SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
Continuing our updates on the 2004 Okavango
Delta flood - it continues to be a big one!
Monthly update from Duba
Plains Camp in
Monthly update from Chitabe
Trails Camp in
Monthly update from Mombo Camp in
Update on the Rhino
Reintroduction Project inBotswana's
Update on the Turtle Nesting season at Rocktail Bay in South Africa
The 2004 Okavango Flood continues
The annual flooding of the Okavango is a much anticipated event. Everyone
around the Okavango listens and watches for any news on what may be expected.
The importance of this annual inundation to the environment cannot be
overstated. Starting with the important re-charge of ground water throughout
the entire Delta, and to the distribution of birds and large mammals,
the effects are noticeable and important.
The year 2004 will be an exceptional flood!
It is important to remember
that the Okavango is within the greater Kalahari zone, and, as such
is in an arid zone. The Okavango flood provides water into an otherwise
waterless sand habitat, at a time when there is very little other water
available. Thus the distribution of large mammals and birds on to the
available water is hugely effected by the "size" of the flood.
Originating in the Angolan central highlands the bulk of the flood
waters arrive at the top of the Okavango panhandle during February
each year and the Delta itself is at it's fullest during the months
of July or August. This is at the time when the Kalahari is at its
The rainfall over the Okavango fan itself, is estimated to contribute
between 3 and 30 percent of the annual input of water into the Okavango,
and the rainfall is a hugely important factor contributing to the distribution
and timing of the flood. The rain falls at a time when the water within
the Okavango is at its lowest. This is during the hot summer months
of October, November, December and January. There is a huge amount
of evaporative loss and transpiration loss of water. The ground water
is lowered as a consequence. This water can be replaced by local rainfall,
prior to the arrival of the flood waters from Angola. During low rainfall
years, the ground water has to be replaced by flood waters as they
spread across the fan. This results in a smaller surface area being
During late 2003 and early 2004 the rainfall has both been early,
and way above average, over the delta fan, as well as in the catchment
basin of Namibia and Angola. Thus, the waters arriving in the Okavango
have been extremely early (January arrival as opposed to February)
and have been supplemented by good rains in the Delta.
The end result is that we have a large amount of water spreading over a greater
area of the Delta. The water entering the Okavango is recorded at the
top of the panhandle where the Okavango river is still a single river
and this data has been recorded for the last 30 years. Measured in cubic
meters per second this data is an important source of information for
planners, environmentalists and safari operators within the Okavango.
The input into the Delta usually
peaks during May at this point. The benchmark peak of 1100
cubic meters per second was recorded during May, 1984. As of
the 1st March, 2004 the Okavango was receiving 750 cubic meters
per second and rising. This has been supplemented by excellent
rains. Along with climatic and hydrological data being received
from the water authorities in Namibia, the floods of 2004 are
going to be the best since that 1984 benchmark year. However,
we need to remember that in 1984, the floods arrived onto a
very dry Okavango as the 1983 drought had been severe. while
the waters within the Delta during 1984 were high, they were
not as high and as far reaching as the 1976 / 1977 floods.
We believe that the floods this year will be approaching the
guests are now brought in by boat. An added adventure!
The Okavango delta is the worlds
largest RAMSAR site (The International Convention on the
Protection of Wetlands) and has been declared the most pristine
delta system on earth. To the visitor it is important to
note that it is a wetland, and, by description, wetlands
hold some of the highest bio diversity of wild habitats.
The Okavango is going to be absolutely resplendent as it
is covered in great sheets of gleaming clear water, dotted
about with different sized islands, from individual palm
islands to large hardwood fringed islands.
Inner Okavango camps like Xigera,
Pom Pom, Jao, Kwetsani and Jacana will be perfect for seeing
these floodwaters in all their splendour. The best way to
enjoy the clarity and peace is by mokoro or dugout canoe,
the traditional way to traverse the shallow flood plains.
Emerald green, emergent grasses and fields of bright water
lilies patrolled by large numbers of specialised birds and
mammals. Red lechwe populations, which have been heavily
preyed on during the low flood years will have an opportunity
to increase as the conditions will suit them perfectly. The
chances of seeing the shy Sitatunga antelope from mokoro
are good as will sightings of Pel's fishing owl. The endangered
wattled crane will find nesting conditions more to their
liking later on in the year around the inner Okavango camp
the bridge is almost under water.
