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Volunteer Programme November 2011

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This month the Kariega Volunteer Programme team positioned the leopard research trail cameras in new spots around the reserve. These motioned censored cameras capture pictures of animals moving past them, in the hopes of obtaining a picture of one of the elusive leopards moving through Kariega. As of yet we haven’t got any footage of leopard, however we do have informative and interesting pictures of some great nocturnal animals that are rarely seen, such as bushpig, aardvark, aardwolf, spotted genet, jackal, honey badgers and varies types of mongoose.

Kariega volunteers also went on a couple of bush sleep-outs this month when the weather was good. We have a beautiful rustic campsite that we use on the banks of the Kariega River. The volunteers took some fishing rods and a few tyre tubes to swim in and made the most of a sunny afternoon in the water. Unfortunately the fishermen produced no food for the fire on this occasion, but luckily we had our three-legged black pot and whipped up a chicken potjie (traditional stew type meal) with rice. The volunteers and I sleep under the stars for the night and our only alarm clock is the sunrise, unless the birds beat it to it, that is. There is something magical about camping that not only makes one appreciate the every day luxuries like kettles and toilets, but also allows one to forget about the rest of the world for a while and concentrate wholly one oneself and the company surrounding you. It is a great way for volunteers to bond as there is no escaping to the TV room or ipods, everyone simply has to entertain themselves with each others company!

Kariega Game Reserve volunteers were also lucky enough to spot the three new lion cubs join up with the rest of the pride in the beginning of November. Since then sightings of the little guys have been a regular occurrence, their playful energy is a great change from the usual lion slumber and has provided the volunteers with some great photo opportunities.

The volunteer programme has been busy this month conducting game counts on Kariega Game Reserve. More than one game count of each area is obtained during different times of the year and is compared and analyzed. The results of which play an important role in the future management decisions of the reserve, for example, which animals do we have an excess of and which populations are declining. These results will determine the actions taken to maintain the correct population dynamics suited to the reserves size and vegetation.

Volunteers have also had the most amazing elephant sightings this month right on our doorstep, we just had to look out of our windows to see it. They have been visiting the wild fig trees just outside our yard on a regular basis. I am unsure whether it is just the new spring leaves that has enticed them or the increase in fruit (they produce fruit almost all year around but have a peak period during October) but something has definitely taken these giant mammals fancy. It is fascinating to watch the taller adults bring down the branches by rocking back onto their outstretched back legs. This enables them to lift their enormous heads at the straighter angle, they then reach up with their trunks fully extended to pull down entire branches from the trees canopy. Once the branches hit the ground they are fair game for all and even the smaller members of the herd grab a mouthful of leaves. Whatever is left behind is quickly stripped bare by the impala and kudu the following day, so nothing is wasted during this feast. It also gives the huge trees characteristic umbrellas shaped canopies as all of the lower branches are broken off over time. They say elephants never forget let’s hope they remember how welcome they were at the volunteer house and that they come again soon! These clear sightings give the volunteers great opportunities to fill in elephant ear identification sheets and identify all the individuals in the herd.

This month at Farmerfield, a local rural school that Kariega Game Reserve support, we not only volunteered our time in the classroom teaching, but also around the grounds in a clean up for the end of year grade 9 graduation. We cut the grass with weedeaters, fixed some holes in the fence (to keep cows out) and made new flowerbeds in front of the classrooms. We also delivered a cake for the big day, courtesy of the Kariega Foundation. The cake was especially made with the message “Farmerfield 2011” inscribed on it. Getting the cake into the car and keeping it in one piece along the bumpy gravel road was another challenge but we delivered it safely.

Kariega volunteers have also been getting stuck into some wonderful birding lately with lots of new migrational birds in the area to identify.

That’s all for this month, I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and I look forward to seeing some new faces at Kariega in the New Year.

Kariega Game Reserve Volunteer Coordinator
Justine Ingram