Pangolins, the World’s Most Trafficked Mammal

Pangolins, the World's Most Trafficked Mammal

He's a little video we with with CNN's "Great Big Story". Can you do us a favor and share this with a friend my tagging them below? Current donations will specifically go towards a NEW CONSERVATION initiative to get local hunters out of protected forests in Western Togo by providing them a sustainable economic alternative to hunting. They'll participate in a new program raising "Grasscutters", a type of large rodent that hunters traditionally sell in "bushmeat" markets. Instead of setting snares, that also catch pangolins, they'll be able to raise grasscutters in an environmentally friendly manner.Our goal is to raise $10,000. Can you donate $1, $5, or $20 to help us reach that goal? The costs will go specifically towards the following:1.) Providing microloans to hunters to give them the capital to setup grasscutter farms.2.) To provide training to the new grasscutter farms. 3.) To fund the research of a Togolese biologist to best adapt grasscutter farming specific to Togolese villages, measure the successes, failures, and providing rapid changes to the program to maximize engagement within the hunting communities. 4.) Within one year provide recommendations on expanding the program to other communities and neighboring countries.Let's work together to get harmful snares out of the forest through a way that uplifts communities.

Posted by Pangolin Conservation on Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The Sounds of ‘Silence’

Nothing could have prepared me for the fabulous ‘quiet’ I experienced on the Chobe River in Botswana… where the only sounds were the occasional cry of a fish eagle, the swish of a crocodile slipping into the water and the trumpeting sounds from Chobe’s elephants. Despite knowing that Chobe Game Lodge utilized electric, and solar-powered boats, I was still surprised how silent they were as we glided upriver.

An African open-bill barely noticed us, continuing its search for molluscs and a pair of yellow-billed storks maintained their vigilant search for fish, oblivious of our presence. Crocs fished the shallows for barbel, while a herd of puku watched on from the shore.

 

Silent Electric Safaris on the Chobe River
Openbill Stork. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Birding on the banks of the Chobe River with Chobe Game Lodge
Yellow-billed Stork on the edge of the river. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

The ‘quiet’ of the eco-boats was not the only thing that impressed that first afternoon – Kgomotso our guide, one of 16 in the all-female guiding team, was quick to notice that a huge herd of elephant was rushing towards the banks of the river from the Namibian side. She skillfully maneuvered the craft so that we were in the best spot to experience the crossing… and oh my, experience it we did!! What an incredible start to our #ThisIsChobe journey. Could it get any better than this? Absolutely.

 

Elephant crossing the Chobe River
Large elephant herd crossing the Chobe River. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

The elephants of the Chobe National Park
The large herd leaving the Chobe River. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

The following morning, after dragging myself out of the wonderful comfort of my king size bed and downing a quick cup of coffee, we were off for a game drive – in one of the electric-powered Land Rovers.  We hear leaves rustling as a gentle breeze moves through the trees, and bird calls punctuate the still of the morning.  A carmine bee-eater watches from a nearby twig. We pause for a herd of elephants to cross the track in front of us. And watch a pair of jackals scavenge from a very old elephant carcass which had died from natural causes. With barely a snack available they soon gave up and slunk back into the bush.  And this was all within the first half hour!! All is well in the Chobe National Park.

 

Carmine bee-eater in the Chobe National Park
Carmine bee-eater on our morning game drive. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Jackal in the Chobe National Park with Chobe Game Lodge
Jackal scavenging old elephant carcass. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Gobi, another member of the female guiding team, slows the vehicle… ‘guests saw leopard here last night’ she says as she scans the trees. Despite being well camouflaged by bushes she spots a young leopard which, as desirable sightings often do, decided to head further into the bushes. Silently she maneuvered the Landy to the other side just as the young male leopard emerged and chose to lie down in full view of us – not bothered by our presence and certainly appreciating the quiet of our vehicle. Excitement reigned, and cameras clicked, especially as his brother soon joined him.

We see more elephant, loads of them. And the biggest herd of buffalo I have ever seen, estimates were that it was a herd of approximately 400 – but in perfect ‘fisherman’s tale’ fashion, the number grew exponentially 🙂 We follow lion spoor, but to no avail but get to watch a herd of elephants quench their thirst and enjoy swishing glistening charcoal mud over their bulk. One of the littlest ones tried to copy its older siblings, but its trunk just wouldn’t cooperate. So cute.

