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Game Drive in Karongwe

The Classroom of Karongwe

Shaded by mighty Jackalberry trees, EcoTraining Karongwe Camp waits patiently for its first group of 2020 students. The expectant energy is palatable. The new students will be embarking on a 55-day EcoTraining Field Guide Course which will solidify the bedrock of each participant’s potential career as a field guide.

The unfenced solar-powered camp area lies unobtrusively adjacent to the dry Karongwe riverbed where new students will delight in discovering numerous bird and mammal species. At this time of year, the bush is alive with activity. The summer rains have washed away the dust and replaced it with emerald abundance.
The resident Nyala family feeds below a canopy of Tamboti trees and even they seem anxious to welcome the new students. The lambs bounce around excitedly jostling for front row seats and above them in the eaves, Paradise Flycatchers flit in a boastful aerial display.

Plants

“The summer rains have washed away the dust and replaced it with emerald abundance.”

The open-air classroom entices all sounds and smells of the wilderness in. A library of textbooks and a collection of skulls, tortoise shells and animal bones are lined tidily for students to explore. Yet the space beyond the formal classroom boundaries will invite students on a much greater journey of enquiry beyond their wildest dreams. Every bird that chirps, every leaf that falls, every flower that blooms and every insect that rattles in song is an opportunity to gain knowledge and connection with the fauna and flora of the Lowveld wilderness.

Karongwe in summer

The rains bring Karongwe bush to life

At the edge of the camp lies the fireplace. As dusk stretches the shadows and awakens the stars, the earth has the power to draw everyone magnetically in. It is around this blazing campfire that learning will transcend facts and figures and where wisdom will be shared through storytelling.

As an African barred owlet hoots somewhere in the distance and his message for the new students is clear… “Protect this wilderness, for you are the guardians of its future.”

Karongwe camp wildlife

The beauty of Karongwe

It is a privilege to be an EcoTraining student because you hold these wild spaces in your hands and in your heart, and have the collective ability to nurture it for future generations. Karongwe is a classroom sanctuary where custodians of nature are born and inspired.

Good luck to all the students of 2020!

EcoTraining student and instructor

Mandela Day and a tribute to Johnny Clegg | EcoTraining Mashatu Camp

In 2009, the United Nations declared that July 18th, Mabida’s birthday would be celebrated internationally as Mandela Day. In tribute to the 67 years that he fought for equality and social justice, communities, businesses and individuals were tasked with ‘giving back’ for 67 minutes.

World Giraffe Day | 21 June 2019

Indlulamithi – above the trees for World Giraffe Day.

Today on the winter/summer solstice also know as the longest night in the Southern hemisphere or the longest day in the Northern hemisphere we celebrate a very special, unique, curious, long necked animal, the Giraffe.

So why is the 21st June World Giraffe day? This is a new annual event launched by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to raise awareness of our iconic long-necked friends. Did you know that even though they are an iconic African species that very little research has been done on them, and because of this the tallest mammal of the African bush has been disappearing right under our noses? According to the ICUN it is now thought that there are less than 69000 mature Giraffes left across the African Continent. This might sound like a healthy population number however; when you consider that over the last three decades Giraffe numbers have decreased by around 30-40%, a staggering amount, this population estimate is beginning to not look as good as it first you first thought.

The reasons why their numbers are declining is a familiar story. War, civil unrest, explosions in the human population, deforestation, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, disease and poaching are all contributing to their decline.

The Giraffe should have one advantage over other animals, because of its height they can reach food that other animals can’t which means that they don’t compete with other wild or domestic animals for food. However; in countries like Niger, where people are cutting down trees for fire wood, to grow crops and to sell, the Giraffes started to raid peoples crops, which in turn meant that the animals were being viewed as pests.

Currently the ICUN acknowledges the giraffe as one species with nine different subspecies. The Giraffe as a species are listed as vulnerable to extinction and if you break it down into the nine subspecies you will see that some of these subspecies are in danger of disappearing completely –  the Nubian and Kordofan subspecies are critically endangered and the Reticulated subspecies is classified as endangered.  The giraffes that live in Eastern, Western and Central Africa with most of them living in scattered, fragmented populations are the ones that are under the greatest threat whereas the lucky subspecies that live in Southern Africa have more stable population figures, although they are also not immune to population decline.

In recent years there has been some hope. The West Africa subspecies population declined so drastically that by the mid-nineties there were only 49 left. They used to have an extensive range, but they disappeared everywhere except in a small ‘giraffe corridor’ in Niger.  Due to people recognizing the importance of them a massive conservation effort began. The Niger government gave them protected status and money was spent on anti-poaching. Thousands of Acacia trees, their favorite food have been planted, which helped to stop the Giraffes raiding people’s valuable crops.  Thanks to Giraffe conservation organizations like GCF working with local people awareness of the Giraffes plight has increased and people now see these Giraffes as a positive force as they provide them with and income and jobs. All this work has had positive results.  Their population numbers have increased and according to the ICUN there are now approximately 425 mature individuals. This success has enabled 8 West African Giraffes to be translocated to the protected Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve, an area they haven’t roamed for 50 years. Although this might sound like a small number these Giraffe have helped to increase the Biosphere Reserves biodiversity and most importantly these precious animals are helping to establish a second colony of West African Giraffe.

