Tuningi Ranger’s Journal May 2017

By gavintonkinson on May 30, 2017

Hello again to all our fans !!

May has been a pretty quiet month as far as the lodge not being as busy as we are used to, but has given us some good time to spend on maintenance activities in and around the lodge.The winter has arrived in earnest, as the morning temperatures have dropped substantially, especially in the mornings, but there is nothing that a nice hot water bottle cant fix while you cuddle up with it and your nice warm blanket as you watch the sun get out of its lazy bed of darkness and poke its warming head out of the savanna horizon accentuated by the distant roar of lions.

Sunrise from vaalboom 1

Our bushveld celebrities have however been doing very well, and have given us some very good sightings over the last month.

Munye, our local young male leopard has in the past reports been showing signs of setting up territory in the south west of the reserve, and has continued doing so, and is marking his territory more seriously now, and he is still overlapping his home range with a very large male, and on some occasions he has been following him in an attempt to oust him from his throne in these areas.He has also been on the scent of a female, which has got his utmost attention, and has been covering large distances in search of this female, which may be in estrus by bellowing out the rasping grunt that only a leopard can…. We hope he finds her, and begins his own empire here in the south.

Munye on concrete highway 1 Munye on sepedi 1 Munye on sepedi 2 Munye on sepedi 3

Tsala, our local queen has made a few abrupt appearances, and seems to be behaving very strangely, and on one occasion we have noticed she may have a developing teat line once again…. Here we go again, and we should all have a special prayer for her so that she can actually raise the cubs this time around.

The cheetah boys in the park are also doing very well, and are moving huge areas across the park in search of a female which we are still struggling to find for them, as there just are not enough genetically unrelated females available in the country to be brought here, but we are still on a priority list to obtain a female as soon as one becomes available.

They also have had their tracking collars removed this month, and I am sure they feel very happy to get rid of that hideous set of jewellery

Our local pride of lions is doing exceptionally well, except for that fact that 2 males have started putting pressure on the Chimbro males from the east, and have made some incursions into the territory once or twice, which has resulted in the Chimbro boys coming home with a few more scars in defense of their stronghold, and seem to have settled the dispute as the intruders have fled further east.

Chimbro Sunrise 1

lazy pride

The growing cubs from the Jamala and Matlapa females have endless amounts of energy at the moment and are spending most of their time playing which is very important in their muscle and coordination development for one day when they will use these skills in the hunt to feed the pride.

Jamala cubs play at quarry 3 Jamala cubs play at quarry 2 Jamala cubs play at quarry 1

We also welcomed back the Club Excel group from London which is an incentive based holiday for their top performers, and boy… were they treated to a once in a lifetime opportunity…..

Thanks to the generous donation of the owners, Jim and Isobel Smith, they contributed towards the conservation of our rhinos in the park, which is extremely important as the rhinos are facing increasing threats from poachers on a daily basis.

So this is what went down…….

It was up early one morning to meet the vet, helicopter pilot and parks officials where we given a brief of the activity to follow, which was to treat an injured female rhino, and to notch the ears of her 3 year old calf.

Club excel rhino notching 1

On the arrival of the chopper, we were called in by the pilot who had found our target, and we raced off in the direction that the chopper was hovering.

Once we all arrived, the vet darted both mom and calf, and herded them towards the road we were waiting on with astonishing precision, as the drugs started taking full effect.

Club excel rhino notching 2 Club excel rhino notching 3 Club excel rhino notching 4 Club excel rhino notching 5

Once the two of them were immobilized the vet and his team got to work, as the group helped pushing the calf from its side onto its chest to aid its breathing.

The following procedures are carried out on the rhinos:

  • DNA samples from the blood, toe nails, and horn is taken
  • The rhinos are given a shot of vitamins and antibiotics
  • The ears are notched
  • A micro chip is inserted into the horn and shoulder of the animal
  • Horn measurements are taken
  • The vet treated the female who had a hole in her cheek caused by fighting with another rhino

Club excel rhino notching 6 Club excel rhino notching 6 Club excel rhino notching 7 Club excel rhino notching 8 Club excel rhino notching 9 Club excel rhino notching 10 Club excel rhino notching 12 Club excel rhino notching 13 Club excel rhino notching 14 Club excel rhino notching 15 Club excel rhino notching 16 Club excel rhino notching 17 Club excel rhino notching 18 Club excel rhino notching 19 Club excel rhino notching 26

All of this work is done and the info is captured in a central database in south Africa, which is integral in the management of the species , as well is it also helping in the local management within the park to see where certain individuals live in the park which can also help in the event of an animal been poached, so that we can if the horns are retrieved from an incident, which can then link the crime to the animal, which ultimately helps in strengthening a case should it be needed once poachers are caught.

Ok….. so once all the guests got involved in the procedures and touching and feeling the soft shoulder and behind the knee bits of a rhino, and inspecting the horn… it was time for the vets to administer the reversal drug, and our rhinos got up with shaky legs for a few minutes before gathering their wits and bearings, and then trotted off into the bush all in much better condition that we found them in.

Club excel rhino notching 28 Club excel rhino notching 29 Club excel rhino notching 30


Club excel rhino notching 25 Club excel rhino notching 20

If any of you out there want to get involved with any conservation work like this in the park, please contact us and we can arrange something for you on your next stay here at Tuningi !!

Well…. That’s it for now….

Best regards,

Gavin and the T-Team.

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