Conservation and Environment in South Africa: Monthly Updates
Botswana Conservation - Monthly Update: May - June 2016
It has been an amazing two months. Our volunteers encountered a rare sighting of mating lions (Panthera leo) and at night we could hear their magnificent roar. While we were sleeping in our tents we experienced such a spectacular moment, we heard their roars close by and could feel it through our whole body. We also hope that in 110 days, lion cubs will be around and our volunteers and staff will have the pleasure of seeing them in the wild.
We also had the chance to see Ralf up close, an intrepid old bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus), who occasionally comes to the camp to find water. Our volunteers watched in amazement as the bushpig is a rare nocturnal animal who is seldom encountered on safari. On top of a koppie (little mountain made of rocks), our volunteers also encountered a female leopard with her two four-month-old cubs. On the same day they also saw six wild dogs, a fascinating and rare sighting as wild dogs are a shy and endangered species, often killed by farmers. The dogs are also extremely sensitive to habitat fragmentation and transmission of infectious diseases such as rabies.
In the last camera traps there were sightings of a rare African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea) and a honey badger (Mellivora capensis).
We also started our busy season with a new dam project. When the dam is finished it will hold water during the dry season for all the wildlife to enjoy. At the moment there is a lot of sand digging and volunteers are working their muscles to the limit. Next month the concrete and rock building will begin.
We hope that you enjoy this latest update and learn a lot of interesting facts about African wildlife and life in the bush. The bush is an everyday adventure, every day is different and we just can’t get enough!
Removing wires and poles
A few months ago, a big fence was taken down. This fence was an old memory of the past owners who were breeding rare antelopes. The fence was in bad shape and was potentially harmful for the wildlife. It was important to take down the entire fence and remove all the remaining materials like wires, poles, and electric fencing to avoid any conflict with the wildlife. Volunteers and staff have been retrieving all the material inside the property and selling these locally. They have also ensured that the materials they sell will not be used for the wrong purpose, such as wire being used for snares. All the money gained will be reinvested into the conservation project, such as buying a new pump. Building a fence is a long and difficult job, but so is taking it down and retrieving the fence materials.
Lions: The king of the bush
In the 1980s there were an estimated 180 000 wild lions in Africa. Now there are only 25 000. Lions are the largest African carnivores (males reach a height of 1.2 metres at the shoulder and weigh up to 260 kg) and are the only true social cats. This social structure allows them to kill bigger prey and they are also able to improve the survival of their young. Mature males are easily recognisable with their huge manes of hair that cover their neck and shoulders. This makes them look larger and impressive and also helps protect them when they fight other male lions. Lions mating is a very intense affair, with a pair mating every 20 minutes for four days and four nights, each session lasting about one minute. After a gestation period of 110 days, one to six cubs will be born. Females do most of the hunting and males will be the first to eat. The female tolerates this behaviour, both because the males are stronger and larger, and because the males provide the females with protection by defending the territory against hyenas and other male lions. Lions roar to advertise their territory or to locate other members of the pride. They do this mainly at night, as it is when they are most active, and because the air is stiller so their sound carries further.
Conservation Manager, Sophie Juget