Reserve management is highly complex as it strives to achieve a balanced ecosystem that can support a wide range of species in their varied habitats. Ongoing habitat management is essential to maintain this and as a Research Assistant with Ulwazi you will have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of reserve and habitat management.
Prescribed management burns
Fire is an important natural landscape process, and many plant species depend upon fire and/or grazing in order to reproduce. Controlled burns remove moribund vegetation that is counter to healthy landscapes as it prevents fresh growth from pushing through.
Moribund vegetation is also a fire hazard, and burning helps to fight bush encroachment and the spread of alien invasive plants and their seeds, thereby improving the carrying capacity of the veld. Big burns are usually done at the start of spring, just before the first rains.
Alien plant eradication
Alien plants are not native or indigenous to South Africa. Not all alien plants are invasive, but the invasive alien plants grow and spread at an alarming rate, preventing indigenous plants from thriving.
Alien plants are a major threat to ecosystems in many parts of South Africa and have invaded 10-million hectares countrywide (an area the size of the province of KwaZulu-Natal). This is 10% of the countries available land.
On Thanda Safari we have eight key invasive, problem-causing plants, some of which are only visible after the rains. During your time with us, you will be involved in removing them from the land.
Rehabilitation of eroded areas
Rehabilitation of eroded areas on Thanda Safari is an ongoing activity that we predominantly address in winter when the temperatures are lower and easier to work in, and in preparation for the summer rains.
Bush encroachment control
Bush encroachment is the uncontrolled spread of indigenous bushes, which threaten the biodiversity of an area because the encroaching species prevent other species from thriving. Dicrostachys cinerea (or Sicklebush as it is commonly known) is one species that can be a significant encroacher. Bush encroachment control is an ongoing activity on the reserve.
Improvement of habitats
Historically, migrating herds moved through Zululand but fences, hunting and livestock farming significantly changed this. As a result, areas that were once open grasslands with the associated wildlife species were overtaken by woody vegetation with different wildlife species. We need to rehabilitate certain areas to restore ecosystem balance on Thanda Safari, which ensures that there is sufficient food, habitat diversity and cover for all species (grazers, browsers and carnivores).