1 | Klaserie Chronicle/Kroniek no. 33
Klaserie Kroniek/Chronicle | September 2015 no.33
Death dance Thunder in a winter sky The rhino frontline inside| photo Tim Feherty
KPNR annual general meeting ... 5 | Working to save our elephants ...9 | Hamerkop â€“ a classification riddle ...11 | Eco Village brings life to Green Valley ...12 | Pangolin at Klaserie Camps ...22 | The art of tracking ...28 Page kindly sponsored by a friend
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eptember marks the beginning of spring, a transitional season and a time of renewal. It is a season that awakens the soul and fills the land with its transforming loveliness. At Children’s Eco Training (CET) we are inspired by spring as it symbolises the beginning of new projects, sowing new seeds and developing new ideas. This magical time not only allows us to reflect on the wonderful work we have done in the past months but also inspires us to plan with enthusiasm how to grow the organisation and address key social issues in our area. One of our greatest highlights during the last three months was adopting a fourth school as part of the Support-a-School programme. Hloaia Primary School was officially welcomed to the CET family at the opening of the CET Eco Village sponsored by the MAD Leadership Foundation. This project not only makes a local impact but also has a global reach: we had the privilege of hosting an enthusiastic group of Classic Wallabies Exchange (CWE) volunteers from Australia, who were tasked to work alongside the community and children to establish the fourth Eco Village. It was inspiring to see these young people work with endless energy and enthusiasm. Their zest for life and fun-loving nature made the journey one to remember as they made long lasting friendships, learnt key life lessons and brought hope to a community for a better future. Their efforts have most definitely left a lasting impact on the community and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of the project. It has been equally inspiring to monitor the growth of the crops during the last five weeks and, with spring on our doorstep, we are about to celebrate the first harvest at Hloaia and reap the rewards of the hard work that has gone into this project. On that very positive note, I hope you enjoy the reports on the new Eco Village as well as our other projects and our loyal contributors’ accounts of their amazing wildlife encounters in this beautiful place we call home. It has never been clearer that you truly reap what you sow and we can’t wait to continue to sow seeds of change in our communities. May spring inspire us all to rejuvenate and change things for the better.
K2C trees for life. First barter finds favour Thunder in a winter sky KPNR annual general meeting Young fundraisers lead by example Battle to the death Working to save our elephants A to Z of Klaserie terminology Hamerkop: a classification riddle Eco Village brings life to Green Valley The tale of the disappearing camera Rescue effort tries to erase owl stigma LiMF working together to defend the pride Hyenas in action Sightings The wonderful world of bird nests: Ground nests Grade R teachers receive further training Pangolin at Klaserie Camps The groups of Klaserie (part 3): Strydom group Adult Eco Training continues its success Maths capacity building identifies local challenges Brothers in arms. Allies in the fight against rhino poaching The art of tracking Eco Kidz holiday workshop On the rhino frontline Local learners attend the annual MAD leadership summit
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Klaserie Chronicle /Kroniek Team Editor: Corné Havenga Sub-editor: Catharina Robbertze Advertising and articles: Laura Craig Layout and design: Lynette Strauss Contributors Corné Havenga, Colin Rowles, Brad Timms, Peter Lawson, Nini Baxter, Judy Meeser, Kate and Cassie Carstens, Derek Solomon, Jan Pienaar, Hannah Barnes, Sun Destinations, Wynand Uys, Josh Bell, Talitha Jansen, Grant Stirton, Dr Michelle Henley, Robyn Dixon (LA Times), Make a Difference Leadership Foundation, Mbali Mashele, Orla McEvoy Photographs Colin Rowles, Jessica Rowles, Jacques de Villiers, Navarre de Villiers , Derek Solomon, Jan Pienaar, Kate Carstens, Cassie Carstens, Jochen Van de Perre, Fred Ruest, Ziggi Hugo, Nini Baxter , Wynand Uys, Josh Bell, Talitha Jansen, Dawid Jansen, Grant Stirton, Dr Michelle Henley, Robyn Dixon (LA Times), Warren MaCarthy, Tim Feherty, Sue Keartland, Kavi Naidoo, Johann du Toit, Warren Howson The Klaserie Chronicle is published quarterly and distributed to KPNR owners, as well as CET donors, partners and Chronicle advertisers. For any contributions or queries please email email@example.com or contact Laura on 082 713 7550. We would love to hear from you!
kit-a-kid | kit-a-kid | kit-a-kid
Your R300 can change a life Contact Corné at 082 713 8778 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy a uniform consisting of a shirt, shorts or a dress, a jersey, shoes and socks.
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K2C Trees for Life
First barter finds favour Story by Mbali Mashele
he months of May and June 2015 were very exciting for tree-preneurs in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region (K2C) Trees for Life Project as this was their first opportunity to engage in entrepreneurial activities since becoming involved in the project. A tree-preneur refers to a community member that propagates moringa and indigenous trees in order to enhance his/her livelihood by bartering the trees in exchange for livelihood items. Currently 422 tree-preneurs are registered in the project with five local partners, Children’s Eco Training (CET), Nourish, Global White Lion Protection Trust, Timbavati Foundation and Hlokomela, facilitating tree planting activities on the ground. In May and June, the treepreneurs had their first opportunity to barter their trees with Wildlands Conservation Trust in exchange for Unilever body care products, household cleaning products, food items such as maize meal, canned fish, soya mince and tea, to name but a few. A total of R140 700 worth of hampers were bartered and a community activation team from Wildlands Conservation Trust
visited most of the treepreneurs to inform them of the health and wellness aspects of products in the hampers, as well as where and how to use them. Tree-preneurs from villages such as Rooiboklaagte, Green Valley, Acornhoek,
Hluvukani, Athol, Utah, The Oaks, The Willows, Enable, Finale and Jonkmanspruit were overjoyed to receive hampers after all their hard work of collecting seeds, propagating and watering the trees. The trees bartered will be used to rehabilitate degraded
areas within the communal lands as well as the riparian areas along the Blyde River. After the success of the first barter, both the tree-preneurs and local partners can’t wait for the next tree planting season which will commence in September 2015.
In the middle of a buffalo herd Story by Sun Destinations, photos by Jochen van de Perre
he Klaserie Private Nature Reserve is a buffalo hotspot and usually when we spot a couple, there are hundreds more just out of sight. On this particular morning while on a walking safari at Africa on Foot, the head
guide, Greg, led his guests to Twala Dam just before a big herd of buffalo arrived for a drink. Jochen van de Perre was able to capture some fantastic footage as guests settled down in the hide and watched a buffalo herd of approximately 800 wade into the water. Well known as some of the most dangerous animals in the African wild,
buffaloes get a lot of respect, especially when approaching on foot. They are pretty nervous animals, as their sight is not particularly good, but their incredible sense of smell more than makes up for that. They stick together in herds, and are not afraid to protect themselves and their young – a lesson learned by lions quite frequently.
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Thunder in a winter sky Article and photos by Colin Rowles
he cabin of the Oryx helicopter is icy cold and the noise is deafening as the twin turbines scream above my head. We’re low level, doors open and the dry winter landscape rushes past below in an icy blur. On board, eight South African Police Service (SAPS) Task Force members sit, hyped and adrenalin-filled; each man immersed in his thoughts as the thundering aircraft approaches the landing zone (LZ). Almost in slow motion, the helicopter slows and hangs in the air supported by the massive rotor blades that flash past me as I sit in the open door. Slowly the earth comes up to meet us as the sweeping blades send sand, dust and debris swirling into a blinding storm. The expelled heat from the exhausts and the smell of burnt jet fuel replaces the cold morning air. Touchdown. The men exit, crouching as they run into the dust storm to take up defensive positions around the screaming beast. They’re out, we lift off, wheels retract and the helicopter lurches forward, accelerating towards the next LZ, low level. This was all part of a jointly beneficial operation between the South African Air Force (SAAF), SAPS Task Force Trackers and the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR). The Task Force required a large and realistic rural landscape in which to conduct tracker training under realistic combat conditions, with the focus on insurgency and counter insurgency operations. Tracker teams were deployed at predetermined locations and tasked with certain missions. On completion of the mission, the teams were extracted and re-deployed to the next location by helicopter. 19 Squadron from Air Force Base (AFB) Hoedspruit provided the aircraft and crew, who flew with pin point accuracy, deploying and extracting the various tracker teams from various
challenging locations across the reserve. From the reserve’s perspective, the operation provided a deterrent to the perpetrators of the horrific wildlife crime of killing rhinos. Secondary to this, area coverage was greatly improved, going into some of the more remote areas of the reserve. While moving through the bush on foot, the SAPS Task Force members were ever alert and vigilant as they searched for signs of insurgent poacher gangs and all this activity supplemented our rhino protection efforts. We look forward to a continued and improved relationship with our neighbouring AFB Hoedspruit and the men and women of 19 Squadron.
