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Manyara Ranch Conservancy

Set between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks lies the Manyara Ranch Conservancy. The initiative, driven by the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust, has seen a government cattle ranch turned back to land for both wildlife and a dry season refuge for local Maasai herders. Nestled on the property is the […]

Udzungwa Mountains

A couple of weeks ago saw me travel to Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains National Park. The area is a far cry from the regular tourist circuit of the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro. The beauty of the area isn’t the big mammals – of which there are several – but the whole potpourri of life the mountains, […]

After the rhino summit

Within days of the Lead SA Rhino summit, a joint resolution was released. Amongst various undertakings, the following points were listed as priorities: Agree on a national anti-rhino poaching reporting number to allow the public to blow the whistle on poachers. Coordinate the provision of intelligence from all groups to the National Wildlife Crime Reaction […]

Summit on rhino poaching

As of today, Thursday 19th August, poachers have killed 173 rhino for their horns since the start of 2010 – that is one animal every 32 hours. Taking the average weight of five kilograms per set of horns, that equates to a haul of 865 kilograms. Sources put the current value of horn leaving the […]

Predator breeder and trader arrested

Well done to the South African police – they may very well have made another crucial breakthrough in their fight against the organised crime syndicates targeting the country’s wildlife. On Friday 23rd July, an individual that is extremely well known in the canned hunting and predator-breeding industries of the Free State was arrested. According to […]

Lots of Visitors for the Northern White Rhinos

The past couple of weeks rolled around with cold, windy weather, with temperatures ranging from a low of 10°C to a high of 17°C. For the northern white rhinos, these temperatures may be slightly reminiscent of their stay in the Czech Republic, but with the cold air came warm company. We were pleased to welcome […]

Of water, trees and nutrients

This year the Okavango River is carrying more water than it has for many years. On a recent flight over the Delta I was struck by the impact the high water levels are having on trees. Much of the water in the Delta moves in big, shallow sheets, rather than in narrow, erosive channels. The […]

More lion statistics

The CITES stats I referred to in a previous blog are a comprehensive set of numbers covering everything from trophies to the export of claws and other body parts for 2008/9. They make for astounding reading and give a clear picture of how extensive breeding, trading and hunting has become in South Africa. Because supplying […]

Helicopters from Hell

The rhino poaching scourge presently underway across South Africa continues: this past week there were two incidents involving helicopters flying without flight plans. One case occurred in the Tugela Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, where a female white rhino had her horns taken off with a chainsaw. Miraculously, the rhino survived after being found by […]

The BP horror

Map showing the current impact of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Source: ifitwasmyhome.com There can surely be no one on this planet that is not horrified at the ongoing oil disaster taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. It can only be described as environmental rape of the severest kind. It is now two months […]

New date for Wild Dogs fund raiser

The fund raiser for the African Wild Dogs/EWT evening at the Rosebank Hyatt will be on 30 September 2010. Tickets are R500 per person aor R5 000 per table. Please let your friends and family know about this so we can get a full house – it is for a great cause and all proceeds […]

Stubborn Woman, New Friends and New Housing Arrangements

Stubborn Najin We are happy to announce that Najin has finally permanently moved into the large 700 acre breeding area, by Sudan’s side. But it was easier said than done. It took our team about three weeks to get Najin out of the bomas and the 400 x 400 metre enclosure. She simply refused to […]

Frikkie reaches the top of Everest!

The summit with Vaughan at last! Well, there it is. More than 12 months ago, Frikkie decided that he would be the first Wild Dog to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and all his efforts were finally crowned with success on the morning of 24 May 2010 at 8:00 when he stood on top […]

Frikkie nears the summit

Frikkie contemplates yet another bowl of soup. All else being equal it seems as if the summit is within the team’s grasp, all the preparatory work having been done. Hopefully the summit will be ours on 24 May 2010 (the same day Sean and I summitted in 2006). It has been a long, hard slog […]

Frikkie meets donkey en route to summit

Frikkie meets Burro Maybe it was chemical but they never really got on – Frikkie and Burro, that is. Burro is a Mexican donkey (see above) also going for the summit of Everest without oxygen. The two of them literally bumped into each other in the streets of Zhangmu during the team’s recent R and […]

Rhino syndicate hit hard

A victim of poaching, as published in Africa Geographic September 2008. Photo: SAPS By all accounts, rhinoceros poaching in southern Africa has reached alarming levels. During this past weekend alone, four rhinos were poached in South Africa, one being shot from a helicopter registered with false license plates. A total of 220 were killed for […]

Frikkie reaches the North Col (7050 m)

Checking out Camp 2 from the North Col.   The last day at Base Camp before our second rotation was interesting to say the least. Everyone in the team (*or* so we thought) had taken a shower, knowing full well that we would not be able to do so for the next week *or* so. […]

Big open spaces for the Northern Whites

A lot has happened since our last update which was sent on April 20. We sadly said goodbye to Berry White, our expert rhino whisperer, who returned home to the UK. Three of the northern whites were given access to the breeding area. And most importantly, this week, we decided to separate the two females […]

