International Vulture Awareness Day

The Committee has spoken -International Vulture Awareness Day

Every year on the first Saturday of September, bird conservationists worldwide band together for International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) in order to raise awareness about this ecologically vital group of birds. Out of the 23 different species worldwide, 14 of these are either threatened or endangered due to human impact and our misunderstanding of these alien looking avians.

Vultures are the “clean-up” crew of nature fulfilling a very specific niche in the web of life. Found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, vultures play a unique role in preventing the spread of life threatening diseases, such as anthrax , rabies and cholera, by feeding on carrion (dead animal matter) and even rotting meat that could be filled with bacteria dangerous to other animals. These large raptors have incredible eyesight and can spot a 6cm object from a height of 1km above the ground. They are a social bird which pair bond and will work cooperatively in spotting a meal and enjoy their find together, this group is collectively called a committee.

On IVAD, many conservation groups in South Africa will put out an animal carcass in order to attract vultures to a specific location where a count will take place. This count helps to keep a record of vulture numbers locally and internationally in the efforts to save this unique and important bird. Together with the various programmes aimed at increasing vulture numbers, IVAD acts as a unique education tool changing the mind sets of individuals regarding the negative associations with vultures.

Some of the main threats to vultures in South Africa are traditional belief systems and non-eco-friendly farming methods. Beliefs dictating that vultures are symbolic of death and are able to predict the future has led to the poaching of these raptors for the procuring of the head to predict lottery numbers and death. Farmers who use toxic digestible tick repellents for livestock or poisons to deter pest species from crops can indirectly affect hundreds of vultures who feed off the carcasses of these animals.

By monitoring vulture numbers and the movements of these incredible birds, we are able to establish safe breeding areas and continue to try and attract them to protected zones where they will not be threatened. This year IVAD took place on 6th September and here at Amakhosi we enlisted the help of our rangers and guests to assist us in counting, to attract the birds we along with many others put out a carcass to entice them to visit us, with already full bellies we managed to count only 4, 1 lappet face and 3 white back vultures, which is not too bad considering that last year they feasted at our neighbours !

We want to thank all the associations that have taken this cause to heart and long may they continue the good work.

To next year…The Amakhosi Ranger Team

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy at the top?? By Ranger Nick Hindson

 

Easy at the top? by Ranger Nick Hindson

To eat or not to eat, something that Shakespeare never said. Now it’s fairly straight forward, if you are hungry you eat, and if not, then you don’t. Though something happened recently that made me question this ‘pearl of wisdom’.

Not long to ago, my guests and I,  were privileged to witness our two lionesses kill a male wildebeest. We saw pretty much the whole thing, the stalk, the chase, heard the take down, and then saw the suffocation. Awesome. Then.

The lioness that killed the wildebeest then got up and left…….It’s like driving to the KFC, waiting in the queue, placing your order and then walking out. You go to all this effort then get bored.

So there went 50 percent of the lion viewing for the morning. Anyway, a short while later, one of my guests asked where the male was, and I remember saying that he was more than likely somewhere else, and probably sleeping, and also probably waiting for the ladies to bring him the food.

“What an awesome life that is” he said……..wait, rewind….what. I would not want to be a male lion, even if you paid me a million rand (and if I was a male lion, what the hell would I do with a million bucks. I can’t exactly put a deposit down on a new den or anything, and can you imagine, all my lionesses would spend it on getting their nails done, or getting a new set of furs. Madness).

Now contrary to popular belief, lions do NOT have easy lives. For the first 2 or 3 years, everything goes well. They are part of the pride, mom or moms bring home the food, and dad fights with the neighbours, sorted. Then. You are forced to leave the pride, and this isn’t peaceful. There’s much anger. I guess it’s like crashing your dads vintage motorcycle and then trying to blame it on the cat….you’re going to get a beating.

So you are alone, or if you’re lucky you have a brother with you, and then spend the next few years trying to avoid getting beaten up by the neighbours that your dad fought with until you are older enough to fight for your own pride.

Now assuming you win the first fight, you then get the privilege of fighting with the next set of  neighbours for about four years, before you are finally overthrown. And once this has happened, you not going to be around for much longer, a year or two if you’re lucky.

So no, I do not want to be a lion. And getting back to the wildebeest, you have to chase your food, which has a good chance of getting away, why do you want to do this, no.

I would prefer to be a herbivore, all you have to do is eat grass or leaves, both of which can’t get away from you. So for all those of you who want to a lion because it’s an easy life, be a herbivore, it’s even easier.

Easy at the bottom.

 

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A First, by Ranger Dylan!

A First, by Ranger Dylan!

