Lapalala has, once again, been affected by persistent drought conditions this past winter season. However, we are fortunate to have natural sources of water on the reserve to mitigate the impact of drought on our wildlife and vegetation.
A drought is a long period of below average rainfall, which Lapalala has experienced since 2014. The drought can be explained, in part, by the effects of El Niño (a Spanish word that means ‘boy child’).
El Niño arises from the warming of ocean currents off the South American coast around December, which causes below normal rain patterns and above normal temperatures in specific areas around the globe.
La Niña (Spanish for ‘the girl’) is the opposite of El Niño and involves the cooling of sea-surface temperatures
in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which results in above normal rainfall and below normal temperatures.
The cycle is not fully understood, but swings back and forth every three to seven years. Different regions in southern Africa often find themselves at the mercy of El Niño and La Niña, although factors like groundwater levels, soil moisture content and human influence also affect weather conditions.
SUCCESSFUL SURGERY TO MANAGE LION POPULATION
Three lionesses from our second pride have made a good recovery following a surgical procedure to help manage the growth in our lion numbers.
Carnivore specialist, Dr Peter Caldwell, made a second visit to Lapalala to perform unilateral hysterectomies on the lionesses. The uterus of a female lion consists of two uterus horns. A unilateral hysterectomy removes one of these horns, resulting in smaller litter sizes. This procedure is one of our methods of choice to control the potentially rapid growth of our lion population. Lions have a gestation period of just 90 days and a high breeding rate.
Our rhino monitors are invaluable to us at Lapalala, and few more so than Koos Nkumane. Koos joined our team in 1997 and is one of our most skilled rhino monitors. With over 20 years’ experience in tracking wildlife on foot, he has developed the ability to follow the movement of black and white rhinos over the toughest of terrains. Whether scouring rocky ridges or dense valley thickets, his eyes are trained to notice signs of animal movement, and to predict an animal’s path across the landscape. Koos knows the reserve – every rhino path and individual tree – like the back of his hand!
An uncommon lark species was spotted at Kgokong Pan this month.
The dusky lark (Pinarocorys nigricans) is a slender, thrush-like lark with a striking facial pattern and a boldly streaked breast. Its dull appearance camouflages it on the ground, especially when on the nest, making it
a tricky bird to spot. The dusky lark may be confused with the fairly common groundscraper thrush (Psophocichla litsitsirupa) – they are similar in appearance and both species are normally seen on the ground.
Next time you see a groundscraper thrush, have a closer look. It might be its rare cousin, the dusky lark!
NEW COMPANY OFFERS A RANGE OF SERVICES TO CUSTODIANS
Vivienne Pepper has launched a new company that will provide a range of convenient services to our visitors, custodians and staff. The company, called Wilderness Services, is situated at Lapalala North, where it has been operating its laundry facility since June. The laundry service caters for our commercial lodges and custodian’s private residences. Wilderness Services has also been assigned the management of two personal residences on Lapalala and of overseeing the gardens and ablution facilities at East Gate, South Gate and Look Out. Laundry opening hours are Monday to Friday, 08h00 to 17h00, but urgent requests will be accommodated whenever possible.
FIRST AID TRAINING FOR ENTIRE TEAM
The entire team of 40 Lapalala staff members has completed First Aid Level 1 and Level 2 training through S.M.A.R.T. Solution.
The practical, three-day course equipped our staff with the relevant knowledge and skills to perform CPR and treat life-threatening injuries until professional help arrives. Given the remoteness of our reserve, it is essential that our entire team is familiar with the techniques and skills to deal with an emergency.