During September, the tranquil hills and valleys of Lapalala echoed with the slap of rotor blades and the whine of a turbine engine. The 2020 aerial census took place over seven days, when a counting team of four people combed the reserve from a helicopter, straining their eyes for the tell-tale movement or shape of an animal in the bush below.
After 37 hours of flying, the entire reserve was covered and the results were in. The impact of ongoing climatic conditions (related to below average rainfall) and increased predation pressure was evident. We observed a decrease in population size for most species. The data also clearly reflects the positive impact of offtakes on impala, wildebeest and zebra numbers. These offtakes, which occurred in March, aimed to reduce grazing pressure on certain habitats on the reserve.
The pack of wild dog in our predator boma has been fitted with tracking collars in preparation for their scheduled release onto Lapalala on 3 October.
The collars are a valuable asset in our attempt to improve the dogs’ chance of survival in the wild. Each collar continually sends out tracker data (location pins), which we can use to monitor their movements and receive visuals of each dog. This data allows us to check for physical condition, potential injuries
and whether the dogs hunt successfully. African wild dog are often persecuted by farmers in our area. By monitoring each individual dog, we increase their chances of survival.
The collaring project is made possible by a valuable collaboration between Tintswalo Lapalala, Lepogo Lodges, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Waterberg Wild Dog Initiative, as well as private donors who were invited to be present during
MEET OUR STAFF: STOFFEL MOATSE
Stoffel Moatse (43 years) came to Lapalala 27 years ago from the village of Uitspan. He first joined the team that was responsible for fence removals and road maintenance, however he soon moved to rhino monitoring, which he has done for 24 years.
His vast knowledge of the reserve and its animals – combined with excellent tracking skills – make Stoffel a valued member of the Lapalala team. As a rhino monitor, he helps to protect these vulnerable animals and ensure their survival in the wild. Stoffel is, and will continue to be, a vital part of the Lapalala conservation legacy.
As guests of Lepogo Lodges and generous donors of the wild dog collaring project, the Rohrer family joined the Lapalala team for the capture and collaring of two wild dogs. A hands-on conservation experience, such as this, illustrates how fortunate we are to be able to offer our visitors so much more than a traditional safari.
CONTINUED RELIEF FOR VULNERABLE HOUSEHOLDS
As the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating, the Lapalala Wilderness Foundation continues to cushion the poorest households in Daggakraal, Thekwane and Uitspan.
The restrictions and lockdowns have caused severe hardship, particularly in an area that relies on tourism for employment. It is difficult to see when the pressure will be relieved and what the long-term consequences might be. This uncertainty is extremely frightening and is layered on top of great fears around the second and third waves of a potentially fatal virus.
The Lapalala Wilderness Foundation is working to provide vulnerable households with supplementary food parcels, sourced in the town of Mokopane whenever possible. The Foundation is deeply grateful to our donors who make it possible for us to do so.