Karula Earth Hour

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries/territories officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

On Saturday 27 March, Earth Hour 2010 became the biggest Earth Hour ever. A record 128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.

Earth Hour 2011 took place on Saturday 26 March at 8:30PM (local time).  At Karula, being a contemporary, unique and innovative lodge, we decided that to pledge our support against climate change we would go one step further. From the time the guests returned from safari (7:00PM), throughout dinner and until they went to bed (8:00PM) there was not one single light burning in the lodge. This doubled the standard blackout to two hours. So as not to inconvenience our guests, we lined the pathways and dining area with twinkling lanterns which bathed the scene with wonderfully romantic flickering lights. Each one of our guests commented on what a wonderful idea it was and on what a statement it made for the environment. This was exactly our aim and even if only a few people were impacted by this gesture they will create a ripple effect reaching hundreds, thousands and eventually millions of people… Together we can make a difference.

Cameron Pearce – Head Ranger, Kapama Karula

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Stay out of the long grass

As guides we are always asked “How often do you see The Kill”. This is a tricky question to answer because the vegetation, time of day, species and mainly luck all play a role. Many times we are able to watch hunts, but to actually see one of Africa’s Big Cats grab hold of something is very rare. Usually we watch them stalk, allowing the animals plenty of room, and keep the noise and lights to a minimum. Fortunately the prey animals at Kapama are just as used to us as the cats are and don’t associate us with danger, so our impact on the success or failure of a hunt is minimal. Once they are in range or are in the perfect ambush spot it is just a question of patience. This can mean sitting for 2 minutes or half an hour until a sudden explosive rush and then a mad scramble through the bush by predator and prey at speeds that have to be seen to be believed. By the time we catch up with the action it is usually all over, one way or the other.

All that said, sometimes it just all comes together. So on a bright, clear summer afternoon we were able to watch a lioness stalk and kill a warthog in the open. The hapless warthog had no idea that its time was up and that the lioness had positioned herself perfectly ahead of its path. The grass was just so long after our summer rain that the Warthog simply did not see the lion until she walked within a meter of it. The lesson learned was that if you can’t see where you’re going, don’t go there!







These pictures are stills taken off a video, and though not clear, tell the story better.

Mike Kirkman-Senior Ranger,Kapama Karula

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Giraffes are very curious animals

Giraffes are very curious animals. and I guess it helps having a long neck. In this photo you will notice that they are all looking in the same direction. We found the female and two sub adult lions about 10m from them… and the giraffe’s had all been staring at them, the perfect give away.

By: Veruschka Jooste – River Lodge Ranger

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The Art of Tracking

It has been said that tracking is an unusual combination of disciplines.  How many other fields do you know of that combine science and the arts?  These are two fields which activate two completely different sides of the brain!  With such a challenging nature, more and more guides and trackers are becoming passionate about tracking and trying to broaden their knowledge of the subject.

You may question how tracking involves science and what its importance is.  The answer would be that people have been using tracking to find animals to hunt for millennia.  In those times it was a matter of survival for those people but in today’s modern times it has very relevant uses as well.  In terms of conservation, tracking can help conservationists to identify the numbers and activity of rare and seldom seen species.  Often, in what appears to be a completely lifeless landscape the ground will tell the tale of the previous night and day’s events.  The real benefit is that tracking is a completely unobtrusive way of obtaining information about animal behaviour where it is not affected by human presence.

Over the last few decades Louis Liebenberg (an authority on the subject) has developed a system for evaluating trackers based on different facets.  The first consists of track & sign identification.  Tracks and signs are circled by the evaluator and the trackers are asked to identify them.  Difficulty varies from level 1 (“Big 5”, hippo, giraffe, zebra etc) to level 2 (antelope, jackal etc) to level 3 (insects and birds).  Not only must the tracks be correctly identified but dung, scent markings, rubbing posts, etc will also be tested.  The second facet is a trailing component where the tracker must follow an animal’s trail over different substrates and use all of their senses and intuition to find the animal.

Last week two of our trackers, Vusi Nkosi, Collen Mokoena and I embarked on one of these assessments to attain some formal qualifications and perhaps learn some tricks from our very experienced evaluator, Colin Patrick.  As I had already attained track & sign level 3 before, Vusi and Collen spent these few days alone with Colin.  50 questions were asked and the lads only missed a handful of them.  At the end of the track & sign both Collen and Vusi came away with level 3, a fantastic effort!  The next few days were spent tracking white rhino as they leave a visible trail and are a good benchmark to assess all levels of trackers.  The trail must often be followed for hours before the evaluator is satisfied and all signs must be pointed out including resting spots, dung piles, rubbing posts.  The tracker’s senses and concentration must not waver throughout the exercise and he must also be aware of other animals in the vicinity and any sounds which might lead them to the animal.  Collen and I did fairly well on difficult trails and both attained high level 2’s (a few percent short of level 3).  Vusi put in a phenomenal performance and actually went all the way to an overall tracker level 3 qualification!

With the Karula safari team showing so much passion and talent for tracking the rest of our team cannot wait to attend the next assessment in April and show what they are capable of! Good luck to them in the next few weeks!

Cameron Pearce, Head Ranger – Kapama Karula

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A new addition to the raft

 Whilst passing John’s dam early this morning we spotted an adult female hippo whose body was mostly submerged with only her chin resting on the sand. As we were watching the hippo through our binoculars we noticed something small moving next to her right ear. Upon closer inspection to our delight we realised that it was a brand new baby hippo – probably only a few days old!!! A female hippopotamus gives birth to a single calf, about 8 months after mating with a male. A female generally only has one offspring every two years .Newborn hippos are relatively small, weighing from 55 to 120lbs, and are protected by their mothers, not only from crocodiles and lions, but from male hippos that, strangely enough do not bother them on land but only attack them in the water. Hippopotamus calves are born either on land or in shallow water. In water, the mother helps the newborn to the surface, later teaching it to swim. Giving birth in the water helps the mother to conserve her energy and reduces the chances of the young becoming a victim of an animal on land. They generally suckle milk from their mothers while underwater. In the water, young ones are often seen resting their heads, or standing, on an adult’s back, usually their mother’s, because the effort to keep afloat tires them too much. Until a calf is strong enough to walk far, the mother leaves it with other females to babysit when she goes to feed. Young hippos can only stay under the water for about half a minute, but adults can stay submerged for up to 6 minutes. Young hippos can suckle under water by taking a deep breath, closing their nostrils and ears and wrapping their tongue lightly around the teat to suck. This procedure must be instinctive, because newborns suckle the same way on land. A young hippo begins to eat grass at 3 weeks, but its mother continues to suckle it for about a year. My guests noticed a red substance on the skin of the adult female. Many guests have heard the myth that hippos sweat blood. This is untrue. Hippos often bask on the shoreline and secrete an oily red substance. This liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs. Since the mother Hippo often needs to be in water that is too deep for her young, you will see them riding on her back. If she stays in shallow water then the sunlight will be able to dry her skin and to sunburn. While Hippos are known to be highly aggressive and loners, the mothers are very good caregivers. They offer guidance, interaction, and learning so that their young can be strong and healthy as they mature. We look forward to monitoring the progress of our new hippo over the coming months!!!!!!

Sarah-Estelle Sangster-Ranger,Kapama Karula

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