Happenings during September 2011

October 11, 2011

Happenings during September 2011

Through this newsletter, we hope to share our excitement with you and keep you updated on all of the conservation efforts on the reserve.  Thank you to all that contributed, looking after our wildlife really is a team effort. A special thanks to John Vogel from our wildlife team for spearheading this initiative. An additional 500 head of general game were introduced this winter including kudu, eland, bontebok, red hartebeest, ostrich, gemsbok, and zebra. Read about our recent cheetah introduction and watch this space to hear about exciting Brown Hyeana and Giraffe introductions in the near future!

Latest Wildlife Happenings at GondwanaThrough this newsletter, we hope to share our excitement with you and keep you updated on all of the conservation efforts on the reserve.  Thank you to all that contributed, looking after our wildlife really is a team effort. A special thanks to John Vogel from our wildlife team for spearheading this initiative.An additional 500 head of general game were introduced this winter including kudu, eland, bontebok, red hartebeest, ostrich, gemsbok, and zebra. Read about our recent cheetah introduction and watch this space to hear about exciting Brown Hyeana and Giraffe introductions in the near future!

Rainfall

Gondwana Game Reserve is flourishing with exceptionally good rainfall that we have received since June. The wealth of water has made traversing the property rather challenging. The drought cycle has evidently been broken with water restrictions now lifted in the region. The substantial rains have saturated the reserve’s water holes, attracting an abundance of aquatic avian life.

Rainfall Recorded

June 192mm
July 136mm
August 134mm
Jan-Aug 644mm

New Feathered Species

Identified on Reserve An additional two bird species have now been recorded on Gondwana, the Red winged Francolin and the Black Stork. These species are considered to be uncommon and rare and are highly sensitive to habitat change.

Cheetah introduction

Two additional wild cheetah have taken their first steps to a new life on Gondwana’s 11 000 hectare reserve. The arrival of the two males has sparked much excitement with frequent sightings already by the staff and guests who are reporting them on a daily basis as they settle in. The two males join another male and female cheetah that were released in September 2010. Gondwana is privileged to participate in the conservation of this endangered and beautiful species. These two cats will add a new dynamic to the balance of the ecosystem within the reserve. We would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Mike and Linda Harrington, Red Rocks Private Residence owners, for their contribution to this effort.

The two males were strategically chosen based on factors such as the ability to hunt, they are well bonded, and that they have been exposed to an apex predator such as lion. The combination of
these factors will improve the success of these cats on the reserve. Sadly, our first male coalition that was introduced, 2 brothers, suffered a loss as one was killed by our lions on the reserve soon
after its release.

Both of the males have been fitted with radio collars to allow the conservation team to effectively monitor the cats performance on the reserve and plot the animals movements and hunting patterns
to improve our knowledge of cheetah on Gondwana’s very unique ecosystem.

Reserve Management

The reserve management team has recently completed an extensive vegetation survey on Gondwana. This forms part of our game management plan submission to Cape Nature as part of their new guidelines for the Western Cape. Vegetation surveys provide important quantitative data on veld condition, biodiversity status, succession in plant communities and ecological capacities among other things. The results of the study revealed that the reserve has a substantially higher ecological capacity than previously accessed in sustaining wildlife populations.

Alien Vegetation Update

We are eager to continue Gondwana’s invasive plant removal programme. The goal is to control the impact of alien plants, especially in the Fynbos and riparian zones. It is critical that the
Alien vegetation does not compromise the biodiversity of the fynbos and renosterveld by utilising valuable water within the riparian zones. This project is of a long-term nature but the results will
be well worth it.

Large tracts of the reserve have recently been cleared utilizing a combination of mechanical and chemical removal methods. The rehabilitation of these sites will be of priority. The exotic homogenous sites will be cleared, followed up on, maintained and rehabilitated to ensure no invasive species return. See pictures above. Vegetation assessments revealed Gondwana to have 501.55 hectares of alien dominated vegetation dispersed in pockets predominantly in valleys, wetland and riparian zones. The dominant alien species primarily of Australian origin includes Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle), Acacia cyclops (Red Eye) and Hakea serciea (Hakea).

Cape Mountain Zebra

Gondwana’s Cape Mountain Zebra population has grown this season with the birth of a foal of unknown sex. Gondwana now hosts 14 of these rare and endangered animals, which are known to be slow to breed.

Lions

Thank you to all that assisted by giving a hand with the lion capture on the 8th of August. The decision was made to temporarily house the resident lion pride in a boma, to allow the cheetah males to
investigate and explore the 11 000 hectares without any pressure from the brawny felines. We also have 3 new females in a boma waiting for release once they acclimatize.

Buffalo

The decision was made to relocate a buffalo cow and her calf to a predator free area. The buffalo Cow’s condition deteriorated with the onslaught of winter and a dependent calf, and the reserve management team felt it was imperative we intervene. The buffalo mother and son receive supplementary feeding daily and have been aptly named Makangane (Zulu for naughty boy) and Jika (Zulu meaning to turn around, which the cow has made in her condition). Another buffalo cow is pregnant which is great news!

Interesting sightings

  • PG and Julian saw a bull elephant chasing two hippopotamus into Green Pond.
  • Caracal: Numerous sightings throughout the last 3 months.
  • Tracey saw 2 striped polecat near Hartebeest Dam.
  • John saw striped polecat at Lions Den.
  • Neil saw aardwolf close to gate 1.
  • Julian saw cape fox at Wendy’s Dam.
  • Cobus saw honey badger west of Kwena and honey badger with pups at Milkwood.
  • PG and Ziaad saw wildcat on Lehele road.
  • John and Shelby saw wildcat kittens near Lenny’s link.
  • John and PG saw malachite kingfisher at Bird hide and Stork pans.
  • Mark, Neil and John saw African Harrier Hawk in Lehele Valley, and Lucy’s Dam.
  • PG, and Trevor saw a Verreaux’s Eagle on Trees Loop.
  • John has found 3 bat-eared foxes that were ran over by speeding vehicles.

Monitoring

Monitoring of fauna and flora plays a crucial role at Gondwana. Animal movement patterns and distribution and impact of key animal species on vegetation are monitored.

Flowers in Bloom

Oxalis Polyfolia (Sorrel)

Rose, lilac,or white flowers. Plants are a natural vermifuge and can be used in salads.

Hermania “Dolls rose” Pokkiesblom

Flowers look like miniture rose flower.Flowers are edible.Used to treat Syphilis in the past.

Protea Nitida “Waboom”

Wood was used in spoke making on oxwagons in the past .Leaves were also used in the ink making process.

Polygala Myrtifolia (September bush)

Pink flowers attractive garden specimen ,attracts insects and birds.

Phylica Ericoides

Phylica pubescens (featherhead)

Selago Corymbosa (Bitterbush)

The vernacular name :aarbossie refers to its alleged preference to grow over arterial water.

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