The Mombo area will be absolutely
outrageous from a wildlife perspective. The flooding of large
areas will provide ideal conditions along the treeline of
Mombo island and the adjacent Chiefs Island. Large numbers
of buffalo will utilise the shade and cover of the drylands
during the heat of the day and late at night. Early morning
and late afternoon/evening finds them wading into the shallow
waters alongside the forests for the emergent green grasses.
Baboon and monkeys patrol the fringe forests, which are rich
in fruits. Antelope species like impala and kudu will also
stay on the dryland close to the water as will the wildebeest
and zebra. In short, the Borea or Mombo area carries one
of the most diverse and dense populations of mammals and
birds anywhere in Africa.
Along the northern fringes
of the Okavango are situated the Kwedi camps of Duba Plains,
Vumbura, Little, Vumbura, Kaparota and Vundumtiki. This area
has certainly been drier over the last ten years and can
expect completely different conditions this year. The dry
flood plains are going to be rejuvenated into field of rich
diversity. Major habitats will be re-created that will benefit
fish, amphibians and water loving birds particularly. The
grassy floodplains and sandy substrate of this region are
ideal for fish breeding. The buffalo will utilise these floodplains
as those at Mombo. There should be a movement of red lechwe
antelope into the concession.
Once more, these camps will be
fantastic country to explore by mokoro, as the floodplains
are going to be just the right depth for this activity. Vast
floodplains abutting on the northern mainland will support
large numbers of elephant. In fact this dryland along the northern
fringes will support large numbers of antelope and predators.
It is my opinion that Duba Plains is one of the most exciting
mokoro areas in the Okavango.
The Chitabe area has generally
been very dry for several years due to it's position low down
the delta fan. This is set to change later on in the year.
During June or July this year Chitabe and its rich soil floodplains
will enjoy the full spectrum of the Okavango's diverse habitats.
The camp itself will be completely surrounded by water and
larger islands of the annually inundated delta will support
year round mammal species ranging from Elephant and Lion to
leopard and impala. The major sand veld tongue also known as
Chitabe, becomes a refuge for zebra and wildebeest as well
as the resident populations of Tsessebe and kudu. The variety
of habitats at Chitabe make it an extremely attractive and
interesting Okavango camp and area indeed.
To sum up. This important wetland
is about to dress up in all her glory, and the excitement is
palpable amongst the wild creatures as well as the human inhabitants.
the Linyanti concession is not officially part of the Okavango, it
is the writer's opinion, based on early data, that
the Kwando/Linyanti system is receiving more water that in the previous
ten years. This will enhance the floodplains along the channel and
re-fill the beautiful Lake Zibidianja. It is also likely that the Linyanti
system may link to the Okavango via water from the Selinda spillway.
This has not happened for twenty years and should be an exciting event.
The rainfall this season has filled the inland pans to capacity, and,
along with excellent vegetative growth, will ensure that the Linyanti
riverine is rejuvenated. This is set to be a great year in northern
Botswana. Certainly one of the most exciting in recent years.
For our camps it means to get
ready for the big waters. New walkways are being built in anticipation,
Food & provisions
are trucked into the camps in big loads, in case the roads will be
It is all very exciting!
Article by Map Ives
Okavango Wilderness Safaris
Duba Plains Newsletter - Feb 04 Jump
The average minimum temperature for February 26C and the maximum 32C.
Heavy rains in the second half of the month (92mm) have made a huge difference
to the amount of surface water in the concession. Indeed the water in
front of camp is now higher than at the height of our flood in 2003.
There is some debate as to whether this is the actual flood itself (i.e.
coming from Angola) or merely an accumulation of heavy rains in northern
Botswana or a combination of both. Whatever the answer, all the current
indicators point to a flood season like no other in Wilderness history
and we are busy making preparations to cope with whatever nature will
throw at us before Duba is cut off once more from the world outside.
That being said, there is also considerable excitement amongst staff
at the prospect of a change to not only our daily lives, but also those
of the animals with which we share this most wonderful environment.
The evening skies, pregnant with heavy rain clouds have produced some
stunning sunsets, with shards of pink, turquoise and silver coursing
across the horizon. Over dinner, the night air reverberates to the
chorus of Painted Reed Frogs, Bull Frogs, Bubbling Kassina's, Tromolo
Sand Frogs and toads who are making the most of this abundant water.
