REPORT ON RALF KALWA’S PRESENTATION TO PROPERTY OWNERS
SAT 22 NOVEMBER AT 10H00 IN MUNICIPAL OFFICE GARDEN.
Attendance approximately 150
1. Tony Hayman gave a brief background speech, introduced Ralf and welcomed everyone. Opened with prayer.
2. Ralf said that a management plan could be tailor-made for Marloth Park but said that it all depended on what property owners wanted. He challenged everyone to make sure of WHAT THEY WANT FOR M.P. He gave examples: Do we want a zoo, a game farm where you feed and breed with a view to selling or a nature reserve? When the Property Owners have reached a decision as to what it is they want, then he will be briefed and will put forward his action plan to us to achieve this objective.
3. He then proceeded to outline Conservation and important details in the preserving of the ecology. He used the KNP as his example. He pointed out that any mistake KNP makes would have to be x100 for us as it would have more impact as we are so small in comparison.
There are 4 rainfall areas. South to Skukuza 600-650mm. We would fall into this area. KNP is 200 km from South to North. (He went on to describe the other areas which don’t affect us – getting drier as you go north).
The composition of the various soil types. KNP has 5 soil types. (1) West side of KNP Granite. From Malelane upwards = sandy soil. Loses its mineral content easily. Well drained. Leached. Nutrient content poor. Get animals there but less. (2)Basalt Nutrient rich soils – grasses more palatable. Crocodile Bridge to Mondozi Dam.
(3) Reudite. (Red Rock) Rocky area. Lebombo Mountains. (4) Gabbro Belt. Afsaal area – big herds. Same characteristics as Basalt area – clay soil. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick used this area on his trips to Delagoa Bay. (5) Sandstone. North of Afsaal to Skukuza. Clay, Mud, Stone and Shale.
Put water points on the granite areas to relieve the pressure on the Basalt regions.
Change in vegetation is caused by weather as well as soil type. There are 35 different landscapes in the KNP. Ecologists manage the landscapes per the ecology of that area. Typology (Undulating or not). Aspect (e.g. east facing gets more sunlight etc.). Slope – causes yet more changes. Ecologists work with nature not against it.
The 35 landscapes give you the species you can have.
Type 1. Animals that can change the habitat. Elephant, Buffalo, White Rhino, Hippo and even Zebra have a direct impact on the habitat. Zebra eat medium and long grass down to short grass. They have a fast digestion system.
Type 2. Sensitive feeders. Sable, Roan, Hartebees, Tsessebe. Feed on long grasses. Hide their calves in the long grasses.
Type 3. Short grass feeders/Mixed feeders. Impala and Wildebeest.
These can destroy the ground so that it will take 40 – 50 years to recover. Good for browsers like kudu and black rhino?
As animals can destroy the veld, they have to be managed.
To simplify the management of the veld, the grasses can be divided into: STEAKS, HAMBURGHERS AND HOTDOGS. 65 to 70% of a game farm should ‘STEAK OR HAMBURGER’ Grasses.
a) ‘STEAK GRASSES’ are high in protein. All animals eat these grasses but Type 2 animals ONLY eat these grasses. Palatable and good fodder.
b) ‘HAMBURGER GRASSES’. These are palatable and good in early stages of growth but later in the season they become unpalatable and then grow tall. An example is thatch grass. Fire works well on these grasses. They have less protein and less leaves. Type 1 and Type 3 animals will eat these grasses but not Type 2,
c) ‘HOTDOG GRASSES’. These are poor grasses in terms of nutrition. They are ‘junk’ food. 80% of our grasses here are ‘hotdog’ grasses. They do bind the soil.
We need to reduce the game to let the grass recover.
There are 15 monitoring points in the veld and every year these should be monitored to check on the recovery of the veld.
The KNP has 7 major rivers. Since 1970 the rivers were showing signs of stress and as mining and forestry increased the rivers were reduced and showed quality problems. The rivers are the biggest problem in the KNP today. The “Water for Game” policy was started.
There were 550 sites drilled and windmills and troughs were installed. Animals had to walk just 5 km to reach a waterhole. In the 1970’s and 1980’s there was an aerial census taken every 3 months.
The Basalt plains north of Shingwedzi had new waterholes. Creating waterholes in this area of 100 000 ha caused 3000 zebra to move in and then 103 lions followed. Then there was an outbreak of Anthrax and the roan population crashed in 20 years due to competition for food, predation and disease. The 48 roan antelope that were left in the area were captured and moved to another area. Management realized that the waterholes had caused the problem by attracting the zebra to move into the area. They realized that waterholes in sensitive areas must close. The KNP then closed 120 of the 550 waterholes and 25 years later started releasing the roan antelope in the Shingwedzi again.
Fire is a “Good servant – but a bad master”. Fyn Bos, a Cape biome, cannot survive without fire (lightening). It cracks the seed. Acacia seeds are also hard and respond to burning. KNP started fire experiments in 1954. These were the oldest fire experiments in the world. Each block was 6 ha. April – August is the driest time and October – February is the wettest. In the experiment fire was used in all these months to see the effect on the veld. The next step was the grass and woody survey.
The best time to burn is in October just before the rains. The areas were to be burnt every 3 to 4 years. There are 2 criteria for burning. Firstly, the grasses must be 60 – 70% ‘Steak and Hamburger’ grasses. Secondly, there must be enough dead matter – 3 to 5 000kg per ha.
We need to look carefully at Marloth Park and our situation. 3,6% is impacted by development. The browse-line can be clearly seen. This is already a warning sign. All we need to do ourselves is to drive round and check the condition of the animal seen.
We need to take out enough animals not to have to reduce numbers again for 5 years. Then we need to monitor the recovery of the veld.