Protea stopped

As most of you are now well aware, after widespread and sustained opposition, Protea Hotels, Zambia has withdrawn its application for a 144-bed hotel along the banks of the Zambezi River. I had hoped to have posted a comment within days of the news, but it has taken Protea this long to reply to the […]

Frikkie inspired by Jane Goodall

Frikkie was inspired by the answer given by Jane Goodall to a question posed to her in an interview in Time Magazine (yes, he does try to broaden his horizons by reading widely but does have the infuriating habit of moving his lips when he reads). The question was: “Do you think there is still […]

An Exciting Week for Our New White Rhino Community

The Final Translocations Since our last update, we had one more day of translocation on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, on the 10th of April. The day started early, with the aircraft going up first to spot the elusive mum and calf that had evaded us the previous day. It was a tense time for the […]

Frikkie’s Amazing Everest Adventure update

First view of Everest The team took on provisions in Shegatse for Base Camp. An interesting experience – plenty of frenetic activity and animated bargaining. Frikkie has a voracious appetite particulary for meat, always studiously avoiding his vegetables. As a result he was not allowed at the meat market (see picture) as it would simply […]

Frikkies Great Everest Adventure – a message from Vaughan

12 Apr, 10 – 07:02 Lhasa is now a memory and a particularly favourable one for Frikkie as he really did enjoy himself on his last night there, partaking of a traditional Tibetan meal followed by a show of Tibetan dancing. His third helping of fried sheep’s lung did raise eyebrows, however. “Don’t knock it […]

Rhino Translocation Week

Preparation for the Release At the start of this week the Ol Pejeta Conservancy was once again host to old and new friends from the UK and the Czech Republic. Our guests had no time to relax as we began an action-packed week to prepare the new northern white rhino breeding area for the eventual […]

Stop Protea Hotels

Ian Michler Protea Hotels, a mass-market operator by any definition of tourism you may choose to use, wants a slice of near-pristine wilderness along the banks of the Zambezi River. Its Zambian subsidiary is proposing a 144-bed hotel and conference centre on a prime site in the Chiawa Game Management Area. The concession is adjacent […]

Eating the oceans

Ian Michler According to a recent IUCN Red Data press release, sturgeons, one of the oldest surviving fish families, are the most critically endangered group of species on the planet. There are 27 species within the Acipenseridae family, and of these 17 are listed as critically endangered and four as possibly extinct. And the primary […]

Ivory traders get tusked

Ring one up for the elephants! The most recent CITES meeting in Doha, Qatar has drawn to a close and amongst the numerous resolutions, there was a significant victory for elephants and those opposed to the ivory trade. The proposals from Tanzania and Zambia to downgrade the conservation status of their elephant populations and to […]

Reunited At Last

We have very exciting news to share this week! Last Saturday, on the 20th of March, Sudan finally got his chance to go out and rejoin Najin and Fatu in their current 400 by 400 meter enclosure. As reported last week, the three animals had been given as much contact as possible through the fences. […]

Gentle Introductions at the Bomas

  Warming Up for the Re-Introductions Fatu and Najin, our two female northern white rhinos, have been getting extra contact with Sudan this week in an effort to slowly re-introduce the animals in preparation for the April release into the big enclosure. he first day went extremely well. Fatu and Najin were out in the […]

A Busy Week at the Bomas

Progress with the Fence Fence completion for the larger enclosure is set for the end of this month. It looks like we have a long way to go but the posts are going in. Stringing the wires will only take a few days. One major hurdle will be removing all large wildlife from this area. […]

Just another rainy and muddy week on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy!

The construction of the fence – for the rhinos’ new 701.5 acre enclosure – is ongoing. Our team is working as hard as they can to stay on schedule for the release of the rhinos the first week of April. Our four rhinos – Sudan, Suni, Najin and Fatu – have become much more relaxed […]

A New Release Date, Adapting to the Wild and More Mud Baths!

Important Notice ~ The release date of Najin, Fatu, Sudan &amp, Suni has been postponed from March 25th until the first week of April 2010. We will keep you posted on the new date as soon as we have additional information. Rhino Update Since last week’s update, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy has seen more rain […]

Release Date Set, Boy’s Time Out and More Rain

Release Date Set We are now in a position to confirm dates for the next phase of this project. In this next phase, Najin and Fatu will be reunited with Sudan and will have their first steps into what will become our breeding area and their home. We are working to a release date of […]

Unexpected Rains and Time Outside the Bomas for All

We have suffered an abnormally hot week on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which was thankfully broken by three days of unexpected rain. Rain is not usual this time of year in Kenya, and we would not expect rainfall until the beginning of April. But it could not have come at a better time. There was […]

An Update on the Northern White Rhinos – Big Step for the Girls

On Wednesday, February 3rd, the two female northern white rhinos – Najin and Fatu – took their first step into the 400 x 400 meter fenced enclosure on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This really was their “first taste of Africa!” Until today, they were kept within the confines of their holding pen, with limited daily […]