By the noise they're making, our resident hippo population clearly
think Christmas has come early. As our guests snooze the afternoons
away, agitated troops of baboons watch small herds of Red Lechwe splash
contentedly in front of the tents, their previous playground now a
less palatable quarter.
General game sightings remain fantastic. The highlight was the sighting
of a rather nervous, young male Sable antelope near the staff village.
It stood for a fleeting moment, its head and brown mane erect, before
depositing dung in a ceremonial manner and fleeing into the bush. Other
sightings of the male were recorded during the first half of the month,
but as the waters moved in, so the sable moved off in search of drier
ground. Elephant numbers have fallen during the rainy season but we
had seven great sightings of relaxed herds and some wonderful photographic
opportunities in the setting sun. Bat eared Foxes continue to dominate
our night drive sightings and hyaenas fighting at the back of camp
keep Farai, our mechanic, quaking under his duvet!
Birding in the concession has been exceptional. Open Billed Storks
engage in synchronised water dredging, Squacco Herons accumulate in
large numbers and our Wattled Crane population is extremely healthy.
Rare Duba sightings in February include a Red Necked Falcon, Rosy Throated
Longclaw and a Lesser Moorhen. The African Marsh Harrier is a regular
visitor in front of camp as it sweeps for mice escaping the hooves
of Red Lechwe.
February proved an outstanding month for lion viewing. Witnessed buffalo
kills are still seldom seen, but this is more than made up by the new
additions to the Tsaro Pride. At the beginning of the month, we found
four females and three cubs around a fresh buffalo carcass. A fifth
female stood some distance away calling softly. After what seemed an
age, ten cubs trotted out from the safety of a palm island, their forms
barely visible in the long grass. That afternoon, twelve cubs, no more
than a month old peered curiously at us from the safety of a protecting
female. The pride now has a total of sixteen little cubs born in three
Undoubtedly the months highlight occurred whilst following two Tsaro
females during the early morning. We were perplexed as to why both
females seemed to be walking away from the buffalo herd. After two
kilometres, the older and pregnant female turned and growled a warning
to the other before disappearing into a large fever berry bush. After
five minutes of silence, low groans could be heard from inside followed
by high pitch squeaks. We'd been party to a beautiful and rarely witnessed
event, the birth of a new lion. The other female kept a respectful
distance, perhaps ready to assist in case of difficulty. We left the
area quickly so not to disturb this delicate time for both mother and
cub and our guests and guide were quiet as they digested this privileged
experience. We probably won't see this little one for another month
before it is introduced to the rest of the pride. It may struggle to
survive as it competes with fifteen other hungry mouths.
The three older cubs remain quite separate from their younger cousins
as they start to learn the art of eating their favourite food; fat,
juicy buffalo. They also hog much of the available milk, a worry for
the younger ones. However the cub survival rate has been 80% in the
Duba concession over the last three years, very high compared to other
areas. This is undoubtedly connected to the territorial dominance of
the Duba Boys for such a long period of time and the constant availability
We saw two kills during February, both by the Tsaro females. The first
involved a standing fight along Old Channel Road. It took only a few
minutes before the herd began to lose their defensive shape. One lioness
managed to ground a large male, castrating it in the process. Amazingly,
the injured buffalo managed to get up assisted by the rest of the herd
but having tasted blood, the pride was not about to give up and after
another half hour of mayhem they got their prize. The cubs were hidden
nearby and joined soon afterwards to watch the feast. The second kill
happened near Acacia Crossing, but only after a mother newly born calf
had become separated from the herd at Waterbuck Crossing. After a long
chase, the tiring calf proved easy prey for two Tsaro females.
Towards the end of the month, we found the Duba Boys at a warthog
kill fighting with a Tsaro male. This is the first time one of five
Tsaro males has been seen since September. We had assumed that the
coalition had moved away to challenge a new territory. The four year
old had badly injured legs, certainly inflicted by the Duba Boys. It's
likely that this male has either become separated from his brothers
or has been evicted from the coalition. Any chance of being accepted
back into the natal pride though is minimal and it's unlikely that
he will survive for long.
Other pride sightings are down on the previous month. The rising water
has closed access to the Paradise area and as a significant portion
of the Skimmer Pride territory lies within this area, we have not detected
them. At the last count, the pride numbers four females and six cubs.