Now there we are researching Giraffe we are learning some interesting things. Thanks to genetic testing our assumptions that there are nine subspecies has been shown to be wrong and many questions are being raised. It has shown that there are four distinct species of Giraffe that have not interbreed for millions of years.  Some of these species of Giraffes also have subspecies.

Whilst this might seem like an academic argument, after all it doesn’t change the conservation status of these animals, it goes to show that there is still so much to learn about them. It is also hoped that with more research, by understating their genetic makeup and what makes each species of Giraffe unique that they will be able to come up with new conservation approaches that can save this amazing animal.

Masai giraffe Giraffa tippelskirchi 35,000
Northern giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis 5,600
    Kordofan giraffe G. c. antiquorum 2,000
    Nubian giraffe G. c. camelopardalis 3,000
    West African giraffe G. c. peralta 600
Reticulated giraffe Giraffa reticulata 15,780
Southern giraffe Giraffa giraffa 54,750
    Angolan giraffe G. g. angolensis 17,750
    South African giraffe G. g. giraffa 37,000

(Source: GCF)

When humans put their minds to it, we can change the world and when we work together with nature rather than just considering our needs, we can create a positive change.

Learn more about Giraffe (EcoTraining TV)

A morning drive to awaken your senses

The camp kitchen is a hive of activity as the sun slowly starts to filter through the trees. A warm beverage (or two) before setting off on an early morning game drive is always a must.

After the quick morning coffee and a chat about the game drive plan, you are then off on a new adventure. You never know what the day has in store for you. It’s very exciting.

Julia Wheeler (c)

Selati camp being situated on the banks of the Selati River makes the mornings even more beautiful, with breathtaking sunrises and interesting animals coming to investigate around the water’s edge the possibilities are endless.

Kirsten Scholtz (c)

Kirsten Scholtz (c)

It is always a pleasure to be out on a drive, even if the vehicle seems to be at an impossible angle. In this instance an instructor was driving, but the students each get a turn behind the wheel. They get to know the capabilities of the vehicle and they get to understand how to interact with guests in situations that might arise while on a drive.

David Batzofin (c)

Vultures perched on trees can give away the presence of a carcass, which in turn often signifies the fact that there are predators in the area. These two White backed vultures looked like they had a disagreement.

David Batzofin (c)

A look can say it all. Often when you get close to a lion, even if you are in a vehicle, a low growl will warn you of their mood.

David Batzofin (c)

Could this be a Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticose)?

Every drive is a learning opportunity for the students. Be it an animal, bird, insect or plant species. Questions are asked by the instructors to make certain that every safari drive it utilized to the fullest.

David Batzofin (c)

This is one of the Kingfisher species that does not eat fish. Instead it preys on insects like grasshoppers and locusts. They have been known to catch and eat lizards.

There is also a recorded case of one seen eating a bat! Of the 10 Kingfisher species found in South Africa, only 4 have a fish based diet.

David Batzofin (c)

The students make time for a sundowner break on the viewing deck perched high above the vast bushveld that stretched out towards the horizon.

David Batzofin (c)

There is no better way to end a day in Africa. Our sunsets are spectacular and will creep into the hearts and souls of students, both local and International.

Matabele Ants known as Hissing Ants

A lesson about hard work and teamwork

10 Interesting facts about Elephants

Our EcoTraining unfenced bush camps are located in remote areas of beautiful concessions and game reserves. As such, our instructors and students are fortunate enough to experience frequent encounters with elephants, whether it be in camp or out in the wild.

Where will YOUR off the beaten path take you?

You don’t need to be born in Africa to have Africa in your blood. The longing to be connected with the African wilderness is a way of life for a lot of people from all around the world and an unexplained marvel.

Good Work Foundation training

Konica Minolta sponsors field guide students from the Good Work Foundation to train at EcoTraining

In August 2017, EcoTraining welcomed a group of eleven young individuals from the Good Work Foundation (GWF) bizhub Conservation Academy in Mpumalanga. Konica Minolta South Africa (KMSA) in partnership with GWF sponsored these previously disadvantaged candidates to pursue their dream of becoming accredited Field Guides.

Rhode's Baobab

The many fascinating secrets of a baobab

The Baobab tree is more than what meets the eye. It holds fascinating secrets very little people know of. Read more to discover the many interesting facts about a Baobab tree.