Lapalala is pleased to welcome Ms Dorah Masekwameng in her capacity as the new administration manager
of the Lapalala Wilderness Foundation. She has a Diploma in Accounting from College SA and is studying for
a Bachelor of Accounting Science degree through UNISA. Dorah’s strong accounting background and human resource management experience make her a valuable addition to the Lapalala team. We warmly welcome her and wish her all the best in her new role!
COLLABORATIVE PREDATOR RESEARCH INITIATIVE
Two new research projects have been launched at Lapalala Wilderness. The projects are part of our predator research programme and are a collaborative initiative between Lapalala Wilderness Foundation, Nelson Mandela University and the University of Mpumalanga.
Masters students, Ms Eleesha Lingenfelder and Ms Kaeleah Andrew, are the first two researchers to arrive at Lapalala. Their research will investigate different aspects of our lion and cheetah populations, focusing on prey selection, activity patterns and ranging ecology. The data will give us greater insight into the species’ behaviour and ecology, which will help us to make well-informed management decisions.
The first two female cheetah have arrived at Lapalala. The cheetah were relocated from the Anne van Dyk Cheetah Centre, De Wildt.
They are currently housed in our boma facilities until they are ready to be released onto the reserve. It will only be a matter of time before they meet the four male cheetah that were released earlier this year. We eagerly await our first litter of cheetah cubs to be born on the reserve.
Our second pride of lions – one male and three females – has arrived on Lapalala. Although they are fully grown, the animals are younger than the first pride to be introduced onto the reserve.
The pride is currently being held in our specialised predator boma, where they will acclimatise, learn to respect fences and remain safe within the boundaries of Lapalala. It didn’t take long before they were noticed by our resident lions. Fresh lion tracks are regularly seen around the boma, and the male has been spotted near them on several occasions. However, we have not observed any aggressive behaviour. The new lions are very young, so we believe that the resident lions are merely expressing their curiosity at the arrivals.
The cheetah have been relocated as part of Lapalala’s cheetah conservation project and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s cheetah metapopulation project.
The unusually wide, gravel airstrip at Lapalala Reserve headquarters has an equally unusual story to tell. Recounted by Clive Walker, the fascinating history of the airstrip pre-dates the reserve itself, and has its origins in the preservation of the roan antelope.
Historically, roan antelope had been under severe threat in South Africa due to unsustainable hunting practices, the erection of fences and the introduction of livestock and other wild herbivores across their original range (including the cattle ranches in the Waterberg region). The Kruger National Park had also seen a steady decrease in its roan antelope population for various ecological reasons.
Drastic action was needed. So, in the late 1960s, the previous Transvaal Provincial Authority’s Department of Nature Conservation built the airstrip at Lapalala for the purpose of relocating naturally-occurring roan antelope to provincial nature reserves, where they could breed more successfully.
The capture operation was a great success. Twenty- four roan antelope were airlifted and relocated to the Percy Fyfe Nature Reserve near Mokopane. Most of the animals came from the western part of Lapalala, which is now a wilderness area.
The Percy Fyfe Nature Reserve launched a roan conservation-breeding programme and, thanks to this foresight, the reserve is still home to one of the last indigenous roan antelope populations in South Africa. These original Waterberg animals appear to have higher resistance to certain tick-borne diseases – a genetic trait that is highly prized by game reserves and breeding programmes.
For Lapalala Wilderness, the story has come full circle with the launch of a dedicated roan breeding project in 2012. It is estimated that around 50% of the genetics in our roan population originate from the Percy Fyfe population. It is one of our conservation goals to breed back the once widespread and hardy, true Waterberg roan antelope.
A TRUE SURVIVOR
The team at Lapalala recently rescued a young black rhino whose mother had died naturally on the reserve (she was 37 years old).
Although the three-year-old bull was mature enough to survive on his own, our staff noticed that he was being bullied and injured by the adult bull in the area. It was decided to relocate him to our boma facilities. During the capture our veterinary team also found lion claw marks on his body. We suspect that the young rhino was still spending time near his mother’s carcass, leading to unwanted encounters with lion feeding off the carcass. The capture, relocation and off-loading went smoothly and our little survivor seems to be adapting well to his temporary home.
HOW DO WE RELOCATE A YOUNG BLACK RHINO BULL?
Relocating a young black rhino bull is a rather complicated business. Let’s take a look at the steps in the process:
First, Lapalala’s in-house veterinarian, Dr Annemieke Muller darts the young bull from a helicopter using
a complex cocktail of immobilising and tranquillising drugs. These powerful drugs are rapidly absorbed via the bloodstream and, within minutes, our rhino comes to a halt and lies down.
As soon as he is sound asleep the team moves in quietly and quickly, placing blindfolds on his eyes and ear plugs in his ears to remove any further stress. His vital signs are carefully monitored and recorded, and some water will be splashed over him to control his body temperature.
Ropes are placed around him to steady and guide him. A small amount of antidote is sufficient to get him
on his feet as the team uses the ropes to gently guide him into the transport trailer. The blindfold is a crucial element during this stage, as even a fraction of sight may wake the rhino up too much.
The first group of buffalo from Elandsberg Nature Reserve has arrived, following a 24-hour journey from the Western Cape to the Waterberg.
The group of 19 cows and calves was released into our buffalo breeding camp at the Lapalala Reserve headquarters where the existing buffalo herd kept a curious eye on the newcomers. We are awaiting the relocation of another two groups of buffalo from Elandsberg within the next few months.
NEW SIGN POSTS POINT THE WAY
Four new sign posts have been installed at the main junctions on the Lapalala Reserve.
The rock-clad structures look right at home in their natural surroundings, while fulfilling the important job of directing visitors to our lodges, entrance gates and offices.