Kruger National Park

The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The bond between man and man’s best friend, the canine, is a love story for the ages. While we appreciate our companions and their unwavering love within our homes, the Kruger Park has their own companions and guardians: The Kruger Park “Game Changers”. This elite K-9 Unit specialises in the tracking and apprehension of poachers and smugglers across the Park.

The Kruger National Park is home to a number of threatened species, whose latest predators (poachers) have had an advantage over anti-poaching efforts until the recent introduction of the K-9 unit, often referred to as the ‘game changers’. These canines are bred through existing, and proven, bloodlines to produce dogs that are the most efficient in the war against poaching. Different breeds have been selected for their inherent abilities: Beagles and Labradors are more commonly used to sniff out contraband in vehicles entering and leaving the park; a mixed breed of Bloodhound and Doberman are used as trackers and; the Belgian Shepherds, commonly referred to as Malinois, are trained to apprehend poachers. There are currently 55 dogs operating within the Kruger National Park, with an additional 20 located in national parks throughout South Africa.

Most notably increasing the success of anti-poaching efforts has been that of the tracking hounds. Traditionally, these working dogs had been led on-leash through sections of the Kruger by a handler, searching for scent; this process is slow-going and often poachers manage to escape. Recently, however, the introductions of hound groups have been deployed to manoeuvre off-leash. Dog handlers and rangers follow the dogs from a helicopter, where they can scour the surrounds for danger, while the pack races along a trail. It is remarkable to see these animals move uniformly through the veld on a trail, often shifting positions as lead runners fatigue. Once the team spots a threat the dogs are called off and collected to be safely removed from the scene, while Rangers assist in the arrest of poachers. Two distinct groups of dogs used in free-run chases can be noted: that of the South African Wildlife College and an import of Texan hounds. To date these K-9 Units have been deployed in over 70 chases, leading to the successful arrests of over 140 poachers; an increase of approximately 50% on poaching efforts.

Credit to ©Ravi Gajjar for Rhino Tears, as adapted from Africa Geographic

These canines can certainly be awarded the title of the Kruger Park ‘game changers’, then. While their work is incredible to witness, this job is also extremely high-risk. Not only are these dogs working hard, across large distances and under the African sun, where exhaustion and heat reign supreme; but the threat of dangerous wildlife and fire-power of poachers needs to be taken into consideration, as well. The hounds are trained by the best, but accidents and mishaps can occur at any time. The costs of running a successful operation of this magnitude also add up; dog breeding operations, satellite collars for the dogs, helicopters, training apparatus and a number of other elements require funding.


If you wish to get involved with this proven anti-poaching unit, please click here.

After experiencing the abilities of these hounds, it is no surprise that not only are the Kruger Park ‘game changers’ man’s best friend but the best friend and guardian of South Africa’s heritage: its wildlife.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, Kruger National Park, 0 comments
2019 Mining Application

2019 Mining Application

Ngwenya Lodge, Marloth Park, Lionspruit and a number of properties near Komatipoort on the southern border of the Kruger National Park have recently come face-to-face with Manzolwandle Investments; a company, based in Witbank, Mpumalanga, applying for a mining right spanning approximately 18 000ha near Komatipoort. Here’s everything we know about the 2019 mining application:

