Lapalala Wilderness celebrated International Ranger Day on 31 July with an event to honour our field rangers.
Rangers and security personnel from Lapalala Wilderness, Waterberg Ranger Services and Secret Eye Security Services took part in a combined parade, flag raising ceremony and a flyover to mark the important event. The celebration was shared by representatives from the South African Police Service, the Waterberg Safety Initiative, Lepogo Lodges, Tintswalo Lodges, the Lapalala Wilderness School as well as the management and staff of Lapalala Wilderness.
International Ranger Day is celebrated annually, but the reality is that our field rangers work each and every day to ensure the ongoing management, protection and monitoring of our conservation operations. This year, in paying respect to fallen comrades from around the world, we especially honoured the memory of one of our own – Amos Madumetja Mosehlana – who sadly passed away during a tracker training course in July this year.
TSESSEBE NUMBERS GROW
Nine tsessebe (six adult females and three juvenile males) have been introduced into the Touchstone North rare antelope enclosure. They join the four adult males already in the enclosure.
This small founder population will pave the way for the introduction of another species of large mammal on to Lapalala. It is hoped that, in the future, we will see a free-roaming population of tsessebe on the main reserve.
Our annual leopard survey is currently under way on Lapalala. The survey has been conducted annually since 2016, in a collaboration between Panthera and Lapalala.
The study will run for 45 days from its launch on 14 July, and uses a network of 80 camera traps spread throughout the reserve. It aims to collect robust data on leopard population density and trends on Lapalala. We have already been rewarded with an image of a female leopard with a cub. This highlight of the data (so far) is a great indication that Lapalala remains a safe environment for these animals to successfully reproduce and thrive. Stay tuned for more highlights in future editions of the reserve report.
IN MEMORY OF AMOS MOSEHLANA
This month, we mourned the loss of one of our long- serving staff members. Amos Madumetja Mosehlana passed away on 24 July 2020, following a short illness. At the time, he and fellow LWF fence monitor,
Simon Nkhumane, were enrolled in a training course at the Tracker Academy to advance their tracking and wildlife monitoring skills.
Amos was born on 25 June 1985 in the village of Wydhoek. He joined Lapalala Wilderness Foundation (LWF) on 2 February 2009 as a junior rhino monitor.
His initial responsibility was to track and monitor our rhino populations, however he soon displayed a keen interest in various aspects of reserve operations. He joined the fence patrol team, which enabled him to contribute to the security of the reserve. Over the years, he worked inter-changeably as a rhino monitor and a fence monitor, until he was appointed to the position of senior fence monitor. Amos dedicated 11 years of his life to protect the biodiversity of Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve. Lapalala Wilderness Foundation has truly lost one of its conservation heroes.
A new roving maintenance team has been established to effectively manage the needs of an expanding Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve.
Staff members, Abram Mokitlane, Solomon Matlou, Philemon Mokwena and Jan Makola, have been amalgamated into a roving team to maintain varied infrastructure around the reserve. The team focuses on the cleaning, upkeep and maintenance of the vegetation, lawns and pools, particularly at Kolobe camp, Touchstone Lodge and Nkwe. The team has also been tasked with waste collection and sorting on the reserve.
EXCITEMENT AS GUESTS RETURN TO TINTSWALO LAPALALA
Tintswalo Lapalala was delighted to welcome its first guests back to the lodge after months of lockdown. According to general manager, Tanja Jacobs, the first guest experience went off ‘without a hitch’.
“We have implemented new health protocols so that our guests and staff feel confident that their health and safety is a top priority,” said Tanja.
The lodge has taken its eco-conscious ethic a step further with the introduction of an app called Vamoos. This allows for completely paperless interaction with guests, from check-in to distributing lodge and guest information.“It is really wonderful to have life back
in the lodge and we’re looking forward to welcoming many more locals with our value-for-money specials for South African residents,” concluded Tanja.
The Lapalala Foundation once again distributed food parcels to our surrounding communities, thanks to the generous support of our custodians and donors.
These food parcels are desperately needed as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on South Africa. Our nearby villages of Thekwane, Uitspan and Daggakraal are particularly vulnerable to the economic hardship brought about by the pandemic. Many of the households in these villages are headed by children or single parents, with no means of income.
There are also many elderly residents who live alone or with their grandchildren. The food parcels from the Lapalala COVID-19 Relief Fund are always gratefully received and ensure that these families do not go hungry. A sincere thank you to our donors for the financial contributions that enable this work to continue.
DR STEVE HENLEY JOINS PREDATOR RESEARCH TEAM
Lapalala welcomed Dr Steve Henley to the predator research team this month.
Steve takes over from predator researchers, Eleesha Lingenfelder and Kaeleah Andrew, whose fieldwork period has come to an end. These two Master of Science students have spent the past year on Lapalala, observing our lion and cheetah. They have also collected fieldwork data on our predator’s prey preference and the impact of predation on prey populations. Eleesha and Kaeleah have returned to Nelson Mandela University to continue with their data analysis and compile their research findings. We wish both of them well in this next phase of their project.
Dr Steve Henley will continue with fieldwork responsibilities for six months to ensure continuity in the collection of data until the replacement students arrive in January 2021. Steve has a PhD and extensive fieldwork experience in remote ‘Big Five’ reserves.
He has spent the past five years working with a leopard project in the central Kalahari. We wish him well and look forward to his valuable contribution to our predator research work.