 

Leopard in the Chobe National Park with Chobe Game Lodge
Our morning leopard sighting with guide Gobi. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Buffalo in the Chobe National Park
A large herd of buffalo on the Chobe floodplains

Baby elephant in the Chobe National Park
Baby elephant with wayward trunk. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Coffee and a packed breakfast beneath a baobab tree enabled us to stretch our legs and appreciate the view across the flood plain of the Chobe River. I wonder what it must be like in the wet season, when the water stretches for miles and the surrounding bush is lush and green. Much like our safari, with wonderful eco-credentials.

 

Baobab trees in the Chobe National Park
Breakfast beneath a baobab tree. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

Femal guides at Chobe Game Lodge
Our guides for the morning game drive. Photo by Tessa Buhrmann

This idea of ‘eco’ vehicles started in 2010 when Chobe Game Lodge became one of the first properties in Botswana to be fully ecotourism-certified. Jump four years and they became the first electric-powered safari operator in Africa. Johan Bruwer, General Manager of Chobe Game Lodge, told us that this was at a huge cost, especially in the early days when the technology was still new – but thankfully it is a little cheaper now and the next few years will see the last of the fleet (both game vehicles and boats) being converted from diesel to electric.  ‘But it’s not about the cost’ he says, ‘it’s about doing the right thing’.

This is what a safari experience at Chobe Game Lodge is about…

 

#ThisIsChobe social media campaign
Out on the Chobe River with #ThisIsChobe

THE FUTURE IS ABOUT ACCESS

Pioneering a new, digital model of education for rural South African communities was a dream for Kate Groch (CEO of GWF – Good Work Foundation), which started way back in 2006…. and today is a reality that is igniting change in these areas of Mpumalanga.  Kate reminded us of the Martin Luther King quote, which aptly describes this journey as “having the faith to take the first step even though you don’t see the whole staircase”.  The focus is solely on the scholars – what they learn, how they learn and how to provide access to them, all while eliminating poverty through education.

 

sabi sabi good work foundation

 

GWF is a non-profit organisation which has done exactly this and through the action and similar reaction of their various partnerships, have created a world of possibility for school goers to access learning that is relevant to a global economy and navigate the fast-paced world of the digital marketplace.  There are currently four campuses in the Mpumalanga region – Hazyview (the main GWF hub), Justicia, Huntington and the latest digital center in Lillydale.

 

sabi sabi good work foundation

 

Tuesday, 13th November 2018, saw the launch and celebration of the LDLC (Lillydale Digital Learning Campus).  Lillydale forms part of one of the neighbouring communities which Sabi Sabi is proud to support.  Sabi Sabi is one of the founding partners of the LDLC, who together with the Wessels Family Trust, partnered with the GWF that made the dream a reality.  Situated on the Hlomani High School premises, the campus is easily accessible by all schools in the area, and our future vision is to grow this campus, which will further enhance the current model.

 

Sabi Sabi cause

 

This joyous day was attended by community leaders, the Mpumalanga Department of Education, GWF alumni, local Ward Councillor and the keynote address given by the Honourable Advocate Dr Ramatlhodi, as well as the Board of Directors of Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.   Everyone was treated to a tour of the campus, seeing first-hand how these hungry minds were being guided through their weekly syllabus.  The day was emotive and uplifting – filled with pride, hope and a knowing that the future of these isolated communities is bright.

 

sabi sabi good work foundation

 

There are two major programmes at the LDLC which incorporate theoretical and practical components:

OLA – Open Learning Academy

 

sabi sabi good work foundation

 

At this new campus, GWF begins the learning journey with Grade 4’s.  Children are transported to the LDLC once a week for a two-hour session in English, Mathematics and digital literacy.  They also focus on conservation and life skills for school-aged learners – guided by digital facilitators (all GWF facilitators are trained annually by GWF and themselves are graduates of this program). The digital platforms used are by way of tablets and computers.

 

sabi sabi good work foundation

 

When these students progress to Grade 5, GWF places a charging trolley, with the tablets they have used and a GWF facilitator into the school and thereby they have a “lab on wheels” from class to class.  The GWF progresses with learners from Grades 4 – 8.