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KPNR Annual General Meeting Story by Colin Rowles, photos by Colin and Jessica Rowles
Back: Mixo Chauke, Yoel Mabilane, Velly Khoza Front: Charles Mabika, George Mnisi
Abel Matjie, Ralph Mathebula, Colin Rowles, Emily Sedibe, Hendrik Mnisi
Young fundraisers lead by example
ome of the youngest members members of our community taking responsibility and showing of Klaserie’s extended family leadership in this way. We can set a fine example recently, only hope that more children, and with admirable fundraising efforts adults too, will follow their lead”. in support of a worthy cause. Six-year-old Anna Ruest, daughter of Tanya Ruest and granddaughter of Fred and Rosemary Ruest, spotted an opportunity at the Klaserie Annual General Meeting on 4 July. She showed great imagination and decorated fruit from a sausage tree, sold them to members and raised R130 for the Klaserie Save the Rhino Fund. Mike Anderson’s granddaughter, Jessica Cassidy (10) and her cousin, Joshua Kirsten (11) demonstrated their charity by selling old toys, eggs laid by their pet hens and brica-brac in front of Jessica’s parents’ house in Waterfall Village, near Sunninghill - Sandton. They raised R69.45 to help protect our rhinos. John Braithwaite, deputy chairman of the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, said: “It’s heartening to see young Anna Ruest
he 4th of July 2015 dawned and presented a perfect day to host the 46th annual general meeting of the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR). As tradition has it, the well-attended meeting was held out in the open, on the lawns of the reserve’s headquarter complex. The flowering aloes provided a spectacular backdrop to the venue. The proceedings were concluded in good spirit, with constructive discussion taking place before the conclusion of the necessary formalities. Following the formal meeting, the members were privileged to hear retired Major General Johan Jooste, Officer Commanding: SANParks special projects, speak about the current rhino poaching situation within the Kruger National Park, and in South Africa as a whole. We are grateful for the fact that the General was able to make time available to fly in and spend the day with us. Following the proceedings of the day, which included an award ceremony to recognise the significant achievements by staff members throughout the year, the members and guests moved to the large open sided tent. Here a fantastic spread of snacks and refreshments was served. As the sun set at the end of this memorable day, there was an atmosphere of contentment and a true spirit of cooperation as members left the venue and returned to their various camps. A truly memorable event.
Joshua Kirsten and Jessica Cassidy
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Battle to the death Having only lived in the bush for a short period of time, Mother Nature allowed me to witness a truly extraordinary series of events. I have an immense love of nature and this experience showed me I still have a lot to learn to truly understand the inner workings of nature. Story and Photos by Talitha and Dawie Jansen
Day 2: tug o’ war
Day 1: distress An old buffalo bull is lying under a tree at the watering hole outside our home for the entire day. Later that evening we become aware of distress calls from the buffalo and, what appear to be the sounds of bone crunching. On closer inspection, we see a clan of hyena have caught him and are eating him alive. The normally silent evening air is filled with hyena calls, laughter, grunting and painful long, deep moans from the buffalo. A short while later three lionesses arrive and, after some commotion, they take over the kill. The smell of fresh blood and stomach contents is rich and hangs in the air. The hyenas’ excitement and agitation is evident, the veld is alive! The house is now surrounded with yellow eyes and hyena calls echo up and down the valley, getting louder and more excitable as they build up the courage to attack. The atmosphere is intense, the smell of blood and fresh meat drives them into frenzy. Eventually they move in, taking back the kill. The hyenas’ numbers keep building and soon it becomes evident that two different clans are competing for the carcass. They continue to feast and fight amongst themselves, completely unaware of the racket they’re making and the predators they are inviting. In the near vicinity we hear a leopard’s raspy growls, she too is now under attack from the hyena! A fight ensues before she manages to clamber up a tree to safety, but not without injury. The exhilarating performance is so much to take in that it takes a while to absorb it all. At 2am we finally retire for the evening, unable to contain the thrill of what we witnessed.
War Lord fixated on the hyena pup, ready to charge
Three lioness enjoying the carcass before being chased off by hyena
Leopard with injuries to her neck and paw, inflicted by the hyena
Awaking, the entire episode seems like a dream. Opening the blinds we become aware of the presence of a large male lion (we later hear is named War Lord) and three lionesses. The kill is now dominated by a fourth, very sickly lioness. Her complete skeletal structure is exposed, she’s limping badly and blind in one eye. While the other lions move on she remains at the carcass the entire day. Every now and again she limps slowly to the water before returning to guard her only means of survival. That evening we sit outside on the patio, eagerly waiting to see what the darkness would bring. Would the hyenas come back to steal the carcass? Would the lioness be strong enough to fight them or would she too be taken by the scavengers? Both lion and leopard are badly injured and fighting to survive, how will they react to each other? We pick up the leopard’s eyes as she slowly approaches the water, she is careful not to alert the lioness that is lying only metres away. After a tedious two hours she finally arrives at her destination and drinks for what seems to
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War Lord and his brother resting after the eventful night of hyena killing
Hyenas finally enjoying their kill be several minutes. The lioness does not even acknowledge her presence. On closer inspection we see the leopard is breathing heavily and still bleeding at the neck.
Day 3: scavengers The lioness is still guarding her carcass but vultures have started to arrive. I watch the lioness from my window. She can’t drink long enough to satisfy her thirst before having to turn back to chase the vultures off, they are waiting to take their turn on the remains. This continues
“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” – Serbian proverb
the whole day and she has little time to rest. The smell of the carcass draws more vultures and the scene becomes eerie as the sky turns grey and darkness sets in. Later, the faint calls of hyena in the distance become apparent. We drive to the action and find the lioness right next to the carcass which is now completely overrun with hyena. She is growling at them but does not get up. She is not strong enough to fight and is outnumbered. We find the leopard a few metres away, hiding under a bush. The scene is intense. War arrives, his eyes fixed on the hyenas directly ahead. He walks silently and with purpose before he sets off at full charge. Dust flies as he hits the hyenas at the carcass full on. We hear yelps, focus the spotlight and see he has caught a pup. Four hyenas move in around him, wanting to save the pup. We hear bones crunching and the bush is hysterical with laughter and growling. War drops the pup whose back is definitely broken and charges off into the surrounding hyena. We listen closely to the scuffle in the dry river bed below. He has caught another hyena. More carnage ensues. Some hyenas are brave enough to stay and watch but do not go closer. In the now silence of the night we can hear War’s heavy breathing and the yelping of the hyena before its neck is snapped. War rises up and walks off slowly and smugly, the dust from his charge causes him to sneeze several times. We watch nervously as he walks straight past us into the distance, amazed at what we just witnessed. He comes back, the three lionesses in tow. The ladies make their way to the dead hyena, inspect it and walk over to the injured lioness. It would appear they are familiar with her and are protecting her. Was she once a fourth member of their coalition? War marks his scent everywhere and walks off in the direction he came from. We return home in silence, pondering the main reason for his grand arrival this evening at a kill he did not participate in or even consume. It was pure hatred.
Day 4: hyenas return The injured leopard is still visible around the house, it is not a good sign. The lioness spends the entire day lying motionless in the sun and I wonder if she will eat the hyena pup but she does not venture near it. We take a drive as the sun sets to check on her. She is still breathing but has given up growling at us. Later that evening the hyena
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return, although more cautiously. They consume everything that is left on the buffalo, this time undisturbed by War.
Day 5: farewell Early morning I notice the lioness has come to drink. I remain at my desk watching, Dawie says I am getting too attached to her emotionally. She lies drinking for a long time, it is not easy for her and she appears to be weaker and very exhausted. After some research I come to the conclusion she must have TB. She glances around and her gaze stops at the carcass. It is now merely an empty rib cage and a set of horns. I carry on working and try not to focus on how hopeless her future is. Colin arrives later to euthanase her but the wind must have carried the news because she is nowhere in sight. After a brief drive around he leaves, relieved that she had maybe moved on and would pass away naturally in the bush. Around lunchtime sheâ€™s back to drink. I call Colin and go outside to watch her so she could be easily located this time. She no longer growls at the sight of me and walks slowly and gracefully along the shrubbery, stopping and rubbing lovingly where the male had marked. The rumbling of Colinâ€™s bakkie sounds in the distance and upon arrival he shakes his head at the bad state she is in. I turn away, walk back to the house and feel my heart break. Her suffering is finally over and I knew it would take some time for my heart to understand what my mind already knew: it was the right thing to do. Walking to her lifeless body I see that she should have been in her prime. Her paws were massive, like her will to survive. As I get back to the house, heavy hearted and with a clouded mind, the tears roll down my cheeks.
