Kariega Volunteer Update March 2012 – Justine, Volunteer Coordinator

This past month has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows. As many of you will already know, on the 2nd of March Kariega Game Reserve was subjected to a vicious rhino poaching attack. One male rhino died on the scene, and the two surviving rhinos sustained horrific injuries. Themba and Thandi, as they were later named, were 3 and 6 years respectively. While Thandi (meaning ‘courage’) has improved with each weeks treatment, Themba (meaning ‘hope’) hovered between good and bad as a borderline case before dying on the 25th March. Themba had more internal damage than Thandi, due to the position in which he was lying during the attack. His face was not the underlying cause in his death, but rather tissue damage and infection in his leg injury. Data gathered both during and after his 22 day fight for survival will be valuable to any future poaching survivors, as we now have a better understanding as to what may be happening under the 2cm thick skin, which makes visible clues difficult to see. The post mortem confirmed that his injuries were in fact a lot worse than even the vet had imagined, but the valuable information gained during his ordeal ensures that his painful daily struggle was not in vain. Thandi’s face continues to heal and her behaviour is returning to normal, showing slow but steady psychological and physical recovery.

The volunteers jobs during rhino treatments varied from setting up drip bags, re-filling antibiotics syringes,  handing the vet surgical equipment, cleaning instruments, keeping track of the animals breathing rate, recording body temperature, and anything else that was helpful and needed.

Between all the bitter-sweetness of treating the rhino’s, there was still work to be done around the reserve. Two porcupines that were causing chaos in a vegetable garden, where trapped in cages and relocated to another part of the reserve. The Kariega volunteers also helped dart and load three sub-adult lions, who were being sold to a near-by breeding program. They were 2 males and 1 female which were being kicked out of the pride, and due to the limited range available to them they were sustaining injuries from the existing adult male lions. Therefore Kariega Game Reserve decided it was best to make alternative arrangements for them. In the wild, male lions of this age would naturally move out of the pride to forge their own territories.

We have also been taking advantage of the rainy weather and soft soil of late to plant some small trees around the reserve. This is in the hope of increasing our carrying capacity, and especially focussing on areas which had previously been alien invaded or suffered from soil erosion. The two species which we have been planting is Common Cabbage trees, which we propagated from seed, and Spekboom (or porkbush) a succulent that we plant cuttings of.

A few of the volunteers took advantage of the exciting weekend activities that are on offer in the surrounding areas. On 9th March three of our more adventurous Kariega Volunteers went sky diving in Grahamstown! We all had fun watching their DVD’s afterwards and seeing all the different expressions on their faces during their drop to earth. Other weekend activities included horse riding on the beach, and an exciting day to the Bathurst Agriculture Show. The Bathurst show takes place annually in one of our neighbouring towns and is a festive event filled with fun rides, flee markets, music, animal shows and the ever popular beer tent. It was nice for the volunteers to see what our local entertainment scene had to offer.

Hopefully during the month ahead we will have many more great animal sightings and exciting adventures, and most importantly that Thandi, the rhino, continues to go from strength to strength.

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Work with animals at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

Do you want to work with animals but have a deeper passion for conservation and helping the more endangered wildlife species. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species centre in South Africa strives to conserve many of Africa’s endangered species, most specifically working with the majestic cheetah. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is part of an education facility and breeding centre which helps to sustain the population growth of certain species whilst educating people to the importance of conservation.

History depicts that cheetah once roamed freely through nearly all of Africa and some parts of Asia. Today, the range has reduced considerably to just protected areas of Africa and small pockets of land in Asia. This decline is mainly attributed to the fast expanding human population which has quickly developed to take over the native land of these magnificent creatures. It is this rapid loss of habitat that saw the cheetah being added to the endangered species list in the early 1960’s.

The attempts to ensure the survival of the species have been take since this time to firstly to conserve the free ranging populations and secondly to breed cheetahs in captivity. This is where Hoedspruit Endangered Species work with animals has become so important, and cheetah are now classified as “vulnerable” in Southern Africa.

Part of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre’s mission is to teach about how man has affected the cheetah’s natural habitat. They do this by actively visiting schools and encouraging the pupils to understand the issues faced by the species through habitat loss and poaching. Life is difficult for the cheetah in the competitive environment of the wild. They have to contend with predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas, as well as the threat of rival cheetahs roaming into their territory. Cheetah’s hunting and eating habits also make it difficult for their survival, feeding only on fresh carcasses that they have killed and having eaten move on. Their co-predators, lion and leopard, will feed on the carcass of an animal they have killed for an extended period seldom leaving much for the benefit of the hungry scavengers that share their domain. Cheetahs must endure the ongoing struggle of hunting for food while protecting vulnerable cubs and the species must also face the narrowing of their territory by human influence.

So the question is how can you get involved and work with animals and assist with the incredible work that the centre does? Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre run a volunteer project for those interested to work with animals. The focus of the programme is on the cheetah, and during the course participants are involved with the everyday care of the animals. This care includes, cleaning, feeding, and where required, assisting with or observing any veterinary activities that may occur during that time. The same activities apply to other species being cared for at the centre. The knowledge gained about the animals and work of the HESC through this kind of participation is both specific and personal. The programme is largely based on the interactive involvement of participants, who in the process gain valuable knowledge of and experience in nature conservation.