Each digital learning center can support up to 10 satellite schools.

This OLA program has seen a 30% improvement in the children’s grades by being able to implement GWF supplementary learning in their daily school studies.

 

sabi sabi social initiative

 

BA – Bridging Academy

This is available to all school leavers and second chance learners who want to further their knowledge (some up to the age of 70) and forms a bridge between school and work, for a further one-year accredited programme.  This prepares learners for life in the business environment and certification is internationally recognised.

Interested learners apply to GWF by way of a registration form and following a successful interview they are selected individually for a bursary to participate in the Bridging Academy for the year.

What has emerged is a world class, high impact education distribution model opening up access to excellence and information to the most rural spaces – a model that is creating a sustainable eco system of learning.

The hope is that by 2020 there will be 6 fully functioning campuses, impacting almost 26,500 scholars by being able to access these satellite hubs.

This partnership is about relationships – notwithstanding the impact this has on the learners – that are symbiotic by nature and enable these collaborations to enhance the path of these youth once they leave school and beyond – with a structure that will strengthen their ability to navigate an online world and all the opportunities that it can afford them.

It is one of Sabi Sabi’s core philosophies that in order for conservation to be successful in Africa, there needs to be an integral and participatory relationship between tourism operations and the neighbouring communities.  In his address, Jacques Smit – Marketing Director of Sabi Sabi – stated “our collaboration with GWF is a fundamental blueprint of conservation in action and is indicative of what this GWF partnership entails”.

 

Sabi Sabi Jacques smit

 

Amongst so much hope and possibility, the message was clear; education is power and the golden key to our future.  Our responsibility – as partners and stakeholders – must be to ensure that we support and encourage all youth from our rural communities.

 

Sabi Sabi Community awareness

 

In the words of Advocate Dr Ramatlhodi – “The opportunity afforded is leading us to the worlds still to come and is a sterling contribution to the future of our country”.


Where To Next!?

Just to the north of South Africa lies a magical, largely undiscovered triangle of safari heaven – especially for the more seasoned safari goers.

It’s all very doable in a two-week ‘safari of a lifetime’ itinerary: Mana Pools, Lake Kariba and Hwange in northern Zimbabwe, the breathtaking Victoria Falls on the Zambian/Zimbabwean border, and Chobe in northern Botswana.

And you’ll be treated to an unbelievable range of game activities, from open vehicle game drives and guided bush walks (Zimbabwe has arguably the best walking guides), to boat cruises, mokoro rides, kayaking, fishing or just watching the endless parade of wild animals coming down to drink in front of your luxury safari lodge.

 

Guests going on a walking safari in Mana Pools

 

Mana Pools National Park

Best reached by plane, this untouched bit of African paradise with its legendary safari guides offers you fabulous canoe trails, walking safaris and game drives. The area is known for its large elephant and buffalo herds and its waterways are full of grunting hippos and snapping crocs.

 

Elephants by a waterhole at Kanga Camp

 

Lake Kariba

Known for its houseboats, fishing and swimming elephants, Kariba is pretty spectacular. Matusadona National Park, on its southern shore, is the only Big 5 park in Zimbabwe. It’s an incredibly game-rich area with year-round water.

 

Guests head out on a walking safari at Lake Kariba

 

To the west you’re spoilt for choice with activities: game drives, boat cruises, fishing the infamous ‘tiger fish hotspot’. If you’re wanting to swim, we highly recommend the lodge’s beautiful infinity pool… the lake is teeming with crocs and hippos!

 

The infinity pool at Bumi Hills

 

Hwange National Park

Hwange is famous for its elephants, with enormous and multiple herds. Many varieties of antelope as well as buffalo, zebra, giraffe, wild dogs and others also live here.

 

A guide and guest by a waterhole with elephants

 

A host of camps are perfectly positioned to enjoy a steady flow of game roaming the area around the water. From here, both game drives and guided walks are offered, giving you the best of both worlds.

 

Victoria Falls

The ‘Smoke that Thunders’ has to be seen and heard to be believed. The Zambezi River plummets over 100 metres down a sheer cliff into the canyon below.

Victoria Falls offers a smorgasbord of adventure and adrenaline activities: white water rafting, swimming in Devil’s Pool at the lip of the falls, ziplining across the gorge, bungee jumping, flights over the Falls by microlight or helicopter, quad biking and so on.

