Elephant, Rhino, Lion and Leopard Research news from Kariega

Posted by WorkingAbroad Projects on Thursday, 8th May 2014

Research Projects

Elephant Research
We have been able to gather a lot of useful information and date this month on the elephants, thanks to some excellent sightings so we have gathered plenty of data regarding their spatial movements.  We still have a few younger elephants which need to be identified; unfortunately this is difficult because they do not bear the same identifying features like scars which the adults do. The volunteers also observed there are two older cows with their sub-adult and younger calves wandering on their own, quite a distance from the rest of the main herd. An older calf will often remain with its mother even if a newborn is present and they will even assist with “raising” the sibling. As for the big bull; he still mostly wanders alone with one of the younger bulls sometimes joining. There are other younger bulls that also wander alone from time to time and that will stray from the big herd. These bulls like to play-fight with each other and test their strength. They are already determining dominancy over each other even though they are in their late teens to early twenties. Below is an image presenting a rough idea of the spatial movement of elephants on Kariega Game Reserve during March 2014.

Spatial movement of elephants at the Kariega Game Reserve

The volunteers have also been able to gather data on the elephants impact on the vegetation of Kariega. They have noted they are mostly consuming the following plant species; Azima tetracantha (Bee-sting bush), Buddleja saligna (False olive), Prickley pear, Searsia sp., Acacia karroo (Sweet thorn) and different grass species.  These are in no particular order of importance.

Lion Research
This month volunteers have noticed quite a few interesting changes in lion activity this month. They have witnessed how a male lion is pushing a sub-adult male out of his pride. The sub-adult male is starting to get quite big and to develop a man, so the big male is trying to eliminate any possible competition by acting aggressive towards this sub-adult. His impressively loud lion calls could be heard on many early mornings and evenings as he made sure he was heard. Data collected via the two-way radios (rangers on game drives), observing fresh carcasses and lions feasting on carcasses, volunteers were also able to determine their most frequently caught prey during March 2014. It was concluded that warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), impala (Aepyceros melampus) and blesbuck (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) were the most caught.

Rhinoceros Research
Throughout March our volunteers have had great opportunities for collecting data on the spatial movement of the white and black rhinoceroses. Unfortunately this is sensitive information and can for safety reasons not be shared. Our white rhinoceros cow, Thandi who was poached two years ago and survived is doing really well. We have had really good sightings of her and she seems relaxed and peaceful. The latest statistics as per DEA: (14 March 2014) states that 172 rhinoceroses were poached in South Africa of which three in the Eastern Cape. There have been a total of 54 arrests in South Africa, regarding poaching, of which four were in the Eastern Cape. We all very much hope that a solution can be found to ensure the statistics of 2013 (total of 1004 rhinoceroses were poached) will not be repeated during 2014.

Leopard Research
Our Kariega Volunteers have set up camera traps on several different locations, hoping to find a leopard. These are mostly areas where there is not much human activity, where there have been signs of leopards, or where we thought leopard territory could be. Unfortunately there have been no photographs recorded of leopards this month, however we saw some really good pictures of Aardwolf and Black rhinoceros. We are now awaiting an order of new rechargeable batteries for our camera traps.

Invasive Species Control
We have had some extremely hot days this month, however our Kariega volunteers have not been afraid to get their hands dirty and have chopped down approximately 175 Pine trees, 530 Black wattle and 150 Red-eyed wattle, varying in size from seedlings to medium sized trees.  The volunteers use machetes and hand saws to cut the trees as close to the ground as possible; we then paint the remaining tree stumps with an environmental safe herbicide to prevent re-growth.

Bush Control
Our volunteers have also assisted with bush control. We have been targeting three roads on the reserve, where our volunteers have poisoned searsia sp. With pellets that are administered to the base of the stem. This dissolves when it is wet and kills the plant from the roots up.

Erosion Control
Erosion is a big problem for us due to the resultant quick water run-off from thunder storms. Our volunteers have identified where erosion has started and have placed the branches of the chopped invasive species into these gullies. These branches will stabilise the soil because they prevent animals from trampling the areas and give pioneer plants, like grass and shrubs a chance to grow. Vegetation helps to slow the water run-off and helps to build up silt, so sub climax and climax vegetation can start growing, creating a stable environment for other organisms to live and restore the natural balance.

Community Project
Our volunteers have been helping out at the Klipfontein after-school centre in conjunction with The Kariega Project and the Kariega Foundation. They have been helping the kids write letters totheir pen pals in the USA and also helping to administer reading tests. The kids also have a newly set-up mobile computer lab thanks to the NGO; The Kariega Project. Our volunteers have been joining the kids in playing business simulation games on these computers. Our volunteers are always greeted with hugs and happy songs from the learners and it is a real joy to go and work with these communities.

March has been a truly jam packed month for us. We have still managed to find time to fill our weekends with fun break-aways like shark cage diving in Plettenberg bay, horse riding on the beach in Port Alfred, and a canoe trail on the Bushmans River.

Come and join our volunteer team on Kariega Game Reserve and experience our work for yourself.  More details can be found here!

Author: WorkingAbroad Projects

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