As we bid farewell to 2019 and welcome 2020, on behalf of all the staff I take this opportunity to wish all the Members and their families a prosperous 2020.
Ingwelala Conservation Manager, Chris Mayes, reflects on 2019:
“As the year draws to a close, it allows time for the honest introspection and reflections of the past year. Critically, to make it worthwhile, it needs to be brutally honest. As I look back on the Conservation related activities of the past year, I feel we need to ask ourselves if we have contributed to the functioning and successes of Ingwelala in this period? The simple answer is we have worked hard at maintaining the status quo, but the progression, achievements and successes we aspired to have been minimal.
The elephant damage related work over the last 12 months is the single contributor to my sentiments expressed above. As I page back in my diary while writing this, it becomes even more evident, as day after day was spent on the same activities and maintenance work. It is my hopeful and determined goal to find the holy grail of solutions to the elephant incursions and related damage in the Camp area in this coming year. I am cautiously hopeful that a lasting solution can be found.
Some elephant activity during the month of December did keep us on our toes. The pipeline between #3 pump and Sibon was uprooted and damaged mid-month. Repairs were done immediately. There were three breakages of the Camp fence in late December, fortunately no damage was done, and these animals left the camp area peacefully without any intervention from the tractors.
The month of December generally followed on the elephant free days of late November and the additional man hours this freed up was welcomed by both the Maintenance and Conservation Teams. Although elephant incursions have reduced significantly for the time being, our clean-ups continued around Member bungalows where damaged trees were removed, some we managed to save and push upright, on others tree seal was applied to protect against those that had been bark stripped.
Historically, December has always been the preparation month for the influx of visitors to the Reserve for the Xmas and New Year festive period, this December was no exception.
Malaria sprays were completed for all Members bungalows in early December. Thereafter we moved onto The Platform, Beacon Boma, Buffelsbed Hide and the Argyle hides as well. Management housing, office complex, Members Areas as well as Vuka Ingwe followed. This was completed in its entirety by December 16th.
The new baboon monitors commenced with their fixed term contracts on the 20th December to coincide with the busy period. In addition to the standard driving of the baboon troop away from the Camp area in the early morning, we tasked this team with keeping the vervet monkeys out of the Reception carpark and general swimming pool area. To date this seems to have been effective.
Wildlife sightings in December were superb. It is interesting to note the variety and quantity of the various game species that abound on the Ingwelala and associated properties once the Member occupation hits its peak. Numerous sightings of all iconic species were recorded throughout the properties, On a sad note, the injured lioness reported on the 30th December was euthanized on the morning of the 31st, a poor way to end the year personally, however, I am thankful we have the resources at Ingwelala to intervene and to make the difficult decisions always with the animals best interests in mind. In this case there was clear evidence with the right hind paw missing as well as the damage to the dental structure that this was a man induced injury from either a wire snare or gin trap, it made the final decision making process slightly easier”.
Thank you, Chris, for an informative summary from the Conservation Team.
During 2019, while the Conservation Team wrestled with the elephants and the Maintenance Team cleaned up afterwards, infrastructure improvements continued to flow across several communal facilities and staff accommodation. The largest project undertaken was that of the completion of Sibon Phase 2. User feedback has been positive and appreciative with testimony borne out by the exceptionally high occupancy rates.
A special thank you to everyone who assisted with this project to achieve a successful outcome.
Two bedrooms relocated
After buffalo damaged the Bird Hide walkway screen significantly (suspected stampede from lion chase) the remaining walkway was demolished and reconstructed from scratch. A new addition is a flush toilet. User feedback has all been positive.
Reconstructed walkway at Bird Hide
Flush toilet a new addition at Bird Hide
A breeding herd of elephants then upstaged the buffalo by demolishing the walkway screen at Elephant Pan Hide. The carnage was something to see, the sheer brute strength of elephants evidenced by support poles embedded in concrete uprooted and tossed around like match sticks.
Reconstructed walkway at Elephant Pan Hide
Entrance to the Hide
Francolin Cottage needed a completely new thatch roof, timber included, while Guineafowl Cottage and Hornbill Cottage required only a routine comb and patch.
