Ranger Diaries

April 28, 2015
Comments Off on Hippo’s Take Charge by Lizaan Claasen

Hippo’s Take Charge by Lizaan Claasen

Hippo At Gondwana

Hippo bulls are usually extremely territorial which leads to aggression. This aggression is not only relevant towards other hippo bulls but also to other animals, especially predators as we noticed one afternoon at Gondwana Game Reserve. One afternoon near the end of a game drive we followed a male lion to a near by watering […]

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April 20, 2015

The Nonchalant Caracal – Rangers Diary

Near the end of our morning game drive on Gondwana Game Reserve, en-route back to breakfast at Kwena Lodge, I decided to make a small detour. Just then in the middle of the road we found a beautiful young, male caracal, walking very elegantly and relaxed. He paid no attention to us allowing us to follow and admire him for quite a distance.

While we were discussing the impressiveness of this feline member and just as I mentioned how lions should envy this little predator for being a far superior hunter, the young cat leaped into action. He pounced over the road into a nearby helicrysum stand, scurrying around for a fraction of a second and stopped. Turning around he revealed his prize, a nice big fat gerbil pinned in his jaws.

It was surprising to see him start feeding right in front of us, not concerned at all about our presence. A good couple of minutes went by, allowing us to admire this amazing species who are usually very shy and nocturnal hunters by nature. They are capable of taking down prey about three times their size and can jump three meters into the air to catch a bird in mid flight.

When he was done with his breakfast, he stood up, walked five meters away and lay down just staring at us. The resemblance to a domestic cat lifestyle was uncanny; it lay looking at us, distant and content after the meal, conserving its energy. This was truly a once in a lifetime sighting. By Field Guide, PG Coetzee

Caracal at Gondwanacaracal GondwanaCaracal and gerbil GondwanaCaracal feeding

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March 12, 2015

Conservation in the Western Cape: Preserving wildlife, protecting vegetation and uplifting the local community

 Situated in South Africa’s Garden Route, Gondwana Game Reserve is more than just host to a beautiful 5-star lodge. Set over 11 000 hectares, the property also takes great pride in placing focus on nature conservation.  The reserve is now home to the non-profit organisation, The Gondwana Conservation Foundation (GCF), upholding four fundamental pillars: The Protection of Endangered Wildlife, The Protection of Endangered Vegetation, Community Upliftment and Environmental Education.

With over 10 000 guests from around the world engaging at Gondwana, these important conversations become part of the safari experience and are spread through visitors’ powerful word of mouth.

Black Rhino Gondwana Game Reserve

Black Rhino

Protection of Endangered Wildlife:

The GCF places focus on the relocation and long term sustainability of the endangered rhino species, cheetah, bontebok and Cape Mountain zebra.  Through the provision of habitat and prey species, precise and consistent monitoring of the animals, extensive research and implementation and training of anti-poaching units, the foundation seeks to cover all angles of protecting these precious creatures.  Their flagship project, Rainbow Rhino Project initiative is specifically aimed at combating rhino-poaching on the reserve through skills and technology development.

The project has a 10 year plan of introducing 165 individual rhino into reserves across Africa and 108 trained anti-poaching soldiers. Through the use of a state of the art anti-poaching training facility and utilizing various technologies to enhance anti-poaching methods, the project ensures that rhino calves will be born into a safe environment.  Within this period it is estimated that over 550 rhino will be protected through the foundation’s trained soldiers.
 

Protection of Endangered Vegetation:

Gondwana Game Reserve is also home to one of the most critically endangered vegetation types on earth, fynbos. Forming part of The Cape Floristic Kingdom, fynbos is endemic to the Southern Cape of South Africa.  The GCF works towards the rehabilitation and promotion of biodiversity of the fynbos ecosystem. Achieved through specialised teams executing erosion control, removing alien vegetation, ensuring sustainable fire management and promoting water conservation within wetland systems, the programme is actively preserving one of the most unique environments in the world.  Currently the foundation is involved in one of the largest privately driven land rehabilitation programs within the Southern Cape. There are over 60 local individuals that have been employed within the program with the majority of the contracts estimated to extend over a six year period. 

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September 30, 2013

The Elusive Cape Leopard

Elusive and mysterious, this shadow-walking predator is just one of the species which reside on Gondwana Game Reserve. occupy a home range of between 120-250km2 and despite what many believe, Cape Leopards do not only prowl caves but rather find appropriate areas to rest as they move. Preying upon dassies, small antelope and mice, the Cape Leopard rarely includes group-living animals in their diet as they usually hunt alone.

With less than 1000 Cape Leopards remaining in the wild, Gondwana Conservation efforts are heavily underway. Regarded as a “problem-animal” (a damage causing animal) on farms within the Cape, the Cape Leopard is being largely hunted out due to their instinctual killing of livestock. With Conservation efforts being poured into the protection of these majestic predators, farmers and conservation groups are slowly but surely starting to find a common ground between the removal of these animals on livestock farms and moving them to reserves such as Gondwana Game Reserve.  In an attempt to catch a glimpse of this obscure predator as well as learn about their movements, behaviour and breeding, Gondwana’s wildlife team members as well as guides have started a monitoring project around these animals. Placing stealth cameras in areas which could possibly be home to Cape Leopards such as caves and rocky mountain slopes, caves alike are being scouted for spoor and scat as well as any indicators that they may have passed by. Previous attempts in monitoring  and tracking the Cape Leopard on Gondwana have resulted in findings of prey carcasses hanging in trees, spoor and scat.

