Countrywide in South Africa, and indeed in the southern part of Africa, there is a lot of talk about drought and its devastating effect on agriculture and the economy. Whilst this is undeniably true it is important to understand and recognise that the wildlife of Africa has evolved over eons of time and survived countless cycles both wet and dry.
In the semi-arid low rainfall areas of southern Africa, where Londolozi is located, dry cycles are a natural and normal phenomenon and so it is important to contextualise the word “drought”.
Londolozi lies within a vast 6 million acre game reserve, one of the largest in the world and as such this great open ecosystem is well able to withstand the consequences of the dry period, which we are currently experiencing. Animals’ movements are not confined and although they may have to travel further, they are able to move from one area to another to find suitable food and water. Reality is that many indigenous species of bird, mammal and insect thrive in dry conditions and safari viewing is often extremely interesting.
Predators for example are likely to thrive as prey species weaken and there is the chance that some of our most endangered predators could be given the chance to bounce back at this time. As the bush thins out, it becomes more suitable for cheetah and this resultant opening up makes it easier for them to hunt and to scan for potential dangers.
It is possible too that wild dogs could thrive in a similar manner. In his book Shaping Kruger, Mitch Reardon refers to an investigation in the Kruger National Park that indicates that the dry season actually benefits wild dogs. It is in the winter months around June that wild dogs den and it seems that they do so specifically to coincide with the drier months. Less cover makes it far easier for the dogs to hunt and safer for them to avoid tree stumps and foliage as they run at high speed after prey. The thinned bush also helps them to spot big predators such as lions who actively hunt and kill wild dog pups. We have come out of a cycle of about ten years of above average rainfall and we have to remember that thicker bush lasting into the winter months can have ramifications that we are not aware of.
Animals are also by nature incredibly resilient and although the amount and quality of food is depleted they can adjust their diets where necessary. For example, a buffalo, which is thought to be strictly a grazer, does in fact begin to browse near the end of winter or in drought conditions, to supplement what is missing in their diets.
The low rainfall cycles also favour the short grass feeders like wildebeest, who thrive and multiply whilst the improved visibility is likely to result in more unique sightings such as ant bear, civet, pangolin and the like. In this area, currently, the density of general game such as impala is also above the carrying capacity of the land and drought serves as nature’s way of removing the weak from the population and re-establishing a balance in the environment.
In nature there are no winners or losers, just consequences. On the robust landscapes of Londolozi, there will always be the consequences of wet and dry cycles which impact the theatre and drama of the safari experience making it an ever changing rich tapestry of adventure.
Nature has often been described as intelligent, able to adapt to the ever-changing patterns. So as this year’s winter season approaches we don’t talk of the “devastation of drought”. Instead we will watch with fascination at the unfolding of nature’s master plan and witness the different ways in which animals survive and adapt, borne out of eons of evolution whether the cycle is wet or dry or something in between.
Our advice to the traveller is, join us this season on safari where you can expect the unexpected on your daily expeditions across Londolozi’s indigenous open landscape ecosystem.
Come safari with us as we witness the process. In the natural order of things wild animals, which have stood the test of time, will no doubt find ways to ensure the continuation of the species rather than the survival of the individual.