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November 9, 2011

White Elephant Safari Lodge

Hello White Elephant friends,

As 2011 is nearing the end, herewith a newsletter from a slightly different angle: News about the daily challenges, achievements and events pertaining to not only the lodges but also to our wildlife and the daily conservation challenges.

Although rhino poaching has been in the headlines for a while now, touch wood, we have had no rhino poached but protecting these endangered and rare species from extinction has become a real challenge. We have had two new born black rhino calves this year and incredibly, we have had 57 sightings reported by our guides and guests for October alone. With the continued support of Brothers Safaris, we have also managed to microchip, ear notch and collar one of the sub-adult bulls (born on White Elephant since their re-introduction in 2008 as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project). Thank you Colin, Jackie, Suzan and wildlife vet Dr Peter Brothers for allowing us to action these vital procedures to manage and conserve our black rhino. During this ‘Veterinary Safari’ we also managed to immobilize and re-collar ‘Lucky’, one of the seven vasectomised elephant bulls vasectomised by Disney World’s Elephant Population Management Project team in 2009, who had outgrown his radio collar.

Our elephant population, too, has been faced with a great many challenges. ‘Buga’ the old matriarch (of the A & B cowherd) has been exceptionally protective these past months causing some landowners and rangers great anxiety with her mock charges and typical ambushes. This behaviour has caused controversy amongst decision makers as to what actions should be taken. Our advice to minimise risk to guests and staff: Elephant cowherds should always be treated with the utmost caution as they can be extremely unpredictable and suicidal in defence of their young. Removing the oldest female (such as ‘Buga’) from a cowherd is not recommended, because ‘aggressive’ behaviour as observed in ‘Buga’ is normal when there are young calves in the cowherd. ‘Buga’s’ behaviour will have been taught to the other females in the herd and so her ‘problem’ behaviour will most likely be replaced by the next matriarch.

Ngani, our exceptionally big elephant bull with magnificent tusks, sadly broke off his right tusk in 2010. Although aging, this magnificent gentle giant is one of the few real big tuskers still alive to date. For how long?

Questions have also been raised about the sustainability of the herds (grown from 17 individuals in 1997 to almost 60 in 15 years) on limited land. Can the land sustain so many elephants for much longer? What are the answers? One ‘solution’ is the creation of more space through the incorporation of the Pongolapoort Nature Reserve, Phongolo Nature Reserve, Royal Jozini Big Six and the Lubombo Spine Corridor TFCA as part of the reserve range expansion and community conservation initiatives through the Space for Elephants Foundation

We had a very good game capture season with 846 Impala, 338 Blue Wildebeest and 64 Nyala successfully captured and relocated to other reserves in August.

The summer rains were late this spring with our first thunderstorm bringing a downfall of 26 & 50 mm this last weekend (30 Oct, 1 Nov), and so the much anticipated lambing and sowing season of our vast herds of impala and sounders of warthog will begin. As I write, our head ranger Adriaan Crous announces on the radio his sighting of the first litter of piglets.

The alien plant invasions have become a huge problem, especially the purple prickly pear (Opuntia stricta). Originating from one ornamental garden specimen from way back in the 1920’s, this pest plant has in recent times spread across our reserve, despite biological (prickly pear moth Cactoblastis cactorum and cochineal Dactylopius opuntiae ) and chemical (MSMA) control measures initiated more than 10 years ago. Its pretty yellow flower develops into a deep purple fruit readily consumed by birds and vervet monkeys (as well as the elephants). The seeds are then distributed, germinate and grow new plants all over the reserve. Although the fruit makes a wonderful ‘Schnaps’ homebrewed by Leeuwspoor’s patriarch Karl W Kohrs (born in 1931), intensive efforts for the eradication of the prickly pears have resumed.

Tiger fishing season is now at its peak with some excellent fish – up to twenty fish per day per rod weighing 1.5 to 2 Kg – being caught. Contact Stephanie at reservations for our Tiger fishing packages and other specials on offer. Below find more information on the competition currently on Facebook.

Warm Summer regards,
Dr Heinz Kohrs and the White Elephant team

Category: Blog

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