Report and photographs by John, Ingrid, Debbie, Luke
It was our second visit to the Borakalalo Nature Reserve, and as rocky slopes members we were the first to arrive and happy to have the pothole road behind us! It was time to relax until the tree test that evening.
Driving down to Fish Eagle camp site, the overflow of the dam was clear, and a beautiful sight to see. The sound of water running over the rocks and down the river, while sitting next to the river was so relaxing and peaceful, listening to the fish eagle calling in the distance. When you hear a fish eagle calling, you know that you are in nature and don’t need to worry about the problems in the world, it is time to unwind and enjoy the scenery.
By 15h00 Luke and Debbie started to wonder where everyone was, because it was getting late and others would need to still setup their tents before the tree test. Slowly others started to arrive and settle in, and it did not take long before we had started making tracks back to the centre to write the test. Jacques arrived after gate closing time but we were able to arrange access for him, just in time to write the test with the rest of the team. Then we received a message from Michele, that she was lost. Luckily she arrived safely, a key for the gate was found, but she would have to write the test the next day. Once the test was done, we tracked back to the camp site. We saw 3 springhares scavenging for food (no pics were taken L). The fire team quickly lit a beautiful big fire and we all sat around enjoying the warmth of the fire.
When Saturday morning arrived, it was quite a cold morning, and we were told that we were going to stay at the camp site for this module. Our lecturer was introduced to us, Dr Graham von Maltitz, and Britta outlined his outstanding qualifications on climate change and veld management. Graham was able to give us a broader perspective on veld management and how one would plan to start a nature reserve or a game farm and what our objective and goals could be. Goals for a nature reserve or a game farm could be divided, for example, into sustainable use like hunting, tourism and game vieweing or the pure conservation of biodiversity. You need to then consider the impact of each species (grass, trees and animals) and the roles they would play on your game farm or nature reserve.
There were a lot of questions from everyone and an interactive conversation about Pilanesberg and the Kruger National Park, and the impact that elephants have on the environment and how one would handle that key species. After a short recess, we went for a walk in the grassland and discussed how important it is to understand the role that grasslands have in the savanna as an ecosystem. After a long discussion, we went further into the bush and the discussion was about the impact of missing key species within the environment of Borakalalo, such as for example rhinos that create grazing lawns. When key species are missing, bush encroachment can take place and the encroachment of vegetation can degrade the environment.
After our lunch break, we went back to our nature boardroom and carried on with the lecture material. During the lecture, in the distance, a giraffe stopped and stared in our direction and was deciding if there was any imminent danger before continuing his walk across the road to the river. Shortly after this, his partner followed him. It was a beautiful sight to see, as this is what we as a group of individuals are here to learn about and to help protect these beautiful creatures.
After a long day of learning and understanding how veld management impacts the environment, we could grab a beer or wine and relax at the fire. A bunch of guys hopped onto Izak’s bakkie and went for a joy ride while the rest of us sat around the fire having lots of laughs. Thank you, Luke, for all the entertainment. Then it was time to Braai.
On Sunday morning we went out in our groups, into the veld to perform an exercise of how one would identify if there has been a change in the grass in the environment. We had to measure the vegetation in 5 – 10 blocks to identify the different grasses in each block and to evaluate the grazing value, as well as to see if there would have been changes over time (which obviously we could not do in one weekend). We also identified various soil types and sands and the roles that they play in the environment. Then the fun started at the clay pit! Some clay balls and rings were created, and there even was some face painting going on! It was time to head back and calculate our scores to obtain the most common species of grasses in our blocks and a wrap up of the module. A big thank you to Graham for a wonderful, well-presented and educational weekend. Last but not least, a big thank you to the coordination team, Britta, George and Peter.
Then it was time to pack up and say our goodbyes until the next meet-up, which will be the African Antelopes Lecture, which will take place at Freedom Park on the 13 May 2023.
Ed’s Note: Thanks very much to the Rocky Slopes team for this very comprehensive write up of the Veld management weekend