Jackals, humans and the bigger picture

The black-backed jackal is an animal that is heavily persecuted by farmers in many places in southern Africa. The jackal is an interesting and intriguing animal in its own right. Jackals exhibit a range of interesting behavior and social characteristics. They are monogamous. Mated jackal pairs sometimes have offspring from previous years acting as helpers […]

A Little Leopard Luck

On the 5 November 2009 I was on a game drive out of Savuti camp when we got called to a sighting of leopards mating. We don’t see this happening that often, and what was even more unusual was that the pair of leopards were in an open area, which meant we could see the […]

Eyes wide open

It is a well known fact that the two species of oxpecker that occur in southern Africa, the red-billed and the yellow-billed, both feed on parasites that live on or in some of the larger plant-eating mammals that they share habitat with. If you watch them really closely though, you may notice something a little […]

The Rain on the Plain

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana is a very large protected area, covering some 52 000 square kilometres. Until very recently, the reserve had almost no development within its borders and anyone wishing to visit had to camp in the designated camping sites. These sites are well situated but very basic, even lacking […]

Fish out of Water

Some years ago, I encountered my first many-spined climbing perch at Jacana camp in the Okavango. The perch was out of the water and making its way along the edge of a road. I was completely taken aback to see a fish walking on land! Unfortunately for that particular perch it was also noticed by […]

When Hunting Stops

The wildlife management areas of northern Botswana are divided into parcels of land known as ‘concessions’. These are often located close to or bordering game reserves and national parks and, years ago, most of these concessions were utilised for the purpose of controlled hunting. In the early days, there were more people visiting Botswana to […]

Expectations and the Importance of Rising Early

The area known as the ‘waterfront’ in the north-eastern corner of Chobe National Park is one of my favourite places. On many of the safaris that I lead we routinely spend time on a midday boat ride viewing the numerous crocodiles, hippo, impala, waterbuck, kudu, warthog and elephants that are abundant here. There is an […]

Termites In a different Light

Summertime in northern Botswana is the period for dramatic thunderstorms and rain. It is also the season of heightened activity among many species, including insects such as the fungus-farming termites. These termites, also known as macrotermes, live in mounds. Colonies comprise thousands of sterile workers and soldiers, and a queen and king. Aside from these […]

Cats and Dogs of the Wild Variety

A little more than a month ago, during my stint of acting as a relief manager at Savuti camp, I drove to the east of camp early one overcast morning. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may realise at this stage why my permanent career as a camp manager never amounted […]

Wild, Wild Dogs

One of my favourite animals is the African wild dog. Few other creatures have the energy to spare that the wild dog has. On a recent trip to Chitabe camp in the Okavango, we had the good fortune to encounter a pack of approximately 16 wild dogs late one afternoon. We spent an hour and […]

Of Raptors and Captors

One of the things I find quite frustrating when leading safaris is trying to convey to clients the sheer power and presence of some of the larger birds of prey that occur in our region. The frustration comes from the fact that it is almost always difficult to get close enough to these birds to […]

Bolt Hole in Botswana

On a game drive out of Chitabe camp in the southern Okavango recently, I was intrigued by an unusual interaction that occurred between a family group of spotted hyaenas and a pair of warthogs. We were visiting a hyaena den, which in this instance took the form of some deep holes in the ground. Outside […]

Fruits of my Labour

I was recently sent out to Savuti camp to lend a hand to the camp managers.  I used to be a camp manager but I much preferred guiding, and nothing has changed with that. I never found it too much fun listening to stories of all the things the guides and guests had seen each […]

Children in the Wilderness

My inspiration for this week’s submission comes from Kings Pool camp, from where I have just returned. Every year, usually in the summer season, Wilderness Safaris in Botswana close off two of their camps to regular guest activities. Instead, we bring in local children from the areas surrounding the wildlife reserves that we operate in. […]

Practice, Practice, Practice

Perhaps one of the most important things that a young lion will need to learn how to do well, is to learn how to hunt. Lions and other carnivores that prey on fast-moving prey have a much harder time of things when it comes to catching their food than do similarly sized herbivores whose plant […]

Suburban Civets

African civets are not common animals. Even though they do occur throughout the Okavango Delta, their solitary habits, as well as their stealthy, nocturnal nature mean they are seldom seen, and hardly ever photographed. In the last four years I have only had one sighting of a civet in daylight. So I was quite startled […]

Going on a scorpion hunt

Early one morning in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve, I came across this male honey badger. It was October and the very end of the dry season, which meant that the soil was baked hard and dry, but this didn’t seem to bother the badger. He walked with purpose, swinging his head this way and […]

Defense mechanisms

One day we were watching a female leopard near Chitabe Camp, in the Okavango Delta. The leopard had two very young cubs, perhaps just a couple of months old. She had killed an impala, and dragged it quite a distance to bring it to where her cubs were hidden.  In this place were quite a […]