The mining right application spans 18 000ha.
  • Manzolwandle Investments has applied for four applications for the above-mentioned area; namely, a mining permit, a mining right and two prospecting applications. These applications were submitted on the 19th July 2018 and accepted for consideration by the Department of Mineral Resources on the 12th September 2018. Manzolwandle Investments then hired Singo Consulting (Pty) Ltd as their Environmental Assessment Practitioners to conduct their evaluations of the proposed mine’s impact on the area and surrounding environment.
  • In terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, applicants of this nature are required to notify all property owners and all interested and affected parties of the development. While Singo Consulting did, in fact, host a meeting on the 28th May 2019, only a handful of parties were invited to attend this public meeting and many affected parties, such as Ngwenya Lodge, were not informed of the gathering or the proposed open cast mine in the area. Ngwenya, the management team and managing agent, VRS, were informed of the application through other Interested and Affected Parties, such as Cindy Benson, from the Marloth Park Ratepayers Association.
  • Singo Consulting, in the meantime, has submitted their Scoping Report, which lays out their estimates on capital investments and highlights the details of the proposed mining project. This is an initial report and further information and research is required to determine the viability of such a project. Business Maverick conducted further research and discovered that this initial report makes no mention of the mine being within a protected area. Singo recently, on the 08th July 2019, also submitted their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Programme. According to IOL, this assessment states that 33 species will be affected by the coal mine and fails to mention the effect of the mine on the wetlands. Singo’s response is that mining will not take place within 100m of the wetlands, neglecting to state that any mining activity will still negatively impact the natural water resources in the area.
  • AfriForum has since started taking action to oppose the 2019 mining application near the Kruger National Park and Komatipoort. AfriForum’s lead on environmental affairs, Lambert de Klerk, submitted a letter to Manzolwandle Investments and Singo Consulting to outline the processes which have not been followed and to inform both parties that documentation concerning the proposed mine was not made public knowledge, as is necessary. Soon after, the EIA was published.
  • The Corridor Gazette, a local newspaper based in Mpumalanga, provided insight into a meeting held with the applicants, as well as Interested and Affected Parties on the 30th June 2019 at the Disaster Management Centre. Evidently, while certain studies were available to be viewed, the Environmental Impact Assessment had not been made public yet, even though a deadline for comment thereon was to be made before the 19th June, previously the 19th July. This raised yet another red flag regarding the 2019 mining application and due diligence not being followed for proper procedure. This gathering also brought to light that Singo and Manzolwandle have applied for water rights in the area, as well. This news further raises concern for the environment and communities in surrounding areas.
  • Shortly after the initial meeting between interested parties, Manzolwandle Investments and Singo Consulting, Corridor Gazette reported on the business chamber meeting held on the 04th of July, 2019, where over 300 interested parties gathered at Kambaku Golf Club to discuss the 2019 mining application. The Kruger Lowveld Chambers of Business and Tourism (KLCBT), as well as the Nkomanzi Local Tourism Organisation, co-hosted the meeting to outline the process of such an application and to inform meeting attendees of the impact the application would have on the area. The meeting also introduced Richard Spoor, an attorney and activist with a focus on South African human rights and environmental rights, who has agreed to assist Interested and Affected Parties.
  • Lowvelder, a second local newspaper in Mpumalanga, has also joined voices to shed light on the 2019 mining application, sharing their latest update on the 05th July 2019. Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai, an agricultural interest group, has voiced concerns on the proposed mine from a farming point-of-view. In Lowvelders article, Rossouw is quoted to have said, “This one-off yield [of the mine], as well as damage to the water table, ecology and tourism, should be weighed up against the current agricultural activities in the area, which can yield a growing income of more than R100 000 per hectare per year after deductions for an indefinite time.” Rossouw had also approached an independent mining consultant who informed him that the water requirements of the mine would affect irrigation farmers up to 300km along the Crocodile River, while dust particles from the open cast mine will affect crops; an industry that brings R100 000 per hectare per year for the economy.
  • Cindy Benson has been at the head of the fight against the 2019 mining application and continues to work with property owners and Interested and Affected Parties in the area to oppose the application. In an interview with IOL, Cindy voiced everyone’s concern over the water usage of the mine and its impact on the communities, agriculture and environment within the Kruger National Park, “The most import threat is the impact the coal mine will have on our water. The mine aims to produce approximately 20 million tonnes of high-grade coal per year, which means that the mine will use approximately 11.62 billion litres of water per year. The Kwena dam is at 40% and the Crocodile River catchment and its tributaries are disastrously low.” Other concerns include how the disruption caused by mining activities and noise pollution will affect the density of wildlife in the area, how the opencast mine will destroy and scar the biome, what impact this application will have on tourism and the workforce in the area, as well as the extent to which it will diminish agricultural activity. Many have joined voices to Benson’s over how Manzolwandle’s estimate of 150 jobs at the mine could possibly outweigh the jobs created and sustained by a number of tourism and hospitality, farming and other properties in the area.
  • To date, the only statement made by either Manzolwandle Investments, or Singo Consulting, was to IOL by Raymond Zulu, a director of the company applying for the mining right,