Having been unsuccessful in our treasure hunt for a clear photograph of this mysterious predator thus far, efforts are still in the foundation phase. Until then…the hunt shall continue..

Written by Taylor Hawkins

Cape Leopard

Image: source

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July 30, 2013

Becoming a Junior Ranger on Gondwana Game Reserve

Lily Joubert had the most fun taking part in the Junior Ranger Experience. On the first day we set out picking unique fynbos flowers for her Mom Jackie who had to stay at the Bush Villa with the little one. During the experience she learned about the relationships between sunbirds and the F
ynbos flowers and how all the little creatures are dependent on the plants, and vice versa. We found some clear Kudu and Water Mongoose spoor, which we cast in plaster. During this, Lily learned about tracking, how to tell the direction an animal was moving, the speed, and some of the more common tracks found around Gondwana Game Reserve. After a short game drive to allow the plaster to set, we lifted the casts to reveal the perfect spoor.

The following day, was Lily’s Dad’s birthday. We went down to the safe zone where an incredible picnic was set out by the chefs. Before the picnic we all cast a couple of lines in the water. While Lily was practicing the perfect cast, her dad cast nice and far, and Lily got to reel it in. Mom had a turn and while casting a little shorter than the guys could boldly “advise” on, Mom Jackie managed to land a decent sized Largemouth Bass.

Kids of all ages are welcome at Gondwana Game Reserve. On arrival families will be informed about the Junior Ranger experience and their ranger will enquire about any special requests, dietary, babysitting or otherwise.

Kids enjoying the junior Ranger experience at GondwanaJunior Rangers at Gondwana Game Reserve

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July 30, 2013

Two New Elephant Calves born on Gondwana Game Reserve in the last 6 months

After a gestation period of 660 days, two of the resident elephants cows gave birth to two playful calves on Gondwana Gama Reserve.  The birth of the first calf on Christmas Day was celebrated by the mother through trumpeting and parading her new calf in front of Kwena lodge and then they disappeared for a few weeks into the 11 000 hectare Fynbos Reserve. Another calf was born just this May also with much excitement. Elephants much like people celebrate the birth of  young and join together in community to be present. After the maternal announcement of the second addition to the family herd, the new mother and calf separated from the other pair to strengthen their bond, but reunited with the herd after a short time.

Allomothering,  is when all the females in the herd help to protect and look after the young calves which is common in elephants. However, it is very rare that elephants communal suckle, where the calves can drink off any lactating female in the herd as it is usually not tolerated.  We have witnessed this communal milk sucking with Gondwana’s herd which is fascinating and indicates the pronounced relationship and connection in the herd.

Elephants are ecological engineers who have the ability to structure and shape their environments around them. Elephants have always been an important species in the ecology of the Southern Cape and this why it was important to reintroduce a small nucleus population into an area such as Gondwana that they historicallyoccupied. Through ivory poaching and conflict with humans, the last of the inhabitant elephant herds were shot out in the 1700s with a tiny relic population that hid from the hunters rifles in the darkness of the Southern Cape Forests.We hope this growing herd can play a role in bringing wild elephant back to the Southern Cape.

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March 14, 2013

Morning game drive with the lions- by Colin Smit

5 March 2013

We were out before the sunrise and boy, was the feeling good!

It was somewhat misty and a little fresh, but by no means cold. We set out on our respective game drives to find the lions who we hadn’t seen them for a couple of days, 1 Ranger took his guests down to the Nauga Valley and myself and another vehicle stayed near the top.  As the mist began to lift we started on our search for the lions.
We heard some roaring close by but the challenge was to pin point where it was coming from. Again the two of us on the top plains split up, one person looking in the valleys and the other up on the plains. As we were admiring the rising sun and warmth it gave us we discovered the majestic male lion. As we got to him he moved off. We slowly followed him where is stopped to greet a female with two cubs – we stayed about 300m from them and watched as the four of them played with each other enjoying the morning. The good mood was most likely to a kill they’d just made. The guests on their last drive, were ecstatic! What a beautiful way to start the morning!

Male Lion at Gondwana game reserve

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January 29, 2013

Summer Game Drive on Gondwana Game Reserve

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset yesterday at our stunning Garden Route Game Reserve. This probably had allot to do with the actual sightings we were fortunate enough to discover on our evening game drive.

While on our safari with a few guests, we came across a lone elephant bull feeding on an acacia tree who was not at all perturbed by our presence. It is always fascinating to see how they gently eat around the acacia thorns. After spending some time with the elephant we moved on and came across a heard of zebra who seemed to be surrounding 2 giraffe. As we approached, the giraffe sauntered away into the bushes where we found a few fresh Rhino tracks. This created allot of excitement for the guests. We followed the tracks passed a few more bushes and there we found a magnificent female rhino, shy and retreating at first but after some time she slowly moved into the grazing area to give us a better view.

After visiting for a while, we left the rhino to have her dinner in peace and slowly moved to a look out point where we enjoyed an ice cold glass of wine while watching the sunset over the colourful fynbos reserve . The evening was perfect, warm with a subtle breeze moving through the mountains as the sun slowly made its way behind them. The setting of the sun was celebrated by a loud lions roar! Definitely an evening of perfection.

By Colin Smit- Head Ranger

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