Conservation and Environment in South Africa: Monthly Updates
Botswana Conservation Monthly Update: November - December 2016
Rain is finally here – this is wonderful news for the wildlife and the villagers. In a few days, the bush has transformed from a desperate lifeless area to a nice green one. The wild herbivores and omnivores are eating grass and leaves, moving away far in the bushes. Before the rains, we could see about 100 elephants in one day, but now we barely see one because the vegetation is has become dense. Water is now all around us and it has filled up all of the temporary waterholes.
December is also the time for the young animals to come out and experience the bush for the first time. Impala are born all at the same period; volunteers and staff see many of them during this time. This is a technique done by the species to ensure that as many of the young ones as possible survive predator attacks. Many babies born around the same time mean that predators cannot eat them all, so the species have a good chance of survival. It is one of the reasons why impalas are so common in the reserve and in Africa.
Staff and volunteers have been lucky to see a leopard male called Nikito resting on a kopje (little mountain made of rocks). As always, it is a rare and enjoyable sighting, mainly because when the animal is relaxing, it allows us to share a moment of his life.
We hope that you enjoyed the latest update and learnt a lot of interesting facts about African wildlife and life in the bush. The bush itself is a treasure and an adventure; every day is different and we just can’t get enough!
In order for us to learn about the leopards in our area, we first need to identify them so that we can track individuals. From this, we can learn more about habitat range and territory. Each leopard has its own character/characteristics and this can be used to identify individuals. We can look for different characteristics such as: tears on the ears, face shape, spots and rosettes on the face and the body, injuries, whiskers and also the pattern of spots. It is a hard and long process and for that, we need to take good pictures, preferably of the face. Identifying an individual as male or female is not always an easy task. Young males and females can look very similar. A mature male will be easier to identify as he will be much bigger and have a much more developed muscle structure. At the moment, we have been able to identify 21 individuals, with 10 females, nine males and two unknown individuals. Some of them have been seen often and are famous around our camp; an example being Nikito, a male living in the various kopjes close to the camp.
Before the first rains of the year, it is the best period for us to re-grass the area. This is a simple technique that allows the grass to grow in an area where the vegetation (mainly grass) is rare. Erosion is, as you may know, a serious problem in our area. Sometimes, the rains come in strong storms with short and heavy rains. In this case the good soil is often washed away because there is no grass, trees or shrubbery there to slow down the water. The grass is also really important for the wildlife - it is, after all, food for them. Volunteers and staff collect seeds during the rainy season, stock them in a dry area and from September to the end of the rainy season, we can start to re-grass the area. To do this, we need to find a flat area, spread the seeds, add some elephant dung that we have collected in the reserve, spread the elephant dung on top and then protect everything with branches. The branches will avoid the precious mixture from being washed away in case of strong rain. It will also prevent wildlife from eating or destroying it. After this process is done, we then just wait for a good shower of rain and we can then see the grass growing quickly. After a few years, we will get some nice areas with dense grass. This is beneficial for wildlife in the area and of course for a better management of the soil.
Conservation Manager, Sophie Juget