Ill lioness watching helplessly as Vultures arrive at her carcass
Ill lioness trying to drink and protect her carcass
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Working to save our elephants By Michelle Henley
ur research in the Associate Private Nature Reserves (APNR) officially commenced in 2003 as Save the Elephants â€“ South Africa, and draws on data collected over almost two decades. Although our name recently changed to Elephants Alive, all our activities remain the same. Our quest involves delivering research solutions which acknowledge elephants as an integral part of the ecosystem they occupy. We work towards achieving a greater understanding of the complex relationships that elephants have with each other and their surroundings, including the people with whom they share their world. In the past couple of months we have refitted the collars of some of our longterm study animals. Maintaining tracking datasets on a long-lived species such as elephants provides vital information on range expansion movements over time. Soshangane, who we first collared in 2009, was recollared in November last year. Umbabat, a cow from the Parks Herd, was recollared on 3 June 2015 after having worn her collar for seven years. Thanks to Patrick Anderson from Jejane who reported a sighting of General, we were able to recollar this individual on 12 June 2015 after his collar had failed prematurely in 2012. We are very grateful for the professional assistance received from the wardens Craig Spencer (Balule), Colin Rowles (Klaserie) and Glen Thomson (Jejane) respectively. We are still on the lookout for some elephants to replace their collars and would appreciate any sightings in this regard. Other than collaring elephants to understand how habitat resources, the need for safety and social benefits drive their movements, we also link elephant occurrence to their effects on the vegetation and infrastructure where elephants and man co-exist. We have a long-term monitoring programme in
Alert, drawn by Michelle Henley
place where more than 3 000 large trees are individually monitored throughout the APNR for elephant impact over time and their possible effect on large tree nesting birds such as vultures and raptors. We
experiment with mitigation methods to protect large trees and are excited to announce a new avenue of research which will be conducted concurrently with our existing wire-net protection study. Robin Cook will undertake this research for his MSc and will use African honeybees to prevent elephants from impacting iconic marula trees. Research in Kenya by Dr. Lucy King has shown that elephants appear to have an evolved fear for the African honeybee, avoiding crop fields surrounded by beehives. We therefore plan to place beehives in marula trees to explore whether elephants will avoid these trees because of the possible presence of honeybees. If the beehives are successful at preventing elephants from affecting marula trees, we will then be able to provide a new non-lethal tool for managing elephant impacts on specific trees. This project has the further potential to encourage beekeeping across protected areas, as well as providing honey as an added benefit. The study will be conducted on Jejane Private Nature Reserve.
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Story by Judy Meeser Photos by Ziggi Hugo
The consumption of soil as method of obtaining certain minerals, salts and metals. You may have witnessed this behaviour in Klaserie Game Reserve in elephants and baboons among other species. Elephant cows seem more prone to this, suggesting that it could be linked to pregnancy and lactation.
The mouth of a bird measured from corner to corner of the bill. For example a bat hawk has a very large gape to make it possible to catch bats and swallow them whole while on the wing.
The area used by an animal for its day-to-day activities like feeding and drinking. Home ranges of animals such as rhino bulls are large and overlap with other bulls which are tolerated. The territory being the core of the home range is actively defended and patrolled.
The dark brown layer or top soil horizon of humified organic matter. It is very important in maintaining the moisture of soils and in determining the fertility of soils.
Above: ant lion trap Below: Adult ant lion.
The shelter used by the Cape clawless otter. We have undoubtedly identified tracks of the Cape clawless otter along the Klaserie River, but are uncertain what would constitute a holt in this area.
The adult stage in the metamorphosis (life cycle) of insects. In insects that have wings, this is the phase during which they will reproduce. The familiar ant lion pits of the bush are home to the predatory larva of the adult ant lion (imago). The adult resembles a large and clumsy dragon fly or lace wing and is predominantly nocturnal.
Referring to the throat and neck area in birds. The gular pouch is an expandable pouch of bare skin in the throat area for food storage in some birds such as cormorants and pelicans. A gular sac is an air sac that functions as a thermoregulator in birds such as marabou storks. The air sac is connected to the oral cavity, is expandable and richly supplied with blood capillaries to cool the blood as air moves over. Gular flutter is panting in birds. The floor of the mouth and throat pulsates, rapidly drawing air over these moist surfaces to cool the bird.
A tawny eagle has a very large gape
Each stage in the metamorphosis of an insect leading up to adulthood including the egg, nymph and pupa.
The phenomenon of rays of light colouring the feathers of birds. This is caused by the refraction of light and not by pigmentation. The familiar lilac breasted roller would have true pigment in its beautiful feathers while sun-birds and glossy starlings are iridescent. Insects such as fruit chafers and butterflies also make use of iridescent colouration.
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a classification riddle
The Hamerkop is a strange bird indeed. Since days gone by it has been a puzzle to ornithologists. Its nearest relatives are storks, herons, egrets and ibis but this clever bird resists all efforts to being classified satisfactorily and it has ended up being the sole member in a family of its own, Scopidae with the scientific name of Scopus umbretta.
The Hamerkop is common in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR) wherever there is water, even rain puddles on roads. It feeds mainly on amphibians and their tadpoles, but will also take small fish and certain aquatic insects. It cannot be mistaken for any other bird with its short legs and backwardfacing crest, hence the name. I am sure that everyone knows it, even those not particularly interested in birds. It occurs throughout Africa and has many superstitions attached to it, but thankfully they are unique in that they protect this bird from harm by humans. It is believed that if you molest a Hamerkop it will bring bad luck. It
is a pity that this superstition doesn’t affect Egyptian Geese which do untold harm to Hamerkops by hijacking their nests. This goose is increasing at an alarming rate throughout South Africa. Apart from its strange looks, the Hamerkop is absolutely unique in nest building activity. A pair works together as a devoted, but noisy, couple and build an enormous domed structure with sticks, grass tufts, weeds, leaves and other movable debris that takes about six weeks to complete. It is truly a marvel of architecture in the bird world. It is roughly circular in shape, can incorporate up to 8 000 individual items of material and is plastered with mud on the inside. There is a
Story by Peter Lawson, photos by Jacques de Villiers
have a collection of old ornithological works, the oldest of which is ‘South African Bird-Life’ by Haagner and Ivy, written in 1907. Back then it had the common name of ‘Hammerhead’ but the scientific name was as it stands today, although it was called a type of stork. Then I have a reference, ‘Birds of the World’, written in the USA by Oliver Austen in 1961. He also calls it ‘Hammerhead’ and this is what he has to say about this strange bird: “This queer-looking bird lacks powder-downs and flies with its neck extended like a stork or ibis, yet it has heron-like voice organs and a variety of calls. Its hind toe is level with the others and it has heron-like teeth on the outer edge of its middle claw. Its wide, flat bill is unlike that of any other species in the order, and the bird lice that infect it are most closely allied to those found on certain plovers.” I love this bird, lice and all, but I think it gave many an ornithologist sleepless nights or bad dreams.
small entrance hole facing out from the least accessible side of the nest. When Mrs H is incubating the eggs, which take about 30 days to hatch, her loving husband decorates the top of the nest with all kinds of items such as animal dung, leaves, plastic, cigarette packets, bits of cloth and other manmade artefacts. I once pointed out a nest to birding tourists from overseas when someone pointed at a pink object amongst the decorative debris. On looking through my binoculars I was astounded to see that it was a ladies bra. Goodness knows how Mr H came by it but it would have been a good subject for a cartoonist.
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Eco Village brings
life to Green Valley
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Children’s Eco Training (CET), in conjunction with the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation (formerly MAD CHARITY™) and an enthusiastic group of Classic Wallabies Exchange (CWE) volunteers from Australia, have established a fourth Eco Village in the Acornhoek / Bushbuckridge area. The newest Eco Village, at Hloaia Primary School in Green Valley, was designed by the CWE volunteers and built with the assistance of learners, educators and community members over a five week period during the winter school holidays. It was officially handed over to the community in a vibrant ceremony on 17 July, the eve of Mandela Day. The Eco Village consists of a large vegetable garden that will supplement the government feeding scheme and demonstrate to grade 6 and 7 learners the principles of food production and sustainability. The refurbished classroom with vibrant murals will be the setting for environment-based lessons conducted by CET programme staff. The 11 CWE volunteers are young indigenous adults from Australia who were selected for the volunteer programme because of their academic achievement at university and personal potential. They designed the Eco Village with a distinctive indigenous flavour, incorporating serpent patterns in the garden and traditional dot paintings in the classroom. The programme was delivered locally by CET, in partnership with the CWE, Australian Volunteers International (AVI) and the Australian Government’s ‘Australian Volunteers for International Development’ programme. It follows the successful inaugural programme that took place in 2014 when a group of eight CWE volunteers established an Eco Village at Mahlathi Primary School. Corné Havenga, CEO of CET, said: “The primary schools we work with are some of the poorest in South Africa and have little in the way of facilities. Less than 5% of schools in Limpopo and Mpumalanga have functioning libraries and more than 30% either have no toilets or only basic pit toilets. By establishing Eco Villages, we are starting a relationship with the school that will grow over time. Once the school demonstrates that they can care for the Eco Village, we will work with them to improve basic infrastructure such as
toilets, libraries and kitchens and then assist with building the capacity of educators.” Helette Pieterse, CEO of the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation (MAD Foundation), attended the opening ceremony, together with Klaserie representatives, the local Tribal Council, Education Department circuit managers, local media and community members. In her speech, Pieterse reaffirmed the MAD Foundation’s commitment to the collaboration with CET and quoted Zenobia Barlow: “Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.” Hloaia Primary School Principal, Shemmy Machego, said at the opening ceremony: “Children’s Eco Training has brought life to the school and given the community hope for a better future.” While the CWE volunteers have now returned to their respective homes, the exchange programme and their work in South Africa will have a lasting impact on their lives. The intention of the programme is to develop the volunteers’ leadership skills that can be implemented amongst their own communities in Australia. The volunteers will be required to make presentations on their experiences in the field to their own communities. The programme will also leave a legacy at the school, with Grade 6 and 7 learners at Hloaia being responsible for the ongoing care of the Eco Village and for passing the garden on to their younger peers. Donations to support the work of CET can be made at www.ecochildren.co.za.
