Author Archives Vanessa

May 17, 2010

Gondwana featured on Kfm Daily

Gondwana Game Reserve ran a promotion with Kfm, The Cape’s #1 radio station, for a 4 night give away at its
luxury accommodation. Every day during the month of February the promotion and Gondwana was featured hourly.

Both Mark and Alessandro were interviewed and our reservationist was pranked’ have a listen!

Sound Bites from Kfm

Promotional Snippet

Daily Snippet

Allesandro�s Interview

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May 17, 2010

Elephants Released

Elephants Released

Elephants Released at Gondwana Game Reserve

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

An elephant translocation initiative has been put together by Gondwana Game Reserve, EMOA (Elephant Managers and Owners Association), ETA (Elephant Tourism Association) and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth to release two elephants bulls from semi intensive, confined environments onto Gondwana Game Reserve, a 10,000 hectare reserve located in the Southern Cape.

This relocation has two valuable purposes. Firstly, it releases these elephant into a more natural, sizable habitat allowing them to roam free and forage for themselves. This will be the first free ranging elephant in the Southern Cape since their historical occurrence, other than the phantom Knysna elephants who have eluded people for years.

Secondly, it creates a cutting edge research opportunity utilizing GPS technology to study the elephant’s utilization of a Fynbos reserve. There is virtually no information about elephant resource use in the area, which
limits efforts to restore elephant to these landscapes. The elephant will be equipped with GPS collars in order to have a constant monitoring of their location on the reserve to understand vegetation utilization and space use.
Field work will also be conducted walking with the elephants, which is possible because of their semi-intensive backgrounds, to observe plants eaten and time spent feeding on plant species.

The aim of the study is to gain knowledge about the elephants’ resource use and impacts on the system to inform future elephant management and introductions both in the Southern Cape and on Gondwana Game Reserve. Gondwana’s ultimate goal is to introduce a natural family herd of elephant onto the reserve.

The elephant have been released on Gondwana and are being monitored through their GPS tracking as well as by vehicle and foot daily. They are truly enjoying themselves and covering a large portion of the game reserve.

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May 17, 2010

Gondwana's 1st overnight guest

Gondwana’s 1st overnight guest

1 December 2008

Gondwana opened it’s doors to it’s first official overnight guest on Monday December 1, 2008.

They hailed from Germany and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, fine cuisine and black rhino sightings.

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May 17, 2010

First Black Rhino Released

Gondwana Game Reserve Introduces First Black Rhino in the Western Cape

3 November 2008

Gondwana Game Reserve continues to make a significant contribution to wildlife and habitat conservation. As part of its rehabilitation efforts and introduction of indigenous wildlife into the area, Gondwana is proud to announce the relocation of two endangered Desert Black Rhinoceros (Bicornus Bicornus) into the Western Cape from the Kalahari Desert. This marks the first Black Rhino in the Western Cape since their historical occurrence in the area.

This relocation of Black Rhinoceros into another suitable habitat is an important endeavor for conservation as the Bicornus Bicornus Black Rhino is a critically endangered species and has been put onto the International Union for Conservation of Natures Red List. During the last century, this rhino has suffered the most drastic decline in total numbers of all rhino species and presently only 3600 are left in the world. Intensive anti-poaching efforts have had encouraging results since 1996 and numbers have been recovering slowly.

The Black Rhinoceros is a particularly selective feeder eating only browse vegetation such as Acacia sub species. Relocating the species is therefore an extensive process in order to ensure they adapt their diet effectively. The rhino were tracked and darted from helicopter in the Kalahari and put into holding bomas. Their time spent in the bomas allows them to wean onto a transitional food such as Lucerne in order to ensure they are adequately nourished while they adapt to the new browse vegetation available on Gondwana. Twice daily a smorgasbord of freshly cut browse was laid out for them to sample and choose from. Experts helped to determine what they would likely eat on the reserve based on their diet in the Kalahari and focus was put into what Gondwana’s current browse feeder species were eating such as the Kudu and Eland. It was ultimately an Eland bull who led us to one of their favourites.

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May 12, 2010

Becoming A True Lion Pride

It’s a beautiful, crisp morning and I am about 30 meters behind 3 lionesses stalking a Gemsbok (Oryx Gazelle). I always get excited when this happens, even though I know how low their success rate is. The male is watching from a safe distance, a good 300 meters, so he cannot get in the way. The females are barely visible in the knee high grass. Suddenly they are off, almost reaching full speed within 20 meters. They never got close though. The gemsbok made them look silly, and as they come back my way I notice why. They are so fat, overweight, call it what you like’ no wonder they were unsuccessful. But then, how did they get so fat?