It was an unusually warm morning for this time of year, and after dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning I was in my game viewer and out in the bush with my trusty Stanley coffee mug and camera. I decided it was to be a birding morning, but had to wait for the golden glow of the rising sun to entice them to start their morning singing; at 6:00 am however, there was only the faint glow of dawn in the sky, and so I came across a breeding herd of Impala who seemed much less skittish than all the other times I had encountered them; so I turned off my vehicle and enjoyed my coffee while watching them calmly grazing, with the dominant male keeping close watch over his harem, making sure they dare not stray with bellowing calls and grunts. Then, without the faintest sound or disturbance, all the Impala simultaneously lifted their heads and stared in the same direction, concentrating like a collective consciousness, towards something behind my vehicle; “Strange”, I thought, nothing I had done would’ve caused this unison stare – and then it started – that sound one can only experience in Africa; the loud, bellowing roars of the male African Lion. After spilling half of my coffee all over my lap, I nearly broke my neck turning around to see the silhouette of the King of the Plains, telling all who would listen that he was here. I started my trusty Land cruiser and turned around to get a closer glimpse, but that glimpse turned out to be quite the story unfolding; low and behold, all three of our lions were together. Our male was chasing one of our females whom he hadn’t really seen since her release from our boma, and it wasn’t innocent and inquisitive either – he was chasing her with a sort of aggression that he would show a trespasser, and off they ran into the bush, female bolting like an Olympic runner and him in tow. Calmly, our other female (The Olympians’ sister) watched this race unfold, and slowly made her way through the bush. “Oh no” I thought, “I hope she got away.” I followed the lioness, stopping every now-and-then when she called for her sister with soft, low rumbling calls before moving on. As this was to be a birding drive, I had no rifle, but the urge to follow these majestic cats outweighed my personal safety – luckily for us, our animals are true gems; I have only once needed to cock my rifle at an animal, and this sufficed as fair warning of what could possibly follow. She eventually lay behind a small bush and I parked about 5 meters from her, her head turning and looking at me as though to acknowledge my presence, but not worried by it, before turning to look in front of her. “Amazing!” I thought, I was just another inedible animal to her, all rubber and metal, and so I watched her and drank what was left of my coffee, wondering where the male and the Olympian had dashed off to. Then, suddenly, something which I could not pinpoint caught the lying lioness’ attention, and immediately she stood into a crouch, eyes dilated and intense, and she slowly edged forwards; now that stance is indicative of these magnificent hunters, and I knew then and there that she had found what she wanted for breakfast. I picked up my radio in vain, hoping that someone would hear my transmission: “Stations, I am about to see a lion kill”, but no one answered my excited call. She slowly edged forward, oblivious to my vehicles loud and clattering sounds as I edged forward, and then WHAM!, she pounced. I heard Blue Wildebeest snort and scramble, I followed the sounds with my eyes and saw a dust cloud then, long legs with hooves flying through the air followed by the unmistakeable sound of an animal in distress, calling out for the last time. All of this couldn’t have taken longer than 5 seconds, and then it was done. The death bellows stopped; the female lioness had bitten down on her preys face, covering mouth and nose, slowly suffocating it. I drove my vehicle into the bush, trying to get close, and in the corner of my eye I caught that shape that I had seen earlier – the male had reappeared, chasing off any would-be uninvited guests to his breakfast, he turned and looked me directly in my eyes and started towards me. “Oh flip…” I thought, “Here comes trouble,” but he took a few steps and then turned away, as if to imply that I was actually an invited guest. My heart was already racing from watching the scene unfold, but in that moment I went ice cold, as if it were winter in my veins. “Stations, she has taken down a Blue Wildebeest, her and male are now stationary, feeding.” I tried the radio one more time, but to no avail. After watching for about ten minutes, I thought “people need to see this!”, turned my vehicle on and went back to the lodge to fetch everyone I could find. We travelled back to the breakfast table and watched both lions eat their fill, before leaving what seemed to be a substantial amount of meat behind and left. This was my first successful lion kill, and to say it was a highlight is an understatement – that day I saw exactly why Africa’s largest cat is the King (or Queen) of the Savannah Plains; their elegance in the chase, their sheer power and their determination cannot be firsted by any other animal in Africa. And so my respect of the species is cemented, an experience such as this is awe inspiring and definitely worth seeing.

– By Ranger  Dylan Dempsey 

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Dust Bath anyone?

 

Hornbills have always been one of my favorite birds. With their long, banana like beaks, constant “tocking” display and smooth elegant flight pattern. I always find myself totally intrigued by these feathered critters. Recently I was fortunate enough to come across two southern yellow billed hornbills perched perfectly next to our main access road. It was a typically beautiful summer afternoon and I had nowhere else to be, but in the Bush (yes we have perfect jobs), so I switched off my engine and waited for the two birds to start doing something typically Hornbillish (yes, there is so such word). One bird flew down in front of the vehicle and began to bath, what’s fascinating about this is – there is no water involved. It uses dust to bath and the behavior is simply known as “dust Bathing”. I watched the two take it in turns to swoop down and shake themselves about, covering themselves in the dusty, fine “puddle” of sand. Apparently this will suffocate any mites and fleas and in time vigorous shaking helps to disclose the ecto parasites.

Dust to bath  – ironic, effective and wonderful to see.

By Ranger Kevin

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Stay healthy Amakhosi style! by Chef Lauren

 

Every year millions of people all over the world celebrate the new year by adopting an age old tradition of making some  ”New Year’s resolutions” .  Here at Amakhosi we are no different, one of the most popular resolutions is, to  eat healthy and in the hopes loose weight!  I often get asked about healthy recipes so have decided to share our popular Amakhosi health bread with you.  So here goes and give it a try!

Amakhosi Health Bread Recipe

2 cups nutty wheat/brown bread flour

10 ml bicarbonate of soda

5 ml salt

60ml honey

60ml olive oil

2 cups plain yoghurt/ maas/ buttermilk

1 cup of your liking mixture (oats, seeds, nuts, muesli, cereal, coconut, dried fruits)

 Preheat the oven to 160ͦC.

Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into loaf tin and bake for 1 hour.

 Hint:  Measure the olive oil first then the honey in the same measuring cup, so the honey will not stick to the cup.

Enjoy .. stay healthy and hope to see you soon at the lodge!

Regards

Lauren

 

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