The Olifants West Sector of Balule and more specifically, our little Paradise Camp, has been experiencing many exciting new developments!
Craig Spencer’s plans of world domination are progressing nicely, aided by his recent appointment as Warden of Olifants West. Now he rants even more while he parades around the fire enveloped in a cloud of pipe smoke. His appointment will potentially increase our influence concerning ecological management of The Olifants West Sector of Balule and we are excited for the future.
On a sad note we said goodbye to the great Mr. Fox last month at the airport amidst a torrent of tears (mostly from weeping women!). His VISA expired and he has returned home. We are currently in communications with the Foxinator to represent us and initiate potential projects in Kenya. He will be sorely missed. Sometimes Spencer finds an old item of Fox’s clothing, or his old pipe, and just breaks down. But we will be okay. On the flipside we welcome a new member of staff to Paradise Camp. A young, mysterious man known only as Dumsani, who hails from one of the local communities in Mpumalanga Province. He is tasked with camp maintenance and irritating Spencer by singing Gospel songs and incessant raking of the pathways at 6 am every morning.
Eva the mongoose continues her rain of terror. Recently 5 other mongooses, (all male) moved into Paradise and attempted to copulate with her. Unfortunately she proved too feisty for them and they retreated to River Lodge where they have set up a temporary base until they are brave enough to face the utter ruthlessness of Eva the Mongoose again. She continues to pee on all our electrical appliances (and pretty much everything else expensive) on a daily basis. We are all too scared to do anything about it. To make eye contact with her is to invite certain death.
Sekorokoro continues to run beautifully after her makeover and serves us well on a daily basis; often outshining newer, shinier Land Rovers with her grit and determination.
Leopard sightings are on the increase in our area, and two cubs have been spotted just adjacent to Paradise Camp. Nighttimes at Paradise are punctuated by a cacophony of sounds, ranging from lions, a leopard this week who sounded like he was right in camp, and hyena; who incidentally were in camp this week. Sitting watching us as we sat around the fire at night, their green eyes glowing in the moonlight. Apparently we had elephants feeding right in the middle of our camp this week as well. Admittedly I thought the noise was just our old friend Boris the Badger turning our kitchen into Ground Zero again, and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. Due to the frightening levels of Rhino poaching in the Kruger Park (over 120 White Rhino have been poached in this region over the last year) we are currently involved in the creation of an anti-poaching team, due to the fact that we have many White and 4 Black Rhino in our region. Because Black Rhino are so rare they have been fitted with transmitting devices in their horns which we track by means of an antennae which Craig is constantly holding up to the heavens these days. He looks like he is attempting to make contact with the mother ship. Every now and then we hear a blip from the transmitting devices which let us know these beasts are alive and well out there somewhere.
Dark thunderclouds gather in the sky threateningly and tease the dry land but still offers no relief. We are excited for the rains which will transform the landscape into one composed of vivid shades of green where life blossoms around every corner.
I have finally completed my elephants influence on trees research. Our hypothesis was proved in terms of the influence of roads on elephant damage. We found that damage was magnified along the roads as elephants moved along roads and fed on trees on the verge of the road. The significance of this is that perceptions of elephant damage could be magnified owing to the fact that managers, and people in general travel along roads and visually assess damage. It was deduced that damage to trees is less 10 metres away from the road but people assume the damage they visually assess as they travel along roads could be extrapolated across the entire reserve. It is deduced that this is not the case. Additionally trees seem to regenerate well after they have been fed on by elephants. The relationship between trees and elephants are an intricate and multifaceted one which displays that trees seem to anticipate damage by elephants and thus employ various strategies which ensure their survival. This work will be continued on an annual basis, and the current data will serve as baseline data for future studies.
Elephants have been generating a fairamount of interest in conservation circles and we here at Transfrontier Africa also find our emphasis switching progressively towards elephant conservation and research. Our organisation works closely with the Save the Elephant organisation based in Timbavati, and much of our time is spent gathering data for elephant identification. Additionally we recently completed a study which involved the compilation of an elephant timeline, which aimed to quantify the effects of poaching and illegal harvesting on elephant populations throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. This document has been forwarded to TRAFFIC, CITES and Sir Ian Douglas Hamilton, head of the Save the Elephant Foundation, in an effort to publicise the plight of the elephants. The results were heartbreaking. Currently it is estimated 167 000 elephants remain worldwide. It is estimated 37,000 are killed each year. We are doing what we can here in little Balule but we require volunteers who can assist us in doing our bit to save these majestic beasts from extinction. It is something which we feel requires the most consideration and attention at this time. We look forward to working with you, the volunteers, in this cause of the utmost importance.
Till next time