They stop and lay down next to my vehicle. The male joins them. They are beautiful, in perfect condition. Actually their condition is too good!? It’s worrying, right? Is it the vegetation (Fynbos) on the reserve which makes them more successful by allowing them to stalk closer,or lay in ambush longer? Or is it good genes, hunting instinct? Could it be because they are just over 3 years and still growing, or are they just eating more than the average lion?

Normally lion will kill a big animal every 3-5 days. This young pride goes on for some weeks knocking down something big almost every second day. Now, months later they are still this fat. It is fascinating to have seen these lion grow since the beginning of 2009, losing their spots and becoming massive predators. Watching the male adapt from being a nomad to moving a bit closer to the girls every week’ wanting to join in on their kill and getting rejected every time. Now the girls respect him and he only leaves them when he is out marking his territory. The females hunt for him and he protects them. They are now a true lion pride. Watching this young pride begin and form on Gondwana has been so rewarding, almost growing together with them, particularly knowing they will be around for a long time.

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May 12, 2010

The Honey Badgers

It’s a cold winter’s morning. We just had a big breakfast and decided to go out on drive
afterwards. My guests are from Scotland, a real lovely bunch, all wrapped up in warm blankets. I have
never seen the clouds so beautiful. Their shapes, sizes and ripples make them look unreal. The wind is
coming on too strong and is going to make the drive a bit more difficult.

Luckily there are so many deep valleys where we can go and hide. The bigger game is scarce, also
seeking shelter.

As we hit this rocky patch, something catches my eye. Honey badgers, two of them. They came into
the road moving along the one track in front of us. Now and then they stop, looking back at us almost
posing for a picture. We are really close, watching them swagger along. This makes my guests smile
with delight. We follow them for another 400 meters until they finally decide to move back into the
long grass. We continue to enjoy them as they look for lunch.

What a lovely way to end a cold morning drive.

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May 12, 2010

The Birds Are Back

It’s September and its great seeing all the migratory birds coming back in patches over the last few weeks.

Early morning and afternoon, when you look up during a game drive, the Greater Striped, White Throated Swallows and the Black Sawings are all doing their aerial acrobats. I’m expecting the Steppe Buzzards back soon to once again make it difficult to identify them from the Forest Buzzard.

With Gondwana being so new, it is always fun going out knowing that you can pick up a few species not yet seen on the reserve. Something special on the reserve is that we have so many endemic species; it is worth coming just for them.

Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Black Harrier you will see on every game drive. Mentioning the Black Harrier, its always fun watching them hunting by soaring very low over the Fynbos searching for anything moving.

A while back I saw one catching a male Cape Sugarbird by just plucking him off a Bearded Protea. After that I had a Jackal Buzzard catching a Common Slug-eater in front of my vehicle in the road. The other day I sat for half an hour watching this Black Headed Heron catching and then trying to swallow a huge Common (African) Molerat. It took him seven minutes.

The diversity of vegetation makes the bird watching so enjoyable on Gondwana, whether it be sitting on the grasslands identifying very difficult ‘LBJ’s or watching Secretary Birds and Black Headed Heron hunting anything that is small enough to swallow, or just stopping by a dam in a Fynbos valley and watching so many different species coming for a drink or bath. Cape Sisken, Common Waxbill, Bar Throated Apalis, Cape Grassbird and many more species of Sunbirds are always out and about.

Overall you can get a very good birding experience on the Southern Cape birds and bird watching scene plus all the endemics you can find nowhere else in the world. By the way, I still need some help on the Victorins Warbler, Olive Bush Shrike and the Lesser Honeyguide. Any takers?

Please note Albert has just initiated and completed Gondwana’s first bird hide at a beautiful and lively waterhole on the reserve. Come and enjoy for yourself!

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May 8, 2010

The Lion & Gemsbok

Nobody had seen our young male lion for several days, which is very unusual for this cat. With this in mind I set out early determined to find the king of the jungle. After an hour or so I had seen neither hind nor hair of this lion, and to be honest I was beginning to give up hope (I know, I´m not the most patient of rangers).

Suddenly I noticed something rather peculiar. A lone male gemsbok was staring intently at a rock, so focused was the gemsbok that he didn´t even seem to notice the approach of my vehicle, something that would normally send these antelope skittering off into the bush. “Very strange indeed”, I thought to myself as I readied my binoculars. Looking closely at this animal I could clearly see it was in terrible condition, skinny as a rake and with a face covered in ticks, I think a stiff wind could have blown him over, but none of this explained his odd behavior.

As I scanned to the left I got my answer, the so called rock was hairy, it was in fact no rock, but our male lion that I had been looking for, and he was a mere five meters or so away from his target.