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The tale of the disappearing camera Story by Jan Pienaar, photos from stolen camera trap
amera traps – that is, cameras set in one place to take a picture once movement is detected – is an invaluable research tool. It allows you to document the occurrence of scarce species, and ones that are shy of human activities, as it removes the constant human traffic from a specific area. With this in mind, we set up one in front of our house as we constantly saw various different small mammal tracks in the mornings. We had almost immediate success. African civet, Sharpe’s grysbok, Grey duiker, steenbok and various bird species were all recorded within the first week of the camera being set up. But the big cats did not put in an appearance. Then we decided to move the camera to the waterhole in front of the house, about 200m away. We have often seen leopards and lions drinking from there and we wanted to get them on record, mostly for identification purposes. By lunchtime, the camera was up and running. For two to three months prior to this fateful day, not one elephant had visited our little waterhole – until that evening. Three different herds, as well as a large herd of buffalo, visited the water to quench their thirst. I was very excited at this as we would have
some awesome pictures, but when I went there the next morning to collect the memory card the camera was gone. No sign of it among the myriad elephant tracks and I feared the ellies may have carried it off into the bush. A camouflaged camera lying in the bush – not exactly the easiest object to find! Two days later I had sort of given up hope of finding it, until Liana went to the waterhole to have a look around. Since the incident, more elephants had come to the water, and it must have been their constant activity in the soft mud that led to the camera being exposed. One little corner caught Liana’s eye and the mudcovered camera was found. I was sceptical whether it would still be functioning though. Needless to say, I now have newfound respect for the manufacturing of these superb pieces of equipment. Not only did the mud and water not penetrate the camera, this was also the second time it had survived an elephant ‘attack’ – the first time being when an elephant stood on it whilst it was on duty in Botswana. We are happy to report that it is still going strong, but this is the last time I’ll put it up near a waterhole that elephants like to frequent! It is now on duty inside one of our camps, hoping to record the leopards that walk through on a regular basis. Watch this space...
CET says thank you for ongoing support to ...
Advert kindly sponsored by an anonymous donor
• • • •
All the advertisers and sponsors of the KC All regular donors and supporters All Kit-a-Kid donors Elodie Janovsky – donation of books to our library • African Impact- for continued assistance with CET projects • African Impact Photography Team
• Australian Volunteers International – continued support • Classic Wallabies Exchange Volunteers – establishment of the 4th CET Eco Village • MAD Leadership Foundationsponsoring the 4th CET Eco Village • MAD Leadership Foundation – interviewing possible Bursary candidates in the Hoedspruit area.
• Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre sponsoring a 2 week training programme • Anne Innis Dagg – donation of stationery • Hannah Barnes facilitating Math’s Capacity Building Workshops • READ Educational Trust - facilitated Grade R level workshops • Appelblaar Padstal – donation of plants
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Rescue effort tries to erase owls'’ stigma Story and photos by Robyn Dixon
llyn Bagu lay in bed, listening to the creatures nesting under the roof of her new apartment. She could hear them scrabbling around and their ominous screeches. One day, her sister-in-law saw one of them outside their third-floor window and screamed. It was an owl. “I was thinking of moving,” Bagu said, shuddering. “It’s bad luck.” Owls are reviled in many parts of Africa as harbingers of death. In South Africa, many believe that when an owl lands on the roof and hoots, it has been sent by a sangoma, or witch doctor, delivering a fatal curse. Bagu’s husband called EcoSolutions, a company with a “Ghostbusters”-style relocation service. It turned out there were 10 owls in Bagu’s dark, warm attic. Owl catcher Hussein Mduduzi, jumping from roof strut to roof strut, managed to catch two owlets, but the eight grown owls flew off. Mduduzi descended, gently carrying the owlets in a box. The youngsters, their baby fluff half replaced by feathers, looked tatty and nervous. Their heartshaped faces swivelled about, gazing with large, dark eyes at the creature who’d taken them from their home. Bagu’s tiny daughter burst into tears, ran and snuggled up to her mother. Tendai Remwa, EcoSolutions’ manager, tried to calm down Bagu and her daughter. “These owls are just like any other birds,” she said. “It’s very bad to take the babies away from their mothers.” She explained that the mature owls would return unless the entry holes were closed and owl nesting boxes were installed nearby. Bagu looked skeptical, but anything was better than having them in the attic.
Baby barn owls
Tendai Remwa of EcoSolutions
and care for the owls, in the hope they’ll grow to understand owls and even become their protectors. Since the project began in 1998, about 84 000 children have been involved, feeding and caring for owls. Six years ago, Lerato Ramathopa, then 13, announced to her family that she would be caring for barn owls at school. “They said to me I was going to die soon and I was going to bring bad luck on the family,” she said. The wondrous weeks that followed changed her life. She learned how to feed the owlets and clean their box. She would hold the owlets, touching their down, and watching as their necks twisted 270 degrees. “My uncle and aunt were saying because I have the courage to hold an The challenge Remwa, an owl lover, hopes to erase old owl, I’m involved in witchcraft,” superstitions about owls. The company’s she said. “But I started non-profit ,Township Owls Project, is using developing a love for owls, so I didn’t care what they said. It the birds to help control the rampant, had a big impact on my life. and at times dangerous, rat population When Mduduzi began in crowded townships, and educating rescuing owls five years ago, he people about their value. “If somebody said, he was “nervous, because I is afraid, I explain, ‘I’m African, like you. I didn’t trust owls.” To begin with, deal with owls every single day. Nothing he said, it was just a job that bad has happened to me or my family.’” others were afraid to take, in an When residents refuse to accept economy where jobs are scarce. the installation of nesting boxes for But after years of climbing up the owlets taken from their ceilings, to roofs and reaching into small EcoSolutions rescues them to prevent dark spaces to save owlets, them being killed. They are handed to he’s learned to love them. He’s the Township Owls Project, to be placed even training to become the in nesting boxes in township schools, which are deserted and peaceful at night. country’s first black owl ringer, learning how to place a band Schoolchildren are taught how to feed
on a bird’s leg so the owl can be traced and identified. He teaches people that owls are like any other birds, except that they get rid of an everyday evil: the large rats that crawl into people’s shacks and eat their food, clothing and shoes. There have been reports of rats gnawing off a baby’s fingers, or elderly and disabled people dying after being set upon by rats. “I tell you, the rats in the townships are a nightmare. No one would want to have that. They’re big, like small rabbits. They just terrorize the townships,” EcoSolutions’ Remwa said. “People actually sleep in their shoes, because they’re afraid of rats.” A way forward Explanations from the shy and soft-spoken Mduduzi seem to quell fears. After he tells people about owls and their behaviour, he said, most people agree to accept breeding boxes nearby. Some animal rights groups oppose the release of barn owls into townships, saying some have been killed. Jonathan Haw, director of EcoSolutions, says that in the long term, the owls’ best hope in South Africa is survival in urban communities that are educated about their value as rat predators. He said one theory that owls would be better off set free somewhere like Kruger National Park made no sense scientifically. Moving rescued young owls to national parks with finite rodent prey would put more pressure on the local owl populations; the introduced owls might survive at the expense of the national park’s owls, he said. And mature birds released far from their home nest would try to fly back, at risk of being killed by territorial owls on the way, or dying of starvation, or being hit by a car. He contends that townships, where huge numbers of rats thrive on dumped trash, make the ideal urban habitat for barn owls. Spotted eagle owls, which need some greenery, do better in suburban gardens, where the organisation installs boxes for them. In Alexandra, a crowded township with a serious rat problem a few kilometres from the upscale Sandton shopping mall in Johannesburg, schoolboy Michael Rampho says his grandmother handed on the old superstition that owls are evil. At his school on the border of Alexandra, he overcomes his fear that owls will attack him, carefully following Mduduzi’s instructions on how to pick up a rescued owlet by its feet and gently place it in its nesting box. “I felt good because it felt soft. I was kind of relieved because it didn’t do anything bad,” Michael said. Each day for three weeks, he and his friends will feed it. The students name the bird Razzaq, or “provider,” in the language of one pupil, Hussein Tyrone, who said boys in his Midrand neighbourhood sometimes throw stones at owls. “I just say it’s like a normal bird. They say I’m lying, but I convince them to leave it alone.” When Ramathopa, the student, sees people in Alexandra throwing stones at an owl, she dashes up to stop them. “They call them ‘things.’ I try to explain that these birds are harmless, you have to let it go, because they have a right to live in our environment,” she said. Last year, an owl was somehow trapped in one of her school’s classrooms. “Everyone was screaming. Even the teachers were a mess. The principal was even afraid of it, saying, ‘Get rid of that thing!’ I just went and picked it up. I released the owl and it flew away. I’m not afraid of owls.”
