Summer has arrived in Zululand and we are having some amazing sightings whilst out and about in the bush.
Everything, from spotted hyaena cubs to our lions and cheetahs, is putting its best foot foward for photographic opportunities.
The trees are in full leaf so everything is wonderfully green and lush, providing plenty of browse for the giraffe.
The elephants are having the best time playing in the waterholes whilst our warthog, rhino and buffalo (pictured below with a friend along for the ride!), are also fond of having a mud bath to cool off and rid themselves of parasites.
The birds, in their stunning breeding plumage, are giving us an amazing display of colour and sound.
All in all, a truly special time to be in the African bush…”Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you” Frank Lloyd Wright
Last week two male cheetahs arrived to Thanda. They were released into a boma where they are going to stay for a couple of months until they are used to the environment. What is also quite interesting about these males are that they are not brothers and we are therefor try to bond them in to make them stick together when released which would improve the chance of survival.
Cheetahs are beautiful and interesting animals but because they are slimmer and food competition for other predators they have natural enemies such as lions and hyenas. One way of protecting themselves from these dangers are by hunting during the day compared to both leopards, hyenas and lions that hunts during the night. The cheetahs usually eat their food fast and abandon the carcass quickly to make sure that they are not surprised by lions who tries to steal their food.
We are very excited that we have two new cheetahs and we can’t wait for them to be released so they can enjoy our reserve.
We finally have the 2018 start dates for the Ulwazi volunteering programme. Just as last year, the Ulwazi programme will give you the opportunity to be a part of the conservation management at Thanda Safari whilst also contributing to wildlife and conservation research. New for this year is that we are teaming up with Africa Nature Training, a field guide training provider, which will give you the additional opportunity to learn tracks, bird- and plant identification. Combined with the conservation management you will gain a lot of skills that you can take with you from the volunteering programme.
Dates for 2018:
4 – 18 June
16 – 30 July
1 – 15 October
12 – 26 November
4 June – 2 July
16 July – 13 August
1 October – 29 October
12 November – 10 December
To read more about the volunteering programme, visit our website here.
Below are some pictures from our last volunteers, Nadine, Luisa and Lennon from Germany. They were involved with cheetah tracking, lion and elephant data collection and they helped out with both soil erosion and bush clearing. Beyond that we also had lots of fun and we can’t wait to get new volunteers around!
Sitting on a hillside on a cold windy day for several hours waiting for elephants on the opposite hillside to come out of the trees isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but for me it was the last chance I was going to get to say goodbye to a very special herd of elephants before I left Thanda for the last time.
I have a huge amount of respect for elephants and I have been trying to find this herd on and off for 3 years since I first came to Thanda. We know them as the ‘Ghost Herd’ and until we recently dropped the fence (see blog post Taking Down the Fences) they have kept themselves entirely to the wild-side of Thanda known as Mduna. This area doesn’t get a lot of vehicles and so they are quite un-habituated, preferring to avoid people rather than ignore them. Over the last few years I have spent time trying to habituate them by giving them positive encounters (mostly just by myself) and I like to think I made a connection.
After 2 hours my patience was finally rewarded and with binoculars firmly in hand I stared at the other side watching these amazing animals finally come out into the open and I certainly got more than I expected. As one of the females came out of the bushes I saw that she was being followed by a tiny baby elephant which could be no more than a few days old! I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to take some video but as the baby is so tiny (and the herd was so far away) all that is mostly visible through the long grass is the top of the small body as it follows mum. I did however manage to capture one decent shot!
Congratulations Mduna Herd and welcome to Thanda little one; it was a beautiful last visual of my favourite herd of elephants and one I will never forget.
Ngyakuthanda Thanda…..sala kahle
By Alison Squance (Ulwazi Research team)
Unlike some other African countries, where there are few boundaries between human settlements and wildlife; fenced reserves are a way of life in South Africa, with all wildlife contained within either government or privately owned game reserves.
A few years ago Thanda Private Game Reserve doubled in size when it leased land to form the Mduna Royal Reserve; a beautiful undeveloped and mountainous piece of Zululand which borders the western side of Thanda. Whilst it has always been possible to traverse the two properties by road the majority of the boundary fence remained in place meaning that for the wildlife most of the movement was through small gaps in the fences or across grids.
Recently however the Ulwazi and Wildlife Team were ecstatic to be able to remove a significant portion of the boundary fencing and we are very excited to see how the wildlife takes advantage of these changes.