I was very excited, this had to be a guaranteed kill. What I hadn´t taken into account was a combination of two things, the sheer bravery of this decrepit gemsbok, and the fact that this lion was completely ineffective in catching this easy target, if he were human he would definitely have been a vegetarian.

The gemsbok had clearly seen the lion´s clumsy approach and they were now in the middle of a stand off and for how long this had been going on for I don´t know. The gemsbok seemed to know that if he ran he was dead, and the lion was clearly aware that even in his prey´s weakened state a frontal assault would result in death or serious injury via those huge horns. Stalemate.

The lion would make a halfhearted move, only for it to be met by two razor sharp horns. For hours this went on. At one point the gemsbok seemed to click on that this lion was not the real deal and just started grazing (much needed nutrients). “Now, get him!” I found myself saying, but the lion did nothing. Then the lion appeared to get bored and just started rolling in the grass like a domestic house cat enjoying a sunny spot in the garden. “Run away” I was saying to the Gemsbok, determined to see an end to this epic stand off, but nothing. For three and a half hours I sat there and watched this display of biblical style bravery versus amateurish hunting, but alas, I had to leave.

I was stiff and sore from sitting at a funny angle in the Land Rover, plus I did actually have some work to do that day (I know, it´s a hard life eh?).

I never did get to find out exactly how the scenario played out, but there are two things I do know, eight hours later they were seen, still locked in conflict, and, that to this day that skinny old gemsbok is still alive and kicking, roaming alone in the veld around Fynbos Camp. I take my hat off to him; I don´t think I could have faced off a lion for eight hours or more. Well bloody done!

And Mr. Lion, I have this to say to you, stick around those females, you’re going to need them.

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November 26, 2009

A flurry of offspring from our wildlife

As we enter the summer season, we have been welcomed by a flurry of offspring from a wide range of our wildlife. These progeny are a great indicator that the introduced animals have established themselves on the reserve. We are also encouraged by the increase in population and behavioural development of the species that were always present on the reserve such as the bushbuck, Grey Rheebok, and Caracal to name a few.

Our pride of lion have developed themselves into a successful hunting unit. The initial separation of the male from the females was temporary as sightings are rare without the complete pride. We continue to monitor the predator prey dynamic and are excited to report indisputable evidence of leopard throughout the property.

Our expansion program has now come to fruition with the completion of the external fences and the current dissembling of the fence dividing the two properties. The timing of this was perfect with the late rains stimulating growth in this sweet veld region creating natural movement of wildlife into this new area. We have successfully relocated one of our black rhino into this area according to plan as it is a more suitable habitat for this highly selective browser species. The inclusion of this area has added numerous species to both our mammal and bird list with the guides excitedly reporting a first sighting of the Knysna Lourie and breeding pairs of Klipspringer.

We have established a wonderful team of field guides whose enthusiasm and contributions towards conservation on Gondwana have benefited us all. They are applying their individual passions to better the reserve, such as implementing our first bird hide, Children’s Junior Ranger program and wildlife monitoring. Together with our guides, guests and owners have been enjoying rare sightings of honey badger, aardvark, aardwolf and bushpig. Take a moment to read a few of their ranger diaries now found on the website.

Our reserve manager, Joe Erasmus continues to develop Gondwana and is establishing the implementation of our environmental management policies. This summer will complete the second phase of our annual burning program which forms a critical component of our veld management. We are very excited to initiate a large scale alien removal effort on the reserve starting this November. This will be implemented in conjunction with a rehabilitation program for erosion control and habitat development.

I enjoy seeing you all on the reserve and hope you can visit us again soon to experience what has become a world class establishment.

Mark Rutherfoord, Director
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July 12, 2009

University Research Study on Gondwana’s Elephant Population

We are proud to announce that Gondwana has entered into a formal research program together with the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) looking at the spatial/ecological utilization of our elephant. Gondwana offers the unique opportunity for scientists to study these incredible species within a fynbos biome. Such a study has never been done before and all parties both private and government are extremely excited about the pending results. These results will be used by conservation authorities as guidelines within the Western Cape to help structure better and more realistic elephant management plans.

Our lions have been an extremely exciting addition to the reserve. The introduction into their boma and bonding process went according to plan and their release onto the reserve has been nothing but remarkable. They have been seen making their own kills of both Gemsbok and Black Wildebeest and seem to have adapted quite comfortably to their new terrain and surroundings.

There is much we still want to achieve on the reserve and hope to report on new game drive roads next quarter as well as to the changes in the wildlife movement and habitat utilization due to the release of the lions.”

Mark Rutherfoord, Director
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