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LiMF working together to defend the pride Story by Orla McEvoy, photos by Warren Howson
The Lion Management Forum of South Africa (LiMF) was initiated as a discussion board in 2010 as a forum to review management concerns with peers. Through LiMF, reserve managers and wildlife researchers nationwide began to pool resources and information in order to explore and manage the common issues around reintroduced lions.
ith the heaviest weight, loudest roar and most cohesive societies of all big cats, lions are a focal point of both conservation and tourism ventures alike. Having roamed the continent for close to a million years, lions are truly the epitome of a skilful top predator. However, their keen predatory abilities have also been a hindrance to them. In recent generations, lions have been forced to extinction across vast areas of their range for reasons including livestock protection, persecution and habitat loss. In South Africa, lions persisted through these times only in the areas of the Kgalagadi and Kruger National Parks. Over the past 50 years conservationists have begun to reintroduce lions to many areas, with a sharp increase in new populations over the past two decades. This has resulted in close to 50 free-roaming populations of wild lion across South Africa. These populations represent a crucial conservation source for a species that is globally classified as vulnerable to extinction. Conserving these large, charismatic carnivores within our protected areas and game reserves has however raised certain issues. Compared with open systems such as Kruger, all of these reserves are smaller in scale. Small in this sense refers to areas less than an expansive 100 000 hectares. Often with fewer prides and fewer unknown nomadic lions, managers of the smaller reserves face matters associated with altered lion social behaviour. For example with less competition from unknown individuals, there would be less motivation for lionesses to group together to protect their cubs or territory. This may lead to more prey being eaten by lionesses hunting more independently. Wildlife managers may also face interlinked dilemmas such as increasing lion populations, decreasing prey populations and inbreeding concerns amongst others. The Lion Management Forum of South Africa (LiMF) was initiated as a discussion board in 2010 as a forum to review these management concerns with peers. Through LiMF, reserve managers and wildlife researchers nationwide began to pool resources and information in order to explore and manage the common issues around reintroduced lions. Leading from this, LiMF published a peer-reviewed scientific paper in 2013. This work outlined the major concerns linked with lion management in smaller protected areas of South Africa, such as genetic integrity as listed above. Headed by Dr. Susan Miller from the University of Pretoria, the article also outlined possible solutions to such problems and underlined the need for the development of national norms and standards for effective management of these wild lions. From its inception, LiMF has been committed to a holistic approach towards lion management concerns, striving for proactive, evidence-based and practical solutions to problems.
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Such solutions should aim to repair natural processes which have been broken down in smaller reserves, reflecting conditions in more open systems. Part of their latest project underway through PhD student, Orla McEvoy, is investigating lion pride dynamics on smaller reserves as the cause of lion population growth and predation increase in these areas. This project seeks to understand how we can best mimic natural pride dynamics in our smaller reserve systems, providing best practise recommendations. This project is supported by Satib Conservation Trust, through chairman, Brian Courtenay. Brian is currently assisting with fundraising for the project and has arranged a sponsored Land Rover vehicle for the fieldwork.
LiMF now represents members from close to 50 reserves containing lions, along with many recognised wildlife researchers. Led by chairman, Dr Sam Ferreira of SANParks Scientific Services, LiMF is dedicated to the long-term conservation of viable, freeroaming lion populations in South Africa. Through such collaborative efforts and ongoing research, the conservation status of lions in South Africa can continue to rise. LiMF’s primary vision is that lions are an important driver of natural systems and of the socio-economy of integrated landscapes. Thereby lions contribute to biodiversity and economic values, improving the livelihoods of people through sustainable development. LiMF is currently undergoing formalisation as a PBO and are assisting the Department of Environmental Affairs in the development of a Biodiversity Management Plan for lions in South Africa. For more information or to get involved, please contact Orla at sa_lions. email@example.com or Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hyena in action Story by Nini Baxter
ost think that hyena only scavenge from other predators’ kills, however the vast majority of the time, hyena hunt themselves. Usually their prey die of shock and loss of blood, as the hyena bite chunks out of the animal while it runs, pulling it down and tearing it apart. Early in June I experienced an incredible sighting on Baobab Ridge traverse after the day’s game drives were done and the guests were having dinner at the lodge. The kill lasted only a few hours. When we returned in the early, and still dark, hours of the morning, all that was left was the animal’s spine, one leg, the skull and its beautiful massive horns. In areas where spotted hyena face competition from other predators, they gorge themselves as fast as they can and one hyena can eat around 15kg of meat in one sitting. At this kill there were about 15 hyenas on and around the kill, of which at least four were cubs. It has been recorded that a clan of 21 hyenas finished a 100kg wildebeest in only 10 minutes and a clan of 31 consumed a 200kg zebra and its 150kg foal in 36 minutes. Each hyena takes a turn at the carcass, with dominants feeding first on
the larger, and often best, portions. Lower ranking hyena often hunt alone to avoid having to share or compensate by roaming bigger distances in search of food. During their feeding frenzy the hyena were very loud and chased each other around the kill. It is very seldom that clan hyena fight over food on a kill as their ranking system determines how much they eat and when they eat. The spotted hyena’s massive skull and bone-cracking teeth usually take about three years to develop fully, so until a hyena cub can feed as efficiently as a full-grown adult hyena, it depends on its mother’s support for food. Clans are always lead by a dominant female hyena, always larger than the males. Within a clan there is a dominance hierarchy, females are larger than males and dominant, cubs inherit their mothers’ rank and are therefore dominant to males and resident males outrank immigrant males (except when it comes to mating). Nearly all females stay in the clan they were born into, while most males leave when they are 2 to 6 years old. Immigrant males can be accepted into a clan after weeks of cautious approaches and subordination, with the immigrant bearing the brunt of the clan’s aggression without retaliation.
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Yellow-billed Stork. Photo Kavi Naidoo
Red-headed weaver. Photo Fred Ruest
Lion cub. Photo Jan Pienaar
Cheetah. Photo Sue Keartland
Wild dog. Photo Sue Keartland
Mopani worm eggs. Photo Fred Ruest Pieter Steenkamp page kindly sponsored by an anonymous donor
19 | Klaserie Chronicle/Kroniek no. 33
Waterbuck. Photo Dawid Jansen
â€˜Camouflageâ€™ from Fred Ruest
Leopard. Photo taken at Camp Mkombe
Hippo show at sunset. Photo Tim Feherty
Elephant. Dawid Jansen
sightings Hyena. Photo Johann du Toit
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The wonderful world of bird nests Part 2: Ground Nests Many species lay well-marked or pigmented eggs that help to camouflage their presence on the open ground.
Three-banded Courser incubating.
Story and photos by Derek Solomon
his is the second in a series of three articles about bird nests. In the previous issue we discussed tree nests. This time we are going to focus on ground nests. The most simple nest construction is merely a scrape in the ground, often with no lining and the eggs simply laid on the ground; sometimes placed amongst pebbles, or partially hidden by pieces of vegetation, dung or other debris which helps to camouflage the eggs. There is usually a slight rim that helps to keep the eggs from rolling away. Ostriches, bustards, coursers, thickknees, nightjars, several falcons and many waders are among the species that build this type of nest.
Water Thick-knee nest
Fiery-necked Nightjar nest. Photo Lee Gutteridge
When newly fledged chicks such as plovers are disturbed at a nest site, they sit tight close to the ground hoping that they wonâ€™t be discovered.
Three-branded Plover chick at nest site
Other species burrow into the ground using a combination of beaks and feet to excavate the nest, digging a tunnel into a steep river bank and creating a chamber at the end to house the eggs and eventually the chicks. Bee-eaters and some species of Kingfisher are typical examples. While the Pied Kingfisher nests mainly solitarily, the White-fronted Bee-eater is a colonial nester with groups of 10-30 sharing the same riverbank.
White-fronted Bee-eater nest holes
â€“ more on page 21
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Grade R teachers receive further training
hildren’s Eco Training (CET) recently received a generous donation from the Ghekube Farm owners in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR) to implement a training programme for Grade R teachers at CET’s four adopted schools. The training was facilitated by the READ Educational Trust, a South African NGO that operates broadly in the education and literacy sectors, specifically in educator training and providing school resources. This project is designed to help children and educators become better equipped for the requirements placed on them by a formal education system. The teachers’ training emphasised the holistic development of the child and educator and lessons provided for inside and outside play while also illustrating the importance of music, puzzle solving and cleanliness. Furthermore, educators were also schooled in what comprises a nutritional diet, and taught
to encourage children to tidy up after themselves and maintain personal hygiene. The project complimented CET’s mission in sowing seeds of change and empowering children in rural communities by improving their learning
environments and the quality of their education. We hope this workshop will be the first of many in developing our adopted schools and developing the capacity of educators in the area.
bird nests – continued from page 20 To the north of us the larger Carmine Bee-eater uses the near vertical banks of the major rivers such as the Zambezi for breeding, sometimes forming colonies of thousands of pairs. Some ground-nesters such as the Capped Wheatear and the Grey-rumped Swallow do not excavate their own nest holes; instead they use disused rodent burrows or termite holes as nest sites. Carmine Bee-eater nest holes
Capped wheatear and chick at nest hole For detailed information on this topic I strongly recommend Warwick Tarboton’s Roberts Nests & Eggs of Southern African Birds.
