Summary of 2023 - UmPhafa

Let the round up begin…


Apart from May where we were unable to do a game count, the Interns and Management went out each month with October being an aerial game count – you can see by the figures it seemed to make little difference to the numbers being in the air as opposed to being on the ground.

Nov 2022Dec 2022Jan 2023Feb 2023Mar 2023Apr 2023May 2023
2,1712,6482,0811,9421,6871,443Not Done
Jun 2023Jul 2023Aug 2023Sep 2023Oct 2023Nov 2023Dec 2023

Despite having an increase in figures last year of 500, we have dropped this year by 400 animals, we know this is partly due to losing a lot of the elderly, sick animals in the 4th quarter, with little rain there was not much to eat. Despite the use of an increased number of licks we were getting to the stage where we were considering buying hay bales. Luckily the rain came eventually in November. Also the number of babies recorded is considerably less as the animals seem to wait for better conditions with the Wildebeest and Impala only giving birth after Christmas – maybe they knew something we didn’t!

SpeciesDec 2021Dec 2022Dec 2023Highest number recorded this year
Common Reedbuck11131016
Mountain Reedbuck10231733
Red Hartebeest78735757

We had 2 exciting events this year with the introduction of 16 Buffalo which we are hoping will eventually make a huge difference to the Grassland – they seem to have decided Ithala is the place for them, hopefully they will move around more during the Winter looking for juicy grass!

Whilst Ian and Olive the Ostrich parents lost all the chicks in early 2023, again they tried and had another 10 chicks, they are currently down to 3!

New species recorded for the year include:
Mammals – Buffalo, Aardwolf
Birds – Grey-headed Kingfisher, Sentinel Rock Thrush
Insects – Stink Bug
Reptiles – Short Snouted Grass Snake
Amphibians – Tremelo Sand Frog


As you know 2022 was a record year for rain, this year not so much and with the rains only starting properly in November, there were massive worries about the animals and we lost quite a few ill and elderly animals who could not cope with the lack of nourishment. Despite an increased number of licks being put out, there were worries and our thoughts went to the potential buying of hay bales.


Security / Poaching

2023 saw the losses of fence in Quarter 1 & 4 only. After working out the cost of the lost fence including the cost of repairing holes by animals and poachers which amounts to approximately R7040 (£300). At an average rate of R1000 per animal lost we have confirmed to have lost R19000 (£800) in animals but this could be much higher as we can only confirm if we see blood but many times animals can be taken and put in bags for easy removal! Following on from the big shooting of dogs in December 2022, the year has seen a decrease in dogs being used, only having shot 6 this year also impacts the poachers ability to hunt for the animals. However, 3 spears, a hat and several pairs of gloves and pliers have been left behind by poachers. The animals have continued to damage and make holes in the fence which takes up a lot of time for the Rangers to fix. December 2023 saw a different approach taken by poachers to making large holes in the fence and then putting molasses outside the fence to entice the animals out – we think we were lucky and discovered these sites before we lost any animals!

With the £2,000 donated this year from an anonymous donor it has made a big difference to the Field Rangers ability to do their role – 5 pairs of binoculars, 4 Game Pro Torches and a Solar Camera Trap. Not only that but with our new relationship with Wildlife Protection Services, they donated 3 Solar Camera Traps valued at R45000 (£1900) which are working well.


We hosted 53 Interns at Sully this year which included groups from Writtle, Suffolk and East Coast University. We recruited a new Student Intern, Luhan, who we made permanent once Cameron left half way through the year.

Feedback on the program has been good this year and some Interns have been lucky enough to experience game capture which included a flip in a helicopter, spent the day with Rigardt collecting Giraffe DNA samples and the release of the Buffalo which were all highlights. They have done a variety of maintenance including licks, road repair, painting fence poles, building owl boxes, Alien plant clearing, bush encroachment as well as many more.

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