• Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

This expedition consists of two weeks based at Gondwana Game Reserve in the Western Cape. Students spend half days in the field working on the effects of a burning regime on wildlife and floristic diversity and will be immersed in the issues affecting wildlife management in this reserve. Schools’ Booklet

Site Details

Gondwana Game Reserve

Students spend full days in the field working on the effects of a burning regime on wildlife and floristic diversity and will be immersed in the issues affecting wildlife management in this reserve. In addition the students will be completing an African wildlife management course. The research activities include:

  • Bird, invertebrate and flora surveys: These are the standard surveys that are completed on a series of plots in areas with different burn histories. A bird point count will be performed at the south-west corner of the study followed by sweep netting to capture and identify flying invertebrates at the site. Data will be collected on the floristic diversity of the plot using line transect sampling in the fynbos/renosterveld habitats. For the grassland areas quadrat sampling will be used.
  • Grazing activity of large mammals: Fynbos habitat is meant to have no forage value for large mammals, but a number of species have been seen feeding in this habitat. These surveys are designed to calculate the relative proportion of time that game is spending in fynbos compared to other habitats using vehicle based game transects and distance sampling.
  • Focal sampling of feeding activity: When game animals are observed grazing in fynbos, specific individuals of interest will be selected and their feeding behaviour recorded.

South Africa Research Objectives

Operation Wallacea and our partners, Wildlife and Ecological Investments (WEI), coordinate large-scale research programmes to provide an empirical backbone for key conservation projects in South Africa. Our main aim is to assist conservation managers with pressing large-scale issues that they do not necessarily have the resources to address themselves. The South Africa research programme covers a series of reserves across the country, each using slightly different management strategies to conserve diversity in their reserves. Big game areas in South Africa are fenced to avoid the spread of disease and conflicts between communities and dangerous animals. However, in densely populated areas such as around Dinokeng Game Reserve, human-wildlife interactions are still common. Here, our research teams are looking at the extent of these interactions with a special focus on large mammal species. Large mammal distributions are monitored regularly through game transects, and a matrix of camera traps set up throughout the reserve. By combining this information with our knowledge of areas of dense human activity, we can begin to understand the drivers behind large mammal movement and any potentially disruptive behaviours they exhibit. The use of roads in the reserve is also monitored through camera traps and behavioural observations to quantify how roads and vehicles affect animal movement, survival, and behaviour.
The restriction of natural movement caused by fences can also lead to potentially unsustainable levels of vegetation impact when mammal populations are high. Elephants, for example, are keystone species and high feeding pressures can lead to excessive impact to the vegetation. By directly monitoring feeding impact on vegetation and its knock-on effects to other taxa, such as birds, our teams can assist the reserve managers to better understand how to manage their elephant populations to maintain a healthy and diverse ecosystem. This monitoring is especially important in Gondwana Game Reserve, which is situated in the florally diverse fynbos region. While the vegetation here is highly valued for its diversity, it holds little browsing or grazing value for many of the game species commonly found in tourist reserves. The management here have therefore asked us to monitor how the large, enigmatic game species are utilising the various vegetation types found within the reserve.

  • Attend lectures/workshops on African conservation and wildlife management
  • Learn survey methods to sample large mammals, birds and vegetation
  • Learn tracking skills in the Fynbos habitat
  • Learn about and work in one of the most florally diverse regions of the year

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost. You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements. If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.

Climate Our expeditions run during the South African winter, so rain and wind are regular at this site. Temperatures can get up to 18-20 degrees during the day, but will regularly drop below 5 degrees at night. The wind-chill can make this feel very cold, so warm and waterproof clothes are essential. Fitness level required Low. There are some short hikes over rough terrain, but most of the work is in or close to the game-viewer vehicles. Creature comforts You will be staying in large safari-style tents with bunk beds. Hot running showers and flushing toilets are provided in a separate block, with large, structured tents used for the kitchen and communal areas. There is very patchy phone signal, no wifi and electricity is provided by generator for a few hours each day.

Locations

  • South Africa
  • Gondwana

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Preparation

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