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Pangolin at Klaserie Camps Story and photos by Jan Pienaar
id-winter is often the best time to see some of the scarcer, nocturnal creatures of Africa, as food becomes harder to find and the animals have to forage increasingly during daylight hours to meet their daily nutritional needs. Those that feed on insects are particularly prone to this type of behaviour, as insects are largely inactive during the cold nights. This is very likely what happened one morning in July when Liana and I were heading back from the Klaserie River to
our lodge in the western part of the property. Just that morning we had spoken about pangolin, as we had seen photos from a friend of ours taken in the Kruger National Park that Wednesday. I kept telling her that it all comes down to luck, as you can’t really track it like you would a leopard or lion. We were still ruminating on this revelation when I heard, through the open driver’s side window, a distinct rustling in the grass. Glancing quickly out the window, it took my mind a few
seconds to process exactly what I was seeing – a scaled shape, very low to the ground and unlike anything else in the South African bush. I hit the brakes before my brain even had a chance to formulate the word: “PANGOLIN!”. I was so excited that I actually forgot about my camera on the back seat until Liana reminded me of it. We caught up with the animal which was, judging by its size, an adult. It immediately headed into some fallen over Red Bushwillows to hide from us, affording us just a few glimpses of its tiny head and muzzle and offering its heavily armoured backside as protection from us. We stood in silence for a few minutes until the animal started moving, coming out of its hiding place and heading for safety. I only managed a few shots before it disappeared into an even more formidable bushwillow fortress, but it was enough. We then left it in peace, exhilarated by the experience. The ground pangolin, also known as Cape or Temminck’s Pangolin, is one of four species in Africa and one of eight in the world. Most of the species are smaller and more arboreal than the ground pangolin, with the exception of the aptly named giant ground pangolin which, as its name suggests, is also the only other terrestrial species. They mainly feed on certain species of ants, with termites and other small insects making up only a small part of their diet. They all have extremely long tongues which, interestingly, are anchored near the pelvic bone. The tongue is used to probe the nests and tunnels of their prey, lapping it up to be swallowed and passed to the very muscular, gizzard-like stomach. Grit ingested during the feeding process helps to break down the exoskeleton of their prey, as they have no teeth and a very small jaw. All species are critically endangered, threatened by that combination of factors influencing all wildlife on earth – habitat loss, human encroachment and poaching. Their body scales are used in traditional medicines and their meat is said to be a delicacy in many parts of the world, only adding to their vulnerability. This was Liana’s first ever pangolin sighting in ten years in the bush, and only my fourth in 13 years, all of them in the Lowveld, and the only one I was lucky enough to be able to photograph! A very special experience indeed and one that we won’t forget in a hurry. I trust this will not be our last…
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The Groups of Klaserie: Part 3
Story by Kate Carstens, photos by Cassie Carstens In this series, we’re taking you through the recent histories of the Ground Hornbill groups of the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR.) This month, we’re discussing the Strydom group.
trydom group occupies a home range in northeastern Klaserie, with parts of their home range extending into Umbabat. We began following this group in 1998 and it has always remained a small group of two to four individuals. They have two artificial nests in their home range but seem to have a preference for using only one. Although we do keep checking the other nest as we have flushed the female there on more than one occasion, and the male does line both nests with a full lining of mopane leaves. We know pairs of Ground Hornbills often struggle to nest successfully without the assistance of helper individuals in the group. Indeed, groups of three individuals are more successful at nesting than just a pair. Interestingly, having more than three birds has no additional benefit to nesting success, with groups of three being just as successful as groups of six for example. Strydom group has mostly been just the pair and understandably they haven’t enjoyed as much success as the other larger groups when it comes to nesting. But importantly they keep trying. They fledged chicks in both the summers of 2010 and 2011, and although they attempted again in 2012 their attempt wasn’t successful in the end, with the chick disappearing, most likely predated. Their young one who fledged in the 2011 season stayed with the pair for over a year before dispersing in the summer of 2013 into Senalala group. The wet season of 2011/2012 for this group must have been hair-raising. Their nest sits in a tree not particularly high off the ground on the banks of an intermittent stream in the Umbabat. During the flood in January 2012, this group had a chick that was already a couple of weeks old and I was sure the flood water had taken the nest tree and the chick with it. To my surprise, when I could eventually check the nest a few weeks after the flood, I found the nest still standing and the chick happy as Larry inside! Although it was a close call – flood debris indicated that the water level had reached just half a meter below the nest. I can only imagine what the chick inside must have been thinking watching all that water rush past!
During the flood in January 2012, this group had a chick that was already a couple of weeks old and I was sure the flood water had taken the nest tree and the chick with it.
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Adult Eco Training continues its success
he third Adult Eco Training workshop was recently delivered by Children’s Eco Training (CET) to 12 enthusiastic participants and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The workshop took place at the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR) HQ at the end of July and topics covered over the four days included weather and climate, energy cycles, animal territories and habitats. The workshop was attended by workers from farms across the KPNR employed in a wide range of different roles, and was facilitated by Gay Wabeke and CET’s Queen Manyike. CEO of CET, Corné Havenga, said: “While hosting holiday workshops for the children of the KPNR we realised that adults who work on various farms within the Reserve felt left behind. While their children were acquiring new knowledge about the environment and its importance, the adults weren’t able to gain the same knowledge and the Adult Eco Training workshops were born.” Involving a mixture of class work and practical lessons, the workshops have been designed to be interactive and follow the principle of: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Some of the practical work saw participants making their own micro ecosystems using plastic
bottles, water, soil, insects, worms and dead leaves to demonstrate the water cycle and decomposition. The experiment reinforced the principal of interconnectedness in ecosystems. Another experiment focussed on water pollution, using a small bowl with clean water and dishwashing liquid as pollution, representing oil, and showing how it affects the buoyancy of objects on the water. Participants also made an anemometer, a devise used to measure wind speed, as part of the lesson on energy cycles. The workshop culminated in a two hour written test, which all participants completed successfully, before being issued with certificates of completion. Queen Manyike, one of the facilitators, said “it was great to see so much enthusiasm
from all the attendees and to see that they were very keen to learn more”. Adult Eco Training occurs three times a year and complements the holiday workshops for children on the farms which take place four times a year.
Congratulations to the following participants for completing the workshop: •
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Story by Dr Hannah Barnes from BushMaths
he Educators’ Capacity Building Programme was initiated by Children’s Eco Training (CET) earlier this year with a series of workshops for grade 4 to 7 mathematics teachers in the Hluvukani and Green Valley areas. This programme was launched in order to address the quality of education in key learning areas and as part of CET’s goal of developing schools in the area holistically, ultimately improving education in the area. A total of eight workshops have been completed thus far, with the number of teachers usually between 15 and 20 per workshop. Working with the teachers has been a pleasure but has also brought to the fore the importance of supporting these mathematics educators. I have had a number of the teachers tell me that they were not formally trained in mathematics, and many did not even do maths at grade 12 level themselves. Yet, owing to the lack of trained teachers, they have been placed in these positions. This has meant that conceptual understanding and content has had to become the primary focus of the workshops. While teachers are still encouraged to reflect continuously on their own practices, and different teaching styles are modelled to them, the current priority needs to be to help them understand the content and concepts they are teaching. For the first few workshops we worked intensely on their mental mathematics skills and their understanding of the decimal system and place value. Attendees also requested assistance with topics such as two and three-dimensional objects, perimeter and area, time and time zones and working through past Annual National Assessment (ANA) type questions for grades 4 to 7. Each year the Department of Education requires schools to write these ANA tests in order
Maths Capacity Building identifies local challenges to evaluate learner performance in different grades at schools as well as nationally in grades 1 to 6 and grade 9. While the national average percentage score of these tests is a shocking 11% for grade 9’s in 2014, Limpopo’s average performance for the same grade is 7% and Mpumalanga’s is 12%. The Grade 6 average national score is better at 42% but both Limpopo’s and Mpumalanga’s average show worrying trends, being 33% and 40% respectively. The concerning part of these statistics is that on average the learners in Limpopo and Mpumalanga know approximately one third of what they should know at the younger, vital stages of their learning. It is therefore no wonder the performance in the national and provincial ANA tests at grade 9 level is so low, indicating learners’ mathematical knowledge and competence is at one tenth of what it is expected to be at this level. Like all assessments, these ANA tests come with their own limitations and can be ambiguous, but they do give
an overview of how dire the learning situation currently is in our country. It remains a privilege to work with the teachers in Hluvukani and Green Valley who, despite difficult circumstances, are keen to learn and improve their understanding of the subject. I too have learnt a great deal from them and enjoy our weekly interactions. They have become more open about indicating to me when they do not understand a concept or when I need to go over something again. They also enjoy assisting each other in understanding the work. One of the Mpumalanga district officials has been attending some of the workshops and has expressed her desire to see this training programme implemented on a broader scale. We hope this is something that can be considered in conjunction with the Mpumalanga Education Department, but for now, it remains a privilege to be working with the teachers in these two areas and with Children’s Eco Training (CET), who has made this possible.
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BROTHERS IN ARMS
Allies in the fight against rhino poaching Story and photos by Wynand Uys
actually met each other. A kind of mutual respect and understanding, I suppose, When Jabiru SA deployed a new J170 that does not require to provide aerial support in the fight anything more than the brief against rhino poaching, the greatest agreement of a tactical plan need for its services was determined over the radio. After deciding to write this article, I realised to be the coalition of game reserves west of Kruger National Park, known I knew nothing other than that the Big Game Heli guys as Game Reserves United (GRU). A are cracking good chopper variety of air support units had, of course, been operational before the pilots, highly respected, a pleasure to work with and that “Rhino Jab” joined the scrap. The they do a lot of good in the GRU-Wing learnt much from these seasoned experts and in this series of anti-rhino poaching effort. I phoned Gerry McDonald, articles I give recognition to some of whom I know a bit better and the persons and units that play a vital role in saving rhino.
