This winter seems to be much colder than last year, some areas of Namibia have had minus degrees not just once this season! Here it’s luckily not been that cold. We even had a little bit more rain this week. And that little bit of rain brings out the colour in the desert and all over the farm one can spot these little bushes or flowers in bloom.
Initiated by the dedicated team of N/a’an ku sê was the release of several cheetahs and 1 leopard – altogether 4 animals at Sandfontein. The following text is taken from the original report and has been adjusted by us:
“THE RELEASE OF A LIFETIME
Saturday 25th June saw the beginning of one of the biggest translocation and release programmes ever attempted in Namibia. 7 cheetahs and 1 leopard. 2 release sites, travelling through 3 regions and 7 districts of Namibia. All in 8 days. N/a’an ku sê has never embarked on a challenge to relocate so many big cats at the same time. But we’re never one to shy away from a challenge.
With 4 donated LandRovers, our convoy of cats, staff, volunteers and film crew (Homebrew Productions for Animal Planet), clocked up an incredible 5,268km between them!
Read the incredible events here exclusively:
DAY 4-7: SANDFONTEIN SOFT AND HARD RELEASE
4 cats down, 4 cats to go. The second leg of the trip required a smaller team to manage and so 5 N/a’an ku sê staff and 6 volunteers returned to N/a’an ku sê whilst Rudie, Marlice, Flo (Head of Research), Lucy (Fundraising and Marketing Manager) and Tessa (Wildlife Co-ordinator), together with one volunteer and film crew, commenced the long drive down to Sandfontein. After a 14 hour drive with the Chipmunk cheetahs on the back of one LandRover and the leopard on another, we finally arrive, exhausted yet excited, at our final destination – Sandfontein Nature Game Reserve and Lodge (www.sandfontein.com).
Sandfontein is another new area for N/a’an ku sê as this is our first release on the 80,000 hectare land, edging on the Orange River on the border of South Africa. The location is home to more than 4,000 animals including leopard, cheetah, kudu, eland, zebra, giraffe, springbok, impala and aardvark. It also provides protection to 5 of the world’s extremely endangered black rhino. Our new partners, Willie and Rodica Agenbach, who manage the reserve and lodge, have extensive experience in animal husbandy, particularly with cheetahs and so we know they are the perfect partners to look after our 3 cheetahs in a small boma for the next month or two before they receive their hard release.
The next morning we had our first chance to view the local scenery – rugged and remote, almost untouched by people, rocky hills and mountains, open valleys, sandy riverbeds and small patches of bush combined to form an amazing landscape. Perfect for the leopard and 3 cheetahs we were to release here. After a number of days in cages, we were all eager to release the cats and so on Wednesday 29th June, we drove to the soft boma site set in a stunning valley surrounded by rugged mountains and rocky hills.
The smaller group at the release made it feel much more intimate and Willie and Rodica were given the honor of lifting up the gate on the 3 cheetahs. It only took a few seconds before Simon, the “sensible” one, jumped out of the cage on the back of the Sirtrack branded vehicle, closely followed cautiously by Theodore, the “follower”, while Alvin, the so called “adventurous” one, was last to leave.
Sticking together, they slowly made their way across to the fence and proceeded to explore their new temporary home, surrounded by mountains and wide open space. The transparency of the boma will help these cats really fit into their new environment without feeling too overwhelmed.
We could have stayed watching the cheetahs’ reaction to their new home for hours, but the light was fading and Derek was waiting.
Willie and Rodica led us to a suitable spot for our last and final release. This was the most special moment we had all been waiting for – partly because it was a hard release so we knew we may never see him again and partly because it was a leopard, a truly wild animal which can never be tamed. We chose a spacious plain with nearby hills and set Derek’s cage on the ground and tipped it onto its side so that the gate could be pulled opened from far away. Derek ferociously growled during the move, daring any one of us to mess with him! Once everyone was safely locked inside the vehicles, through the window Rudie pulled the rope attached to the gate to slide it open and off. We all waited, but Derek did not stir.
After around 30 minutes we decided it was best to leave this solitary creature to come out on his own terms, alone. After spending the last few days on the back of a car with strange noises and movements, it is no surprise that the leopard was weary of our presence. 3 of the 5 cars nearby left – Rudie, Marlice and family in one, volunteers, staff in another and the film crew in the third. Just 2 cars remained – a lone cameraman with Flo, and Willie and Rodica, when they saw Derek’s head poke out of the cage, look around, spot the remaining cars and then hide back inside! The sun was setting and finally everyone left Derek to his peace, happy and content in the knowledge that he was going to live a very good life in Sandfontein.
POST-RELEASE NEWS ON OUR CATS
In Sandfontein, the Chipmunks are settling into their boma well, are feeding happily and look very relaxed. Our downloads from Derek’s GPS satellite collar show that he left the cage in the early hours of the morning to move at a gentle pace over the next 4 days and on 5th July, Willie was lucky enough to spot our gorgeous leopard, looking full bellied, sitting relaxed on a mountain hill! He was near the waterhole where we placed the camera trap so hopefully we’ll have snapped him too. (…) The fact that he has successfully hunted and sourced the water supply in the area is a perfect start to his new freedom.
