First Quarter of 2023 - UmPhafa

January – March 2023

The year started with Freddy the Tropical Cyclone affecting us from Mozambique with lots of rain and hail. Once the cyclone passed, maintenance was required on the Reserve for the next 3 months.

Animals of UmPhafa

The first two game counts of the year were similar to those done at the end of 2022 however, in March 2023 we saw an additional 780 animals compared with March 2022. This may be due to the amount of rain we received, keeping the vegetation fresh and green. Therefore, there were more sightings of the animals in the open before they moved off into the thickets for winter.

Unfortunately, as of March, only 4 Ostrich chicks survived from the 11 born last year.

We have had some amazing sightings of Blue Cranes with chicks, Crowned Cranes doing their mating dances as well as a new species for the Reserve – the Natal Sand Frog.

The 3 male Wild Dogs, Dennis, Menace and Shadow who joined us back in December 2022, left in March 2023 and travelled to Pongola before being released into their new home.

Busy Field Rangers

With the start of the New Year, we were expecting an increase in poaching incidences but these were down on last year which was great for the Reserve. Despite this, we still had 16 incursions but only 5 animals were taken whereas in Quarter 4 of 2022, we lost 20 animals. We had 30 metres of fence stolen in 2 incidents. In total, the Rangers patrolled over 5000 kilometres of the Reserve, keeping our animals safe.

Caring for the Reserve

With the amount of rain this quarter, the focus has been on repairing roads and building gabions to reduce and remove the flow of water off the roads and fence lines. In total, 62 mitre drains were fixed and 50 new ones created. A mitre drain reduces the flow of water on the road and moves it into the bush, therefore reducing erosion and ensuring the road remains drivable. 6 new gabions were built to stop the erosion along the fence lines.

A team of 6 ladies were employed from the local community to become Alien Plant destroyers and so far, they have cleared 31 hectares of Lantana – a veracious toxic plant that affects the health of the animals and in some cases can kill them if eaten.

We continue to use natural materials where we can in our projects, with the thatch collected last year being used for the bush camp roof extension as well as poplar trees being used to make an owl box. Recycling is always important and we have used old metal to build lockable cage for our herbicide and we have fitted the old windows and doors from the lodge to the bush camp extension.

Community & Project Meetings

This quarter we have spent time with the local communities bordering in UmPhafa. We learnt who the Induna’s were (chiefs) for the local communities and have since had several meetings concerning Leopards in the community as well as discussing options for us to introduce Cheetah and Buffalo to UmPhafa. We have also had several meetings about a new satellite tracking system we are hoping to introduce later in the year for our priority species.

Intern Program

We had 4 interns join us for the start of the New Year and they all stayed for 3 months doing a variety of activities, projects and tasks – they were even able to help out on game capture and went for a ride in a helicopter!

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