Winter it seems is almost coming to an end here in the beautiful province of Kwa Zulu Natal. We have had frosty mornings and cool clear star filled nights. Hats, Beanies and warm coats are always essentials for early mornings and evenings this time of year. Days are sunny, warm and dry allowing us to move freely all over the reserve and undertake essential reserve maintenance which the rainy summer months can sometimes restrict.

There have been many new additions this winter to the UmPhafa family. Three female Giraffes have been released onto our main farm. We hope to hear the patter of little hooves in the not too distant future. Two new giraffe calves have been born on our second farm and appear to be doing very well.  We said goodbye to our long standing resident male rhino ‘Nkosi’. He has been replaced with a younger male to avoid interbreeding and is safely at his new home in the Northern Cape. Our new male ‘Bullitjie’ (little bull) arrived in the very early hours and although a little shy at the moment we know he will be in his element once he meets up with our resident females.  A new male Leopard has been identified which brings our total to four individuals who pass through UmPhafa on a regular basis. We have not introduced these animals they come and go as they please. The sight of their tracks sends us all into a frenzy. They elude us on a daily basis but that is what makes the Leopard so incredibly special. The Spotted Hyaena also paid us another visit. Our records show that he pops by every six months or so.

With all these comings and goings on the reserve one addition most definitely has been very special for everyone involved. After many months of building works and endless paperwork to obtain permits, 11 African Wild dogs arrived at UmPhafa. Our aim for these dogs is to bond an unrelated male and female group so that they can be eventually released back into the wild. African Wild dogs have not had it easy over the years. Major habitat loss and disease has seen their numbers reduced to the point where they are now classed as endangered. We monitor them on a daily basis and look for specific signs with regards to their interaction with one another and when we feel that the time is right they will go to their new home in Zululand.

Winter 2014 has also seen our internship programme boom. With the highest intake numbers since it started we have had a full programme over the last few months. Our interns join us here on the reserve to assist us with all day to day aspects of running the reserve. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to learn what it takes to manage a reserve of this size. They assist the staff with all conservation and reserve management work. Many have been lucky enough to get involved with Game releases and Captures. Days can be long and tough but every intern has embraced the work that we do and we hope that they leave with a new found knowledge and an enhanced passion for nature conservation. It has definitely been an action packed winter for us here at UmPhafa.

With summer just around the corner we are now looking forward to the first rains, the lambing season, the beautiful lush green veld and whatever little surprises the reserve

Article kindly written by Sarah Forderer (Project Coordinator, UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve) 

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