Big Game Heli
The Osmers family and their helicopters are part of the northern Lowveld landscape. On any given day, one or more of their choppers are active in and around the Hoedspruit or Lowveld airspaces, herding game, darting, counting and/ or rescuing distressed animals. Many a poacher has been arrested with the help of Big Game Heli. Though the GRUWing and Big Game Heli have never had a joint briefing on the ground, our respective roles at a poaching incident have always been clear. A few words over the radio sufficed to establish a working relationship in the air, applying the aircraft to best effect. Although effective, this struck me as a strange relationship. Except for a quick “howzit” at a fuel bowser somewhere, the GRU-Wing and Big Game Heli pilots have never
who’d recently joined the ranks of Big Game Heli pilots. He set up a meeting for me with Benjamin Osmers at the Big Game Heli base on their game farm, Thankerton, near Gravelotte. Both Ben and I had a tight schedule between other flying commitments so he agreed to pick me up at a nearby bush strip in order to show me their heli-pad and hangar. I was in for a surprise. Thankerton is an impressive game farm, with about 200ha of sturdy and very
neat game pens. It was immediately evident that these folks are big players in the game industry. On our way to the hangar I spotted sable with magnificent horns, black impala and reedbuck. The middens I saw were all what remained of their rhino. “We sold the lot of them,” said Ben, “for security reasons.” I fully understood. Rhino keepers are as much endangered as rhino, their families being vulnerable to attack in their homes. Arriving at the hangar,
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Big Game Heli founders, Zander Osmers and Francois du Toit
we witness Markus Filip, a company pilot, skilfully setting a bright yellow R44 down on a cradle that was waiting for him on the pad in front of the large hangar. After shut-down Markus pushes the cradle with little effort along its rails into the spotless hanger, joining the Bell 206B-3 that Ben parked there a little earlier. At the moment, Big Game Heli has two R44’s and the Bell 206 on its inventory. There are impressive hangars in the world, but this one is a doozey! Space for five helicopters and room to spare for a lounge, a billiards table, bar, big screen TV and all the comforts a fatigued pilot can dream of. The hangar is well lit and absolutely, shiny clean. On the wall there are framed certificates from Department of Transport and CAA, listing the classes and types of air services that Big Game Heli are cleared for. I notice, amongst many others to do with game work, approvals for fire spotting, aerial survey, photography and charters. Seeing my puzzlement, Ben says that extending the approved operations of an air service is such a mission, on the last occasion they’d applied for all possible categories and classes, once and for all. I ask Ben to help me narrow down what they really apply their flying skills to. We decide that “Specialised Wildlife and Environmental Management Services” is an apt description. Whatever the case may be, their skills are called upon by many in the northern Lowveld and elsewhere, including Mozambique. Their specialisations include game census, game capture, darting, culling and anti-poaching operations. Ben, his father, Zander, his brother, Charl, and his uncle, Francois du Toit make up four of the six company pilots. Zander and Francois were founding members of Big Game Heli. I ask if their extensive use of helicopters developed as a natural and essential outgrowth of their game farming and big game hunting enterprises. “Not really,” says Ben, “we just love flying!” Ben’s soon-to-be son or daughter would be the fourth generation Osmers to grow up here in the wilderness. Ben shows me a picture of the “first Osmers men who’d explored Gravelotte early 1900’s, cooking a meal next to their bivvy.” In the background, I notice, there is a lion on the roof of their vehicle that is having an eye-to-eye with whom appears to be the camp assistant.
I didn’t ask about the lion, because evidently that is a detail of little significance. Wild animals have always been part of the Osmers’ lifestyle. At last we discuss our mutual interests: anti-poaching missions. We agree that flying time is sometimes wasted when operating procedures aren’t clearly understood. Missions go well when the local warden or ranger assumes proper command and control, understanding that air support is one asset in his toolbox that must be integrated to compliment his other resources. “You can’t phone up a chopper and expect it to, magically, solve your problem.” We also agree that over the last few years the dire situation has forced the protected area managers to learn how to apply aircraft to best effect. What choppers are best at, is pinning down the usually unseen poachers while ground forces close in. Sure, one can sometimes spot the culprits from the air, but that should not be expected from the outset of a mission. Effective communication between the trackers and air support is the key to success.
Risk and safety
Finally I ask Ben about risk and safety. I know him and his colleagues fly highly demanding missions. I’ve
seen their choppers in attitudes of flight that I, as a fixed wing pilot, did not know were possible. Ben, with 5 300 hours pilot-in-command has never experienced a crash or serious incident. Surely there must be some hairy stories? Close encounters? “No,” he smiles. That brings me to a question I was hesitant to ask: I tell Ben that when I moved to Hoedspruit in 1986, I met a succession of helicopter pilots in the game business. By the time I met the seventh one, the first five (some of them legendary bush pilots) had died in helicopter crashes. By the late 90’s the carnage stopped. What happened? What caused the turn-around? Ben had the answer ready: In those earlier days, the guys used small two-seaters. Good machines, but underpowered for game work. Nowadays, the game industry has matured and is not as cash-strapped as in those days. Bigger choppers can be afforded and we see R44’s and Jetty’s as the work horses. Load them lightly and they are not prone to let you down when turning down-wind on a hot day. I’m sure there is more to it, but I believe that Ben has given it a lot of thought and that he gave me the bare-bones answer that a plank driver can understand.
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The art of tracking “I glanced down at my boots and saw that they were a slightly darker shade of brown than usual from the morning dew. Crisp winter air whipped through my khaki fleece and did a more thorough job at waking me than even the strongest coffee could. My own breath looked thick and opaque as it left my lips. As I paced around the waterhole the sun peaked above the crest of the Leadwood and Jackalberry wall that lined our river and, as if by magic, the night’s secret activities were suddenly glowing on the ground in front of me as if I had opened the day’s newspaper. Clear paths and trails were evident in the red dust, from the dainty, cautious tiptoe of a lonely grey duiker to the self-assured, loping gait of a spotted hyena. Even the beautifully proportioned feet of a large male leopard could be seen stealthily approaching the water. Finally I spotted what I was searching for; a delicate horseshoe-shaped toe that was faintly replicated a few inches parallel with the tell-tale creasing caused by deeply cracked skin in between. Even though I couldn’t see the bold front toe indentation on this rock-hard ground, previously seeing countless variations in a plethora of different substrates let me know with complete confidence that this was the track of a white rhino. The freshly disturbed ground that hadn’t yet had time to be bleached by the morning sun indicated to me that this was fresh enough for me to follow with a good chance of finding the animal. I checked quickly which way the rhino exited the waterhole and set off west at pace, every now and again catching an edge of a toe or the crease of the heel and very rarely a whole track, but enough to let me know that I was still on the right path. I could see minute dark patches in the soil caused by droplets of water that had probably fallen from the animal’s mouth along the trail indicating that I wasn’t far behind, maybe only half an hour or so. I carried on with renewed focus now that I knew the animal was close. Unfortunately the task wasn’t to be quite as easy as I had hoped. The animal veered off the trail into dense grass and the beautifully glowing tracks in the blood red soil were no more. I could see flattened areas and cropped grass around a termite mound as the rhino appeared to walk in small, tight loops as it fed. I walked in a wide, 360-degree loop around the central point of the termite mound and found
another path of disturbed grass that looked like the most plausible route of exit for my rhino. Or was it perhaps another rhino coming in? I took a closer look at the area and saw that the blades of grass had been flattened away from the termite mound rather than towards it. This was the most likely route so I followed it. I had learnt the hard way to be thorough when checking potential exit routes when trailing big game, especially when the animals start milling around to feed or rest. This is truly an all-or-nothing scenario. You cannot half-find an animal you choose to trail. You either find it or you don’t, so it pays to put in the hours of what can often be very frustrating practice. One wrong turn will often throw you off the trail completely. I pushed on as the path led me into denser bush with just the faintest of hints telling me that I was even still following a trail at all. I used my knowledge of the surrounding topography to decide that, given the general direction I had been travelling in thus far, the animal was probably heading to an open plateau of good, nutritious climax grass species maybe half a kilometre ahead of me. I pushed on in that direction, guessing that the animal was heading there to feed. It wasn’t long before I noticed some liquid on a Sicklebush that was slightly more substantial than the surrounding morning dew. On closer inspection it was viscous and had a pungent smell. I held my hand near and a subtle breath of heat radiated from it. This was the urine spray of a territorial rhino bull, thus confirming my earlier directional instinct. And it was close, very close. My pulse quickened slightly as
I tested the wind direction with some loose, dry leaves. It was perfect. A gentle breeze blew in an easterly direction whilst the trail headed west. The animal would not be able to smell my approach so I just cautiously moved on, treading as softly as possible. Far behind me I picked out the delicate, raspy whisper of a small group of Red-Billed Oxpeckers that sounded as if they were moving in my general direction. I immediately stopped and turned to face them and followed the floating black specks as they moved across the sky. As they flew over my head their chattering sounded as excited as I felt and they dropped sharply, almost as if they were falling out of the sky, not 30 meters in front of me. I took five short steps forward and through the dense wall of Acacia could just make out the outline of a large square lip moving towards the ground to feed…”
Story and photos by Joshua Bell
This short story gives a good insight into tracking and its application in modern scenarios such as guiding, anti-poaching and hunting.