Of course, there are many gentler pursuits for those looking to relax.

 

Victoria Falls rainbow

 

Victoria Falls itself has recently extended its closing hours from 6pm to 10pm, allowing for a host of new activities like a lunar rainbow tour, bush dinners next to the Falls and night drives within the Zambezi National Park.

 

Sunset at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

 

Chobe National Park

An hour’s drive west of Victoria Falls lies Chobe, one of Africa’s iconic parks, a dream safari destination and a photographer’s paradise. Famous for its huge elephant and lion populations and incredible birding, it offers the best water-based game viewing in the world.

Chobe’s only permanent camp is Chobe Game Lodge, offering expansive views across the Caprivi floodplains. Excellent land and water-based activities are the daily fare.

 

The private patio of the family suite at Chobe Game Lodge

 

 

 

 

 


Family Time in South Africa!

Spring has sprung in South Africa, but not everything has turned green yet as we have not had our first rains. It is bone dry with only a few trees flowering, but that doesn’t stop mother nature, especially the Black-backed Jackals. We left Buffalo Camp and made our way out on our normal safari. We were driving past some open plains when I noticed something small out of the corner of my eye. I stopped to get out my binoculars, and sure enough, I spotted three little black-backed jackal puppies with just their heads peeking out of a very small termite mound. In fact, there was no mound left on the top at all, but the tunnels and chambers underground would have still been big enough for a few pups to hide in. The parents would have dug it out to make sure their offspring remained safe and sound.

 

 

Black-backed jackals have a distinctive dark saddle on their back, which runs from the nape of the neck to their tail which is black, bushy. Their flanks and limbs are reddish.  On edging closer I noticed two adults were trotting around in the distance. This is their normal means of movement unless hunting for small vertebrates in which case they walk around slowly with pricked ears.

 

 

This was surely the parents. Jackals are one of the few mammals that tend to form monogamous pairs, essentially mating for life unless one partner is killed or dies. They form a strong bond with both helping to provide for the young pups, often with the help of the previous litter. The helpers will regurgitate food, not only for the pups but even the mother as well. The previous litter can consist of one to four pups with some litters even as large as nine being recorded. They will guard the new pups when the parents go out to hunt, play with them, groom them and teach them how to hunt. Black-backed jackal pups are born between the end of winter and the end of Spring. They are weaned at eight to nine weeks of age and start foraging with their parents at around the age of about three months, being sure to stay close to the den until about six months.

I decided to move a little closer and watched how two of the pups bounded towards the one adult. I believe this was possibly the first time they had seen a vehicle and so decided to rather go past the den and then stop on the other side at a distance that they felt comfortable with. They then slowly crept back to the den with what I think was the mother, as she was slightly smaller than the other adult, possibly the father. At this distance, they had relaxed and played around the entrance of the den until mom decided all was fine and she moved off to look for more food for her hungry pack. The puppies yawned and tackled each other back into their underground den.

 

 

We set off with big smiles to find a spot to watch the magnificent sun, set behind the mountains while enjoying a delicious sundowner.

 

Story and photos by Ranger Monika – Buffalo Camp


Malawi Gains New Giraffe Population!

Press release from African Parks

Thirteen giraffe have been safely released into Majete Wildlife Reserve in southern Malawi, African Parks and Giraffe Conservation Foundation announced on Monday 19th November. Beginning in South Africa, the translocation was one of the farthest of its kind with the giraffe being transported over 2,500 km by road to establish a new population of the species in Malawi.

Majete has been managed by the conservation non-profit African Parks in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) since 2003, whose collaborative efforts have been hailed as a national success story for the restoration of its wildlife and the benefits the park provides to local communities. The introduction of giraffe will further enrich the reserve’s biodiversity, while helping to increase tourism to enhance the already emerging conservation-led economy and to additionally support community development.

 

Majete Wildlife Reserve

 

 

“Majete contains ideal habitat for giraffe as well as the needed protection to provide them and all the other wildlife here the security they need” said Craig Hay, the Park Manager for Majete Wildlife Reserve.

