ARCHITECTURE WITH GABION WALLS
Traditional stone gabions have a place in any rehabilitation plan and are particularly useful for rehabilitating degraded drainage channel and donga systems. Lapalala currently has a team of men working intensively on the construction and maintenance of gabions throughout our reserve. The correct shape, foundation and height of a gabion are critical and must be well planned, as the cost of failure is very high. Gabions slow down and channel the flow of water in a non-erosive way, and we use them at places where a robust “calming” of runoff flow is required and where roads across drainages need to be stabilised.
AVERAGE TEMPERATURES & RAINFALL
JUNE Rainfall = 0 mm Min temp = 5.3 °C Max temp = 18.2 °C
Labone (meaning ‘Thursday’ in Sepedi ) has stolen many hearts, as this dominant bull is currently by far the most relaxed rhino of Lapalala. If you find a kind-natured bull by himself (sometimes with a female) in the area between South Gate and Kolobe Camp, then you are probably looking at Labone. If you are lucky he will look up at you too, as he often flatly ignores vehicles. He is not very intimidating and also not a very large bull, but we think that one of the reasons why he has a whole harem of ladies (as well as a nicely sized territory) is because none of the other bulls in Lapalala has tried to challenge him. Nevertheless, since his arrival on Thursday 15 November 2012, he has managed to keep his territory for himself, so we take our hat off to this gentle giant.
A PROUD ANTELOPE
The waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) is a large, robust antelope that can be found near permanent water sources in Lapalala. Waterbuck are very dependent on water and will often drink multiple times a day (while antelopes like eland and roan can go a few days without water). Territorial males are especially impressive. They advertise their status by standing proudly with head held high, to display the white band on their throat and face. The white “target” ring on the rump of both males and females helps the herd to keep together when they flee from predators through the dense riparian vegetation.
THE JOY OF LIVING WITH ELEPHANTS!
The moment our elephants arrived in Lapalala, the reserve changed. Encountering one of Africa’s most majestic creatures – or even seeing signs of their presence around you – is a
n unforgettable experience. Elephants are exceptionally smart creatures as well. They have the largest brain of any land animal and three times as many neurons as humans. Our elephants are definitely not shy to demonstrate their impressive mental capabilities and their actions can, at times, be challenging for our management team. It is now an almost ongoing job to repair damaged infrastructure (for example, water pipes that have been pulled out of the ground) and clear roads that are blocked by trees, which our elephants have a tendency to uproot! To be fair to the elephants, their landscape-sculpting behaviour helps to maintain suitable habitats for other species. Our herbivores happily utilise branches of uprooted trees which would otherwise be unreachable. Species like the bush pig benefit greatly from a more productive and varied ground layer. And lizards will choose to take refuge in trees with elephant damage.
BLACK RHINO RELEASE
The black rhino from Lapalala East (which was placed in our boma last month) has been released into the south eastern section of the reserve. When a rhino needs to be moved from one place to another, the first step is to immobilise him with drugs. After this, he is partially woken up – just enough to allow him to stand on his feet and walk into the trailer – while the veterinary team steers him in the right direction with ropes. Once safely in the trailer, he is woken up. During the release, it is crucial to have absolute silence as any sound can trigger the black rhino to attack and damage the trailer or vehicles. So when this black rhino emerged from the trailer and began heading directly towards the vehicles, everybody held a collective breath! Luckily, after a few minutes he got distracted by the smell of wilderness and disappeared into the dense bush.
While there are natural mineral sources available in nature, we also place supplemental mineral and protein licks out in the field with the aim to fill the nutrient shortages in natural grazing and browsing. This method of supplementary feeding is necessary to improve the condition of our animals, as the nutritional quality on sour veld type soils changes between seasons. Bushveld soil is especially lacking in phosphorus, which is an important component for healthy pregnancy and lactation. For this reason, we provide our wildlife with phosphorus licks throughout the year. The licks also contain a small amount of salt to make them tastier. You will notice that we always place these licks close to a water source, as salt also brings thirst!
This month, we sadly said goodbye to our black rhino, Punyana, who died of old age. Punyana was the oldest black rhino on the reserve (she was 37 years old when she died) and was also the most regularly spotted black rhino on the reserve. She arrived in Lapalala in 1990 during one of the initial black rhino introductions. In 2015, we had to move her into a camp facility as life in the bush had become too rough for her – she was often bullied and injured by other rhinos. We were happy to see that her condition and old injuries soon improved after this.
TREE OF THE MONTH
The naboom (Euphorbia ingens) is a large succulent that currently stands out beautifully in our dry, winter bushveld. This easy-to-recognise tree is often found in groups along the river and on top of ridges. As we all know, beauty comes with a price and, with the naboom, it’s no different. Its branches contain a dangerous, milky latex which is highly toxic and very irritating to the skin, leading to burn wounds and blisters. Research has shown that nabooms have been dying in large numbers over the past 10-15 years, with up to 90% mortality. Although opportunistic fungi and insects are associated with dying trees, the actual cause appears to be stress from environmental factors. We are therefore grateful that we have a fair number of healthy communities in Lapalala. And luckily, elephants also stay away from them due to their toxic effects.