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Meet the Cheetah at HESC – Max

If you were to ask anyone who has been to Hoedspruit endangered species centre who their favourite cheetah is, the name Max would pop up most frequently. This purring Picasso has definitely captured the hearts of visitors, students and staff alike. At the tender age of three months, Max embarked on his career as a professional artist. His brightly coloured pawprint paintings – available at the Centre’s Curio Shop – now adorn many a living-room and office wall. With green, red, yellow, blue and orange paint all over his paws (and for some strange reason on his back too), this cheetah was clearly destined to become everyone’s blue-eyed boy.

At nine months old he was moved – along with his litter mates – to a much larger camp, where they were free to romp around and hone their hunting skills. Just before cheetahs reach sexual maturity, we separate the males and females in order to prevent them from mating with one another. To this end Max was moved to his very own enclosure.

Max’s new home quickly became a popular stop for guides taking guests on a tour of the Centre, as he is very easygoing and usually takes his naps close to the fence. The minute a vehicle pulls up he immediately starts purring, which is obviously a real treat for the visitors (although the staff never tire of hearing this either).

Max is easily recognisable due to his teddy bear face and dark coat, which is as a result of having a much higher concentration of melanin than usual. He has an extremely laid back personality, and whenever we call him he’ll approach nonchalantly. He is after all Hoedspruit endangered species centre’s VIC (Very Important Cheetah), so it stands to reason that he should not be hurried.

Max is only a year old, which is still very young (even in cheetah years). But while he still has a lot of growing to do, we’re positive that he’s well on his way to becoming a wise and independent adult. Max was adopted by Olivia at the beginning of the year. Click here to read more on Hoedspruit endangered species centre.

 

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Pumba Game Reserve – Conservation Update March 2012

Here we are again at the change of yet another season. One can feel the change in the air and also see the change in the bush. The sun is peeking over the horizon later and later in the mornings and is so quick to disappear at night; the days are definitely getting shorter and colder. There is an extremely big decline in the reptile kingdom due to most of them preparing for hibernation in the cold months and certain seasonal birds have already made their way onwards to the warmer regions for the next few months.

A brief overview of some of our bush family members: The lions are still doing very well since their big move in December last year with both females being exceptional hunters and the little lioness (nearing her first birthday on 01/04/2012) also starting to be more and more involved when mom goes out hunting, even assisted with a Blue Wildebeest kill the other day dangling on the back of the beast while the lioness took care of the rest.  The split lioness is also doing very well and is currently heavily pregnant. She is showing changes in her behaviour being much more static in a certain area of the reserve. She has most probably already chosen her den site and is now awaiting the big day…together with us all.

On a more serious and saddening note, we said good bye to a legend and a hero in the animal kingdom when Hapoor Junior was finally defeated in battle on 06/03/2012 at the age of 58 after being dominant on Pumba Private Game Reserve for 7 years and adding another 26 years dominant in Addo Elephant National Park, he will truly be missed and will remain in our memories for years to come.

To find out more about wildlife conservation at Pumba Game Reserve click here

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Meet the team at HESC – Ilana Mohoney

Before Ilana joined the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre team, she was really active in the tourism industry. She worked as a guide on two reserves – Lalibela in the Eastern Cape, and Entabeni in The Waterberg, as well as managing guest houses in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Having been in the industry for almost 6 years, she has seen and experienced the beauty and excitement of the bush and life in Africa, with all its happy, sad and breathtaking moments.

She has been at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre for 14 months now, and says falling in love with “this place” has been very easy – she loves it here! Ilana’s daily routine is varied – mostly she acts as a guide, doing tours of the Centre, night game drives on Kampana, and school tours, but is also on hand to assist with filling roads, washing aloes, driving staff around, checking the guest houses and tents before the arrival of visitors, or helping out in the curio shop when Trudie goes on leave. Her favourite work is when she gets to help the curators with the animals.

The most interesting thing that Ilana has seen while at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre took place while she was on tour with a guest one day. They witnessed two yellow-billed kites attacking a juvenile Tawny Eagle. Not understanding what was going on, they drove closer to investigate and discovered that the Tawny Eagle was close to the Kite’s nest – something the latter didn’t appreciate at all! After watching the battle for a while, they drove along further and came across a mature Tawny Eagle finishing off a meal of Helmeted Guinea Fowl! This is just one of many special – and sometimes funny – things that Ilana has witnessed while at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.

Many guests ask Ilana which animal is her favourite, but she feels that all the amazing animals in the centre have crept into her heart – they all have unique personalities, and are special in their own right.

Ilana plans to stay at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre for a while, learning as much as she can while here. Her dream is to undertake more intensive studies of animals and their behaviour, and even have her own centre one day. Making documentaries of animals also features in her future plans.