“We hope to establish a healthy population to increase biodiversity here, and boost tourism to increase Majete’s economic value for local people, while at the same time support regional efforts to conserve this magnificent species. For fifteen years, our partnership with the DNPW has driven Majete’s evolution from a depleted landscape into a vibrant ecosystem, bringing Africa’s most iconic mammals back to Malawi where people from around the globe and importantly Malawian nationals can enjoy and benefit from their own natural and wild heritage”.

 

Giraffe in Majete Wildlife Reserv

 

Following months of meticulous planning, a 2,500-km journey was undertaken in early October to transport a group of nine giraffe from a private reserve in South Africa northwards to Malawi. An additional four giraffe were moved from Nyala Park, also in Malawi, to supplement the introduction, making up the 13 animals that were safely released into Majete Wildlife Reserve.

While southern Africa has a robust population of giraffe, very few are present in Malawi, with this translocation bringing national numbers to just over 30 animals. Broadly, giraffe numbers have plummeted in recent decades, with pressures including habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting reducing them to fewer than 100,000 animals remaining on the continent.

This project comes at an urgent time when just on Wednesday 14th November IUCN Red List of Threatened Species announced that several giraffe subspecies are now critically endangered. The translocation of South African giraffe to Majete hopes to establish a viable population of the species to support their conservation across the region.

 

Giraffe transportation trucks

 

“Introducing giraffe in Majete is an example of how collaborative partnerships can make a difference to save giraffe in the wild before it is too late,” said Dr Julian Fennessy, Director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

“For more than a year we have planned this conservation intervention, first understanding the genetics of the current populations in Malawi to ensure that those brought in are the same species. Our efforts over the last few years have helped to reintroduce giraffe and augment populations in a number of locations within historical ranges throughout the continent, and in turn to better conserve the habitat they live in. Without giraffe, the African landscape is a poorer place and we continue to work with great partners to make a difference.”

 

Giraffe in transportation trucks

 

African Parks has worked alongside Malawi’s DNPW and local communities since 2003, introducing more than 2,900 animals to Majete to revitalise the ecosystem and to create sustainable opportunities for socio-economic development.

Lion, rhino, elephant, and giraffe are among the species that have returned to the landscape, which is now home to more than 12,000 animals. With the critical support of partners, including The Wyss Foundation, WWF-Belgium and the People’s Postcode Lottery, key infrastructure and rigorous law enforcement were implemented, effectively halting poaching within Majete and enabling its full restoration.

 

Giraffe drinking from Shire River in Majete Wildlife Reserve

 

Creating safe wilderness areas for giraffe populations to grow is essential to securing their future in Africa. In Majete, the founding of a new population forms part of the reserve’s development as a flagship wildlife sanctuary, benefiting local communities and affording people in Malawi the opportunity to see the world’s tallest land mammal while supporting giraffe conservation efforts.

Undertaken in partnership with Giraffe Conservation Foundation, additional support for the translocation was provided by the Sundaram Family, Illovo Sugar and Nkhanga Essential Support Services, Mozambique’s Administracao Nacional de Areas de Conservacao (ANAC) and Markus Jebsen.

Watch: Giraffe find a new home in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

 


A Rare Conservation Win!

There are more gorillas in the mist – a rare conservation success story, scientists say. After facing near-extinction, African mountain gorillas are slowly rebounding. On Wednesday, the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated mountain gorillas’ status from ‘Critically endangered’ to ‘Endangered’, a more promising, if still precarious, designation. There are now just over 1,000 of the animals in the wild, up from an estimated population of 680 a decade ago.

 “In the context of crashing populations of wildlife around the world, this is a remarkable conservation success,” said Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientist of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

The Atlanta-based nonprofit is named for the primate researcher whose work helped draw international attention to mountain gorillas and whose memoir became the basis for the 1988 Sigourney Weaver film, Gorillas in the Mist.

“This is a beacon of hope – and it’s happened in recently war-torn and still very poor countries,” said Stoinski, who is also a member of the IUCN’s primate specialist group, which recommended the status change.

 

Gorillas and anti-poaching unit in Volcanoes National Park

 

Mountain gorillas live in lush and misty forests along a range of dormant volcanoes in east Africa. Their habitat falls inside national parks spanning parts of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fossey, who died in 1985, had projected that the primates may be extinct by 2000. Instead, their populations have been slowly increasing thanks to sustained and well-funded international conservation efforts.

