.
- To provide international and local exposure to the Greater Kruger Park environment as well as topical conservation issues.
- To provide project participants with a typical African bush and Big 5 experience.
- To compile a data-base of information through a consistent and standardized data capture process: vegetation density surveys, game counting and bird monitoring.
- To promote the safari and eco-tourism industry and ensure the sustainability thereof.
- To provide an opportunity for people to travel and experience Africa’s natural assets in a clean and healthy environment, under the guidance and management of expert environmentalists and operators.
- To advise management decision and demonstrate the effectiveness of management action.
- To facilitate research of topical subjects and provide tertiary education students opportunities to conduct research in these regards.
Crepuscular and Nocturnal road- side Game Census and data capture
- Volunteers to spotlight for animals from a set road network (from 4x4).
- Standardised data-capture forms to be filled in by volunteers – animal species, numbers, locations, sex, age, time and date, condition (visual).
- This is aimed at monitoring trends in the populations of the various game species. It will not provide accurate numbers for the species but will allow managers to pick up changes in population densities / dynamics. This is then measured against rainfall figures, and other events such as fires, for any correlation.
Vegetation Density surveys and data capture
- Volunteers to conduct canopy cover and basal cover surveys on foot in predetermined monitoring sites.
- Volunteers to conduct grass vs woody plants ratio at same sites.
- Visual density is assessed at the same time.
- This is aimed at providing an insight into the changes in the primary production of the reserve and will assist the managers in correlating changes in animal movements and population dynamics.
- It must be borne in mind that the reserve has a “hands off policy” with regards management and therefore this monitoring is essential to determine trends in primary producers and the effects on all species, not just the ones that are of interest to the tourists and are easy to count..
A standardized network of roads is selected and driven on a routine basis. Crepuscular animals are monitored as well as nocturnal and diurnal animals. Volunteers are required to spotlight and record any sightings. A ranger will conduct all driving and assist with identification. All data is recorded on a standardized data capture sheet and later translated onto a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel). The following data is recorded, animal species, numbers, locations, sex, age, time and date, condition (visual). “Drive counts” are conducted every morning and evening.
Vegetation monitoring is done in a random fashion and employs the “line-intercept method” for basal and canopy cover in three layers (herbaceous (grasses, etc.), graminoid (shrubs, etc.) and emergers (tall trees). Vegetation is monitored every second week.
Elephant damage will also be assessed as this is a cause for concern and controversy at present. Species and height of trees damaged as well as the phenological stage will be noted on a daily basis.