The Pantry Pride is increasingly taking more risks to find their choicest
food. On one occasion we found them at Skimmer Pan, well to the west
of their established territory, feeding on a buffalo carcass. This
suggests that the Skimmer Pride have indeed moved to the north or west
of the concession, out of range of our vehicles and a poaching pride.
All in all, February has been a wonderful month to enjoy the sheer
variety that Duba has to offer. We now await the flood surge with eager
anticipation, though how much water we will get is uncertain as the
measuring device at Mohembo has been washed away! Please come and visit
Trails Newsletter - Feb 04 Jump
The second month of the year truly lived up to its title.
On the second day of the month our Guides followed a
single lioness which was seen to be lactating. She moved
past the front of Main Camp crossing the channel and
led them to 2 tiny tawny rugs who were barely old enough
to move on their own 2 pairs of legs. They are very well
hidden and we only check in on them occasionally so as
to not disturb them. Two days later we noticed a second
lioness in the area which was also lactating so we're
sure that there is a second litter in the vacinity of
the camp. Our resident Reedbuck are consistently at their
wits end with all the Tau traffic passing camp. We are
hearing them whistle at least twice a day and if we didn't
know any better we would think that they are just a happy
On the 20th of
the month we were treated yet again to another pair
of twins. This time it was
the turn of a
mother Leopard who has not been seen for some time. We
now know why, she has given birth to 2 tiny spotted "fluffballs" who
are about 6 weeks old and extremely cute. We watched
them for two days as they proceeded to finish off an
impala kill which had been hoisted into a Marula tree.
On the 22nd our guests were privileged enough to see
not one but 2 separate packs of Painted Dogs which is
something not many camps can boast about. The pack of
23 were even kind enough to kill an impala right out
in the open for all to see! The pack of six did not want
to be outdone by this so they decided to run past camp
to let us know that they are all still doing well.
On the birding front guests have been treated to regular
sightings of a duo of Scops Owls who seem to have taken
up permanent residence on our Island. One of them occasionally
joins us in the bar where it feasts itself on a fair
share of the insect population which are drawn to the
lights in camp. A pair of Paradise Flycatchers have also
had success on the breeding front, guess where? Outside
Tent 2 of course!
Other Highlights: We have seen several breeding herds
of elephants along the river which is quite unusual for
this time of the year.A very relaxed female Cheetah with
two sub-adults has been spotted several times along the
A huge fight between three of our territorial male Lions
who saw off two interlopers who we have not seen before,
will they be back? Four prime male Lions on the outskirts
of our concession have been seen several times, they
probably come from Moremi.
Min Temperature 18 Max Temp 36
Ave Min Temp 20 Ave Max Temp 33
Monthly rainfall 117mm
Mombo Camp Update
- Feb 04 Jump
This month has been one of quite incredible transformation.
2004 could just enter the record books as one of the
most remarkable years in the Okavango Delta in living
memory? after two years of below-average floods we are
finally seeing the full power and beauty of the Delta,
in a way not witnessed for 20 years? this year's flood
is going to be awesome!
Water which fell months ago as rain in the highlands
of Angola has slowly been making its way towards Mombo,
across Namibia's Caprivi Strip and down the Okavango
Panhandle, filtered by great stands of papyrus and sand
banks, until it began arriving in the Mombo area at the
very beginning of the month - a good two months early.
Combined with this we have had much of our year's rainfall
arriving late in the rainy season, with the result that
huge amounts of water have caused some radical changes
in our area in the last few weeks? It is hard to believe
that an area as flawless and beautiful as Mombo could
be improved upon, but the arrival of the floodwaters
have lifted the area to a new level?
Those of us who have had the privilege of calling Mombo
home for some time are particularly taken aback by the
earliness and intensity of the water flows into the Mombo
area. Comparing this year's flood with last year's, there
is already much more water here than there was at the
height of last year's much less impressive inundation.
You can see the water pushing in day by day as it creeps
nearer and nearer to the steps of Mombo. The view across
the floodplains from the main area is simply breathtaking
- infinite expanses of green grass and reeds, and occasional
stretches of open water which reflect the glittering
sun. The floodplain is dotted with the black, half-submerged
shapes of buffaloes, each with a brilliant white cattle
egret perched on its back.
The arrival of the floodwater at Mombo has brought many
animals and birds in closer to Mombo - we have seen slaty
egrets and pygmy geese searching flooded grassy areas
for food, and we have had some remarkable moonlit sightings
of groups of hippos grazing. The buffaloes and red lechwes
especially have been enjoying the lush vegetation in
the newly flooded plains.
