Second Quarter of 2024 - UmPhafa

Animals of UmPhafa

Fabulous news this quarter was the approval of the cheetah permit! Taking two and half years, we were over the moon to finally receive this coveted permit. We are already in contact with the Cheetah Advisory Committee about receiving two males and one female soon.

The wild dogs stayed with us for the entire quarter. We bonded them in April and they starting mating in early May and we know the Alpha female is now pregnant. We think she will give birth early July so lets hope they have left by then! The buffalo have continued having babies and we are now up to 21 buffalo roaming UmPhafa which includes 8 babies.

This quarter was busy on the animal front, we welcomed 101 blesbok, 10 ostrich and 2 male giraffes to join our tower of giraffe and bring new genes to our giraffe population. The game capture team also came and took 31 male kudu, 82 zebra and 30 male wildebeest. Leopard sightings have also increased again this quarter with the interns and staff seeing them every week.

We also had an expert from the Department of Agriculture join us for 5 days – Cobus, who has been doing vegetation surveys on reserves for 30 years, helped us do the first official survey. In total we did 22 sites across the Reserve in different vegetation areas. With the data taken from these sites, we can then establish what the carrying capacity (number of animals we can have comfortably have on the Reserve) will be for the Reserve moving forward.

Busy Field Rangers

Another busy quarter with 4500km of fence line patrolled. We have focused the team even more in the hotspot areas which has seen a 25% reduction in incursions, although we have seen an increase in the number of poacher’s dogs that have been inside the Reserve. For the first time in 3 years a snare was found and removed along the fence – maybe poachers are resorting to new tactics.

In May we took a delivery of our new thermal drone. This means that when we know poachers are in the Reserve at night, we can send the drone out to locate them as they move around, a real asset in the war on poaching. We are currently training with it to make sure we handle it in the correct manner. It’s also great for locating animals day and night!

We attended a meeting this quarter with the Bateleurs, who are pilots who volunteer their time and aircraft to help us do poaching patrols around the Drakensberg area. It was a really good meeting and we are hoping to start the patrols in the next few months.

Caring for the Reserve

This quarter was all about getting the fence lines ready for the perimeter burns. Unfortunately, receiving rain late into the season, we couldn’t start until June as everywhere was still green. We are almost 70% there but with fierce winds forecast from July we may struggle to get finished. We completed the main ranger outpost as well as installing a new solar geyser so they have hot water to shower in after a long day patrolling the Reserve.

With one of our boreholes collapsing, we employed a company to come and do a site evaluation in several areas for us to sink new boreholes. So far, we have had two drilled with a good amount of water being reported. Each borehole has been drilled to 84m and 102m. We are hoping to have a third one drilled next quarter which will feed our intern accommodation. The new Ryefield borehole has now got it’s solar set up so it’s starting to pump water into our wetlands area – we are hoping over time this will become a good home for many endangered water birds.

To help us with our maintenance we have managed to sell our old TLB and get two for the price of one, meaning we can do more work across the Reserve to fix roads etc. Also purchasing a new tractor, helps us ferry trailers and grass cutting machinery around the Reserve. With the solar installed across the Reserve we have managed to reduce our electricity supply footprint, going solar on all our fences as well switching the power off to one of our houses.

Community & Project Meetings

We had a second meeting with the Nkosi (chief) of the AmaHlubi tribe and his 20 Indunas to discuss a few areas concerning the Roosboom Community – we are hoping that over time this relationship will strengthen.

With lots of pecan nuts on our trees along the river Tugela we asked for some local ladies to come in and collect the nuts ready for sale in the local town. In total they collected 512kg. We were excited that with the profits we have managed to purchase four new trial camera traps.

We had a fabulous day out at the athletics meet at the M L Sultan Colenso Primary school with a group of interns from East Coast Turing, who provided 620 donuts for the children and teachers.

Intern Program & Researchers

This has been a busy quarter with 33 students joining us from across 3 UK universities. As well as getting involved with the wild dogs, game capture, game release, camera trapping, our burning and maintenance program, they have all done a variety of activities as well as seeing lots of leopard on their drives around the Reserve.

We were also joined by Jeff Morris who wanted to take samples of the bottlebrush trees we have on the Reserve for a Professor in Pretoria who is researching the different species of bottlebrush trees in South Africa.

Getting Social

We are currently sitting at 3757 followers on Facebook so please help us to reach 4000 this year by sharing our posts with your friends! Our best posts this quarter were about the giraffe releases, the wild dogs and camera trapping videos, which always go down well!

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