Last Quarter of 2023 - UmPhafa

Animals of UmPhafa

The biggest news this quarter was the introduction of 16 Buffalo to the Reserve – 4 males and 12 females – a process that took 2 years to achieve and just a few days into January 2024 we have had a baby buffalo – we are hoping more are on the way!

We have been working hard on our Cheetah permit this quarter putting in an 18-page cheetah management plan for review by Ezemvelo (the local office that looks after all permitting of animals in Kwa-Zulu Natal) – the next meeting isa in the New Year when we will get a decision on whether we can introduce Cheetah to the Reserve.

This quarter saw the highest game count this year totalling 2155 animals, just slightly more than the count in January – this of course is the time for babies to be seen frolicking around the Reserve. Highlights for us included the increase in the Nyala numbers – these shy animals are rarely seen but all came out in December to be counted.

Olive and Ian, the Ostrich parents unfortunately only have 3 chicks left – we continue to monitor and hope these 3 will reach adulthood

Dani from Wildlife Act representing Panthera came out to put up camera traps around the Reserve to monitor the Leopard corridor between Weenan Game Reserve and Zingela – the cameras were in situ for 6 weeks and have now been removed to Zingela. A report will be issued in due course to see if the leopards are moving between Reserves. A leopard was also captured in the neighbouring community and moved to Dinokeng Reserve in Pretoria for the safety of the Community.

6 new species recorded across UmPhafa this quarter including the Buffalo was 2 new birds, a bug, a frog and a snake.

Sadly, we lost 21 animals this quarter, with the rain only arriving in November many warthogs and Wildebeest did not make it – these are only the carcasses we found so there could be more!

But finally on Christmas Day our Maintenance Manger Mark got to meet Chewy’s 2 new leopard cubs – she was very proud showing them off to him!

Busy Field Rangers

This quarter is always a busy time for our Field Rangers so we employed 2 new Field Rangers to join the team who are doing very well. All our Rangers went through Fire Arm training this quarter, whilst we were not keen on arming the Rangers, we are hoping that this will act more of a deterrent and that these arms will not get used. However, with the increase in fence theft, we lost 75m in December and had 31 incursions into the Reserve or potential incursions that were foiled by the Rangers having guns is necessary as many of the Poachers coming into the Reserve carry arms and spears and will use them to try and escape. The Rangers are out day and night and have walked just under 5000 km’s as well as doing vehicle patrols and critical observation posts. Further training was given on how to approach Buffalo on foot when on patrol – a critical skill!

Caring for the Reserve

The new Solar system was installed this quarter and we were all very excited that our power would stay on when Eskom (the electricity supplier) turns our power off (called load-shedding). The system is working well but will need a few tweaks to ensure it is fully green.

Work continues on the rebuild of our Security outpost, it is now liveable and we just have a few finishing touches to do in January.

We have also been clearing some areas of Accacia Karoo which is a shrub that encroaches on all areas, once removed this creates a wide-open space for the animals to enjoy – we only remove the smaller bushes and so far have cleared 3.5 hectares

The lantana ladies have been back again this quarter, employed from the local Community they are working hard to clear an Alien Plant called Lantana which left unchecked could cover the whole Reserve making the Bush inedible, this quarter we have cleared 227 hectares.

Finally, to improve the grassland we burnt 1545 hectares ready for when the rains come, which finally arrived towards the end of November.

Community & Project Meetins

Our yearly visit to M L Sultan school happened when Luhan our student coordinator went to visit and educate 360 children on recycling – think he had a busy few weeks doing that! The Interns were lucky enough to join and enjoyed seeing the students in the school. Lots of meetings again with a visit from the Cheetah Advisory Group to check out the Reserve and see if it is suitable for Cheetah – it was great to meet them and take them around.

Intern Program

We had 12 Interns join us for the remainder of the year – although days were getting hot the Interns were still super active, making a contribution by fixing roads, clearing bush, spraying Alien plants and doing research and surveys on the Reserve.

Getting Social

Our Facebook and Instagram pages are getting more and more followers as we try to put posts up about the Interns as well as what is happening on the Reserve, as you can imagine our most liked post was of the arrival of the Buffalo and also the video about our Cheetah program and Ostrich babies. If you have not already liked us on these social media platforms please do so and we can continue to inform you of the Reserves progress.

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