“They are drunk. It’s an unwinnable case. We are following all the correct procedures. They’re going to waste their money for nothing. The only people objecting are the white people. Some are not even staying in Marloth Park. They are in Australia, England, Joburg and America. Where we are going to start mining is about 12km away from Marloth Park. The people who are supporting us are the black people. They are hungry and we have to develop their lives and their places in the right manner. The Kruger is far from the place we are going to mine. I cannot talk about someone who cares about animals and doesn’t care about human beings.”

27 JULY 2019, 12:45PM / SHEREE BEGA / IOL

The Kruger National Park, Ngwenya Lodge, Marloth Park and others hold a special place in the hearts of visitors, as they arrive, each year, to experience the wonders of the South African bush. The town of Komatipoort and surrounding communities are reliant on the rich tourism and agricultural draw of the area for work and sustainable living conditions. As we await further news on the 2019 mining application, we will continue to do the best we can to play our part in preserving this rich ecosystem through environmental conservation.

Click here for more information on how this 2019 mining application will affect the Kruger National Park and surrounds.
Click here if you wish to register as an Interested and Affected Party.
Follow Ngwenya Lodge on Facebook to stay up-to-date with developments on this mine.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 0 comments
Painted Wolves of Africa

Painted Wolves of Africa

It’s a rare sight; the Wild Dog darts across open savanna, working with other pack members in a sort of choreographed frenzy. The hunt is synchronised, each dog takes its turn, chasing and taunting. Before long the pack has worn down their prey; where only moments ago excitement and loud calls could be heard across the landscape, now silence remains. “The lonely wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

How is it then, considering the skill and practised accomplishment of an event so well planned and executed, that the “painted wolves of Africa” could be facing extinction?


Reproduction

The African Wild Dog, or Lycaon pictus, is a social creature which lives in a pack of 10 to 40 members. These packs consist of an alpha male, an alpha female and several male and female subordinates, but the alpha female is the only bitch in the pack allowed to reproduce. All members of the pack provide and care for the young. 

Whelping can occur for the dominant female every 11 months, between April and September, with litters of approximately 11 pups. These pups reach sexual maturity at close to 2 years of age, but begin leaving the pack six months before that. Interesting to observe, Wild Dogs have a built-in characteristic to avoid inbreeding and will avoid opposite sex, biological family members even when in close proximity.

Threats

Considering that there are approximately 500 Wild Dogs in the Kruger National Park and a smaller pack in the Waterberg, and that they are considered to be the only viable breeding populations of Wild Dogs left in South Africa, these breeding habits make for poor population growth. Wild Dogs are also notoriously shy animals, who roam over large territories and rarely “claim” land to settle down. This means that habitat loss to farming and development of human infrastructure has largely affected migration patterns for the species; coupled with Lions and Hyenas as the Wild Dogs main enemies, who often kill pack members or steal their food sources and the future for these “painted wolves of Africa” begins to look rather bleak. The past 20 years have also seen their numbers drastically plummet as farmers continue to target and kill Wild Dog populations, out of a feeling of hate for their ruthless hunting methods, or concern for killing livestock. While the number of farmers killing Wild Dogs is on the decline, it is still a concern for the population. As highly sociable creatures, Wild Dogs are known to roam into developed areas and make contact with domestic dogs; this oft times results in illness, distemper and rabies within the susceptible species.

Conservation

It is estimated that less than 6 000 Wild Dogs remain in Africa, with approximately 1 500 mature individuals. Figures across sources fluctuate drastically, due to the difficulty in tracking the species as they roam across large territories. As a result of the declining number of Wild Dogs across Africa, many conservationists and conservation groups have banned together to find ways to re-populate the species and save our “painted wolves of Africa” from extinction.

Wildlife ACT is on a mission to preserve and re-establish the African Wild Dog population in Africa and, in 2017, assisted in sponsoring and releasing eight Wild Dogs into the Kruger National Park. Their projects include monitoring and studying small populations within various nature reserves.



