A very hot and sweaty greeting to our volunteers! I am not used to writing blogs of this nature and this is only my 2ndone! I could never compete with John’s wit!
Our position as Ecological Managers of this section of the Greater Kruger National Park was secured for another year following the annual general meeting in August. As if we do not have enough work to do….we have now taken over the entire management burden of the OlifantsWest Section. This includes the administration function, infrastructure and staff management as well as the security and anti-poaching. This has placed a massive burden on our resources and poor old John will never get that elusive girlfriend at this rate!
We still do not accept any financial benefits from the management body and will continue to follow this principle until we feel comfortable that the budget is not padded from the proceeds of commercial hunting. I mention this as the SAVANNA Project and all of our activities are funded and managed solely from volunteers passing through our camp! We have also been lucky to receive a few substantial donations from Pennies for Ellies, founded around our camp-fire and managed by Vivian Burns! With this money we have managed to repair our ailing vehicles and fund a few aspects of our research on elephants. Ezulwini Lodges continue to support our efforts and Pondoro lodge, owned and managed by Robbie Prehn, “donated” a fantastic land rover to our fleet! This vehicle has been named “Spartacus” as it seems to be indestructible and looks very tough!
We seem to have generated a massive following on the reserve and have gained much support. Our biggest flaw remains our communications with the outside world and we miss opportunities to contribute to the broader management of the Kruger Park because we struggle to access internet and proper office facilities most of the time! Be that as it may, we continue to invest money into up-grading power supplies and computer gadgets!
Some interesting things that have been noted in the past quarter include the rhino poaching that has gripped our Province and we initiated a preventative operational plan to avert disaster in our little patch of the savannah. So far, so good! We have not lost one of our rhino yet but our resources are now stretched to the maximum and our trackers and anti-poaching vehicle needs rest! How long can we keep it up??!!
One of the elephants that our project helped to collar was tracked and found after the collar failed. We have now confirmed that the animal is alive and well and the collar will be replaced shortly. Our colleagues from the Save the Elephants are coordinating with the manufacturers of the radio-satellite collar and we look forward to replacing the collar.
Elephants have escaped out of the western boundary fence again and we have found that they move under the bridge on the Olifants River! We managed to convince the government authorities to allow them a chance to move back in and that should they be within range, we would rise money for a helicopter to chase them back inside! So far, we know of nine animals that have moved out of the Kruger in our section. They are now in farm lands and although we have approached the farmers and been assured of their co-operation, I am not optimistic.
Our anti-poaching efforts have yielded a few major breakthroughs in the reserve and several internal workers have been arrested and fired as a result of our efforts. We have collected a massive number of snares and developed a strategy to ensure that these unselective weapons of mass destruction are not employed with success in our area. We have closed many windows of opportunity for the subsistence poacher and must just keep the pressure on!
Our data-capture regime is sill ticking over and work begins this month in earnest! The poor volunteers that join the project at this time of the year are in for a lot of hard work. Apart from the routine work, we now embark on vegetation surveys, starting with grass biomass,and then the animal census begins. These are long hours in land rovers and measuring grasses! Call me sadistic, but I enjoy it! Our data-bases have become invaluable now as we have several years’ worth of data and have developed a standardized reporting regime to streamline our advice to the decision-makers. Already we have indicated the value of our work when the senior decision makers ask our advice on issues ranging from predator dynamics to water-point management.
I should mention that the mongoose, Evil Eva, is still alive and kicking……..as is the bloody honey badger that raids our kitchen almost every night for the past three years!
We have discovered a new pride of lions in the eastern section and this small pride of five animals has visited Paradise Camp recently. We often hear them serenading us all through the night as they attempt to establish a territory here.
On the home-front, our brows and graze biomass is looking very good still, even at this late period in the year and I am sure that we will have sufficient primary production for the remainder of the winter season. The water resources have also held out although some of the hippos have started to move around. It will be interesting to compare the standing crop biomass data with last year, as we enjoyed a spectacular rain season last summer.
As a result, the animals are looking good and we still see huge herds of buffalo grazing in our section.