Annual Game Count - Sept 2013

In order to sustainably manage a reserve long term, accurate game counts are essential for understanding population trends and reserves carrying capacity. Game counts provide valuable information on population demographics, such as sex structure and breeding success, which can assist management with harvesting quotas for a given year. However, it is important to understand that many variables impact the carrying capacity of a reserve, such as climate, precipitation, soil type, herbivore interaction, competition, disease, etc.  For example, droughts can cause populations to crash, through predation and disease, whilst in high rainfall years, the opposite often occurs.

Along with the rest of the Balule Nature Reserve, OWNR conducted its annual game count surveys in September 2013.  Click here for the FULL REPORT

Phytomass Collection and Analysis 2013

Phytomass is defined as the above-ground component of grass. Its quantity across the reserve is integral in correlating grazer numbers and primary production as well as assisting with fire management. The arid savannah requires approximately 2 500kg of phytomass per hectare to sustain an ecologically viable fire. Too much phytomass will result in fires that are too hot and therefore destructive. Too little phytomass will result in cool fires that will perpetuate bush encroachment.

Volume of phytomass across the reserve has been recorded since 2009 and using this data-set it is possible to follow the trend in phytomass volume over the 5-year period. From 2009 to 2012 an overall increase in phytomass volume has been seen and may be attributed to recovery from excessive grazing regimes and high rainfall. Phytomass volume may be looked at alongside grazer populations established in the annual game counts and rainfall, as these factors are known to influence primary production. 


Wildlife Utilisation of Artificial Waterholes and the Effects on Habitat Integrity

We are still investigating the consequences of the plethora of waterholes on our landscape in OWNR. The University of South Africa is a partner to the Balule Research Facility and has appointed Eilidh Smith (MSc student) to continue our investigations that were initiated last year and presented at the Kruger Science Network Meeting. This is a short summary of the early results. No conclusions can be generated yet as we still have many months of work ahead!

We are hoping to demonstrate the effects of the different types of waterholes on OWNR as well as if there have been negative impacts associated with the numerous waterholes available to animals.

Olifants West Vegetation Survey 2011-2013

Transfrontier Africa

Patrick O’Connor; Research Technician: OWNR

1.1 Objectives

The objective of the survey was to establish the grazing capacity of the Olifants West region, Balule Nature Reserve.  The information gathered is critical for management of the reserve, as trends in vegetation quality and, consequently, the impact on animals, can be monitored to determine what adaptive measures need to be taken. However, the Olifants West region is an open system, where animals can move freely during difficult times. This means that management can overlook measures, such as culling or translocation of animals.