A CHAMELEON’S EYE
Lapalala is home to some of the most beautiful creatures in the world. Not all of them are always so easy to spot though! After a few days of good rain, and with a bit of luck – which Annemieke had when she found this guy in a shrub near Lapalala HQ – you might spot a flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) somewhere. Did you know that a chameleon’s eye is considered to have the highest image magnification of all vertebrates? They see a large and clear image and effectively zoom in on their prey or on you, whether you are behind or in front of them!
AVERAGE TEMPERATURES & RAINFALL
MARCH Rainfall = 126.5 mm Min temp = 15.3 °C Max temp = 27.5 °C
This month was marked by the highly anticipated arrival of elephants from the Greater Makalali Game Reserve! To safely translocate a herd of elephants from one reserve to another is not an easy task and also not something that happens often in South Africa. Their family bonds are so strong that they cannot be separated and need to be transported together in one truck compartment. Luckily we worked with a highly experienced team, and after capturing, placing collars and carefully crane-loading the herd into the truck, they were woken up together and each given a large dose of tranquilliser for the 7-hour journey to Lapalala.
A big operation like this never comes without unexpected challenges and a sudden 100 mm downpour over Lapalala the night before caused the 30-tonne truck to grind to a muddy halt only meters from the release boma! An improvised ramp was built against the truck and at 3:30 am the family finally walked out of the truck onto Lapalala soil. After a brief meeting behind the truck (to make sure everybody was there!) they calmly made their way into Lapalala’s bushveld. Lapalala now has 20 elephants and more arrivals are planned for the next few months!
MEET OUR NEW CE
We are delighted to announce the arrival of Fred Stow as the new Chief Executive of Lapalala Wilderness. Fred brings a wealth of experience in reserve management and strategy development, and his open and clear communication style has already made a positive impact in the short time he has been here
. Lapalala currently finds itself in an exciting and important development stage and we look forward to working with Fred towards our goal of making Lapalala the finest sustainable conservation legacy initiative in Africa!
PLANT ECOLOGY RESEARCH
Chevonne Fisher-Botha is Lapalala’s new plant ecology student, funded by the Mapula Trust. Chevonne has begun her fieldwork to assess the distribution of vegetation types in the reserve. At the completion of her project, Chevonne will be able to present us with a semi-detailed, landscape-based vegetation map for our entire 45 000 Ha reserve. The map will be based on a total of 210 plots that will be sampled using a stratified random sampling design. The map will be invaluable to the reserve’s conservation management and will also be crucial in estimating the ecological carrying capacity for key species such as elephant and black rhino.
LAPALALA HQ OFF THE GRID!
The first official switch to solar power has been made this month! The offices, workshop and manager’s houses at Lapalala HQ now run solely on carbon-neutral energy and the system has been functioning very well so far, both in sunny weather as well as during a thunderstorm. The entire solar system in Lapalala has been constructed with care and we all look forward to the next and final step: switching the entire reserve onto off-grid renewable green energy!
RHINO MANURE FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Lapalala donated 70 kilograms of rhino manure from our black rhino, Metsi, to our surrounding communities! Rhino dung – especially black rhino dung – makes an excellent, sustainable fertiliser in which to grow vegetables. In collaboration with the Save the Waterberg Rhino team, Metsi’s ‘golden manure’ was collected in bags and transported to all vegetable gardens in need!
EAST GATE IN PROGRESS
The green light was given by the local municipality for the development of buildings at our new east gate, which will function as the main entry and security point of the reserve. Located against the tarred R518 road between Mokopane and Marken, this road will provide quick and easy access into the reserve. After entering, guests drive a scenic road through beautiful and game-rich plains and meadows. The driving distance from east gate to south gate through the reserve is approximately 22 km.
TREE OF THE MONTH!
The paperbark albizia (Albizia tanganyicensis) is a very attractive and distinctive tree that occurs in relatively low numbers on the reserve. The trunk is covered with brownish bark that peels to reveal the greenish, cream-coloured, young bark underneath. The trees prefer to grow on rocky formations and mountain slopes and often grow close together, forming small groups. A beautiful cluster of paperbark albizias can be seen on the ridge between Founders and the Kgokong River.