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RESERVE ACTIVITIES

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is proud to have several ecosystem support and monitoring projects.

FLORA & FAUNA MONITORING

Vegetation management is one of the most if not the most important aspect in wildlife management. In order to manage the Timbavati, reach our goals and set objectives, an extensive survey of the vegetation on the area was done. Formal sampling was performed at 60 sample sites on the reserve. Sampling consisted of the herbaceous and woody layer (tree layer), soils and geology. Sample analysis produced three main plant communities on the reserve, with the main determining factor being soil clay content and thus soil moisture retention ability. Variation within these communities does occur but related to management goals and objectives are negligible.

Fire management on the reserve is aimed at increasing the heterogeneity of the landscape as well as the rejuvenation of the grass sward. The Timbavati currently uses a fire regime known as the Patch mosaic fire regime. This fire regime simulates natural fire occurrence in that the fire is lit at predetermined points and left (with minimal interference) to burn. This type of fire naturally burns high biomass areas and dies out on areas that would not under natural circumstances have burnt.

FLORA & FAUNA MONITORING
FLORA & FAUNA MONITORING

The variation in fire intensity as well as the fact that the fire burnt some areas and others not, increases the potential of diversity in terms of species richness, rejuvenation rates of plants (both the herbaceous layer and woody layer) varies and this increases the heterogeneity of the fire scare area, and on a higher scale that of the total reserve.

Over and above the vegetation monitoring, the Conservation team conducts an Elephant impact study on large trees every 2 years. This assists the reserve in identifying the overall impact of these large Pachyderms on their environment and put measures in place where the management team is able to protect large tree species from further damage.

Another way in which the reserve can keep track of its animal populations is by conducting an annual aerial census. This is done over four consecutive days with a flying team of four people which includes the pilot, the computer operator and the two counters in the back of a Bell Jet ranger helicopter. Grids of approximately 500m apart are flown with guide bars being placed on either side of the helicopter to ensure strategic and accurate counting of strips. At the end of the four days, the conservation team gathers and analyses the data that was captured to ensure that the management of animal population is done scientifically and sustainably.

ALIEN PLANT TREATMENT & ERADICATION

Alien plants are the scourge of natural habitats and the greatest threat, second only to habitat destruction. They grow quicker than their natural counterparts, consume more water and have no natural predators which allow them to grow completely unchecked.

Having gained a foothold, alien plants choke the indigenous flora and leach nutrients from the soil. The threat of uncontained veld fires increases as many of the alien plants burn at a higher temperature than the indigenous grasses, causing trees and other vegetation, which would normally have remained unharmed, to catch fire and burn.

Regular and consistent programs are run to locate and remove alien plants from the environment. Local communities are provided with employment which, in turn stimulates the local economy. It too educates the greater landscape to preserve and protect their natural environment. This ensure that land integrity is kept and land value is increased not only within the reserve but outside too.

Often theses invasive species come from areas where populations are left untreated and unmonitored, however through increase awareness as well as governmental support such as the Working for Water programmes, problem plants can be address and treated to reduce the risks to these protected areas.

Historically the TPNR dealt with high volumes of prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) and paraffin bush (Chromolaena odorata.)

Proud Moment for the Timbavati Foundation!

Tshegofatso Mnisi who was Timbavati Foundation facilitator 2017, could very well have saved her areas from disaster. Whilst on a regular foot patrol in the Tintswalo village area, she correctly identified this invasive weed, Parthenium hysterophorus (Famine weed). By alerting the Kruger to Canyons office (K2C) without delay, the weed was removed by their BSP Working For Water teams.

LAND INTEGRITY

Soil erosion control and land reclamation.

The natural process by which wind and water gradually carve the surface of the land into hills and valleys, with rocky mountains here and there is “geological erosion” and has been going on throughout the ages. The products of geological erosion have formed our soils. Vegetation forms a protective layer to hold the soil in place and protects it against the erosive onslaught of water and wind. If this protective cover becomes damaged, the erosion process accelerates and causes the loss of top soil. Soil is the heritage of the human race and the most precious asset that a nation possesses. It is the source of all food and the basis of all civilization.

Formed with infinite slowness over the ages, it is quick to waste and once wasted, it can for all practical purposes never be replaced. It behoves us then to guard our soil resources with the utmost care and to use them wisely, for a healthy nation can be built up only on the products of a healthy soil” – JC Ross

Aerial census – 2004 There was an aerial census done in 2004 where all erosion or bare soil was photographed from the air. This pointed out 800 or more erosion sites in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which were most likely caused due to the following main factors:

• Historical overgrazing of the area by cattle and game which occurred anywhere between 15 and 50 years ago.

• Due to roads, dams, road drainage placed incorrectly or lack of drainage on roads.

• The majority of these factors have been removed and the chance of overgrazing occurring is now limited to specific areas with impala concentrations.

Roads and other man-made structures (such as dams that are still within the wrong soil types) are essentially the only factors still present. The erosion of roads is being addressed by humping and draining while other roads are moved to less sensitive areas or closed. Man-made dams, which disrupt the natural flow of water, are also being addressed to alleviate erosion problems.

The Timbavati currently engages with a soil specialist to ensure future soil erosion prevention and to protect already affected areas. The management team actively assists in managing and combating soil erosion on the TPNR with a team of 6 skilled team members, they are able to construct structures which over time assist in rehabilitating previously eroded areas.

MALARIA CONTROL

The Timbavati (TPNR) has very few to no cases of malaria on an annual basis. The TPNR conducts a malaria control programme. Mosquito numbers are highest during the wet summer months of the year and during these months all camps are sprayed at regular intervals. This action is to assist with reducing the probability of visitors contracting malaria.

Coupled with this action, the Department of Health, performs regular checks in summer and all staff are tested to ascertain if there are any “malaria carriers” amongst them as they put their colleagues at risk of infection. Timeous treatment of these individuals avoids further cases.

Lodges and camps are located in low risk malaria areas. Concerned guests are advised to consult their Doctor before travelling.

Previous and ongoing research efforts have resulted in an extensive individual elephant identification database for the western (more than 1500 elephants identified since 1996) and the northern study site (more than 100 bulls and 11 independent breeding herds have been identified since 2008). They have obtained an improved understanding of elephant ranging behaviour through the collaring and recollaring of 53 elephants during 75 collaring operations in the western, eastern and northern regions of the KNP.

MALARIA CONTROL

INTERGRATED LEARNING STUDENT PROGRAMME

On an annual bases, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR) takes on two learners from Universities within South Africa to give them an unparalleled, informative and exciting learning experience which not only equips them with all the skills they may need to move forward in the wildlife management sector but also provides them with hand on experiences which just books cannot provide.

These two learners are given the opportunity to complete their University tasks as well as have an optional research project for the year that they would like to possible build on in order to increase their understanding of the natural environment. Learners/ students are provided with a salary, accommodation and uniform for their years’ experience. With Hoedspruit being one of the closes towns, students are able to obtain all their living necessities from there.

Are you in your second year and needing a third year practical work integrated learning experience year?

Why not apply here? Send your CV to almero@timbavati.co.za

Previous and ongoing research efforts have resulted in an extensive individual elephant identification database for the western (more than 1500 elephants identified since 1996) and the northern study site (more than 100 bulls and 11 independent breeding herds have been identified since 2008). They have obtained an improved understanding of elephant ranging behaviour through the collaring and recollaring of 53 elephants during 75 collaring operations in the western, eastern and northern regions of the KNP.