“We have made progress in terms of their protection, in terms of allowing an environment where mountain gorillas can continue to thrive and grow,” said Anna Behm Masozera, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Program, based in Kigali, Rwanda. “But it’s important to note that mountain gorillas’ numbers could still slip back very quickly. We still have just two fragile and small populations,” split between two national park areas.

Several factors have enabled mountain gorillas’ modest rebound, said Masozera. The three governments have stepped up enforcement of national park boundaries — areas where hunting, logging and paved roads are illegal.

Tourism helps too: Visitors pay up to $1,500 an hour to watch gorillas, money that helps pay for park rangers.

“Primate ecotourism, done right, can be a really significant force for funding conservation,” said Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer at Global Wildlife Conservation. “It gives local governments and communities a tangible economic incentive to protect these habitats and species.”

 

Young mountain gorilla

 

There’s also health care. Gorilla Doctors, a nongovernmental group, has trained veterinary staff in each of the countries where the mountain gorillas live. Hunting in the national parks is illegal, but nearby residents still set traps to catch other animals, such as antelopes. Those traps can also grab gorillas’ arms and legs.

When gorillas are found struggling with snares, the vets are called in to clean wounds. Kirsten Gilardi, U.S. director for the organisation, called it “extreme conservation”.

Other experts said the emergency vet interventions play a significant role in maintaining mountain gorilla populations.

“It’s a total conservation win, and there aren’t that many of them,” said Gilardi.


Battle Scars

To be a male hippo is not an easy thing. Granted, your first year or two is wonderful with mom, being by your side almost 24/7, protects you from crocodiles, Lions and other potential threats. However, as soon as you sexually mature, then it gets tough. There are huge dominant bulls, easily weighing in over 2000kg with long modified canines and incisors that are now showing interested in your mother and are threatened by merely your presence alone. This means that as a young male you either need to remain very submissive or fight your way up to having a harem of your own. This usually only happens after about 8 years though.

 

 

It was one of the first warmer winter days as we were nearing springtime, and we were lucky enough to spot one of these young Hippo bulls laying on the banks of a large dam near South Africa’s Buffalo Camp. The water was probably still cold from having fewer sunlight hours than in summer and so he wanted to warm up in the afternoon sun. They won’t bake in the sun for too long though as they have a rather thin outer layer of skin which can burn and dehydrate quickly. In fact, they have evolved to secrete a pink/red lymphatic fluid onto the skin which provides UV protection. Back in the day people thought this was blood that was being secreted. Hippos are actually considered to be amphibious animals, spending as much as 16 hours per day in the water. When in water, Hippos can’t swim or float! When they are seen moving so fast in water, they are walking on surfaces below the water like sandbanks. Most adult Hippos come up every three to five minutes to breathe even though they can hold their breath for about seven minutes. Even when sleeping, they will automatically surface to breathe. They also close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering.

 

 

This young bull appeared to have been in several fights already as he was covered in lacerations and scars on his body, an easy way to identify him as a male, as females don’t have as many reasons to actively fight one another. He was all alone, probably kicked out of the herd as he was trying to mate with females and a larger, more dominant and experienced bull chased him away. He awoke on our arrival and slowly lifted his big body onto the short stubby legs. He meandered around for a few minutes and then headed straight back into the dam with only his head above the water.

 

 

For most guests visiting Africa’s wilderness areas this is usually all that is seen of a hippo, so we felt very grateful for our amazing sighting.

Story and Photos by: Ranger Monika Malewski – Buffalo Camp


A Day at the Spa!

We set off from South Africa’s Kapama’s tented Buffalo Camp on a beautiful summers morning and were pleasantly surprised to find fresh rhino and elephant tracks. I knew about a small mud pan that was recently filled up with rain nearby so went to investigate.

It paid off and we were spoilt with a fantastic scene.

As we approached we found four white rhinos laying in the mud, one dominant male and his 3 cows. Slowly they started stirring, awakening from their sloshy slumber. One by one they each moved about clumsily through the thick mud. They are too large to roll over on their back so they need to get up and flop down on the other side to cover as much of their large surface skin area in mud as possible. This helps as a natural sunblock as well as suffocating any ticks hiding under the skin flaps of the inner legs.