The late rains have added to this spectacular transformation
- we have had another good month for rainfall, with most
of the rain occurring during afternoon thunder storms,
carefully timed so as not to interfere with game drives!
As we head into winter, temperatures have been a little
cooler - the sun has lost a little of its intense summer
heat and daytime temperatures are very pleasant.
In March we have had
a total of 121.5mm of rain, giving us a total of 400mm
This however is only
just above the minimum likely to be experienced in this
area during the rainy season. While temperatures have
been generally getting cooler, with some cloudy and windy
days being experienced, the sun has been particularly
intense following rainstorms. This is probably due to
there being less dust in the atmosphere after each rain
shower. Minimum recorded temperatures have ranged from
18°C to 23°C, with an average daily minimum of
20.16°C. Maximum temperatures have ranged from 21°C
to 30°C, with an average daily maximum of 28.00°C.
This "sunshine and showers" weather
has meant that we have regularly enjoyed seeing rainbows
the Mombo floodplains? anyone looking for the pot of
gold at the end of the rainbow need go no further than
As well as a month of water, March has been a month
of leopards. After an absence of almost a year, the Maun
Road female leopard made a welcome re-appearance in some
of her old haunts, now accompanied by a ten month old
cub. This means that we currently have three female leopards
in the area with cubs born at various times during the
The huge Burned Ebony male leopard used the cover of
some of the new plant growth to kill an impala, and then
concealed his kill close enough for us to have some very
personal encounters with this incredible but elusive
predator, the ultimate in deadly stealth.
March has also been a month of frogs - the nightly chorus
fills the Mombo opera house to the rafters, with hippos,
hyaenas, and lions, all performing too to create a perfect
nocturnal African symphony - sounds that we know none
of our guests will ever forget?
As we reach the end of March, the moon is waxing again
towards its monthly zenith, casting a silvery light over
the buffaloes and hippos as they graze, and casting shadows
over the water as the giant eagle owls drift silently
among the raintrees.
In the Camp itself, we
are continuing to refine the many little details that
make a stay
at Mombo or Little
Mombo so special? couples on honeymoon are enjoying intimate
and romantic private dinners and our chefs have been
busy making special cakes for birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
Freshly boiled water delivered to each tent with the
morning wake-up call gives our guests the chance to have
an "emergency" cup of coffee at first light
- although of course they soon realise that the bush
experience delivers a far greater boost to the body and
soul than caffeine ever could!!
As this area undergoes its annual change into a much
more watery kingdom, we are taking advantage of living
in a huge natural classroom to extend our meet and greet
talks to explain to guests some of the wonder of the
flood and the rivers that turn their backs on the sea.
Many guests have commented that this additional information
has really helped them get even more out of their Mombo
experience as it has further opened their eyes to the
wonder that is the Okavango Delta?
While some of our roads have flooded and are now impassable,
this has not compromised the quality of the game viewing
experience at Mombo in any way. Rather, game viewing
is in many ways more intense as with the floodplains
now inundated, many animals have been pushed into smaller
areas in the centre of islands. The beauty of Mombo,
and the reason that it boasts such exceptional numbers
and variety of game, is that it encompasses a variety
of different and contrasting habitats, thus providing
the perfect habitat for a great many species of animal
and bird all year round.
Recent unusual sightings include a caracal (a large
lynx-like cat) and a large grey mongoose, the largest
southern African mongoose but a very secretive animal
and hard to spot despite its size. Also a male leopard
mating with two females at the same time, and somehow
dividing his time (and energy!) between the two of them.
Also some rare daytime sightings of honey badgers and
Perhaps the most spectacular sighting was one which
set a new Mombo record: seven of the reintroduced white
rhinos grazing together on a large open area known as
Suzi's Duckpond. One quarter of all Botswana's wild rhinos
together in one place at the same moment. It was late
afternoon, and the sky was brilliantly lit up by the
setting sun, bathing the whole scene in that special
soft light so beloved of photographers? and what a scene
to photograph! In the background were hundreds of zebra,
and a quick glance around the area would also reveal
giraffe, warthog, wildebeest, jackal and tsessebe? Meanwhile
the abrupt alarm calls of impala hung on the still air
as they spotted the female leopard we had watched playing
with her cub only a few minutes earlier? and that was
not so very long after we had seen one of the four black
rhinos near the airstrip? the kind of hour that only
ever seems to happen at Mombo - a place so magical that
it can have twenty-four hours like that in just one day!
