Earlier this month our volunteers were lucky enough to come and see the release of a very special animal. The pangolin is a very elusive creature and resembles something of a pokemon! Unfortunately this pangolin was the victim of a poacher. Pangolins are the most trafficked wildlife species on the planet. Luckily through great team work this pangolin was saved from the poacher (and the poacher was arrested) and released back into the wild where it belongs. After a health check it was brought to a section of the reserve and the volunteers were able to get a glimpse of this beautiful creature as it wandered off into the bushes. A successful mission!
But we didn’t have to go far this month to see more spectacular animals! Our camp has become a wildlife hotspot! Whilst driving up to camp we were pleasantly surprised by the visit of 4 wild dogs A.K.A painted dogs. A species that is on the brink of extinction with only 450 left in South Africa. Therefor seeing 4 run past your home is pretty amazing! We followed them down the hill whilst the wild dogs were chatting away to each other looking for an afternoon snack! Eventually they disappeared into the bush continuing their mission. But these weren’t the only predators we had around camp. A curious leopard has been hanging around camp making himself very well known, calling for nights in a row. We even had a glimpse of him twice passing camp! Whilst on one of the nights we also had hyenas and lions calling! A cacophony of wildlife sounds around us! And if that wasn’t enough…a black rhino appeared out of nothing in front of Craig’s room! And before we knew it we had the big 5 around camp in a mere couple of hours! Who needs TV when you live in the bush?? Not us!
But even though with all the animals distracting with their presence around camp, work must still go on! Our intern Carly has spent many days and evenings on her report where she looks at the carrying capacity of the reserve. She has calculated the amount of roads, buildings and other human made structures throughout Balule and see how much land mass was lost due to it. This will reduce the size of your reserve and the amount of animals it can sustain. We can therefor advise people not to put in new roads or buildings as it will reduce the amount of wildlife we can carry. A very important job for our intern Carly! Our volunteer Mona has been very busy going through tens of thousands (!!) camera trap photos and adding them to our elephant and predator database. A massive task but an important one! She is also assisting Dr. Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive with finding the location of a couple of individual elephants for her collaring operations by going through the most recent elephant sightings on the camera traps and hope to spot them on it!
On a less pleasant note for elephants, a young elephant was spotted in the reserve with a snare around its neck. It was cutting in badly so we had to act fast. The helicopter went up to find the herd again, but they have moved in an astonishing speed to a different part of the reserve. It took the helicopter a couple of hours to relocate the herd but we were lucky to spot them eventually. The vet Dr. Peter Rogers moved in swiftly to dart the youngster whilst the management on the ground tried to separate the herd from the young one so that Dr. Rogers could start the treatment. The Black Mambas were there to assist Dr Rogers as well. The cuts in the elephant’s neck looked deep but Dr. Rogers was hopeful that the animal will survive after treatment. Once the treatment was done the reversal for the anaesthetic was given and the young elephant rushed back to its family. We wish the little one a speedy recovery and we hope the herd doesn’t get into more trouble with snares! We want to give a huge thanks to Rettet das Nashorn for funding the entire operation and saving this elephants life!
The next week the Black Mambas conducted a massive snare sweep in the area where the elephant was first seen. Multiple snares were pulled out and multiple poacher camps were found. The mambas destroyed the poachers camps and taken all the snares out of the bush. They are on high alert and will revisit the area frequently to make sure no one has come back again. But if the Mambas weren’t busy enough, some of the best Mambas were getting ready to a new direction in their jobs becoming sergeants! Veterans for Wildlife Aimee Nash and d Alisdair Donaldson, two hardened war veterans were ready to teach the selected mambas their skills! Over 14 days the ladies completed course after course, including; First Aid, planning a patrol, Camouflage and concealment, Role of a commander, Command and Control, Team management, method of instruction, Importance of comms, Reports and returns, lesson planning and teaching. A busy schedule and hard work! But after 14 days all ladies completed the course successfully! They will now command their own teams and carry more responsibility to ensure their team will be working in top form! We congratulate all the ladies with their achievement and wish them the best of luck in their new position!
And like usual the month doesn’t pass with someone going on a life changing experience! Last month our Black Mambas went to New York to receive an award and speak at the famous Explorers club. This month our Bushbaby student Lehlogonolo also flew to America! She has been part of the Eskom Science expo and became number 1 of all participants and was invited to compete against international students from all over the world! She is now on her way to Los Angeles to present her study on saving Marula trees! Good luck Lehlogonolo, you are a great example for other students!