Once the crash of rhino had moved on in search of grass we went back to the elephant tracks.

 

 

Tracking elephants with guests has always been a favorite of mine. It didn’t take too long before we were inhaling the distinct herby and sour bushveld scent of fresh elephant dung.

It seemed the elephants had left a small obstacle course behind them in the middle of the road, for us to manoeuvre through, after their feeding. Twice I had to stop and remove a large branch from our path to continue tracking them.

Since they left such obvious signs (once you knew what to look for),  I kept the anticipation going, waiting rather for a guest to spot the signs (or clues), interpreted it, and continue in the suggested direction. On finding the herd, each guest quietly celebrated, excited and moved by their own small safari victory, as if having solved a beautiful puzzle.

 

As impressive as it already is to see the enormity of this elegant gentle giant, an entire herd of at least 25 individual elephants moving intently in a set direction is breath-taking.  They were headed back south from where we came, a bee-line to where we had experienced the wallowing rhinos. The entrance to the pan and road becomes smaller and denser. We watched in awe as the herd moved in perfect single file towards the water. As the foliage opened the youngsters began to almost skip with excitement.

 

 

By the time the herd of elephants reached the pan and started noisily slurping up mud with their ever so useful trunks and spraying it all over their bodies, the guests were beside themselves. Cameras were clicking away and soft “aww’s” followed by bouts of laughter. Even the adult elephants were enjoying themselves, laying down and rocking their hips from side to side.

 

 

The youngest of the herd, about 3,5 months old, was excited to get in on the fun. Not having too much control of the thousands of muscles in the trunk she just went head first into the mud and tried not to get stuck in the deeper pools.

 

 

The largest part of the herd moving off, signaled the approach of a large bull and his younger companion in this small bachelor herd. Both found a freshly dug up wallow and lay down in the cool sludge. Moving more wildly than the previous lot it didn’t take long for them to be completely covered in mud and ready for anything this hot day might bring.

 

 

All-in-all it was a terrific adventure for my guests that morning. Firstly finding the rhinos early on the game drive, then picking up on the elephant tracks, and solving the bushveld puzzle, and finally to be presented with the ultimate prize – a herd of Elephants at their day out at the Spa.

 

Story and elephant photos by: Ranger Monika Malewski – Buffalo Camp


Interesting Elephants Baby Facts

Out on game drives, we often come across these majestic gentle creatures which are always a joy to see. We on South Africa’s Kapama Reserve are fortunate to have all age categories of elephants, including babies. After all, who does not enjoy the very playful young ones?

Under the watchful eye of mother, young elephants are free to do as they please, and they often give us a wonderful show. Young elephants still in the developing stage are very curious about the world and we always enjoy the way they interact with nature and each other. Young elephants under the age of three are still very dependent on there relatives. Young elephants are often found mimicking their elders and this is how they learn and build their own personality’s over time. Young are also very playful and won’t hesitate to charge the vehicle. Now, this is often found to be very amusing to guests and we as guides also enjoy it as we will always keep a safe distance. With knowledge of animal behavior, we can tell if its playful behavior or if it is from feeling pressured or threatened. The reason I’m pointing this out is if young elephants are feeling uncomfortable with the presence of a vehicle, they can often give out a cry of distress which will alert the bigger relatives, who will often rush in and try and defend the little one. This does not occur often if you keep your respective distance. Elephants will generally continue with there day as if you were not even there.

 

 

Young elephants are often found doing strange things like sticking their trunks into the mouths of older relatives. Trying to pick up things and eating dung of other elephants. Now a lot of this may seem odd but there is all good reason for this. Young elephants still need to learn the way of the bush. All these things contribute to that. Young elephants that are sticking their trunks into the mouths of others are sampling the food that the older ones are eating. The picking up of objects is there for them to learn how to properly use their trunks. People often think that the eating of others fresh dung is odd but it is to get the necessary bacteria into their stomachs which aids digestion. They do not have these bacteria in their stomach and need to obtain it from an external source.

