Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 3 Scene 4 – New life


In this week’s Shamwari series the escaped leopard makes its presence known, and we begin a major re-planting operation to repair damage to the reserve’s terrain. This comes after an unexpected death and my first foray into scat analysis; you can read all about that in the previous Shamwari Diaries post: Act 3, Scene 3 –  Darkness.

Discover why I’m revisiting this time by heading back to the start of Act 1 here.

Escaping animals

Thursday 11th September 2008

Nothing at all went to plan today!! 

In the morning we went down to the breeding centre in the south of the reserve to meet the vet, Murray, who was going to dart a gemsbok to give to a local farmer as a peace-offering, after the leopard who escaped last week killed two of the farmer’s blesbok.

Although the Shamwari team offered to replace the blesbok, the farmer said he’d prefer a gemsbok (aka oryx) instead.

Oryx on the reserve

Despite Murray having all the tranquilizer darts and dart gun prepared, he eventually had to give up, because every time his vehicle got within 50 metres, the oryx ran away! First a leopard escaping our grasp, now an oryx!

Next job on the agenda was rhino identification, to see which rhinos were present in which areas of the reserve, but after driving around for about an hour and a half we couldn’t find a single rhino! Not even from the vantage point over the Bushmans River, where you can see most of the reserve!

In the end, we gave up and went for lunch, eager to start the afternoon afresh. Unfortunately, mother nature was having none of it, and delivered the blow of a wasted afternoon searching for cheetahs, with not so much as a single beep being picked up from their radio collars on the tracking device.

Driving through Shamwari Private Game Reserve

I feel so accustomed to seeing and doing incredible things everyday out here, that I’ve become quite spoilt by it!

Building a community

Friday 12th September 2008

Began the day by taking spekboom cuttings from the Madolas garden and using rooting hormone to plant them in plastic bags (for the time being).

The garden at Madolas, with spekboom growing front, left of the picture

The hope is that when they start growing their own roots, we can use them in a re-planting project to fill the cut lines found out on the reserve, where fences were formerly placed, when the land was still used for farming.

It’s a complex procedure, as the end goal is to fill the gaps in vegetation with the natural thicket that already grows there. The challenge with this, however, is that the thicket will not grow out in the open as it depends on a nursing system to grow; requiring the covering of other plants.

Spekboom, on the other hand, is easy to plant and will grow anywhere, so we are going to use that to provide the coverage needed to allow the thicket to grow around and underneath it.

A close up of spekboom

Once we’d moved our cuttings into the greenhouse, we headed out to the reserve to remove some more of the old wire boundary fencing, which can still be found in some of the cut line areas, and can prove dangerous to animals trying to pass through those areas of the reserve. The fencing may essentially serve as an accidental snare.

I felt completely honoured today to see a black-backed jackal on the reserve during the daytime; the first I’ve seen since I’ve been out here. 

Sadly, no pictures of the jackal, but this is one of my shots taken on the day

Finishing the day with one of my favourite community projects, we headed to Alicedale playing field, to play games with the local children.

For reasons that are still unclear, after a short while, the kids all broke out into a huge fight!

Outnumbered and with seemingly no chance of regaining control of the situation, our student co-ordinator Tanya turned the car radio up really loud and opened the windows.

Like moths to a flame, the children all stopped their squabbling and gathered round to dance to the music! 

It was so surreal and hilarious, that all we could do was dance along with them.

Next time: Join me as forest fires rage, storms brew and I ignorantly make my second big mistake of the trip. You can read the series from the very beginning here.


HAVE YOU HEARD?! This first post of my Shamwari Series features in a new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

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