A Trip to a Game Reserve in South Africa.

At lunch on the 20th August, Victoria Halford gave an account of her trip to South Africa. We made a contribution Victoriatowards her costs and on her return she gave us this account.

After obtaining a degree in Biology, Victoria went as a research assistant on behalf of Operation Wallacea, a research and conservation organisation, to the Dinokeng Reserve near Pretoria in South Africa. Dinokeng is a relatively new reserve but still manages to have the Big 5 animals in its reserve -buffalo Lions, Buffalo, Rhino, Elephants and Leopards. The object of Victoria's research was to confirm the presence of the Leopards and to find out where they were concentrated and how they moved around. The research was also concerned with selecting good habitats for them.

Victoria was there for three weeks and described how initially her liongroup spent two days of intensive study learning the birds and their calls and how to recognise all the mamals in the reserve. She then put this knowledge to use in her research looking for good places for the leopards. By standing and listening to the bird calls, she could identify the density of the bird life and hence the ticks and insects on which they fed. This in turn gave an indication of the density of antelope and other animals that were potential prey for the leopards.

elephantHer group also drove through sections of the park logging all the animals they saw - again to establish what prey there was for the leopards. At other times they used camera traps and searched for paw prints and other signs of the leopards. The results of their zebrastudy were then passed to the managers of the reserve. They found two concentrations of leopards at opposite ends of the park and their research into the flora and fauna will help the managers to create other suitable areas for the leopards.

After 3 weeks of intensive research the team were able to let their hair down on the coast as just tourists. However, even here, there was work in the background as work also needs to be done on the marine reserve and some of the team's observation on vacation may help to finalise this study.

An excellent talk on a most interesting subject and the applause at the end said it all !!