Two roofs were replaced in staff accommodation in Vuka Ingwe.
The thatch roofs at Elephant Pan Hide, Bird Hide, Argyle Picnic site and toilet roof at Buffelsbed Hide were all combed and patched. The timber deck at Argyle Picnic site was sanded down and resealed.
The lath shade area around the swimming pool was extended on the west side towards Reception.
The staff residence, Nyala Cottage, required remedial thatch work to rectify significant reading. This required an additional layer of thatching on a sub standard roof pitch.
New roof in TV room in Vuka Ingwe
Francolin Cottage with new roof
In the 2019 Reserve Reports several staff profiles were published, namely Lucert Manzini (Housekeeping), Timothy Khoza (Conservation), Maria Mabunda (Housekeeping), Amelia Mahlalele (Workshop), Thandi Machevu (Housekeeping), Debrah Ngwenya (Housekeeping), Leon Khoza (Conservation) and Surprise Mathabela Housekeeping).
I hope you enjoyed reading the profiles as much as I enjoyed interviewing these wonderful staff members and capturing their backgrounds and interests in life.
The two Umbabat Environmental Monitors, Christinah Makhubele and Brendan Spiculums, who were seconded to Ingwelala for work experience, also featured in the staff profiles.
For skills upliftment, seven staff attended training for First Aid Level 2, seven staff attended training for First Aid Level 3 and seven staff attended training for Health & Safety Representatives.
Robere Brockmann attended further training on solar installation and maintenance and Dave Annandale attended refresher training for certification on LP Gas installation and maintenance.
We were proud of our long service awards achievements, namely:
Dorries Molobela and Norah Ngwenya receiving 30 years’ service awards, Maria Mabunda receiving 25 years’ service awards, Raymond Monareng receiving 20 years’ service awards, Doreen Mabila 15 years’ service awards, Convey Mashabane, Daphne Strydom and Andre Strydom receiving 5 years’ service awards. Congratulations to all of you.
Dorries receiving her 30 year service award
Norah receiving her 30 year service award
Maria receiving her 25 year award
Raymond receiving his 20 year award
Doreen receiving her 15 year service award
Educational material was written on:
- Alien plants (general)
- Marbled snout-burrower frog (Hemisus marmoratus)
- Yellow mouse-whiskers flower (Cleome angustifolia)
- Western stripe-belied sand snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus)
- Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus)
- Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica)
- Southern stiletto snake (Atractaspis bibronii)
- Polyphageous shot hole borer (an ambrosia beetle, that attacks living trees)
- Serrated hinged terrapins (Pelusios sinuatus)
- Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)
- Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
- Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
- Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
Thank you to everyone who contributed pictures and material for these feature articles.
Richard Sowry, Section Ranger of Kingfisherspruit Section (near Orpen) in Kruger National Park, delivered a very informative presentation on Responsible Resource Use in Wildlife Areas, at a Member information evening.
Angela Young, from Bushveld Experience Skills & Training presented a top class educational talk on Grasses and Veld Management. Thank you to both guest speakers for their attendances and presentations.
On the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) level, several initiatives took place with the children visiting Vuka Ingwe and an orphan school. These contributions were formally reported on to the Bushbuckridge Municipality for application in a rebate on Municipal Rates levied. Thank you to everyone who supported and contributed to these programmes. Various kit/gear sponsors for the soccer team remain hugely appreciated.
Visiting children to Vuka Ingwe and environmental education
Vuka Ingwe children enjoying a game drive
In the field, Borehole # 4 was upgraded to a “greener” and more environmentally friendly solar powered electric pump. The intention is to phase out the fuel operated pumps to eliminate noise pollution and risk of any fuel spills.
The final follow up treatment for coppice on the rehabilitated trial site on Buffelsbed (56 ha) was achieved in the mid- year. The results are extremely satisfactory.
Volunteers for a “Work Party” assisted Chris Mayes enormously to target the eradication of Mexican Poppy (Argemone mexicana) in the riverbeds. The work party also assisted with much needed road verge trimming – cutting back encroaching vegetation.
Last, but not least, the Nhlaralumi River in 2019, flowed in the months of January, February, November and December, always a wonderful sight to behold.
by John Llewellyn