Alien Vegetation Report Jan-Jun 2017

The control of alien vegetation is one of the important parts of reserve maintenance and needs a lot of attention. Invasive or alien vegetation is a big threat to the natural vegetation because it competes for the same limited resources. These species usually don’t have natural predators, so they can be more successful than indigenous species. The main invasive species we are dealing with on Olifants West Nature Reserve are sweet prickly pears (Opuntia ficus-indica), queen of the night (Cereus jamacaru) and cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium). The prickly pears and the queen of the nights occur all over the reserve, whereas the cocklebur occur only in the drainages and along the river. Another alien species that also occurs on the reserve is the climbing harrisia (Harrisia balansae) and these are also found in any type of terrain. 

There are three main ways to treat alien vegetation: mechanical, biological and chemical. The two main treatment methods we use on Olifants West are chemical and biological as they are the most effective. 


Phytomas Report 2017

Each September, Olifants West Nature Reserve conducts grass surveys so that the ecological grazing capacity of the reserve can be calculated. The carrying capacity of a region is not constant over time, due to the variation in rainfall annually, and the grazing pressure from animals. This is a valuable tool to assess and monitor the health of the ecology. 

The veld condition score and the grazing capacity of the reserve is still well bellow our average, as a result of the 2016 drought. There has been a vast improvement in the primary production since the rains recorded in the 2016 / 2017 rain season and the reduction in grazer numbers, attributed to predation and emigration. 

At our current state, we should be happy that the animal pressure has been reduced as this will facilitate faster recovery of the vegetation. 



Phytomas Report 2015

Each September, our researchers conduct a survey on the availability and moisture content of the grass in our reserve. Compared with last year, the 2015 survey found a significant decrease that correlates with the very low rainfall in the last season.



The Impact of Anthropogenic Activity on Animal Distribution and Density

It is important to understand species distribution, density and diversity in order to properly allocate hunting permits, as well as to understand predator-prey dynamics, resource use, habitat selection, and historical trends in a reserve. Not only does hunting affect wildlife in the reserve, but other human activities can have an impact as well. It is imperative to determine the severity of that relationship and this study intends to quantify it.


Rhino Conservation Project

African rhinos are under extreme threat of extinction due to an increase in illicit demand for rhino horn.  In 2013, 954+ rhinos were brutally killed. Often the horn is hacked off by callous poachers with a machete while the animal is immobilised and fully aware of what is happening to it and the rhino suffers an unimaginable agonising slow death.  The aim of this project is to provide a holistic approach that rhino hosting communities can implement to reduce the vulnerability of poaching incidence.  The project was developed through a coalition of public and private partnerships, including government agencies, private game reserves, universities and NGOs located in the Greater Kruger National Park.  The multi-faceted approach relies on active protective services (boots on the ground), integration of technology in traditionally low tech strategies, academic research targeting the scholar practitioner and community education and upliftment opportunities.

This three-year project promotes three primary strategies including 1) an anti-poaching plan that deploys Environmental Monitors, an armed response force, a sniffer and tracking K-9 unit, drone with nighttime video technology, and cellular aided camera traps placed in strategic high risk areas; 2) university research specialising in both environmental and social sciences and, when appropriate, a blending of the two disciplines to develop effective best practices in human-megaherbivore conflict; and 3) the development of an effective regional communications and intelligence system among game reserve managers and law enforcement agencies for increased sharing of information related to threats.