Third Quarter of 2023 - UmPhafa

July – September 2023

This quarter has been busy with interns arriving on the reserve, aerial game counts and the arrival of more Ostrich chicks and a rare sighting of an Aardwolf.

Animals of UmPhafa

Game Counts have been pretty much even numbers over the last 3 months totalling just under 1400 each month. In September we did an aerial game count, we were expecting the numbers to be higher but unfortunately with the thick bush in quite a few areas it was difficult to ‘buzz’ the animals out from under the trees. Numbers usually go up towards the end of the year so we are hoping for some bigger counts then.

Ian & Olive, our Ostrich parents who had all their chicks eaten by Jackals earlier in the year, have another 10 chicks, 2 have been lost already but we are hoping they manage to keep the rest alive.

We have been lucky to spot a pair of Secretary birds nesting on the reserve, however high winds this last month has moved them on to another area!

We had Righardt join us from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, he collected a 20% sample of our Giraffe DNA and we are awaiting to hear what sub species of Giraffe we have on the reserve. The Giraffe have also been popping out babies, so far in the last 2 months we have seen 5 new bundles of joy.

Another first sighting was that of an Aardwolf – the picture unfortunately is not great but the shape is there so it could possibly be our first sighting of this very shy individual!

Unfortunately, with no rain received since May, the bush is still looking so dry and we have lost several animals – mainly the old and sick; we are doing rain dances every day in the hope it will start raining soon!

Busy Field Rangers

This quarter we have had an increased number of incursion attempts and have lost at least 7 animals to poaching that we are aware of; this is despite the Field Rangers patrolling just under 5000km’s this quarter. The poachers also took one of our sensor lights and a new camera trap purchased just last year – we have now designed our own new cages to secure our camera traps to the trees. Poachers also left behind a spear, gloves and fencing equipment which we have added to our collections of items left on the reserve by poachers. As well as patrolling, the Field Rangers have helped out 3 times with putting out wild fires; 2 were put in by the Community burning their fields to improve the grazing for their cattle and unfortunately the fire jumped into the reserve and the other ‘wild fire’ was a lightening strike which they managed to put on effectively. The Field Rangers are great at stepping up in any emergency.

Caring for the Reserve

We have been getting the reserve ready for the rains which will hopefully come in October with a total of 41 mitre drains (bumps on road for drainage) and 8 gabions built (stones in cages in high erosion areas), we have also done several hectares of brush packing (cut trees put on eroded areas to stop the flow of water), to try and prevent more damage to certain areas of the reserve.

We have also started building a new OP camp for our Field Rangers which is in a pivotal position from which to do foot patrols.

In all the projects that we do we try to recycle or use natural products and on 11 projects we have managed to do just that.

We have been super excited the past month as we are getting solar installed for the whole reserve meaning that when the power goes off (called loadshedding) we won’t. It will be great to be totally green!

Community & Project Meetings

With the lack of rain, the water has been drying up all over and we have helped on several occasions to give water to the community. We also had a student stay with us for a few days and we put him to work cleaning the road that borders the reserve of all the rubbish that people throw out of their car windows. In total he collected 16 bags of rubbish and 6 bakkie loads! Well Done!

This has also been a busy quarter for meetings as we try to set up future projects with the Cheetah Advisory Group, Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Department of Agriculture and fisheries as well as Panthera (leopard studies) to name but a few!

Intern program

We had 21 Interns join us this quarter including 1 university group. They covered a variety of activities and some of them even got the chance to do Rhino dehorning and game capture on another Reserve. One of the most important jobs at the moment is putting out ‘licks’ for our animals due to the lack of tasty vegetation around. The licks are made up of salt, molasses, lime and phosphorus to give the animals some much needed nutrients.

 We also hosted 33 students from the UKZN University who were doing their practical element of ‘soil’ studies. They walked miles as they went up and down hills collecting samples over a week.

Getting Social

We have seen a steady increase in followers on social media which we are hoping will continue. As well as features about the Interns, we also like to include stories of our animals as well. The favourite posts this quarter were about the game capture and Hyena v Leopard!

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