An exciting elephant encounter took place this month when the Touchstone bull was seen in the presence of the Enigma herd.
It is great news that our shy Touchstone bull has started mingling with our relaxed Enigma herd and we
hope that further encounters like these will enable the Touchstone elephants to learn that vehicles and
people don’t necessarily mean danger.
WATERBERG’S ENDEMIC BERRY
A noteworthy indigenous tree in the Waterberg is the pooara-berry tree or poerabessie (Vitex pooara). The fleshy fruit (called mphuru in Sepedi) is edible and, despite its rather unpleasant scent, is extremely popular with the local people. When the tree is in fruit, you will often find Lapalala staff nearby. However they have some competition from two skillful rivals… warthog and tortoises are also frequently found under this tree, feeding on the fallen fruit.
BENEFITS OF BUSH CLEARING
Some of our large iconic bird species are being spotted more frequently on Lapalala’s bush-cleared areas. This immature martial eagle was spotted in a tree overlooking the Roan Plains site, and a gorgeous kori bustard was seen foraging on the vlei between King’s Pool and East Gate. Our bush clearing efforts are creating additional stretches of open savanna habitat that is quite possibly drawing in these species.
This colourful cluster of bugs was found under a fig tree at Mohlatse Plains in the northern section of the reserve. They are immature bugs, or nymphs, of the cotton stainer bug. As their name suggests, they stain cotton yellow and release an unpleasant odour so they have earned a reputation as a pest. They are members of the family Pyrrhocoridae, which are also sometimes called red bugs. Adults are strong fliers and capable of dispersing over considerable distances. Our population in Lapalala is being controlled by efficient predators such as spiders, flies and the carnivorous cotton stainer assassin bug (Phonoctonus spp). This predator mimics the coloration and shape of the cotton stainer bug and uses this advantage to ambush its prey.
This month, Lapalala’s veterinary team immobilised five elephants to place tracking collars on the animals. The Lapalala team worked efficiently, giving priority to the safety of the animals and the people working on them. The elephants went down in an accessible area which made it easier to work on them. In a relatively short space of time they were all back on their feet again.
The advanced tracking equipment uses a new technology developed by Mr Mark Marshall as part
of a Rapula project, and identifies the animal’s location almost instantaneously. This tracking data will enable us to build knowledge of our elephant’s ranging behavior, which is fundamental in developing successful conservation strategies for our elephant population and for the reserve as a whole.
Two of our male cheetah managed to get themselves caught up in one of our roan breeding camps while chasing a kudu after dark. The kudu chase created a gap in the camp fence and Hermann, our biodiversity manager, detected their collar location inside James’s camp. James is our roan breeding bull and cheetah are not safe in his company. The cheetah were darted by our in-house veterinarian and were released onto the reserve after spending the night in our predator boma to recover from the anaesthetic.
The leopard is one of Africa’s most persecuted large carnivores. The most recent Panthera data suggests that leopard numbers are declining by 8% per annum in South Africa. Farmers in the Lapalala region see the leopard as a threat to their livestock, and often trap and shoot these animals. A farmer in the Rooiberg area recently trapped a beautiful female leopard and was considerate enough to contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to try and relocate the leopard. Their conflict mitigation field officer, Derek van der Merwe, reacted quickly to ensure the release of the leopard onto Lapalala, where we hope that the animal has a chance of survival.
Renovations to the feed shed were completed during May/June, which will benefit our breeding animals. The roan, buffalo and sable in our breeding camps are fed on a daily basis and receive a mixture of A-grade lucerne, grass and a specialised feed which is formulated to meet their nutritional needs.
The renovated shed can now store double the volume of feed, and offers even greater protection against the elements and ‘unwanted invaders’, such as baboon and small mammals.