Author Archives Raquel de Castro Maia

January 21, 2018

Tritonopsis antholyza

Tritonopsis-antholyza

Tritonopsis antholyza, also known as the karkarblom, is a gorgeous showy plant that can stand about 90cm tall. The flowers are a striking cluster of long tubular blooms that vary from pink to reddish pink in colour. These are flowering on the reserve at the moment and should continue to do so right into autumn.

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January 8, 2018

Micranthus plantagineus

Micranthus-plantagineus

One of the three species of Micranthus occur here in our region and was found on Gondwana at the end of November – the beautiful Micranthus plantagineus also known as the Vleiblommetjie. This plant is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. It is not easily mistaken for any other member of the iris family. It can be up to 50cm tall with small blue flowers arranged in two rows on the flowering stem. Its leaves are narrow cylindrical hollow leaves. It is usually locally abundant and found in areas that have been burnt on moist slopes.

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January 8, 2018

A species of Alepidea found on Gondwana!

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This is an exciting find! Brendan (Eco Camp), you will recall seeing this strange plant growing in the Nouga in September when we took Yvette van Wijk around on our fynbos scout…
It has taken months to identify and I think we may have found one of the two species of Alepidea that occur in this region. The two species that occur here are Alepidea delicatula (Rare) and Alepidea capensis. They should be in flower so please look out for them, this could be another rare species for Gondwana.

It can grow upto 20cm tall. Its characteristic leaves arranged in a rosette have long incurving soft spines that look like those found on insectivorous plants. The flowers are small and delicate.
The rhizomes and roots of some species are important medicinal plants.

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December 1, 2017

Home Owner Profile – Christa Van Rensburg

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1. What brought you to Gondwana?
Red Rocks used to be our farm and I was initially very sad that Gerrit decided to sell it to become part of Gondwana. Most of my favourite Fynbos species grow in the area for example Protea cynaroides, Mimetis, Erica cerinthoides (rooi haarjie),”and other Protea species, like Coronata,”that one cannot find on Fontein Wes (Our home farm), hence my heavy heart to let go of Red Rocks. Our family is very fond of nature and wildlife and thus when given the opportunity to be a part of Mark and Wendy’s dream, we immediately bought into it.

2. What is your favourite species on the reserve?
This question is extremely difficult to answer. Every species is special and unique. I enjoy and admire the antics of the tiny Chameleon to the splendour of majestic Elephant and Lion, the elegant Giraffe and not forgetting the Zebras, Blue Wildebeest and the buck in all their playfulness and beauty. Our family are all also avid birdwatchers, but my biggest love of all will have to be Fynbos.

3. What has been your funniest/scariest/craziest/most interesting moment on the Reserve.
I will never forget the first time we got woken up, not by our alarms, but by the mighty roar of the Lion pride close to our home. It literally felt like an earthquake…what a memory!

4. What do you do for a living?
I used to be a”Primary School Teacher, Foundation phase, and today “Gerrit and I are” both Pensioners doing all the things we love, like travelling and other hobbies and interests and spending time with our family.

5. What is your favorite food?
My favourite food: Green bean stew and lamb shank.

6. Do you have any hobbies?
You can usually find me in my garden, but I love to do flower arrangements, going for a walk (in nature of course), bird watching and photography too.

7. Tell us about your family?
Gerrit and I have been married for 43 years and have been blessed with beautiful children and grandchildren. Our eldest, Helena, is married to Danie Smuts and they have two energetic children, Johannes and Christi, who both also love being in nature. They farm in the Wolseley-district. Maartin lives in George and is successfully running his own cycling business and our youngest, Alex, farms on our farm, Fontein-Wes. We are a proud Afrikaans family and utilise every opportunity to spend time together as family.

8. What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the protection of vulnerable children and elderly people.

9. What is your favorite spot on the reserve?
Anywhere between the Fynbos, and in the Nouga during Autumn months when the Nerinas are in bloom.

10. Do you have a nickname?
No nickname, just Christa, ma, ouma”and tannie.

Interview: Nadine Clarke

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December 1, 2017

The Cape Sugarbird

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The Cape Sugarbird is a common sight, seen fluttering above the Fynbos of Gondwana Game Reserve. Not only does this bird signify one of the Magnificent 8 birds in this region (which are sought after by bird watchers across the world) but it also has many interesting characteristics.

