“Did the lockdown during the global pandemic affect the wildlife?”
A question that has seemed to come up several times over the last two years since the controls and regulations were eased. Many of the people asking had never visited Londolozi, some had been once or twice and others had visited numerous times, every year for years.
With a monumental change in human behaviour seen across the world during 2020 and in the wake after, an obvious question to many was: what impact did the Lockdown have on wildlife? Going from 100% occupancy and many of the animals being exposed to a game viewer most days to nothing. No guests in camp, only a small skeleton staff keeping things afloat and a tiny team of rangers seeking out wildlife content to share with the world. Was the sudden absence of the vehicles filled with guests noticeable to Londolozi’s wilder inhabitants, did their behaviour change, territories shift… anything?
The Short answer is, No.
Before harping on about the past and the once dreaded Covid 19 virus and all that accompanied it, everyone must realise that although we have a presence out here in the wilderness, there is little to absolutely no impact on the wilderness in terms of the behavioural aspect, even when the lodge is back at full capacity.
Let’s use the Ximungwe Female as an example as she is one leopard who we probably see the most on Londolozi as her territory sits entirely on Londolozi. In other words, she spends 100% of her time within the borders of the Londolozi. A normal week for her probably involves hunting, feeding off a kill for a few days, hunting again, marking territory, and maybe looking to mate if she was in heat (although she is possibly pregnant at the moment, having been seen mating recently with the Maxim’s Male), and then back to hunting. She might be viewed by rangers, trackers and guests a few times a week, say on four or five occasions, but for the most part, she goes about her business unobserved.
A week is 168 hours long. Let’s average out a game drive to about 3 1/2 hours (mornings can be longer, evenings a bit shorter).
Two game drives a day equals 14 drives a week, therefore 49 hours during which Land Rovers are actually out on the reserve looking for animals. If it’s pouring with rain it might be less, if photographers are on an all-day safari it’s more, but we’re working off pure guesstimates here.
49 out of 168 is only 30%. So on the ridiculous assumption that for the entire drive, every drive, the Ximungwe Female is viewed, she’s still a completely free agent for over 70% of the time (rounded up).
We can say pretty confidently that she is most certainly not viewed that regularly, or for as long. Maybe four or five times a week, let’s say for an hour at a time. That’s five hours out of 168.
That’s 3% of the time. 97% of the time the Ximungwe Female is left to her own devices and the area around her is devoid of human presence. Now why this is a fascinating thing to think about, is the fact that we often see some pretty amazing sightings of these animals while we are with them, which is a minuscule amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Imagine what is going on for the rest of the time while we are not out and about observing them.
All in all, the reserve is wide, the wildlife is plentiful, and if we were to pack up and leave tomorrow, things would continue on as if we were never even here in the first place.