 

 

A few other interesting facts about young elephants:
1.)  Baby elephant’s bodies are covered in hair which reduces over time, as they age. These hairs aid in cooling down its body
2.)  Elephants are very sensitive and caring. If a baby Elephant complains, the entire family will go over to soothe it
3.)  Most baby elephants are born at night
4.)  Baby elephants stay very close to their mothers for the first few months and drink their mother’s milk for about two years, sometimes longer
5.)  A young elephant calf may suck its trunk to help it relax when it’s not feeding

 

 

All in all, they are wonders of the bush and always a pleasure to see. Fun interactive and amazingly beautiful. These interesting, intelligent creatures will always be near to my heart.

Story and photos by Chris Reiners Buffalo Camp


Pull a seat up to the table!

Chef’s Table with Santi Louzan

 

 

While growing up, Santi’s nickname was Santiño which means Little Saint and this formed the inspiration for his Bree Street restaurant that was founded around principles of goodness, freshness and deliciousness. The restaurant has subsequently closed down, only to be replaced by an intimate Chef’s Table, hosted by Santi and his wife, Dominique, in a stylish inner-city loft-style space. Santi hails from Galicia in Spain but spent his teenage years growing up in London (hence the rather thick English accent). He started at the bottom of the chain in the restaurant world – washing dishes and slowly worked his way up.  His career spans from being a Chef – winning a Michelin star for the kitchen he headed up – through to the business world of real estate in London. Chef Santi Louzán is the perfect Chef to host a Chef’s table – he is warm, welcoming, creative, a showman and totally charismatic.

The Food

Santi’s cooking draws its inspiration from his childhood – he was surrounded by artisans and family members who were farmers and fisherman. Internationally trained Chef Santi grew up knowing food made only from the freshest produce and seasonal finds, and it is on this foundation that his Chef’s Table is based. His menu is carefully curated as the season brings in its new produce.

The Details

Santi’s Chef’s Table Cape Town is a shared social table concept where he prepares and plates a 7-course dinner in front of you.   Santi introduces each course and shares the story of the inspiration behind each, and the idea is to tweak the menu based on the seasonality of ingredients. Each course is paired with a matching wine (5 different wines will be served with dinner) and he can cater to picky dietary requirements with advance notice.


Cape Fox Takes On Honey Badger

Fascinating interactions between different wildlife species play out in the bush all the time, and a few years ago I happened to witness one such incredible encounter…

It was our last day in the Kalagadi Transfrontier Park. We had seen three cheetahs just north of Leeudril waterhole and were driving south towards Twee Rivieren Rest Camp. About one kilometer south of Leeudril we heard a commotion.

I immediately stopped and parked my car to investigate. The commotion seemed to be coming from Sharifa’s side of the car and peering through the window we could see a black-backed jackal and a Cape fox. The screeching and howling coming from the animals was intense as we tried to register what was actually going on.

 

Cape fox and honey badger

 

The next thing a honey badger came running out from behind the bush with a Cape fox in hot pursuit! The honey badger, ignoring the Cape fox, made a beeline for the fox’s den and started digging away trying to get to where the Cape fox kits were.

 

Honey badger digging in Cape fox den

 

Now at the beginning of our trip, we had come across this Cape fox den and observed two very shy kits. Little did we know the danger they would face a few days later…

 

Cape fox baby

 

Fortunately for the kits, their parents were working efficiently as a team to ward off the honey badger.

One would bite the badger from behind and dart away as he turned around, then the other would give chase and try to get a bite in from another angle.

 

Cape fox biting honey badger

 

Both Cape fox parents were screeching and barking in anger as they defended their kits and the den from the honey badger.

Meanwhile, the black-backed jackal waited patiently in the background, not wanting to get involved, but clearly hoping to get a meal out of this – forever the opportunist.

 

Cape fox with honey badger

 

The honey badger was not giving up easily however, but the Cape foxes were putting up a brave fight.

Suddenly one of the kits found its courage and came out from one of the entrances of the den, but then quickly disappeared down another in a whisker! A few minutes later the second kit came out and bolted down the road.

Fortunately, neither the honey badger nor the jackal saw it running away.

 

Cape fox kit running down the road

 

The attacks from the Cape foxes were frustrating the honey badger, and he realised that there was no easy meal here, so he made a retreat, leaving the Cape fox family in peace.

As he ran away he turned his head in our direction, a sheepish look on his face seemingly inquiring of us, “What you laughing at?”

 

Honey badger

 

Written by Mohammed Jinnah, photographs by Sharifa Jinnah