First Quarter of 2024 - UmPhafa

Animals of UmPhafa

Again, the news topping the chart this quarter was the birth of six new buffalo babies, making our herd now nineteen! It is a pleasure to see them walking around on the top of Ithala. We are hoping in the next few years, that these animals will start to help improve the veld condition with their big bulky bodies moving around the Reserve.

We were also lucky enough to get two male wild dogs in February and two females joined us in March. We are hoping to bond them in April before they head to Zululand and their new home. We have had some outstanding sightings of leopards this quarter including several cubs, they all seem to be getting quite relaxed around the cars.

Last year Ian and Olive were lucky enough to have ten chicks, of those ten just two have survived and it’s great to see them walking around the Reserve together. We did a small giraffe capture this quarter, with just four juvenile giraffes being captured ready to go to their new home – it was quite a site to behold as they were loaded into the trucks.

FreeMe Wildlife contacted us in February to look after and release two large spotted genets and three spotted eagle owls – the interns fed them for a few weeks before the owls and genets decided it was time to be free. We are hoping they are enjoying the Reserve and will remain with us.

The bees also came back for a vacation into the garage roof of the lodge, luckily enough Bushveld Bees were on hand to help us remove them from the roof. We have also seen a large number of snakes, mainly the Mozambique spitting cobra and the puff adder – they have been looking for somewhere warm to go which is usually around the buildings. Luckily enough we have people on hand to remove them far into the Reserve.

We recorded the highest game count numbers in January since December 2022, with zebra topping the charts but also, we saw 109 nyala, our highest count of these pretty animals. Just two new species recorded this quarter included a painted reed frog and a bird – the purple crested turaco.

Busy Field Rangers

We started off this quarter with celebrating Field Ranger of the Year, Zweli. He has constantly performed above and beyond in his role and was rewarded with a new Kaliber Multi tool knife – a very useful tool for being on the Reserve.

We had a similar number of incursions this quarter with 30, last quarter was 31. We also had 25m of fence stolen. One of our Field Rangers left this quarter but we still managed to patrol just under 5000km on foot deterring quite a few poachers from coming into the Reserve.

The Field Rangers completed their Security Grading Exams and we just need to do some more paperwork for registration and then hopefully our Field Rangers will be armed. Other training they received was for Basic First Aid, a critical skill we all need in case of accidents in the Bush!

Caring for the Reserve

We have been doing a multitude of tasks this quarter but most importantly is the fight against alien invaders – the Lantana plant, which we cut and spray to kill it. Lantana is both poisonous to humans and animals and can spread like wild fire. Therefore, we constantly have to check the growth of this plant – we brought in six ladies from the community who for the past 3 months have helped to clear 364 hectares.

With little rain received we also started to cut the grass and trees along the perimeter fence ready to start burning early. However, with a downpour the last week in March, the Reserve has again greened up and filling our dams with some much-needed water.

We tiled and painted a further two rooms of our intern house at Sully making the rooms look spacious and tidy. Mark started work on his new Hydraulic pump for his water cart, ready for the burning season – even painting it red, so it is on call for any wild fires that come through.

With the buffalo’s now present on the Reserve we have also put-up new signs on the Reserve fence warning would be intruders that we have dangerous game on the Reserve. We also spent several weeks building new gabions to prevent erosion as well as cutting the long grass from the Boma ready for the Wild Dogs to stay in.

Community & Project Meetings

We were introduced to the Chief and local Indunas that oversee the running of the community around the Reserve. Having not met them before this was a great start to the relationship which hopefully will continue and help us with all aspects of community collaboration over the following years. We also continued with our meetings for wild dogs and cheetahs as well as the usual security meetings.

Intern Program

Tiffany our new Student Intern Coordinator joined us this quarter – as well as helping to run the program she will also continue her practical year of study with us. With three Interns joining us this quarter they have been involved in game capture, looking after the wild dogs, vegetation surveys, camera trapping, alien plant removals, as well as getting the chance to fly in a helicopter over the Reserve.

Getting Social

As we continue to post on Facebook and Instagram we have got another 87 followers, the best likes were on our posts about the wild dogs, leopard sightings, buffalo babies and celebrating Ranger of the Year. We would love to increase our numbers of followers to 4000 so please share and like our pages so we can reach this milestone.

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