To find out more on HESC and how you can work with Ilana, click here

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Hapoor Junior, A Legendary Elephant Bull

Hapoor Junior was born in the Addo Elephant National Park in 1954 and sired by Hapoor, who was the dominating Bull who reigned over all from 1944 to 1968. Their temperaments were also similar in that he was clearly the leader of the Elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park, but he did not have the aggression or hatred towards humans, as his father had, as a result of growing up in a protected area.

Hapoor Junior was relocated to Pumba Private Game Reserve in 2005, when the Addo Elephant National Park decided to relocate twelve big bulls to Private Reserves in the Eastern Cape, to diminish the competition and fighting amongst the bulls in Addo. Hapoor at the time had been the dominating bull in Addo for 26 years, during which time he had killed 8 other bulls who had challenged his dominance. With Hapoor Junior now getting on in years Park Management feared that he would be challenged and killed by younger bulls. It was agreed that Pumba would provide Hapoor Junior with a safe home for the rest of his life. During the relocation programme Pumba purchased four of the twelve bulls to be relocated one of which was the iconic Hapoor Junior who at that stage was 51 years old. The other bulls were his 38 year old younger brother Derek, 21 year old Nick and 19 year old Koos. All the bulls settled into Pumba very well, with Hapoor Junior immediately imposing his dominance on the new herd of 14 Elephants. In 2007, tragedy struck when Derek challenged Hapoor Juniors dominance which resulted in his death.

Hapoor Junior remained an extremely well natured and relaxed bull who had sired 4 calves at his new home. He dominated all on the reserve including tractors and game viewing vehicles. Hapoor Junior was admired and respected by all field and lodge staff. He would often visit the lodges, coming right into the gardens to help himself to delights such as Tree Aloes and Kipersols, or would visit the conference room at Pumba Water Lodge, to use the thatch roof as a site to scratch his ears.

In 2011 it was noted, that Nick was becoming a more opposing feature regarding Hapoor Juniors dominance, with skirmishes between the two breaking out once in a while, though with Hapoor Junior getting the upper hand. It was with great sadness when a Field Guide, noted loud screams being made by an Elephant at about 10H30 on the 06th March 2012. The Legendary Hapoor Junior had been severely wounded by Nick, wounds that would simply not be healed. Nick showed no remorse towards him, as he asserted his dominance on Hapoor Junior, by continually mounting him. Hapoor Junior at the age of 58 did not survive from his wounds, as the Conservation Management team, watched in sadness as a peace of Eastern Cape History took its last breath. For thoughs of you who knew Hapoor Junior, would understand that he was an amazing Elephant Bull, who had encountered numerous challenges in life, and witnessed a piece of History for which only some of us have read about. I truly believe his name will live on forever, in stories told by those who had special encounters with him. May Hapoor Juniors Legacy live in thoughs offspring he has sired.

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The White Lions of Pumba Game Reserve

Pumba Private Game Reserve has been home to a flourishing pride of free roaming White and Split Lion since 2006. There are less than 500 White Lion left in the world, making the reserve, an important custodian in ensuring this species well being. It is extremely important for the survival and sustainability of a pride of lions that they are not all white but mixed with the tawny split gened animals, as the white animals are too conspicuous because of their colour and on their own are not successful hunters.

The long-term objective of Pumba Private Game Reserves Breeding Programme was to restore the natural balance by reintroducing an integrated pride of White and Tawny Lion into the Main Section of the reserve; this was successfully accomplished in December 2011. It has been an exciting journey for the reserve, and the success of the project was achieved after the introduction of a White Lioness (Nomathemba), in October 2009. The emphasis behind Nomathemba’s introduction was to enrich the gene pool amongst the existing pride. Before the reintroduction into the Main Section of the reserve, Nomathemba gave birth to her first litter of cubs, which were discovered on the 01st April 2011.

The White and Tawny Lion prides have established themselves well, in the reserve, and have provided some exceptional sightings for visiting guests. The White Lioness and her cub enjoy the northern section of the reserve, ranging from the floodplains and foothills of the North West to the open plains infront of Pumba Water Lodge. Ntombi the Tawny Lioness dominates the southern section of the reserve, ranging from the thickets and open plains of the South West to the floodplains behind Pumba Water Lodge. Numerous encounters between the two prides have been seen, though without any conflict. The reserve is alive with an abundance of prey species to choose from, with, to date, Blesbuck, Kudu, Warthog, Wildebeest and Red Haartebeest, having been killed by the lion. On two occasions the White Lioness and her cub, were watched, hunting and successfully killing Warthog infront of Msenge Bush Lodge, while guests had been enjoying lunch on the open decks.

With both prides having established their individual territories, it was noted in January 2012, the White Lion, mating with Ntombi and Nomathemba. If mating has been successful, the reserve could see the birth of an additional two litters of cubs in the middle of April, this year.

It is Pumba Private Game Reserve’s legacy and aim to fulfill our commitment as custodians to our countries biodiversity and the reserve, to monitor and manage this small metapopulation with sensitivity and responsibility, into the future.

 

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