iSimangaliso’s battle

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iSimangaliso wildlife drink from a watering hole at the uMkhuze kuMasinga Hide.
iSimangaliso wildlife drink from a watering hole at the uMkhuze kuMasinga Hide.
iSimangaliso

Pietermaritzburg - As KwaZulu-Natal experiences the most crippling drought in 23 years, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is using knowledge gained from past droughts to curb its effect.

With over 30 000 cattle lost across the province due to the extreme drought, iSimangaliso is managing the drought in a way that has somewhat minimised the negative effects on the park.

In a press statement the park’s director Andrew Zaloumis said the park had “learnt from previous droughts, and had been able to implement a number of interventions”.

“While iSimangaliso is experiencing the lowest recorded rainfall in 65 years this year, the park has endured worse droughts — the most recent being from 2002 to 2009,” said Zaloumis.

“As a result of dedicated forward planning, the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso is currently in a better place than during previous droughts. Based on better science and understanding from over 100 years of conservation management and global warming, we have refined carrying capacities.”

Zaloumis said they had also been removing alien vegetation, which had helped in the growing of the natural vegetation in the park.

“We saw the possibility of a drought so we had the game capture earlier this year and have a good borehole system.”

He said the carrying capacities in uMkhuze had been set lower than the previous years, which he said was one of the reasons grazing still existed in the greater part of uMkhuze.

Zaloumis said should it become necessary, the translocation of rare and endangered species, such as rhino, could take place, but other than the interventions outlined above, animals will have to survive on their own.

“Returns for October and November show that 105 and 88 uMkhuze animals died respectively (0,8% of the total population). To visitors, this could look far higher, as sick or weakened animals often concentrate at and die near waterholes.”

He said rainfall in late November brought 40 mm of rain to the south of uMkhuze.

Yesterday afternoon he said he expected a “good downpour” last night.

“We must take some solace in that even after the most severe droughts and other natural disasters, the system has bounced back strongly in the past,” Zaloumis said in the statement.

Donations to the iSimangaliso’s Rare and Endangered Species Fund, which focuses on funding the direct costs of acquiring, monitoring, treating and relocating iSimangaliso’s animals, can be made by e-mailing: debbie@isimangaliso.com.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

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