Guests at Lapalala can now enjoy the reserve’s natural beauty on a cruise up the Kgokong River at Kubu Dam.
A leisurely, sundowner cruise is a unique way to explore the reserve’s riverine forest and magnificent bird life. With competent skippers at the helm, the safari-style, aluminium boat offers guests the chance to spot crocodile, hippo and elephant, while rhino and buffalo may, at times, be seen along the riverbank.
MEET THE COLOURFUL KINGFISHERS OF LAPALALA
The Kgokong River is the ultimate place to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher. Kingfishers are some of our planet’s most brilliantly coloured birds, and nine of the ten species that occur in South Africa are found in Lapalala. The species list includes: giant, pied, malachite, brown-hooded, grey-headed, half-collared, pygmy, striped and woodland kingfishers.
Lapalala’s black rhino, Metsi, has been making himself at home in the new 30-hectare camp attached to his enclosure.
Metsi was taken in as a rhino orphan 15 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the attempts to release Metsi back into the wild have failed. However, Metsi gives young visitors to the Lapalala Wilderness School an exciting opportunity to encounter a black rhino in the wild – an invaluable element of the school’s environmental education programme.
After a little hesitation, Metsi found the courage to venture into the camp. Once he had crossed his familiar boundary, he soon explored and devoured a variety of shrubs and trees while scent marking his way through the new area.
IT WAS A SPECIAL MOMENT TO SEE METSI ENJOYING HIS NEW HOME!
Lepogo Lodges is set to open its Noka Camp in September 2019.
Perched on a clifftop overlooking the Palala River, the camp offers guests a ‘front row seat’ to an African sunrise over the breath-taking scenery below. The camp consists of four luxurious suites, each with a heated plunge pool, a romantic sunken bath and private deck. Guests can spend their days exploring the pristine wilderness of the 48 000-hectare Lapalala reserve, while night time brings a sky full of stars. A stay at Noka Camp is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
Lapalala’s flourishing landscape is home to an abundant number of bird and mammal species. Part of our conservation mandate has been to return all species that occurred historically into the Lapalala ecosystem.
Leopards occur naturally in the Waterberg. However, their numbers have dropped over the years, often as a result of local farmers shooting leopard to protect their livestock. Large protected areas such as Lapalala Wilderness play a critical role in the conservation of this spectacular and highly elusive wild cat. The leopard is an efficient predator and the leopards in our reserve prey mainly on warthog, small antelope and baboon.
Rhino conservation has been a priority for Lapalala since its establishment in 1981. In 1990, Lapalala became the first private reserve in South Africa to acquire black rhino. These numbers have been added to in subsequent years. This founder population – enhanced by a sound reproductive performance and well-established rhino monitoring operation – has ensured that our black and white rhino populations have become one of Lapalala’s major conservation success stories.
African buffalo bulls have been roaming freely on the reserve for many years. They have done well, and shown resilience during the drought that we experienced during the past few years. One of the secrets to their success may be in their selection of habitat… they mainly inhabit the areas along the rivers, where interspecific grazing competition is low.
The image of African elephant traversing the Lapalala landscape has been a dream for many years. A great deal of planning has taken place to facilitate the reintroduction of the world’s largest land mammal to Lapalala. After an absence of over 100 years, we look forward to see breeding herds of African elephant flourish here once again.
Due to its sheer size and pristine wildness, Lapalala has attracted carnivores throughout its existence as a protected area. The trip cameras, reserve staff and rhino monitors have continually documented lion, cheetah and wild dog that have moved through Lapalala over the years. The carnivore numbers have now been increased with the reintroduction of the first pride of Kalahari lions and a number of cheetah. The second pride of lions is due to arrive in the next few weeks. The founder animals will be fitted with collars for monitoring and research purposes. These reintroductions are part of the overall environmental management plan to restore the balance between predators and prey.
The reintroduction of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) into Lapalala has been a success. It is encouraging to see that the four males that were released earlier this year are feeling at home and are doing what they are supposed to do… hunting, establishing territory and searching for females. Three female cheetah are due to be released within the next few months. The eventual arrival of cheetah cubs on Lapalala – no doubt, incredibly cute – will be a much anticipated and significant step in cheetah conservation.
LION POPULATION GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Lapalala has implemented a contraception plan to manage the potentially rapid increase in our lion population. Lions have a gestation period of just 90 days and a high breeding rate.
Our female lions have undergone a surgical procedure known as a unilateral hysterectomy. This procedure has been performed by a specialist, Dr Peter Caldwell, and the process involves the removal of an entire uterus horn to decrease the space for implantation of fertilised eggs. Our females will produce cubs, but the litter sizes will be smaller (one or two cubs, as opposed to between four and five cubs in a litter). One of our females has received a contraceptive implant called Deslorelin – a reversible intervention that prevents pregnancy in a similar way to birth control medicine used by humans.
Our biodiversity team identified an extensive section of Lapalala’s eastern boundary as an ideal location for a new firebreak. This location causes the least disturbance to the soil and biodiversity and also borders on a public road, which makes this a high risk area for accidental fires (often caused by arson or cigarettes that are thrown out of vehicles). Firebreaks are created by burning a gap in the vegetation that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a fire.
Lapalala has purchased 80 buffalo from an adjacent reserve.
Most of the buffalo have been released into the 1 000-hectare Mooimeisiesfontein buffalo enclosure, which takes the size of this current buffalo herd to about 110 animals. A further 60 buffalo will be reintroduced into Lapalala from the Parker family’s Elandsberg Reserve in the Western Cape. We expect these distinct herds (from the HQ breeding area and Mooimeisiesfontein) to form cohesive herds, and are hoping to release 300 buffalo into the open system in October or November, after the first rains.