With the dawn of 2015, Marloth Park awoke to a devastated eco system and a pending environmental disaster. The primary reason for this is extended periods of over stocking and property owner interference and obstruction in the 2014 game reduction program, resulting in its termination. A great deal of our attention during the year was therefore on the 2015 game removal program and the required success of this operation.
The Honorary Ranger organisation grew and acquired a number of new members during the year. This is important for the future wellbeing of the organisation and the success of our contribution. I would like to thank the committee for their support and efforts during the year along with the whole HR team for your wonderful contribution. Besides some of our physically demanding activities we also managed to once again present a very successful Winter Fair which again set records on stall holder numbers and final earnings. This remains our major fund raising activity and its continued success is therefore important to funding our projects. My term as Chief Honorary Ranger ends with this meeting and I would like to wish the new elected committee and the appointed Chair much success and all the very best for 2016.
Marloth Park has grown substantially over the past ten years. This has resulted in more homes, more visitors, more business activity and more permanent residents. Not only is the increasing human footprint obvious but also more people are feeling the need to make some form of contribution in a township which lacks management resources. The result of this is the formation of various informal organisations from conservation to law enforcement. This may have some positive outcome but may also present challenges in the future due to the lack of coordination and sound management practices.
Early in 2015 Marloth Park was confronted with the possibility of prospecting but fortunately the community response resulted in assurances from the company involved that this would be restricted to a region south of the N4. The Marloth Park Property Owners Association also commissioned Ralf Kalwa to undertake an updated conservation management plan for Marloth Park. Although this report was comprehensive in ecology assessment, rehabilitation strategies and management recommendations, I am unsure at this point if NKLM have officially adopted the report. Without some formal implementation Marloth Park will continue with serious environmental rehabilitation challenges.
Our work parties began in 2015 with bridge building and the removal of reeds in front of the Jackalberry Bird Hide. We also purchased a clearing machine in preparation for our bush encroachment project in Lionspruit. A tremendous effort was put in by the team in reducing encroachment in some of the northern sections of Lionspruit. With the lack of summer rainfall it is too early to see the impact of this work. During late winter our bush encroachment project moved into Marloth Park and was directed at some of the Parkland along Seekoei Road. The rehabilitation program recommends that sixty per cent of the Sickle bush should be removed in Marloth Park. This will be a long term project. Some of our other work party activities included clearing around benches and the protection of parkland from vehicle damage. Training activities included a session on alien vegetation done by Joce for members of our team and training on the use of our fire fighting unit and hydrant access in preparation for the fire season. The Honorary Rangers also financed, refurbished and repositioned the Municipal regulations sign at gate two and also assisted Philip Minnaar with material donated by Lafarge Quarry for upgrading of the river road.
Thanks to the motivational efforts of Joce Gordon and her relationship with the “Working for Water” management team in Kruger, we once again received tremendous support from these teams throughout the year. This began with the substantial pulling of Parthenium early in the year. There were times when we had up to five teams in Marloth Park and Lionspruit working on the control of our alien plant problem. A bio control team from ARC and DEA also assisted with the release of three agents at the Parthenium control area on the corner of Crocodile and Volstruis. The assistance of the WFW organisation has again been secured for 2016 and the coordination of their activities will be managed by Diana van Rensburg.
In March a meeting was called by the NKLM Conservation Manager with Forum members, Mpumalanga Parks, Veterinary Services and Mauricedale, to agree on the planning, animal removal numbers and procedure for the game reduction program. It was evident at this meeting that most parties preferred the capture and removal approach. I stated quite clearly at this meeting that the Honorary Rangers did not support the capture of Impala as they have never been caught here before and the potential for failure was immense. It was agreed that Wildlife Vets would be contracted to manage the game capture operation. I went to great lengths to familiarise Ge’ran Raath with the conditions in Marloth Park with the hope that he would recommend the culling of Impala. I was unsuccessful and a great deal of time was lost before the contractor conceded that they could not catch the impala. The culling program commenced and continued into November.
Our social media activities have gone well this year and I thank Andrew Hudson and John Webb for their contribution and efforts. Andrew made a change to our hosting company and continues to look for solutions to bulk email distribution of our articles. John has done some very informative articles on snakes for our Facebook page. The success of these sites is dependent on our support. The Honorary Rangers have just published a new full colour brochure on alien and suggested plants for Marloth Park along with tips and advice. I would like to thank Genie Retief and Joce Gordon for all their hard work in the design, layout and information provided for this brochure. I also thank Linda Benade for her contribution in managing our alien plant displays. As part of the rehabilitation process we have packaged and distributed a blend of wild grass seed through the local stores and directly to property owners. We hope for late summer rains to assist with the success of this project.
Genie Retief continues to host our monthly bird walk and I thank her for her dedication and expertise in making this such an enjoyable activity throughout the year. I also thank Andre Engelbrecht for the bush “Walk and Talks” conducted in the first half of the year. Andre has retired from this activity and we miss his wealth of knowledge.
Our annual ground game count was a great success in September and made a contribution towards highlighting the number of impala remaining after the substantial culling operation. We thank the Conservation Manager for reacting to this and extending the cull for a few more weeks. We also thank all those from our team and the community who assisted on the day, along with the lodges and individuals who provided the vehicles.
The proposed application to move the land fill site was withdrawn, however this had a positive outcome with the commitment from the Municipal Manager that the rehabilitation to a transit site will commence in July 2016. We look forward to an improvement in this regard.
If the current dry conditions persist and there is no major recovery of our veld before the onset of winter 2016, I would like to urge all conservation bodies along with the Conservation Manager, to seriously consider the early removal of the majority of our animals.
Chief Honorary Ranger