The annual aerial game census was done in the middle of September during hot and windy conditions. Normally the census was done wrapped up in jackets, gloves etc, but this was the first year that we wore shorts and short sleaved shirts. Luckily the visibility was excellent, although flying conditions was not ideal. The numbers for most species are down from last year, which were to be expected giving our high predator population, very dry conditions and bad breeding the previous two seasons.
Elephant populations are known to double every ten years, and this obviously represents a considerable risk for biodiversity conservation as a result of the cumulative impact on vegetation composition and structure over time. However, recent trials on a private reserve in the lowveld have shown immunocontraception to be an extremely effective method to stabilise elephant populations in relatively small conservation areas and this obviously represents an exciting new possibility for elephant management.
On the evening of Monday the 26th September, multiple lightning strikes both on Welgevonden and on adjoining properties resulted in extensive fires in and around the reserve. The strong winds and high temperatures combined to create extensive fire fronts that moved extremely quickly. At the same time, lightning strikes resulted in fires across the entire Waterberg region and reports indicate that vast tracts of land from Nylstroom to Thabazimbi were burnt.
Two HAWK105 GPS/GSM radio collars were kindly donated by Trisha Wilson from Izingwe Lodge. HAWK105 consists of the latest in GPS (Global Positioning System) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) technology. The device fitted to the animal, determines position accurate within 10 meters at user's specified times. These time schedules (daily or weekly) can be programmed and reprogrammed while the animal is in the field.
A massive growth in our lion population and a crash in the market for free-roaming lions left Welgevonden with a large lion population during the last two years. This resulted in a massive and visible reduction in our prey population. However, although other predators like leopard and wild dog also had an influence, the large lion population and the way they have split up played a large role in this..