And of course we have still to see this year's flood
reach its peak, so no doubt many more spectacular moments
and special sightings await us? 2004 is simply flying
by, proof (if any were needed) of how much fun we are
One sad event this month was the departure of one of
our Little Mombo management team, Sharon, who will be
greatly missed for her warmth and friendliness for always
being ready with a smile. However as her husband Leigh
is staying on as Little Mombo manager, we have a feeling
that we haven't seen the last of Sharon yet. We wish
her all the very best in her new life in Cape Town (is
there life after Mombo?!).
At the same time we welcome our new relief couple, Angela
and Justin, who come to Mombo from Wilderness' new ocean
hideaway, North Island.
So the Okavango flood continues to push into the Mombo
area, carrying us forward to who knows what new adventures?
We can only be certain of one thing, that 2004 is going
to be a memorable year for Mombo in a great many ways?
so you are all invited to help make these memories even
Botswana Rhino Relocation Project
Populations of rhinos have declined throughout Africa
due to demand and over-hunting for their valuable horns.
Due to inadequate protection, rhinos have become extinct
in several former range states, including Botswana, where
both black and white rhinos have become extinct at different
times in the 20th century.
Since the mid 1990's conservation of white rhinos in
fenced sanctuaries has proved successful through collaboration
between the private sector and the Government of Botswana,
and will provide the foundation for continued growth
of existing rhino populations, and the establishment
of new ones in the future. One such project is the proposal
to re-introduce white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum
simum) to the Mombo Medium Density Tourism Zone (Mombo)
and to establish a healthy and sustainable free-ranging
population of rhino upon the Chief's Island region of
the Moremi Game Reserve.
Wilderness Safaris primary objective, as the promoter
of this reintroduction project, is to re-establish this
locally extinct and important species in the Okavango
Delta, the only species known to have been exterminated
from the area. The result of this project would contribute
towards the maintenance of the bio-diversity of the Mombo
region, through the management and conservation of endangered
The success of the project will determine whether this
region becomes an important release site for further
re-introduction programmes within the country in the
future. This programme will be carried out by means of
full liaison with and approval by the appropriate Botswana
Government authorities (including the Department of Wildlife
and National Parks (DWNP), the Botswana Defence Force
(BDF) and the Tawana Land Board).
The successful re-introduction of rhino to Chief's Island
will be a unique example of co-operation between the
private sector and Government and local authorities in
an important conservation venture. Standards will be
set for the region and it will cement Botswana's position
as one of Africa's leaders in conservation and tourism.
This proposal contains the history of rhinos in Botswana,
and covers every aspect of the project, including the
reintroduction programme and its constraints, as well
as the general management of the programme.
THE HISTORY OF RHINO IN BOTSWANA
The White Rhino and the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)
occurred in northern Botswana until relatively recently.
The Black Rhino seems to have been rare and confined
to the Kwando-Chobe areas, but the White Rhino population
was widespread and common throughout northern Botswana
in the middle of the last century.
As a result of indiscriminate shooting of rhino, mainly
by sport hunters, both species were reduced to very low
numbers by the 1960s. A re-introduction programme began
in 1967 when four White Rhino were introduced from Natal.
Between 1974 and 1981, the Botswana Government, with
support from Natal Parks Board, re-introduced a total
of 71 White Rhino into Chobe National Park and 19 into
Moremi Game Reserve. The animals were released directly
from the transfer crates; many wandered considerable
distances in search of suitable habitat, and some died.
When given the normal rate of increase of this species,
the rhino population should have increased to about 200
in 1992 and about 400 today. However, by 1992, it was
evident that the majority of the White Rhino population
had either died or been killed by illegal hunters. It
should be remembered that the 1980s saw a wave of illegal
off-take of elephants and rhinos sweeping down from eastern
Africa to Zambia, Mozambique and Angola. Botswana, Zimbabwe
and, to a lesser extent, South Africa were affected by
incursions from these areas and became conduits for the
illegal traffic in ivory and rhino horn. As a result,
the rhino populations of northern Botswana were greatly
A survey carried out by the Natal Parks Board in 1992
found only 19 White Rhino. Black Rhino appear to have
become extinct by this time. At this stage, the Botswana
Government developed a three-stage policy for the conservation
of White Rhino:
To capture as many surviving White Rhino as possible
and translocate them to protected sanctuaries such as
the Khama Rhino Sanctuary near Serowe and the Mokolodi
Private Game Reserve near Gabarone;
To allow the populations in these sanctuaries to increase,
while effective protection was implemented in the national
parks and game reserves, through effective law enforcement
and the provision of conservation incentives to local
communities and other strata of society; and,
When it is safe to do so, to re-introduce populations
of White Rhino from the protected sanctuaries back into
the wild in the national parks and game reserves.