The sugarbirds are easily recognizable by a spot of yellow under their tail and the very long tail feathers present in males. The male is 34–44 cm long, and the shorter-tailed, shorter-billed, and paler breasted female 25–29 cm long. The males have an impressive flight display flying up 9-16m into the air and whipping the tail up and down.

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They are locally common and move around in response to food availability. They are strongly dependent on protea nectar and can visit up to 300 flowers to meet their energy needs. This makes them the most effective pollinator of proteas more so than the sunbirds. There have been records of the sugarbirds probing colourful pegs on washing lines in the hope of accessing some nectar! They also catch large invertebrates often killing them with a quick sideways slap against a branch.

They pair up for life and aggressively defend their territory. Although they will tolerate some birds in their “turf”, they strongly repel the common fiscal and the southern boubou shrike. There has been a record of the male knocking out a Fiscal shrike.

The female can usually be found building her cup shaped nest in the protea thicket where 1-2 eggs are laid. Most of the breeding takes place in winter closely correlated with the flowering proteas.

Text: Nadine Clarke

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December 1, 2017

Controlled Burning at Gondwana

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Why do we undertake controlled burning?

Joe :  “We do controlled burning for two purposes. For the vegetation / conservation management of the reserve and for fire protection for all infrastructure. 

On the vegetation front, we know that Fynbos needs to burn approximately every seven years for regeneration purposes and some Fynbos can even burn every four years. The older the veld gets, the less productive it becomes and is under utilized. Our objective of burning these blocks is to increase animal veld utilization around Gondwana. At the moment our highest concentration of animals is on the central plains around gate 2. We would like to utilize the rest of the reserve and burning promotes grazing as well as looking after the Fynbos.

From a safety perspective our focus is to protect the infrastructure on Gondwana. Blocks are burnt according to the threat of runaway fires in differing seasons. At the moment our biggest threat in summer is the hot northerly winds and the prevailing south easterly. The current burn of the north eastern blocks protect us from the northerly winds and plans are underway for blocks to be burnt for protection from the South Easterly 

 

How is controlled burning done?

 Joe: “It starts with thorough preparation. Firstly fire breaks need to be made using the bulldozer as well as mowing to prevent the fire from jumping into another areas.  The blocks are also burnt in sequence so that the fire can move into an already burnt area and die out to increase safety, so the first block is always the most important one. Then depending on the winds we can then decide which block we would like to burn next as it is already a lot safer.

Second, the local Municipality is called in to do an inspection on the fire breaks, give advice and a fire permit is issued which is valid for 30 days.

Third, the Fire Index needs to be monitored.  The fire department monitors this index to assess a favorable day to burn. This is dependent on the wind direction, the humidity, the ambient temperature and the fire-load. The fire index has color codes for different risk levels. On a blue, green and yellow day we can burn, on an orange or red day we may not.

We then assemble the team. The 4×4 fire truck which can hold 2500 litres of water, the Hilux water truck with a1000 litres capacity as well as backpacks and blowers to direct and kill the fire. Around 25 ground staff are available to assist with the fire. We also have a helicopter on standby with a water bucket.

What is important to remember is we will always burn away from any infrastructure. 

If there are animals in the block in which we would like to burn, we leave a corridor open for them to escape. We can also use the helicopter to nudge them along if need be.’

 

What are your future plans for controlled burning at Gondwana?

Joe: “Our plan is to burn roughly 2500 to 3000 hectares per year over the next 3 years.  This year we have not been able to do this due to the drought conditions. Normally if you light a fire around midday, the fire dies out in the evening due to the moisture in the plants. This is not the case at the moment because the vegetation is so dry. At the moment we need to be very careful about what and when we burn. 

The plan for next year is to burn the “Trees loop” area of around 1500 hectares on the North Western part of the reserve. We also need to constantly identify threats from neighboring farmers and burn blocks accordingly. As much as we don’t enjoy burning its essential to manage the safety risks and is an important part of reserve management”

 

Interview conducted by Nadine Clarke. 

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