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AFRICAN SAFARI CAMP UPDATES
March 2004

This Month:
• Continuing our updates on the 2004 Okavango Delta flood - it continues to be a big one!
• Monthly update from Duba Plains Camp in Botswana
• Monthly update from Chitabe Trails Camp in Botswana
• Monthly update from Mombo Camp in Botswana
• Update on the Rhino Reintroduction Project inBotswana's Okavango Delta
• Update on the Turtle Nesting season at Rocktail Bay in South Africa


Botswana Camps
The 2004 Okavango Flood continues strong!
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!

Okavango Delta Flood Chart for 30-March 2004

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 driest.

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 inundated.

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.

Jacana Camp
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 1977 level.

Vumbura Camp
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 concessions.

Jao Camp
Note 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.

Little Vumbura
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.

 

FOOTNOTE: Although 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 flooded.

It is all very exciting!

Article by Map Ives
Environmental Manager
Okavango Wilderness Safaris


Duba Plains Newsletter - Feb 04                 Jump to Duba Plains Camp
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 litters.

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 of buffalo.

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 soon.

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Chitabe Trails Newsletter - Feb 04                 Jump to Chitabe Trails Camp
Terrific Two's
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 bunch!

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 Gomoti Channel.

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.

Climate Report:
Min Temperature 18 Max Temp 36
Ave Min Temp 20 Ave Max Temp 33
Monthly rainfall 117mm

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Mombo Camp Update - Feb 04                 Jump to Mombo Camp
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 since November. 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 arch over the Mombo floodplains? anyone looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow need go no further than Mombo!

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 last year.

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 porcupines.

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 having?

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 more special!

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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 species.

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 reduced.

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.

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South Africa
Rocktail Bay Turtle Newsletter - Mar 04                Jump to Rocktail Bay
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 returned 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 out and 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 the beginning 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 funding, 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 decline.

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:

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