The Endangered Wildlife Trust has sponsored a long-term project, which commenced in 1989, to study and understand these creatures and to use the knowledge gained to improve on strategies to manage the Wild Dog population. Along with this initiative, is their Waterberg Wild Dogs Conservation Project aimed at protecting this young population and landowners, game and the environment the pack calls home.


World Wildlife Fund for Nature is actively seeking ways to expand on Wild Dog’s territories to re-establish the habitat which was previously lost to them; this includes creating buffering zones between reserves and working with private game farms.






This incredible species represents yet another fragment of African heritage, slowly being eroded by human habitat disruption. The “painted wolves of Africa” are such a sight to behold and it would be tragic for their imprint to be lost to the world.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 0 comments
Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining in South Africa is old news; the African continent rests on some of the largest mineral deposits in the world and these deposits are where the country’s wealth lies. Economic studies show that South Africa’s mining activity has seen an incline in recent years and mining for minerals, such as coal, currently makes up over 10% of the economy’s exports. Ngwenya holds environmental conservation dear and all the recent mining-related activity got us to thinking; mining: what’s the impact?

To delve deeper into the industry and particularly to focus on the Ngwenya Lodge surrounding area, we first need to look into coal and its formation. Coal is formed over thousands of years, starting first as decomposable plant material, which is buried by sediment. The initial process results in peat; with the absence of oxygen, plant material cannot decompose completely and thus turns to a fibrous, watery substance. If peat is subjected to further pressure by being layered beneath sediments, lignite forms. Lignite is similar to peat in that traces of plants remain. The third stage of coal formation results in bituminous coal or “soft coal”. This form of coal is used across South Africa as a source of heat energy but is considered lower grade coal. Under extreme pressure and high temperatures, bituminous coal transforms into anthracite or “hard coal”. This form of coal is a high-grade source of heat energy and large deposits of it can be found in the area surrounding Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park.

It is estimated that approximately 77% of all South Africa’s energy is generated through coal, while 28% of all coal produced is exported.

WHILE AN ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE FOR THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF COAL MINING, THE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT, ESPECIALLY NEAR A HERITAGE SITE SUCH AS THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, FAR OUTWEIGHS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR SUCH A MINE


THE IMPACT

1.    Disruption

The formation of a mine so close to the Kruger National Park and in close proximity to farmland and communities will drastically affect the quality of life from the start. Mining machinery and equipment creates noise pollution and has an impact on the roads: increasing traffic, placing risk to other motorists and deteriorating the roads commonly used by tourists and locals. This disruption will affect the Kruger, as well. Wildlife is affected by the noise and air pollution, which could result in diminished numbers of some species that are reliant on the environment, while tourism may see a decline which affects the Park’s ability to maintain standards. Many of these effects last throughout the operation of the mine.

2.    Trauma

As the mine continues to operate the effects deepen. The quality of the air will continue to diminish, as potentially hazardous particles from the mines become airborne and affect the health of human and wildlife populations, alike. Physical destruction to the land can deteriorate the plant life in the area, causing a reduction in the ecosystems which give support to a number of species and which increases the risk of soil erosion. These disruptions not only affect the Park but could cause a collapse in infrastructure as ground movements’ increase.  Mines impact water as well; leaching of heavy metals into groundwater can affect human and animal water-sources, including irrigation for crops and the Crocodile River. Siltation can also occur; a process whereby soil erosion caused by mines loosens sediment, which then travels across water sources and settles on riverbeds. This smothers the riverbed and drastically affects species in the River and the quality of the water source for the species dependant thereon.

A major concern for an area such as the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park is acid mine drainage (or AMD). AMD occurs when exposed rock outcrops from mining activity leach highly acidic sulphur into water sources over prolonged periods of time. This poisonous water contaminates rivers and dams and has detrimental effects on marine life, as well as species making use of the water source. AMD is easily recognisable as coppery or red water.

