October 24, 2017

Rocking for rhinos, dogs in trouble and students, students, students!

It was another busy month in and around Balule. The drought conditions in the area are forcing people to set snares for bush-meat. The Mamba's sweep as far as they can to remove these death-traps and must juggle between their other anti-poaching duties and snare-sweeping.

Regrettable they can’t always get to them all in time. "It started off with a call from a field guide of one of the lodges, that they had spotted an African wild dog (aka painted dog) with a snare around its neck. The dog that the pack belongs to has made a den outside of the reserve and moves in and out the reserve from time to time to hunt. One of the alpha dogs has a collar which made it easy for us to track the pack outside the reserve. Lisa monitored the dogs for a few hours before the vet were able to arrive. Once the vet had a clear shot the dart was fired. The dog with the snare as well as the dog with the collar bolted away. Luckily the collared dog stuck with the darted one which made it possible for us to track it and find it quickly. Once the anesthetic kicked in the team moved in to remove the snare", says Amy Clarke Transfrontier Africa's spokesperson. 

Transfrontier Africa had 20 students from Mpumalanga University joining them at this time. They were not only lucky enough to see wild dogs but see all the behind the scenes work that goes into these operations, as well and the importance of keeping the natural area safe. The wild dog was treated and the vet was positive about the recovery of the animal.

"The Black Mambas, Warren and volunteers have been sweeping the area on a regular basis making sure the area is cleared of any further snares, so the wild dogs stay safe. This was an incredibly important operation as we later discovered that the snared wild dog was the mother of 6 pups currently residing in the den. So not only has the injured female been saved but also the lives of her 6 pups that would have perished had their mother died from her injuries. We will continue to monitor the pack as closely as possible without disturbing them too much to ensure the females full recovery. We would like to say a big thank you to Rettet das Nashorn, for once again coming to the rescue and sponsoring this operation, ensuring the survival of the next generation of this endangered species", Clarke continues.

The students of Mpumalanga University that joined them at the start of September, were 2nd year nature conservation students, whom volunteered to join them for four days in order to learn more about all aspects of conservation, reserve management and anti-poaching in a practical forum. "This was our first collaboration with the new University and the first group of students. Craig, Pieter, Warren, Lewyn and with help from Terry of Tsakane Camp, the students spent as much time out in the field as possible in the brief time they had with us. Learn about the natural flora and fauna as well as the damage alien vegetation causes and how to remove it, reserve management and maintenance. The students also had a significant impact on the reserve during their visit. As they spent time with the Black mambas learning about anti-poaching techniques they assisted in the removal of 16 snares which were located in an area surrounding the wild dog den."

The students also worked their fingers to the bone whilst visiting the Bush Babies at the Maseke Primary school. Here, they built by hand and from scratch a vegetable garden. "In the evenings Craig and Pieter provided lectures on elephants, savannah ecology, alien vegetation and more. We hope that this practical experience inspired the students in their future work! It is important that people getting into conservation know what to expect. The future of the country lays in their hands and we looking forward to a long last collaboration with the Mpumalanga University and meeting the next group of eager students next year!"

Their own students and volunteers have not exactly been sitting around either! As many of you are aware September is Phytomass Survey time! "When we calculate the “fuel load” the grass carries in case of a fire. This is an important tool for management decisions. Warren, Pieter and the volunteers have spent over a week cutting grass, collecting them in bags and weighing them every day. Once all the moisture in the grass has dissipated the final weight of the grass is calculated and it will give us the end result. We will be looking forward to the end result soon!"

September is also that time of year for the annual Balule Game counts. All flights and game counting was conducted by plane over the now 52,400ha reserve. "Madison has kindly come back join us and is now wadding through the mountain of data and numbers as she begins analysis for the Game Count report. Welcome back Madison and thank you!" 

Warren and the volunteers have been busy cleaning up the tree nursery. Setting out to collect seeds from various species and planting them, each with a nice sprinkle of elephant dung for mulch. So far, they have reached a total of 177 plant babies with room for many more. The seed collecting and planting will continue throughout the spring. "Speaking of trees, at one of the Bush Babies schools this month the students were learning about the importance of trees, and in particular the Sausage tree. Sitting under a big sausage tree the children learnt about its morphological structure to traditional uses and beliefs, we went to the classroom where paintings of the Sausage tree were made and finally, to end the day a sausage tree was planted to celebrate the first day of spring!" The Bush Babies are now responsible for taking care of the tree and will hopefully watch it grow up to be a big beautiful tree for future students to learn under the same way they did.

 A big celebration took place in honour of Bush Babies student and science star Lehlogonolo, as she was celebrated after her return from winning a special award at the science competition in Los Angeles held earlier this year. Lehlog is a great ambassador for the conservation cause in her community and will do everything she can to inspire her community and fellow schoolmates. A big celebration took place in Polokwane where the Black Mambas were also present and performed a parade and spoke to the community members about rhino poaching and conservation. " It was a momentous day and a good bonding experience between the reserve and the local community which is critical for the survival of the reserve", says Clarke. 

Leonie and Frikkie’s also conducted a two-week wildlife crime analysis course at the South African Wildlife College. A valuable tool in using data to strategize patrols. "We would like to congratulate both Leonie and Frikkie, who both passed the course and can now go on to use their new skills in their daily work."

"The reserve has been keeping Pieter busy as always with elephants pushing trees down into the servitude roads, repairing and maintaining the boundary fences and cleaning up rubbish in middle of the night after hyenas managed to break into the waste management site" 

The month ended with local non-profit festival, Rocking for Rhinos. Rocking for rhino have been long-time supporters of our Rhino conservation project and the Black Mambas, donating more than R 100,000.00 this year already. So, It only seemed fitting that we extended a helping hand during this year’s festival and both Black Mambas and Transfrontier Africa’s staff and Volunteers joined the Rocking for Rhinos team in supplying security and man power throughout the festival. The Mambas oversaw the security whilst the TA volunteers acted as marshals and made sure everything ran smoothly. Of course, there was some time to enjoy the music and fun as well! The 3-day event was a success despite the ever-changing weather over the weekend. The highlight of the weekend we must say was the fantastic performance by South African band Freshly ground. "They sure knew how to get the party started and were definitely Rocking for the Rhinos for Rhinos!"

Information provide by Transfrontier Africa


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