Phytomas Report 2015

Each September, our researchers conduct a survey on the availability and moisture content of the grass in our reserve. Compared with last year, the 2015 survey found a significant decrease that correlates with the very low rainfall in the last season.

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The Impact of Anthropogenic Activity on Animal Distribution and Density

It is important to understand species distribution, density and diversity in order to properly allocate hunting permits, as well as to understand predator-prey dynamics, resource use, habitat selection, and historical trends in a reserve. Not only does hunting affect wildlife in the reserve, but other human activities can have an impact as well. It is imperative to determine the severity of that relationship and this study intends to quantify it.

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Rhino Conservation Project

African rhinos are under extreme threat of extinction due to an increase in illicit demand for rhino horn.  In 2013, 954+ rhinos were brutally killed. Often the horn is hacked off by callous poachers with a machete while the animal is immobilised and fully aware of what is happening to it and the rhino suffers an unimaginable agonising slow death.  The aim of this project is to provide a holistic approach that rhino hosting communities can implement to reduce the vulnerability of poaching incidence.  The project was developed through a coalition of public and private partnerships, including government agencies, private game reserves, universities and NGOs located in the Greater Kruger National Park.  The multi-faceted approach relies on active protective services (boots on the ground), integration of technology in traditionally low tech strategies, academic research targeting the scholar practitioner and community education and upliftment opportunities.

This three-year project promotes three primary strategies including 1) an anti-poaching plan that deploys Environmental Monitors, an armed response force, a sniffer and tracking K-9 unit, drone with nighttime video technology, and cellular aided camera traps placed in strategic high risk areas; 2) university research specialising in both environmental and social sciences and, when appropriate, a blending of the two disciplines to develop effective best practices in human-megaherbivore conflict; and 3) the development of an effective regional communications and intelligence system among game reserve managers and law enforcement agencies for increased sharing of information related to threats.

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Annual Game Count - Sept 2013

In order to sustainably manage a reserve long term, accurate game counts are essential for understanding population trends and reserves carrying capacity. Game counts provide valuable information on population demographics, such as sex structure and breeding success, which can assist management with harvesting quotas for a given year. However, it is important to understand that many variables impact the carrying capacity of a reserve, such as climate, precipitation, soil type, herbivore interaction, competition, disease, etc.  For example, droughts can cause populations to crash, through predation and disease, whilst in high rainfall years, the opposite often occurs.

Along with the rest of the Balule Nature Reserve, OWNR conducted its annual game count surveys in September 2013.  Click here for the FULL REPORT

Phytomass Collection and Analysis 2013

Phytomass is defined as the above-ground component of grass. Its quantity across the reserve is integral in correlating grazer numbers and primary production as well as assisting with fire management. The arid savannah requires approximately 2 500kg of phytomass per hectare to sustain an ecologically viable fire. Too much phytomass will result in fires that are too hot and therefore destructive. Too little phytomass will result in cool fires that will perpetuate bush encroachment.

Volume of phytomass across the reserve has been recorded since 2009 and using this data-set it is possible to follow the trend in phytomass volume over the 5-year period. From 2009 to 2012 an overall increase in phytomass volume has been seen and may be attributed to recovery from excessive grazing regimes and high rainfall. Phytomass volume may be looked at alongside grazer populations established in the annual game counts and rainfall, as these factors are known to influence primary production. 

FULL REPORT