Kariega Game Reserve: Conservation Volunteer Programme – August 2013 Newsletter
August was a month full of exciting and totally unexpected wildlife encounters and sightings. We were surprised and amazed by the African bush and its wide diversity of inhabitants almost every day of this month.
A few weeks ago we welcomed a second new-born elephant calf to the reserve and spent some precious hours observing our herd while being surrounded by these magnificent giants. The new additions to the herd love all the attention from the members and are thoroughly entertained by their trunks swinging around out of control. They have stolen the hearts of everybody on the reserve.
Volunteers have also had the absolute privilege of observing hippos more frequently out of the water than inside – where they feel safest. Most of these sightings were in broad daylight – which is really special and unusual, seeing that hippos prefer to leave the safety of the water only at night to graze.
August has also provided us with numerous encounters with our rehabilitated servals and we feel very confident that the reserve’s rehabilitation efforts have yielded incredible results.
An unforgettable highlight this month was coming across an unbelievably rare sight of a white rhino bull, black rhino bull and elephant bull all in one spot, having a go at each other. This was probably only a little show-down of ‘who is the bigger and stronger man around’. What we saw next is something no one would have ever guessed - the white rhino firstly chased away the black rhino and then…the massive elephant bull! What a once-in-a-lifetime sighting!
Yet another unbelievably special wildlife encounter was on a peaceful, sunny morning canoeing cruise down the Kariega River when a few elephants decided to grace us with their presence on the river bank – a mere 5m away from us. What a privilege to say that you’ve shared a water source with an elephant!
We were yet again surprised when one morning we came across the lion pride that happened to have an extra member. Our sub-adult female (who most of us thought would stay a nomadic huntress for the rest of her life) had found and joined up with the pride! This only lasted for a brief few days before she set off again and favoured her solitary lifestyle.
On one of our night drives this month we were lucky enough to find the lions and spent a wonderful and exciting 3 hours with them. We witnessed them patrolling their territory; experienced the thrill of a lion roar passing through our bodies and finally witnessed 2 unsuccessful hunts from beginning to end. With the second hunting attempt we were even selected to be the cubs’ babysitters while the adults were at work. What an unbelievable night!
The cherry on top for us this month is having experienced the peace and contentment of our rhino Thandi around our vehicle. She is once again her old self and relaxed with having us around. She has an unbelievably strong will to survive and it’s a blessing to be a part of her road to recovery.
While out monitoring our rhinos every day, we also have the opportunity to make sure that they are alive and well. On Kariega Game Reserve we have dehorned all our rhinos in order to reduce/eliminate the risk of losing our rhinos to poaching for their horns – which is made up of keratin, the same substance as our nails. Rhino poaching has reached an all-time high with 594 rhinos having been lost to poachers alone this year. Through constant monitoring and by dehorning our rhinos we are doing everything in our power to keep our precious rhinos safe and provide them with the chance to live a fulfilled life in the wilderness of Africa and the opportunity to give birth to calves in the wild - like it should be.
So as the month of August has proven, the African bush never seizes to surprise and amaze us, and animals absolutely love proving wrong textbooks and guide books.
Come experience these amazing surprises with us!
See you soon…
Azél Crous, Kariega Game Reserve: Volunteer Coordinator