3.    Scars

Once mining operations cease and the company has extracted the last of the coal, life in the immediate area may never recover. Habitat loss, as a direct result of the destruction to land, affects various species and could critically endanger, or completely eradicate, smaller populations dependent on the ecosystem. Many species are hyper-sensitive to changing environments, which puts them at risk.

These effects only explore what could happen on the surface, should a mine be constructed near Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park. The extent of the damage could be far worse.

We know, Ngwenya Lodge holds a special place in the hearts of our visitors, as they arrive, each year, to experience the wonders of the South African bush and as we await further news on the current mining application, we will continue to do the best we can to play our part in preserving this rich ecosystem through environmental conservation.

Click here for more information on the current mining application for Tenbosch Farms.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 3 comments
Into The Biome

Into The Biome

Ngwenya Lodge sits comfortably along the winding Crocodile River on the South-Eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park. Being located at prime river-frontage, a major water source for Kruger wildlife makes Ngwenya well-positioned for year-round game-viewing. However, exploring the Kruger National Park on a self-drive or guided tour make for some incredible sightings; even more so when we delve into the biome of the Park and use it to our advantage for spectacular wildlife finds.

The Kruger National Park is classified as a majority Savanna biome.  This biome is characterised by grass-dominant ground coverage and woody vegetation as its upper layer; it also makes up approximately a third of South Africa’s overall biome. The upper layer of woody plants and trees almost never dominates the ground cover; this is attributed to the annual rainfall being relatively low in the area, recorded by 15 rainfall stations throughout the Kruger daily with a mean of 500mm each year. The region experiences its rainy season during the summer months; December, January and February with earth-shattering thunderstorms which are a sight to behold and often studied by international and national students. Wild grasses and shrubs make up the majority of the ground cover and provide an ample grazing ground for a range of antelope, while Acacia trees can be spotted in clusters or alone, and provide an excellent food source for larger game such as giraffe and elephant.

The Kruger National Park can be broken down into eight overlapping ecosystems, all forming a part of the greater Savanna biome, with the Central Grasslands providing the best example of the Savanna. The Northern Sandlands, Mopaneveld and Lebombo ecosystems fall further away from Ngwenya Lodge, but all make for interesting and unique game-viewing drives, should visitors wish to travel further into the Park.

Closer to home however, lies a multitude of ecosystems, each overlapping the next and providing a home to varied species, these are the; Riverine Bush, Thorn Thickets to the East, South Western Foothills, Mixed Broadleaf Woodlands and the Savanna Grasslands heading North.

  • Riverine Bush areas populate the River edges and can thus be found looking from an Ngwenya Lodge chalet patio, or lookout point. The foliage has near year-round access to water, creating a dense cover for species in the area. Commonly found on the floodplains are; elephant, waterbuck, crocodile and occasionally big cats and other game during the drier seasons when water is scarce.
  • Thorn Thickets are located towards the east along the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers and are characterised by large Acacia trees. During the summer months this thicket provides excellent cover for game seeking to wait out the heat of the day, and giraffe can often be found grazing from their favoured food source; the Acacia tree.
  • South Western Foothills make up the area enveloping Pretoriuskop and Berg-en-Dal to the West of Ngwenya Lodge. This area receives the highest rainfall within the Kruger Park and features incredible granite outcrops perfect for looking out over the Lowveld for a refreshment stop.

Nkumbe Lookout Point, Lower Sabie

  • Mixed Broadleaf Woodlands cover Skukuza and surrounds moving west into the National Park. The Woodlands are characterised by a range of Bushwillow trees and provide an excellent opportunity for guests wanting to spot predators. Regular sightings of lion, leopard and hyena are reported in this region.
  • Savanna Grasslands start north of the Sabie River and are a typical example of the Savanna biome; large open spaces covered in wild grasses and the occasional cluster of Acacia trees mark the area. This ample grassy vegetation means that large herds of antelope can be sighted here; zebra, wildebeest and rooibok cover the plains. The area also attracts many predators and cheetah put their speed to good use on the grasslands.

The Kruger National Park offers a wide range of ecosystems to explore and even more species to be sighted; a treasure trove of wildlife experiences. Journey into the biome and discover all this South African landscape has to offer.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Wildlife, 2 comments