The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is proud of its ecosystem support and monitoring projects.
Vegetation management is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of wildlife management. In order to manage the Timbavati, reach our goals and set objectives, an extensive survey of the vegetation on the area was done. Formal sampling was performed at 60 sample sites on the reserve. Sampling consisted of the herbaceous and woody layer (tree layer), soils and geology. Sample analysis produced three main plant communities on the reserve, with the main determining factor being soil clay content and thus soil moisture retention ability. Variation within these communities does occur but related to management goals and objectives are negligible.
Fire management on the reserve is aimed at increasing the heterogeneity of the landscape as well as the rejuvenation of the grass sward. The Timbavati currently uses a fire regime known as the Patch mosaic fire regime. This fire regime simulates natural fire occurrence in that the fire is lit at predetermined points and left (with minimal interference) to burn. This type of fire naturally burns high biomass areas and dies out on areas that would not under natural circumstances have burnt.
The variation in fire intensity as well as the fact that the fire burnt some areas and others not, increases the potential of diversity in terms of species richness, rejuvenation rates of plants (both the herbaceous layer and woody layer) varies and this increases the heterogeneity of the fire scare area, and on a higher scale that of the total reserve
Over and above the vegetation monitoring, the Conservation team conducts an Elephant impact study on large trees every 2 years. This assists the reserve in identifying the overall impact of these large Pachyderms on their environment and putting measures in place where the management team is able to protect large tree species from damage.
Another way in which the reserve can keep track of its animal populations is by conducting an annual aerial census. This is done over four consecutive days with a flying team of four people including the pilot, the computer operator and the two counters in the back of a Bell Jet ranger helicopter. Grids of approximately 500m apart are flown with guide bars being placed on either side of the helicopter to ensure strategic and accurate counting of strips. At the end of the four days, the conservation team gathers and analyses the data that was captured to ensure that management of animal population is done scientifically and sustainably.
Alien plants are the scourge of natural habitats and the next greatest threat after habitat destruction. They grow quicker than their indigenous counterparts, consume more water and have no natural predators, allowing them to grow completely unchecked.
Once they gain a foothold, alien plants choke the indigenous flora and leach nutrients from the soil. The threat of uncontained veld fires increases as many of the alien plants burn at higher temperatures than the indigenous grasses, causing trees and other vegetation, which would normally have remained unharmed, to catch fire and burn.
Regular and consistent programs are run to locate and remove alien plants from the environment. Local communities are employed in these programmes which stimulates the local economy. The programmes also educate members of local communities of the need to preserve and protect their natural environment promoting land integrity and maintaining land value, not only within the reserve but in the surrounding areas.
Invasive species may come from areas where populations are left untreated and unmonitored, however through increasing awareness and government support such as the Working for Water programmes, problem plants can be identified and treated to reduce the risk to protected areas.
Historically the TPNR has dealt with high volumes of prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) and paraffin bush (Chromolaena odorata.) .
Proud Moment for the Timbavati Foundation!
Tshegofatso Mnisi who was Timbavati Foundation facilitator in 2017, could very well have saved her areas from disaster. While on a regular foot patrol in the Tintswalo village area, she correctly identified the invasive weed, Parthenium hysterophorus (Famine weed). She alerted the Kruger to Canyons office (K2C) without delay and the weed was removed by their Biodiversity Special Projects (BSP) Working for Water teams.
Soil erosion control and land reclamation.
The natural process by which wind and water gradually carve the surface of the land into hills and valleys, with rocky mountains here and there is “geological erosion” and has been going on throughout the ages. The products of geological erosion have formed our soils. Vegetation forms a protective layer to hold the soil in place and protects it against the erosive onslaught of water and wind. If this protective cover becomes damaged, the erosion process accelerates and causes the loss of top soil. Soil is the heritage of the human race and the most precious asset that a nation possesses. It is the source of all food and the basis of all civilization.
Formed with infinite slowness over the ages, it is quick to waste and once wasted, it can for all practical purposes never be replaced. It behoves us then to guard our soil resources with the utmost care and to use them wisely, for a healthy nation can be built up only on the products of a healthy soil. - JC Ross
Aerial census – 2004 An aerial census conducted in 2004 where all erosion or bare soil was photographed from the air. This identified more than 800 erosion sites in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which were mainly caused by the following factors:
The effect of these practices has been addressed on most sites and the chance of overgrazing occurring is now limited to specific areas with high concentrations of impala.
Roads and other man-made structures (such as dams that are still within the wrong soil types) are essentially the only factors still present. The erosion of roads is being addressed by humping and draining while some roads are moved to less sensitive areas or closed. Man-made dams, which disrupt the natural flow of water, are also being addressed to alleviate erosion problems.
The Timbavati currently engages with a soil specialist to ensure the prevention of soil erosion in future and to protect areas which are already affected. The management team actively assists in managing and combating soil erosion on the TPNR; with a team of 6 skilled team members, they are able to construct structures which help to rehabilitate areas of erosion over time.
Annually, the Timbavati (TPNR) has very few or no cases of malaria. The TPNR conducts a malaria control programme. Mosquito numbers are highest during the wet summer months of the year and during these months all camps are sprayed regularly. to reduce the probability of visitors contracting malaria.
Coupled with this action, the Department of Health, performs regular checks in summer and all staff are tested to ascertain if there are any “malaria carriers” amongst them as they put their colleagues at risk of infection. Timeous treatment of these individuals avoids further cases.
Lodges and camps are located in areas of low risk for malaria. Concerned guests are advised to consult their Doctors before travelling.
Each year, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR) welcomes two students from South African universities to give them an unparalleled, informative and exciting learning experience which equips them with all the skills they may need to progress in the wildlife management sector and provides practical, hands-on experience which books alone cannot provide.
The two students are given the opportunity to complete their University tasks and assignments and have the option of undertaking a research project for the year, on which they could build to increase their understanding of the natural environment. Learners/ students are provided with a salary, accommodation and uniform for their years’ experience. Hoedspruit is a town close to the Timbavati and students are able to obtain all their living necessities from there.
Are you in your second year and needing a third-year practical, integrated work-learning experience year?
Why not apply below?
Our 2021-2022 WIL positions have been filled, be sure to keep an looking out in June for when our applications open again for 2022 – 2023.