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An Update from Wildlands

Dear Sean, The Somkhanda rhino population ended off 2016, and started 2017 on a very good note. The rhino on Somkhanda are doing very well despite ongoing poaching pressure in KwaZulu Natal and the intense drought in the region. This is largely due to the continued efforts of our monitoring and anti-poaching teams on the reserve, and we can happily boast a zero poaching rate for 2016. More importantly, we had one white rhino birth and two black rhino births in 2016, and 2017 has started off well with another white rhino calf being born. Our head rhino monitor, Zama, named the newborn Umasingana, as he is a January baby.

The first photos of Umasingana – the new born white rhino bull born to Ubomi.   Photo credit: Wildlife Act’s Pippa Orpen.

The wild dog pack on Somkhanda is also doing well. In the last monthly monitoring report, the monitoring team confirmed that there were seven wild dogs in the pack roaming Somkhanda. The pack members include: five males (two adult and three sub-adult), and two females (one adult and one sub-adult). In September one of the male wild dogs injured his eye, after which he became noticeably less possessive of the females. While his eye was healing, a couple of the other males were particularly aggressive towards him, pushing him away from kills, and keeping him on the outskirts of the pack. Luckily, in November, the monitors reported that his eye looked to have healed and that he was acting more and more confident around the pack. During November, the monitors noticed that one of the sub-adult females was no longer with the pack. The pack searched the Majuba, Scotia and Ngome areas of the reserve, calling for her, with no response. A few days later, one of the monitors had a visual of two wild dogs moving north along the main road; the one’s tail markings suggesting that it was the missing sub-adult female. However, the female has not returned to the pack, and as she is an un-collared sub-adult, she is not easily trackable. This suggests that she has dispersed from the pack. Wild dogs disperse from the pack in order to avoid inbreeding and competition for mating opportunities. They will leave the pack as all female or all male groups that join unrelated, opposite-sex groups in order to form new packs. This is a natural and necessary process

From August to December the Wildlife ACT monitoring team spent a total of 1 445.23 hours in the field, covering 14 312 km, observing and monitoring the well-being and locations of the priority species in Somkhanda Game Reserve.

Hope is still roaming in the same area, and does not tend to leave it that much. The area that he is in has a good water supply, good grass as well as females around him. In addition, the competition with other bulls is not that high there.

Maddi continues to thrive. She has been spending a lot of time around her mom. If she does move away it will be only for short period before she goes back again. She will slowly start becoming more and more independent as she gets older.

We are so grateful that the rhino population at Somkhanda continues to grow, and for all of the support we receive to ensure their ongoing protection. The support that it is received through the Adopt a Rhino programme is a vital part of this. Kind regards The Wildlands Team