All of us at N/a’an ku se would like to thank every single person, company, foundation and organisation involved in making this release programme such a success. Thank you LandRover for donating the vehicles to make the trip possible, thanks to IdeaWild for donating 2 VHF collars and Claudio Frateschi and Dan Mortimer for donating towards Derek’s GPS satellite collar. Thank you to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for supporting this release programme and our new partners in conservation – Walter and Simone of Solitaire Guest Farm and Willie and Rodica of Sandfontein Nature Game Reserve and Luxury Lodge. And a huge thanks to all the volunteers and N/a’an ku se staff for caring for these precious cats whilst at our sanctuary and for all their efforts in organising and running the Release of a Lifetime.”
We at Sandfontein also want to thank everyone involved for their hard work and dedication! We are proud to be part of this project and are determined to continue the exceptional efforts N/a’an ku se has made for conservation in the past years. We are looking forward to a great partnership!
Welcome back to Sandfontein News – there are a couple of things we’d like to share with the rest of the world.
Most of you probably have heard that Namibia and Southern Africa got a lot of rain lately and also our area has been really lucky this season. Not too little and not too much actually, just the right amount to make the whole 80.000 hectare of the Sandfontein reserve look beautiful and lush with grass. We have received another 25 – 40 mm rain last week which is already considered winter rain and which will make especially the bushes green and the flowers bloom. That’s winter in Southern Namibia!
The long awaited Sandfontein garden has been started and we are proud to announce that we have already harvested our first baby marrows and sugar peas!
We are happy to share with you a couple of pictures of a gorgeous caracal (felis caracal) female which we were lucky to get from a farmer who contacted us after catching the animal in a cage. We brought her to Sandfontein and released her today at one of our water holes. Always an incredible feeling seeing these animals go free again!
I have taken a video footage of her release and would have loved to put it on the BLOG however the file size is too large. I will try to publish it on facebook – meet us there!
Please welcome with us our new rhino bull “Iyuduko” who was translocated by the MET team (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) on Thursday night last week to Sandfontein. Iyuduko is an approximately 3-4 year old bull. Let me tell you, he kept us already on our toes. After he was released the first thing he did was to brake through the fence and go for a drink at the Orange River! We were afraid that we would need the whole MET team back including helicopter, veterinarian, crate, lorry, etc, etc, to get him back into the game fenced area. But after he saw that there was not much going on at the river he decided to come back! His name means in Ovambo language “the one that doesn’t listen”. We wish him all the best and a long happy life on Sandfontein!
We took these pictures last Friday afternoon driving towards Girtis – one farm belonging to the reserve – and the Orange River. The sunset with the clouds were spectacular and the colours amazing! To capture the beauty of this place is difficult but I do hope that these images can give a slight idea of the scenery! Enjoy!
Have you ever been out on a night when the stars are so low that you want to touch them? That you want to brush your fingers through the milky way and give it a good swirl? Have you ever had the sensation heaven is blinking down on you with millions of tiniest flashlights? Have you ever gazed into a starry sky and felt really, really small but nevertheless part of the great universe? Well, you haven’t? Then you have never experienced a night out on Sandfontein, out under the African night sky!
Myself growing up in Europe having for the first time seen a night sky without ANY disturbing lights from anywhere nearby – or any disturbing noises! – this is really an experience one can’t describe. This you must experience yourself!
Here on Sandfontein there are hardly any nights when you can’t see stars. Oh well, let me put it that way. When the moon is waxing and becoming fuller, the brightness of the stars is fading quickly. This is the only “disturbing” light there is! I believe one can cope with that.
On some nights you can be really lucky to see shooting stars as well. And I mean lucky. Be prepared to make a lot of wishes! I have had my share, however – and this is true – just recently someone counted 9 shooting stars in 2 hours! And I’m talking those amazing long and bright ones that shoot across the whole sky!
For all who want to know more about stargazing and dark sky tourism, see the link <stargazing deluxe>.
We’ve been really lucky again and had more rain over the weekend adding up to approximately 65mm altogether so far- which is amazing for this area with an average rainfall of 50 – 100 mm/year! Some parts of Sandfontein had probably even more than that and the grass is standing high!
Talking about rain in the last Blog, we were so lucky to start the new year with a couple of rainy days and the usually dry river beds were running with water!
A large part of the property got nice and wet and just after a couple of days the world started changing!
Little bushes which seemed dead turned a bright scarlet red like the beautiful Desert Rose hermannia strictacontrasting with the fresh green of the milk-bushes euphorbia gariepinaand gregaria. These succulent shrubs give off a milky and toxic latex when damaged. However they are one of the favourite foods of the Black Rhino, and the Kudus love to indulge the newly grown tips!
Some of our dams filled up after the rain which is always an amazing sight in this dry world. Grass is showing its first fine tips giving the landscape a fresh touch of life again.
What more can one ask than to start the new year like that? We are positive that we will get more rain since our rainy season is only beginning now.
The next exciting event that is coming up shortly is the release of a leopard on Sandfontein organised by Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren of N/a’a ku sê, see www.naankuse.com! We will keep you updated.
Hi to all friends and fans of Sandfontein! This is my first try to publish something on the BLOG, so please be patient with me if it doesn’t look or sound right…. .
Anyway, I’ll try to write regularly on this page now to let, whoever wants to, be part of our daily life and happenings here on our little farm. The weather is similar to what you can see in the picture, warm and sunny with a cloudless blue sky. A lot of you would probably like to be here to spend this beautiful day at the Lodge around the pool and enjoy a light lunch in the company of good friends! Can’t blame you!
We are actually not complaining especially since it hasn’t been really hot yet this year. However WE would kill for some rain. It is very, very dry this season and honestly I would love to see some green grass…. .
One HUGE step forward is our new improved Telephone set up and you can reach me now on Skype call:
rodica.agenbach I hope to hear from you!