By: Isaiah Banda – Head guide Ka’ingo Private Game Reserve
Countrywide in South Africa, and indeed in the southern part of Africa, there is a lot of talk about drought and its devastating effect on wildlife, agriculture and the economy.
Whilst this is undeniably true it is important to understand and recognize that the wildlife of Africa has evolved over eons of time and survived countless cycles both wet and dry.
Ka’ingo is a vast but beautiful 9,000 ha private game reserve, with viewpoints, kloofs, rock art paintings, and thirteen kilometers of Mokolo river running through the reserve. As such, this great open and mountainous ecosystem is well able to withstand the consequences of the dry period which we are currently experiencing. Animal’s movements are not confined and although they may have to travel further out of their favorite spots, they are able to move from one area to another to find suitable food and water. The reality is that many indigenous species of birds, mammals and insects thrive in dry conditions and game viewing is often extremely interesting.
Predators, for example, are likely to thrive as prey species weaken and there is the chance that some of our most endangered predators could be given the chance to bounce back at this time. As the bush thins out, it becomes more suitable for cheetah and this resultant opening up makes it easier for them to hunt and to scan for potential dangers.
It is possible too that black backed jackal could thrive in a similar manner. It is in the winter months around June that black backed jackal den and it seems that they do so specifically to coincide with the drier months. Less cover makes it far easier for them to forage and scavenges food. The thinned bush also helps them to spot big predators such as lions that actively hunt and kill any competition to them.
We have come out of a cycle of about ten years of above average rainfall and we have to remember that thicker bush lasting into the winter months can have ramifications that we are not aware of.
Animals are also by nature incredibly resilient and although the amount and quality of food is depleted they can adjust their diets where necessary. For example, a buffalo, which is thought to be strictly a grazer, does in fact, begin to browse near the end of winter or in drought conditions, to supplement what is missing in their diets.
The low rainfall cycles also favour the short grass feeders like wildebeest, which thrive and multiply whilst the improved visibility is likely to result in more unique sightings such as ant bear, civet, pangolin and the like. In this area, currently, the density of general game such as impala is also above the carrying capacity of the land and drought serves as nature’s way of removing the weak from the population and re-establishing a balance in the environment.
In nature there are no winners or losers, just consequences. On the robust landscapes of Ka’ingo, there will always be the consequences of wet and dry cycles which impact the theatre and drama of the safari experience making it an ever changing rich tapestry of adventure.
Nature has often been described as intelligent, able to adapt to the ever-changing patterns. So as this year’s winter season approaches we don’t talk of the “devastation of drought”. Instead we will watch with fascination at the unfolding of nature’s master plan and witness the different ways in which animals survive and adapt, borne out of eons of evolution whether the cycle is wet or dry or something in between.
Our advice to the traveler is, join us this season on game drive where you can expect the unexpected on your daily expeditions across Ka’ingo’s indigenous open and mountainous landscape ecosystem.
Come, game drive with us as we witness the process. In the natural order of things wild animals, which have stood the test of time, will no doubt find ways to ensure the continuation of the species rather than the survival of the individual.
That’s all I have for you for this month.
From Isaiah Banda & Ka’ingo team