INTO THE WILD
It was a very happy day for our camp rhinos this month following a decision by Lapalala management to release the rhinos in the breeding camp onto the reserve. After opening the gate, the bull (Botshelapata, meaning other side of the road) was the first to embrace his new-found “freedom”.
He is now the biggest bull on the reserve (he is huge!) and is frequently spotted between Founders, Amphitheater and Modumela, enjoying everything nature has to offer him – especially the fresh grass and muddy pools!
AVERAGE TEMPERATURES & RAINFALL
JANUARY Rainfall = 39.5 mm Min temp = 16.3 °C Max temp = 30.7 °C
L W BOARD VISITS UMDONI
Lapalala board members planned a special visit to the Umdoni site during this month’s meeting. Umdoni used to be a small 4-bed bush camp in Lapalala, where visitors could spend the night under the stars. The highlight of the site is a beautiful rock overhang with a spectacular panel of San rock paintings. It involves crossing the Blocklands River to reach the paintings, but it is worth the effort!
The Umdoni panel of ancient paintings comprises an exquisite collection of figures, including an antelope resembling a tsessebe, as well as several human figures.
The drawings are well protected from the elements, especially sunlight and rain, and are therefore still in very good condition.
The name of this site comes from the Sepedi word for the waterberry tree (Syzigium cordatum), and you will find many ‘umdoni trees’ along the river here. The plum-coloured fruits of this evergreen, water-loving tree are eaten by many wildlife species. Another tree to look for when visiting the site is this extraordinary, and highly photogenic, large-leaved rock fig growing out of the rockface.
PETER MASHABA WALKS THE PALALA
Our trainee manager, Peter started this year with a big task. As part of a survey to assess the distribution and abundance of alien plant species along our river systems, Peter walked the 37 km Palala River that runs through the middle of Lapalala, from south to north. The data he collected will provide us with a better understanding of the current state and condition of our riparian vegetation.
LEOPARD AT FOUNDERS
A young leopard has been spotted around Founders Lodge! We suspect it is a young male that hasn’t established his own territory yet. A few guests have already been fortunate enough to catch a glimpse or hear a distant roar of the ‘Founders leopard’. While caution is required when walking around the lodge area, the leopard has thus far only shown normal leopard behaviour and swiftly moves away when disturbed. Founders Lodge has been designed in a way that takes into account the possible presence of potentially dangerous animals, preventing the likelihood of cornering an animal while walking over the platforms.
TREE OF THE MONTH!
Probably one of the most famous trees in Africa is the marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea), which can grow to a height of 18 metres and is characterized by a grey, mottled bark. In February, the air around these leafy trees is filled with the fragrance of ripening marula fruit. Our animals love to feast on marula fruit, especially baboons and… elephants! Elephants regularly visit and revisit the same marula trees, checking the fruit for palatability and devouring it when it is ripe. In South Africa, the sweet yellow fruit is also used for making jam, wine, beer and a liqueur called Amarula.
BLACK MAMBA VISITS LANDMAN’S OFFICE!
This large black mamba was caught on camera at the office after an afternoon downpour. Staff noticed the highly venomous, three-metre long snake at the carport, peeking through the windows! Luckily, the snake soon realised that our office area did not provide the peace and quiet he was looking for, so he made his way back into the wilderness. It is always good to be on the lookout when it’s hot and humid after rains, as snakes become more active during this period. Fortunately, when given the opportunity, snakes will always attempt to get away from human presence rather than risk confrontation.
DANCE OF THE DUNG BEETLE
Dung beetles become very active during the rainy season, cleaning up large quantities of dung on the reserve! Within minutes they arrive at a pile of fresh droppings and swiftly shape a little dung ball, which they roll away at high speed from other ‘hijacking’ dung beetles. What is even more fascinating is that they push their little ball in a perfectly straight line, while facing backwards with their heads pointing to the ground!
Scientists have discovered that dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate. They routinely climb on top of their dung ball (especially after encountering an obstacle), dance around in circles a few times and then know exactly which way to push again! If only we could use a few dance moves to navigate our way through the bush…