Since my last newsletter in December 2015, I trust you have all had a festive break. It is hard to believe we are already a third of the way through 2016 as we anxiously await the possibilities of good rains to come September / October time.
That being said, if we consider the current state of affairs in the rest of the country – I would like to think that we have been blessed with more rain than most during 2016. December last year saw the low veld of Swaziland as a brown patch of dust scattered with undesirable grazing and bad tempered game – but averages of 22mm, 12mm, 67mm and 25mm so far during the months of Jan, Feb, Mar and April respectively have rejuvenated the Royal Jozini flora as we soldier on through what is classified as a green drought. We must also not forget the sought after carrying capacity of this fine reserve which continues to buffer us from the full effects of the drought. And if that is not enough, we have to ask ourselves the question why the latest inhabitants chose RJB6 as their new home – they do have the largest brain of any land mammal.
For those of you that don’t know, last month a herd of 58+ elephant left Pongola Nature Reserve, walked around the international fence that keys into Jozini dam and entered the greener lusher pastures of Royal Jozini. Subsequent meetings with experts from South Africa including an elephant monitor and researcher who has been studying this herd since 2007 indicate that are likely to stay here for some time. Looking at the red dust cloud that floats to the south every time the wind blows, I tend to agree! So we now have elephant, a black rhino, buffalo and leopard – 4 of the Big 5! The arrival of the matriarch who was incidentally born in 1963 and her entourage mixes a lot of excitement with a new set of challenges for estate management and already we are beginning to appreciate the impact a herd of this size can have on veld and man-made infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the rapid drop in dam levels resulted in the internal fence becoming ineffective, an issue which did not concern me at the time since a lot of game seemed to be crossing into the east shore reserve. However, the elephants have now been doing the same resulting in damage to components of our main water line and limited building damage to 222 as they suck water greedily from the pool. They also show little respect to their flavour of the month, fever trees, and we see a lot of abused trees hanging limply in the heat. We are currently working on extending the internal fence by using electrified strands to keep the herd out of the east and limited to the Western shores and Northern reserve. I have been told that they are fence trained and respect electrics so we ‘’hope’’ this counter measure will work in managing them. There had been talk at committee level of removing the internal fence entirely, but after consultation this suggestion was premature. Until we can effectively remove the elephants from the East Shore reserve I would like to advise everyone that walking or cycling around this area is not recommended. If you choose to ignore my warning, make sure you have signed an indemnity at the front gate. We have a bold black pen available!
Moving forward, as investors or visitors to RJB6 – from a safety perspective it is important that we respect their presence and understand the basics in reading their behaviour, below is a download for the document entitled ‘’Regulations and Guidelines for Elephant encounters’’ which I ask you to study. I have also linked the background and history of elephants surrounding Jozini Dam as well as elephant population numbers and age groups for those who are interested. We are working closely with a non-profit organization called Space for Elephants Foundation (www.spaceforelephants.com) who will be contributing some funding, educational workshops for staff and valued insight into the future management of this herd. It is the intention to reduce population growth using vasectomy and contraceptive programmes as well as translocate smaller groups to other reserves thus aligning RJB6 elephant numbers with our recommended carrying capacity of 30.
We will certainly keep all investors informed of these population management programmes, as there is no doubt experiencing this first hand will be one for the bucket list!
Still keeping with wildlife, whilst I they manage to elude me – there have been a few more sightings of leopard within the reserve, the latest by residents of Lesango Lezulu up in the mountain. We know there is certainly enough warthogs and other smaller prey to sustain their appetite and we welcome their presence.
OK, so let’s answer the 2 questions that I calculate as priority to the male population out there.
Is there boating access? And, has the fishing been good?
I am pleased to say that after consultation with our esteemed Chairman’s engineering mind – we managed to identify an ideal location for a new slipway, it is located in front of plots 12 & 13 with the access road running along the servitude between waterfront plots 18 & 19. The value of this slipway’s location is that it enters right into the original river channel which currently runs 3m+ deep. However the reducing dam surface does mean that the hippos creep closer and closer as they search for their deeper water. With this in mind, I would like to reiterate that everyone makes sure their boat engines are warmed up and running smoothly before heading south into the open expanse of Jozini dam. One must also use a depth finder (recommended) to follow the channel which runs at approximately 1 o’clock from the slipway. Also be aware of the hippo heads as they suddenly emerge from the water. Yes I know it sounds like I am trying to freak everyone out, but vigilance is key right now.
To answer the second question, once you have run the hippo gauntlet which is something reminiscence of the bulls of Pamplona, it is definitely worth it. Reports are coming back that anglers are smashing the tigers on sardine, chicken livers and hearts. Up river fishing has not been productive due to low water levels but the exposed tree stumps at the river mouth have yielded good results…. Tight lines…..
Regarding the fishing competition – let me say this event still has top billing in my action list and as and when levels allow – we will be sending out dates to those angling enthusiasts.
I would also like to make people aware of a RJB6 Owners Whatsapp group that has been started, it certainly helps in locating those good sightings whilst visiting the reserve and creates good enthusiasm amongst all participants. If you wish to be added, please message me on +268 7602 3085.
Finally, Lynda Van Niekerk – our ever committed supporter, is hosting a potjiekos competition on the 18th June. Interest has been fantastic and it promises to be a worthwhile day spent in the bush. Please visit http://www.royaljoziniaccommodation.co.za/water-elephants-and-potjiekos/ for more information and entry forms.
That’s it for now, please feel free to contact me should you have any more questions, queries, concerns pertaining to the above content. Otherwise, hamba kahle!