During our second quarter of 2019 the weather cools down as we slowly move into winter. The adventures and incredible wildlife experiences remain as plentiful as ever! The warmth of meetings new like-minded friends from around the world and being out in the field working on conservation activities are a major highlight for all. During the quarter our volunteers have been equipped with knowledge and have been taken into the bush where this knowledge can be applied. This way skills have been developed from both theoretical and practical aspects, thus enriching the experience tenfold. Here is our volunteer update for April to June 2019.
Our team has been on the go in the research department using radio telemetry equipment to track down the spatial movements of lions and rhinoceros while recording their activities. Elephants were also monitored frequently, observing their herd dynamics, vegetation impacts and diet preferences. These have afforded the volunteers magical moments with Africa's most iconic wildlife, while contributing to the collection of data. We have also been hard at work assisting the Kariega ecology department in conducting game counts, a critical task to ensure the correct management decisions are made. Volunteers were taught to assess the numbers, assess condition and gender of all herbivores on the reserve and needless to say in the process, got to explore the vastness of Kariega and encounter a myriad of wildlife along the way!
Alien Invasive Plant Eradication
The volunteer team has been a force to be reckoned with with regards to removing alien invasive plant species; moving onto long awaited areas such as around River Lodge. Altogether, a gritty and formidable effort has resulted in the eradication of 2,958 black wattles (Acacia mearnsii), 960 cluster pines (Pinus pinaster), and countless prickley pears ( Opuntia ficus-indica). The indigenous vegetation is protected and biodiversity bolstered as these cleared areas recover back into their natural state. Further management of agave, sesbania, red eyed wattle, and lantana was also carried out, removing the smaller stands first. Planting pork bush ( Portulacara afra), a very useful indigenous plant species, has further supported this spectacular effort in restoring the integrity of the landscape. The volunteers planted a whopping 3,050 pork bush off-cuts over the past three months. Well done team!
The volunteers have been closely involved in the upkeep of our serval breeding programme and ensured that the cats have a clean and functional living space. The volunteers recently noted a marked confidence improvement in the animals as more creative feeding methods were applied. The aim has been to simulate and challenge the servals to make them think and work for their food more. The intention is to prepare the cats for the wild when they can be released.
Image thanks to Kariega guide Reece Dodd.
Surprise Cheetah Encounter
Nature is always full of surprises and this was the case when the volunteers found a cheetah on the reserve! The cat had escaped from a nearby reserve and made its way into Kariega. With the presence of lions on Kariega it was imperative to locate and capture this cheetah before the lions found it and possibly killed it. The volunteers witnessed the capture of this animal so it could be safely returned to its home. This offered volunteers the chance to see a cheetah up close too.
Image thanks to Jo Haesslich
Volunteers have contributed greatly to community work these past months, helping with environmental education at Klipfontein primary school. Furthermore, our good work at Ekuphumleni Helping Hands soup kitchen has improved as volunteers introduced interactive lessons on environmental education and the ethical treatment of animals. It is so important to teach children at a young age to be responsible and aware so that they can develop into caring teens adults. Volunteers also assisted with food preparations, cleaning up and providing love and care to further enrich the children's' lives. Our team has donated 8kg of clothing and 24 kg of food to the soup kitchen over this past term. Thank you to all who opened their hearts to support these wonderful children.
After a successful domestic animal outreach in Ekuphumleni with the Kariega Foundation last semester, the volunteers joined the outreach in the township of Marselle to improve the lives of domestic pets in this area. This was another resounding success and volunteers assisted with tick and flea treatments, vaccinations, food provision, and guidance on caring for pets to the owners. It has been an incredible experience providing support and education to those who perhaps have not had the means or knowledge to properly care for their domestic animals.
We have also taken time to appreciate the blissful wonders of nature around us. Volunteers enjoyed canoeing adventures on the Kariega River as well as various bush lunches. Hikes across the reserve have offered a new perspective and deeper level of immersion into the African bush. The volunteers have had great opportunities to see the little things in the bush and develop their ability to identify wildlife tracks and signs. On the warmer days the volunteers even managed a few exhilarating swims!
The sheer clarity of the night sky on clear nights have been a stargazers dream, and volunteers were taught how to identify some of the more iconic southern hemisphere winter constellations, including the Southern Cross. It is always more fun when one has an idea of what you are looking at!
Thank you to all the wonderful people who have made this such a special and successful term, the good work of your contribution has continued to make a remarkable difference in the lives of Kariega wildlife and communities alike.
Yours in Conservation Jarrett Joubert, Kariega Conservation Volunteer Programme Co-ordinator