An update of happenings on Madikwe…
It is the middle of summer here in the bush, and Madikwe is green and wet. Our rains were very late this year but at least we had some decent precipitation the last month or so. All the trees have their green jackets on and most have finished flowering and are busy producing multitudes of seed pods. Temperatures are very hot as usual but cools down to a comfortable evening at least. It is now baby time in Madikwe and everywhere you look you see new born youngsters. From Impala, to wildebeest and hartebeest to zebra, everywhere you look you see them running around. Even the elephants are proud to show off some more of their young which will put their population to over 800 strong.
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On the reserve there have been many changes the past year. We unfortunately lost another two rhino?s to the global poaching threat this year and made some drastic changes to prevent this menace from entering our reserve again. In addition to our anti-poaching team we as rangers also took up the challenge by doing regular patrols at any time and providing authorities with valuable information to help and apprehend the wrong doers. We take pride in our heritage and I for one would want my children and their children to see and appreciate these wonderful animals. A couple of months ago I learned that the Sumatran Rhino officially went extinct in the wild and that is not going to be an option over here.
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In the past year the lions on the reserve also experienced a big change in their lives. We documented that Ditaba and Sepedi who were our dominant lions in the eastern side of the reserve were dethroned by three young males known as the Linyalo brothers. Sepedi was the first to die when he was caught alone and off guard one night by the three marauders. Still being a big and very capable fighter the odds were against him. Three against one is not a fair fight and very few can survive an attack like that. He was still alive after the fight, but with massive injuries he silently passed away soon after. Ditaba was left alone on the reserve for the next couple of weeks but it didn?t take long for the Linyalo?s to find him. The actual fight was witnessed by some and it lasted about 4 hours during the late night. The next morning he was utterly exhausted and totally broken. About four days later he succumbed to his wounds. It?s been a sad time for us since these two boys were so much a part of our lives and they will be sorely missed by all. We all have so many fond memories of them with good times, happy times, but also some scary and anxious times. We miss their persistent roaring every morning which has now been replaced by the roaring of the new rulers of this territory. On some very still mornings, if you listen carefully, you can actually hear them roaring all the way from heaven. A new dynasty has begun in Madikwe and we are looking forward to getting to know the Linyalo brothers as they live their lives in their new and hard earned territory.
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The mighty realms of the insects have been awoken in spring with warmer temperatures and good rains and now this time of the year they are all in full occupation. Insects are now more diverse and numerous than during the cold dry winter, and the diversity and numbers are increasing daily. In fact, insects are one of the most diverse classes of life on the planet. In South Africa there are over 75 000 described species (1.1 million worldwide) and on average about 30 new species are discovered every day. However many remain undiscovered. According to scientists as many as 30 million species might be out there. They are corner stone to the environment we live in and without them we would cease to exist. Insect pollinators (pollination syndromes) give food to the world, others turn and aerate soil, and they control other insect pests and recycle waste products back into usable nutrients (i.e. dung beetles) for plants and animals alike. Dung beetles are very important insects here in Africa and Madikwe. The size of the dung that large herbivores leave behind resulted in the evolution of the largest dung beetles in the world. They are responsible for recycling the massive amounts of dung produced each day by all large and small herbivores. They construct balls that are rolled away and buried beneath the ground. It is then used as food and protection for their larvae. Breeding balls as they are called can regularly be seen during the summer time. This is when the females hitch a ride on the ball of dung that the male so meticulously put together and carefully rolls away for burial. However not all species of dung beetles roll the dung away (tele-coprides). Some species roll the ball inside the dung and stay there (endo-coprides) while others roll the ball in the dung and take it directly down underground underneath the dung (para-coprides). Dung beetles play a remarkable role in agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient recycling and soil structure. They also protect livestock, such as cattle, by removing the dung which, if left, could provide habitat for pests such as flies. Therefore, many countries have introduced the creature for the benefit of animal husbandry. In Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) commissioned the Australian Dung Beetle Project (1965-1985) which, led by Dr. George Bornemissza, sought to introduce species of dung beetles from South Africa and Europe. The successful introduction of 23 species was made, most notably Onthophagus gazella and Euoniticellus intermedius, which have resulted in the improvement of the quality and fertility of Australian cattle pastures, along with a reduction in the population of pestilent bush flies by around 90 percent.
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And so, yet again we come to the end of another year. The year 2011 has been filled with ups and downs, joy and tears, and for many people, including myself, it has changed their lives forever. This festive season is a busy one as usual here at the lodge and all the staff is working hard to make it a memorable one for each and every one. It is a time for everyone to be joyful and happy and to reflect on the year that has past. It has been a great year for the reserve, the lodge and everybody that calls this breathtaking place their home and we are all looking forward to stepping into the New Year with grandeur and enthusiasm and to face the challenges that lie ahead of us.
With kind New Years Regards
Jaco Becker (Head Ranger, BSc. Entomology; BSc. Hons. Wildlife Management)
And the Madikwe Hills Team
5 thoughts on “Ranger Report – Dec 2011”
Dear Jaco and all at Madikwe, Thank you so much for this year end update… your updates are always appreciated…the photos are wonderful! The loss of the rhinos is very sad … I really do wish and hope that all Madikwe Rhinos continue to be safe in the New Year and the future! Hearing about the exit of Ditabtha and Sipedi is harsh! But life continues there, so news and pictures of the new babies is welcome! I still dream of being at Madikwe Hills…just absolutely loved it! I did finally post our cherished memories of our visit in a very positive review to Tripadvisor! Best wishes to all (Jaques and Victor too) for a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR! from me and my family1
Stunning pics, Jaco!
How very sad to learn about the rhinos and the two lions. The loss of the rhinos really makes me sick. I have ideas about what to do with poachers (and their customers), but can’t post it.
How beautiful Madikwe is in the summer…all green and lush. We were there in August in 07. Looks like the wild dog population is doing well. What beauties.
Happy New Year to you and everyone at Madikwe.
Cheers! Joy and Lon
Great photos and a wonderful reminder of all that I loved about the time I spent at Madikwe in 2010. I hope to return and wish everyone ALL the best in 2012.
Thank you very much every one. Happy new year!!!
Hope you had a good one Jaco!