stories from the Wildlife Expedition project team.
Vulture Ringing in Mkhuze
During September, Staff and volunteers accompanied Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
staff and members of Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) as they visited
vulture nesting sites within Mkhuze Game Reserve and surrounds, to tag
vulture chicks with patagial (wing) tags.
These plastic colour-coded tags each have a letter and number, the
combination of which uniquely identifies the bird and the area in which
it was originally tagged. These tags can then be read in the field,
through binoculars, meaning that there is no need to re-trap the birds.
The tags allow for the collection of valuable data including monitoring
of breeding success, foraging distances, etc.
A total of 3 Lappet-faced and 4 White-backed vulture chicks were
successfully tagged in this year's ringing project. More than 50
vultures have been tagged in Mkhuze, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and Pongola
Reserves since 2005.
Vultures truly have an undeserved reputation as being nothing more than
"ugly scavengers", when in truth they are magnificent and threatened
creatures who play a vital role in the ecosystem. It is our
responsibility to preserve the remaining populations of vultures within
Southern Africa, and raise awareness about the status and importance of
these vulnerable birds.
Exciting new projects in
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP)
The staff are currently busy with
the second trial camera trap survey in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP).
The survey, which began on the 4th of August, had to change camera
survey methods in order to gain more data on cheetah (which is the
priority species of the survey). Our new method involves placing the
cameras on trees that are used by cheetah for either scent marking or as
vantage points from which to spot prey. This method is proving to be
extremely successful, as we have already recorded 52 camera captures of
cheetah from the 10 cameras we have placed in the iMfolozi section of
the Park for the second trial survey.
We have also captured photos of leopard, lion, black rhino, elephant and
wild dog (as well as 1 photo of the elusive honey badger). The second
trial survey has involved 22 cameras (12 in Hluhluwe and 10 in iMfolozi),
which have thus far captured a total of 892 photos.
Another aspect of the work being done in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park involves
our volunteers assisting HiP's Wild Dog monitor, Zama Zwane, with the
monitoring of the 2 packs of wild dogs that frequent the Hluhluwe
section of the Park. One of the packs identified for monitoring is
denning at the moment, although the puppies have not yet been counted.
Our volunteers might be the first ones to witness these pups emerging
from the den!
Yet another exciting new project in HiP is a 2-month survey of Black
Rhino in the Park, undertaken in conjunction with Jed Bird (the HiP
Black Rhino monitor). Volunteers recently assisted with setting up of
the cameras for this survey, and got to experience an unforgettable bush
walk in the process. 20 of the 30 cameras will be used for this survey,
so the volunteers on HiP in the coming months will be involved in
setting up, checking and taking down the cameras, as well as with the
processing of the data that we collect from them. This promises to be an
exciting new project, with many exciting encounters along the way.
Buffalo testing on Thanda Reserve - Sep
Ten buffalo bulls were being held in the
boma on Thanda Reserve during September, for a two week quarantine
period before being sold to another reserve. Volunteers got to see the
10 Buffalo bulls darted, and observe the veterinarians testing for
The Buffalo had all been darted a few days previously and had capsules
put into their necks subcutaneously. The vets subsequently checked to
see whether there was any excess swelling where the capsule had been
placed. (Any swelling would indicate the presence of TB). All of
Thanda’s Buffalo passed this test and were declared clean. This was a
good learning opportunity for the volunteers, who enjoyed it immensely.
White Rhino capture & Cheetah collaring
on Thanda - Sep 2010
Volunteers on Thanda Reserve recently
assisted with the relocation of a White Rhino cow. Once the rhino was
located, the monitor and volunteers stayed with the animal for 3 hours
while waiting for the Game Capture team to arrive and dart the rhino
from the helicopter. The rhino was then captured and transported to her
new home. Volunteers were able to participate and gain both knowledge
and understanding regarding how the whole capture operation works, and
the reasons behind the methods used.
Notching of White Rhino also took place on Thanda Game Reserve in
September. Notching is an important process whereby identification marks
are made in the rhino's ears to allow each individual to be uniquely
recognised for the accurate monitoring of these animals. Volunteers
assisted the wildlife monitor in searching great distances by vehicle to
locate the rhinos, and observed as the vet notched the rhinos' ears, and
put microchips into their horns which allow the horn to be identified.
One of the braver volunteers was then given the task of collecting dung
from the rhino and smearing it onto the rhino's nostrils to mask the
scent of humans and make the animal feel more relaxed upon waking.
Once rhino notching was over, volunteers were also fortunate enough to
observe the veterinarian tranquilise one of the collared male cheetahs
on the reserve, so that the collar could be removed and placed onto a
female. Once the collar was removed the volunteers got to move the
tranquilised cheetah into a shaded area, and then watch and wait for the
immobilising drugs to wear off slowly.
Love is in the air
- ACT News - April 2010
The hard work has paid off! In the last year, the Wild Dog pack at Thanda has
more than doubled in size and we are really chuffed that we were able to
contribute to this amazing success story.
Recent mating activity between the Alpha pair this month suggests that the pack
is to grow in numbers once more! The Alpha male and female have been seen
coupling on a number of occasions, most notably right outside the Wildlife ACT
Hold thumbs for a safe gestation period, which could result in puppies being
born within a short two and a half months time. This puts the exciting potential
birthing (denning) right around the time at which our volunteer group from
Chester University arrives (mid May). During their time with Wildlife ACT, these
new volunteers will help monitor these highly endangered species on a daily
basis, and in doing so hopefully turn 2010 into another success story for the
African Wild Dogs on Thanda. The Thanda pack is currently comprised of 3 adults
(1 male and 2 female) and 4 sub-adults (2 male and 2 female).
New project on Tembe -
ACT News - April 2010
Tembe Elephant Park is to add many exciting new
experiences to the work being done by Wildlife ACT. The Park has a group of
captive-bred male Wild Dogs who are at present being bonded to a recently
captured group of wild females in the Park's boma.
Once bonded, the dogs should be able to hunt successfully and function as a
pack, as well as hopefully produce a litter of pups in the months to come.
Wildlife ACT starts monitoring the pack from the 1st of April.
In addition to the Wild Dogs, Wildlife ACT volunteers will be monitoring Tembe's
lion population as well as their elephant population, which are some of the
largest elephant in Africa, and which are the last remaining indigenous herd in