Just a quick and rather belated up-date from Paradise Camp:
- Bush and Rain: The rains came at last in April! In March we thought that we were in for a serious drought as the trees lost their leaves, the grass was already brown and the dams at 10%. Then we had it all in a few weeks and it was just in the nick of time! The trees and the grass responded and we have plenty of grazing an browsing to see us through the winter.
- Waste Management Project: We have finally managed to purchase our incinerator and build the little waste-management site. We took this responsibility on as the lodges and private farm houses were generating large quantities of house-hold refuse that posed a problem to the reserve. The incinerator, called the "HMS Sputnik", will be managed by us and jointly funded between the reserve management and the SAVANNA Project (US!). This goes a long way towards our responsibilities to minimise waste in the most ecologically friendly fashion. There is still a chance to re-cycle if a company can be found in our rural area.
- The Satellite Research Facility: The negotiations for the old Wardens House and associated work-shops and infrastructure has progressed well and we have managed to secure the house for a low rental. It is very well located and designed to serve as a research facility for the entire region and we are proud to be the first to have established a regional research base in the Greater Kruger. The University of South Africa, the University of Western Kentucky, Save the Elephants and Transfrontier Africa (SAVANNA Project) have joined forces to address the research needs of the region (both on and off the reserve), using this facility as the base of all research activities. We are still burdened with the management of the facility, including transport and staff. We will see our first researchers moving in in June!!
- Paradise Camp: The poor camp has been hit hard by baboons and elephants and was looking a bit sad as the reeds and poles were pulled all over the place. We had been investing all of our income into the above projects but have now managed to fix the camp up again. Mongoose is very excited to have a new home made from PVC pipes! Since December, we have replaced the walls of the bathrooms and kitchen area. Replaced the kitchen roof and built a car-port for our poor Land Rovers.
- Vehicles: The vehicles have really been bashed about in the last few months. The elephant collaring expedition took its toll and the "Enterprise" might never been the same again! Old "Sekorokoro" is in daily use on anti-poaching patrols and now has broken all of its suspension springs! Today, she did not start for the first time ever and this might be the end of the old beast. "Spartacus" has received new tyres and suspension bushes and is still going like a dream - in daily use with the students and volunteers as they zoot around the reserve collecting our data. "Dave" is still going strong on daily patrols and maintenance work. "Beelzebub" is still at the mechanics work-shop - after 15 months! We think that we might get this beast of a Land Rover back soon, if we can raise the money - as we need her for the new research house.
- Anti-poaching: We have continued with "Operation Nkhombe" which includes patrols at night. So far we have lost 6 rhino in the region but none in our area of jurisdiction. Of that we are proud! We are all tired and worn out and the strain on the vehicles is showing. "Happy" our tracker is doing a great job and the tracking team has pulled over 56 snares out of the bush in the past few months. We are also proud to announce that we have not lost a single animal to snaring in this last quarter. We have formed a relationship with the BaPhalaborwa Aerial Task Team (BATT) who conduct our aerial patrols and are quick to respond to any call-outs. So far so good.
- Research: Our on-going research into the impact of elephants on the woody vegetation components of the arid savannas has earned us a place on the Kruger Elephant Research Forum. Furthermore, we have forged a stronger relationship with Save the Elephants as we continue to contribute to their data-bases. Our work has produced a few internal papers that have assisted the Greater Kruger Park management in decision-making regarding our elephant population dynamics as well as predator / prey relationships. We have finished with our annual primary production surveys and am happy to say that our grass species diversity and crude protein contents have improved and increased. Our next big project is the annual game counts and animal population dynamics surveys set to begin in September.
- Alien vegetation: The seasonal drainage lines / rivers have been cleared of coggelbur and we have killed over 240 alien cactus, using our new method of foliage application of herbicides. Although we still have many live ones that we record on a daily basis when in the field, we are getting on top of the problem. We have started to map the extent of the Lantana invasion along the Olifants River and will begin trials on the most effective treatment method for this riparian invader.
All in all, our role as Game Warden and Ecological Advisors is stressing our resources to the limit and we are still proud to be able to say that we fund all of these activities from funds generated through volunteers alone! The bank might hate me for living in the red, but we sleep with a clear conscience.
I have attached some pictures so that you can see us in action! pic's of our aerial spotter planes - anti-poaching, incinerator, lab work, elephant monitoring, etc.
Regards and sorry for not writing for so long.
Ecologist: SAVANNA Project
Warden: Olifants West Region