Lightning strikes Welgevonden

By Sam Davidson-Phillips

Fire can be seen as a disastrous damaging force but is an important part of the savannah biome as it helps in removing old moribund material and making way for new growth.

A fire started during the night of the 9th January after a thunderstorm had passed over the southern section of the reserve.

Management kept a close eye on the fire hoping that it would burn itself out naturally, but alas no such luck.

On the 10th of January at roughly midday the call was made to control the fire after it had crossed two roads.

The management team called upon personnel with fire fighting equipment to respond to control the fire. Myself and Mduduzi Vilakazi who are two new nature conservation students at Welgevonden were thrown into the deep end and given various tasks to help control the fire; methods such as using a drip torch to make back burns as well using the fire fighting pumps to put out the fire where there was no fire break.

With much sweat the management was able to contain the fire by about 6:00pm. Although fire can be seen as destructive force, it is also a force of creation and it was remarkable to note the wildlife during and after the fire. During the fire many bird species were drawn; such as the barn swallows seen catching all the escaping insects and birds of prey such as the yellow billed kites swooping for the escaping small animals.

The next day we drove past the burnt site early in the morning and noted small herds of red hartebeest in the area, the reason for the congregation was possibly due to the improved visibility and the eventual new growth that should come after some good rains.