Today tracking is usually split into two distinct disciplines. Trailing, as described above, and track and sign. – more on page 29
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tracking – continue from page 28 Trailing requires one to follow animals by following their footprints, but also by following other signs known as spoor. Spoor ranges from the blatantly obvious to the very discreet and may include footprints, well used-trail paths, scat (dung), scratching posts, drag marks, ‘kills’, sounds, smells, other animals’ behaviour and general habitat clues. Track and sign focuses on all of those criteria individually and teaches one how to allocate them to a particular species. From a guiding perspective, being able to explain to a particularly interested client (or any guest) why a specific track is a Slender rather than a Banded Mongoose, or how a lioness’s steps become more deliberate and precise as she spots a herd of impala holds real value not just in sharing knowledge, but also in giving a very brief insight into the vast majority of the happenings in the bush that we don’t see and can only wonder about. The development of tracking skills in prehistoric or ‘Bushmen’ times was not a choice and starvation was the active medium of natural selection. As food sources grew and moved away from raw subsistence, most societies let tracking skills become forgotten as there simply was not a practical need for them. The pioneering activities of certain organisations such as CyberTracker have brought them back into
Leopard track on top of a rhino track, telling us the leopard is fresher
Eco Kidz | Holiday workshop Learning about the importance of water
he Children’s Eco Training (CET) June holiday workshop was once again a huge success with 278 children attending the workshop and learning about the importance of clean water as a foundation for life. This workshop built on lessons learnt in the April workshop that emphasised the importance of water. The workshop specifically looked at the dangers of water pollution and the affect it has on the environment. One of the key messages of the workshop was to explain to the children that water pollution affects not only one individual species, but also populations and the entire functioning of eco systems. The children played a variety of games learning about the different types of water pollution, causes, affects and preventive practices that they can use to deal with water pollution.
the consciousness of those that live and work in the bush in contemporary times but the future for tracking still looks relatively uncertain. In guiding the skill is usually considered nice to have, rather than a necessity, but I think the true benefit of tracking is its role in the struggle faced by the animal described in the short story at the beginning of this article. The plight of the rhino is a wellknown one and every method of defence against contemporary commercial poaching is important. Tracking in this scenario gives an
inexpensive weapon to use against poachers that can lead to their interception before any criminal act takes place. Being able to recognise unfamiliar boot, shoe or footprints walking through the area that you work or live in is an essential skill and with a collective effort could really help shift the tides back into our favour. This is one of the greatest potential values of modern day tracking and should be a great incentive for both those that work in the bush and enthusiasts alike to spend more time looking at the ground.
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On the rhino frontline Story and photos by Grant Stirton, a Canadian photojournalist focused on environmental and marine conservation
or naturalists and conservationists, South Africa grasps you in a truly unique way. It’s a wild place, rooted in a timeless rhythm, where vast landscapes mirror the larger-thanlife creatures found almost nowhere else. It offers endless opportunities for adventure and discovery, exceeding its reputation for exceptional encounters, with friendly people who are keen to share its virtues. I arrived in South Africa for a month early this year as part of a small documentary film crew, tasked with following a team of expedition kayakers. One local South African, a Canadian and an Australian, all concerned environmentalists, paddled the length of the Vaal and Orange Rivers, from source to sea, navigating thousands of kilometres to raise awareness about water security and provide environmental education. We had been recruited in Canada for our particular skills in aerial and underwater cinematography. In this case we would be capturing ‘drone’ footage of the team for part of the expedition, providing a visual perspective of the river environment that would help to tell their story. Coincidentally, upon speaking with the lead sponsor, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), we discovered that one of our team members had a family farm in the Balule Private Game Reserve, bordering the Kruger National Park (KNP). We learned this was a key area for rhino conservation efforts and that WESSA was part of a patchwork of organisations coordinating conservation initiatives and anti-poaching relief. Wanting to learn more, upon completing our expedition, we organised a trip to the Hoedspruit area and were able to connect with Game Reserves United (GRU) and other key supporting groups. Knowing little about the scale and scope of the problem, they were gracious enough to grant us access. What we found ignited our sense of urgency and reinforced the importance of effective communication and the contribution of those fighting on the ground. The rhino is iconic and in my home every child learns about their importance. Along with elephants, lions, giraffes, leopards, gorillas and many other species, we know they are severely
threatened by poaching and habitat loss. As a photojournalist my background has been in outdoor expeditions and marine conservation issues. Documenting our threatened species underwater and raising awareness about the plight of our oceans have become the focus of my work. Our natural environments and the animals that inhabit them are in such peril across the globe that it’s almost impossible to avoid a conservation story in many ways. The sad truth is that the rhino is facing the same coordinated decimation in South Africa that our sharks in the oceans are. We arrived in hope of seeing first-hand, the efforts of those on the frontlines and how they were tackling such a difficult problem. What we found astonished us.
Resilience and commitment The scale of the problem was only matched by the resilience of those committed to dealing with the poachers. Bullets flying overhead have become
commonplace, with a spur in demand increasing the already high stakes for the criminal organisations that facilitate the large-scale smuggling operations. Sadness marks the faces of those committed individuals, who place their lives at risk, as they watch our last rhinos being taken away. Our first stop was the Balule Private Game Reserve, where we learned that since 2013, a group of private game reserves has established a coordinated effort known as Game Reserves United (GRU). The GRU collectively manages over 305 000 hectares and a 350km western boundary with the KNP. With reserves contributing annual subscription fees and with additional funding from private donors, private security forces made up of local men and women, have been trained and deployed on the ground to stem poaching. The vast size of the area makes intelligence gathering, evidence collection and capture of poachers exceptionally difficult. Armed rhino frontline – continue on page 31
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Local learners attend the Annual MAD Leadership Summit Story by the Make A Difference (MAD) Leadership Foundation
n partnership with the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation (MAD), four excited Children’s Eco Training (CET) bursary learners made their way to Cape Town at the end of June to attend the annual MAD Leadership Summit as part of their Leadership Journey. Cassie Mnisi, Zandie Mathebula, Katlego Mamiane and Lala Tivane were privileged to travel to the Mother City to learn more about different types of leadership styles, career development, team work and entrepreneurship skills as well as develop their unique leadership abilities. The five days were centred on MAD’s newly defined core values of leadership: ambition with hard work, passion with discipline, courage with honesty and confidence with humility. During the summit, the MAD scholars were encouraged to challenge these values and really understand what they imply. Quality guest speakers and facilitators such as MAD Chairman, Francois Pienaar, political science and international
relations scholar, Lovelyn Nwadeyi and international business operations leader and consulting executive, Russell Raath exposed the learners to different values, opinions and beliefs which proved invaluable to their development as South Africa’s future leaders. Another highlight was the young entrepreneur’s workshop, hosted by LifeCo UnLtd, a social business owned and governed by a charitable trust, which employs business principles for social impact. The guest speaker on this day was Faheem Chaudry, a respected industry strategist and co-founder of the Street Store. He focused on the power of creativity for the MAD scholar’s generation and how its impact can change the world by unlocking change. A true-at-heart entrepreneur, he inspired everyone to think outside the box, harness their creative energy, work hard and be resilient to develop solutions that will impact lives. The final day of the summit was dedicated to a case study of the life-work and consciousness of former President Nelson Mandela, to inspire and encourage youth to reflect upon their consciousness,
their self-leadership, citizenship and their personal contribution to their communities and society. It wasn’t all work and no play though - there was time for a silent disco as well as watching a performance at the Barnyard Theatre. Cassie Mnisi, one of the CET bursary students, was over the moon with the experience and said there were several highlights during the camp. “The MAD summit was a good educational and social opportunity and we were basically inspired from start to finish. Francois Pienaar was a highlight as he lifted every soul present to overcome circumstances. I felt privileged to stay in the greenest hotel in Africa, the food was more than delicious and I enjoyed every outing we had around Cape Town. It was awesome meeting the new MAD scholars and catching up with the oldies and we realised again how lucky we are to be MAD scholars. Next year’s camp feels like miles away but I’m amped for it already.” It was an invaluable experience for all who attended and CET would like to thank MAD for the hard work they do to develop South Africa’s leaders of tomorrow.
wild animals, from whale sharks to manta rays, even Thai elephants and orangutans, on that day, standing there face-to-face with a magnificent female rhino, both horns surgically repaired after being mutilated by poachers and left for dead, broke my heart. Scenes such as this stir the anger and resentment we all feel for those who would commit such a barbarous act. But we must question our own system, why it is that we are unable to find a collective solution to alleviate the deeper rooted societal problems of poverty, lack of opportunity and education. These are real underlying issues that must be solved if our mega fauna are to have any chance of a future. With barely any time to take in what
we had just witnessed, the call came in from the warden at the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve that shots had been heard and a potentially injured rhino spotted in the reserve. Within hours we were in a helicopter, flying at full speed over the bushveld, with herds of Cape buffalo charging off in all directions, as our determined pilot, warden and veterinarian scoured the landscape for signs of a struggle. After hours of searching to no avail, with the crimson sun setting, we retired until the morning, as the team shrugged off what apparently has become a normal day for them.
rhino frontline – continue from page 30 response units, primarily made of local men who complete an in-depth training programme, are deployed on multi-week patrols within the reserve area, providing a front-line response. Additionally, a unique and courageous group of local women, a first of its kind in South Africa, known as the ‘Black Mambas’, provide ground support, intelligence gathering and work within the community to educate. Their commitment, determination and soft skills have made them role models for young women around the country. As we continued our efforts to meet with conservation groups, we eventually arrived at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Of all the encounters I’ve had with
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