Implementation of the first stage of this policy was
initiated in 1993, with the capture and translocation
of the remaining White Rhino, of which there were four,
from the Chobe National Park to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary.
A sub-adult male subsequently died as a result of gun
shot wounds inflicted by illegal hunters prior to capture.
Between 1994 and 1996, three more rhino were relocated
to the Khama Sanctuary from Moremi Game Reserve, while
three remained uncaptured in the area.
In June 1995, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary received five
more White Rhino from North West Parks Board of South
Africa. There are currently 29 White Rhino held in protected
sanctuaries in Botswana, of which 28 are under private
management and 1 under Government management. These rhino
are located in the following areas:
Khama Rhino Sanctuary 16
Mokolodi Private Game Reserve 9
Gaborone Game Reserve 1
Gantzi (private game farm) 3
The policy of re-introducing
White Rhino to the wild was formalised in an internal
strategy paper prepared
by the Department of Wildlife.
Bay Turtle Newsletter - Mar 04 Jump
February has been a little quiet for our Loggerhead and Leatherback Mothers;
we encountered three magnificent Leatherbacks and one Loggerhead.
David & Bettina Harden adopted "Bibi",
the one Leatherback; this incredible mother heaved herself out of the ocean
at around 20h45
on a clear beautiful night. She was first tagged thirteen years ago and has
to lay on her home ground.
The Howard Family from Johannesburg also adopted "Lucy", another
Leatherback. This was an extra ordinary drive, spring low on a dark night made
the perfect recipe not only for our "Lucy", but also for our
little loggerhead hatchlings, we saw 4 different nests this night hatching
running the gauntlet to the sea. Our guests were in absolute awe when they
returned to camp for some well earned sleep.
Antoinette & Jason Gifford were also fortunate enough to witness a gorgeous
Loggerhead mother come up to lay at around 23h30, the seas at this stage were
pretty rough, and we could only wonder what she went through. Swells were reaching
2-½ m to 3 m, which must have been an exhausting journey for her.
This month the kids certainly "came out to play",
we have witnessed 24 leatherback and 19 loggerhead nests hatching and making
their way down
into the ocean. It's been quite a trying period for them, particularly at
of the month as we experienced some angry seas. But we have faith that
many of them made it out to the Aguhalas current.
March brings a close to the Turtle Season, and we are fascinated by one particular
event that occurred on the 8th March. After seeing loggerhead hatchlings Gugu
our guide spotted a Honeycomb Moray Eel eating an octopus in the rock pools
at Mabibi, the guests were thrilled, to say the least.
On the very last evening of the turtle season, Gugu decided Neptune was not
going to get the better of him, he was adamant to finish the last drive on
a good note and he certainly did, he spotted a leatherback nest hatching and
was able save a further ten little guys and help into the big blue sea.
Once again it has been a very exciting season for us
here at Rocktail Bay and wish to thank everyone who participated in all areas,
the humour and even the "motherly instincts".
We hope to see you all in our next season, which starts later on this year.
A special thanks to Gugu and Mbongeni our local guides who carried out the
turtle season with great determination and much enthusiasm, braving the beaches
on many a stormy night. Throughout the season we experienced many low pressure
weather systems moving northwards which helped us to pretty much reach our
annual rainfall of 1 090mm.
Preliminary results of statistical analysis for this season are interesting.
Nesting frequencies for Loggerhead turtles are up on last year. Unfortunately
and quite alarming for us is that the Leatherback turtles have shown a sharp
Final turtle figures for2003/4:
Loggerhead nests = 156
Leatherback nests = 77
Loggerhead sightings = 98
Leatherback sightings = 51
New Loggerheads (untagged) = 18
New Leatherbacks (untagged) = 11
See chart below for nesting comparisons since 1997/1998 season: