Southern Africa Conservation Monthly Update - January - February 2012
January and February is a hot time in the bush, with summer showers. This is a lovely time to be in the bush, as there's plenty of water for all the animals, and the summer visiting birds are in full swing. The volunteers have been very busy with their projects and are doing great work on the reserve.
In the north of the reserve here at Kwa Tuli we are beginning to build a new camp for future Projects Abroad volunteers. The site is close to a waterhole where we have had a few fantastic sleep outs over the last month - sightings of leopards and spotted hyenas! When we move to this area it will be brilliant to build a hide at this regularly used waterhole and carry out hide observation.
The volunteers have been helping to clear the area for the new site - this involves removing some vegetation and raking the soil so that it's ready for the building of the foundations.
It looks great now and some builders have moved to the site to start on the buildings. We hope that it will be ready within a few months - fabulous news!
Dam building in the north of the reserve
There are areas of the reserve where soil erosion becomes a problem - when it rains the soil is washed away down small rivers - this exposes the roots of Mopani trees and means that the water isn't available for animals to drink. In one particularly deep river bed we have been building a dam to prevent this soil erosion. It is about 1.5m high and made of soil and rocks. Next time it rains it will create a natural waterhole for animals to drink from.
Road repair and road clearing
Some of the roads around the reserve are very rarely used and quite overgrown. In order to carry out our research and conservation here it is important to be able to travel around the reserve easily. We have been driving on some of the more rocky roads and clearing the way for the vehicles to enable easy travel between the camp and the hides we use for animal observation.
Hide observation and elephant identification
Nearing the end of the raining season it is interesting to see how the animals use the manmade waterholes more frequently. We have been carrying out lots of hide observation - concentrating on three hides: Ma Matumi, Elephant Springs and Top Hide to see which species in the reserve use these places to drink and swim.
We want to make an identification database for the elephants in the reserve so that we can tell when different herds join up and how far they tend to travel. It is most important to get a good photograph of the elephant's ears because they often have distinguishing cuts or markings. We have sheets on which we record whether or not they have both tusks and the state of their tail hairs. At the moment we are concentrating on identifying the dominant/largest males and the matriarchs in the herds.
Sighting of the Wild Dogs
On the 21st of February one group of volunteers had a fantastic experience up at Top Hide - they saw three Wild Dogs! They haven't been spotted in this region for a very long time and they are a protected species and are very rare to see. The dogs looked as though they had just been feeding and were relaxed enough for the volunteers to take some great photos which will be useful for individual identification. It is great news that Wild Dogs are able to live and feed in this area and we hope to see more of them around soon!
With so much going on, volunteers are busy with the work and doing a great job contributing to the conservation of this beautiful part of Botswana.