A Rangers Diary of the Skukuza Section in December 1959.
Henry Wolhuter, also known as “Kwesi” which refers to ‘morning star'
Good rain fell during the night with a total of 7.5mm. Went out to Tlapa-la- Mokwena but little rain fell there and there was little extra water in the dam. Went on to Mbyamedi dam and found it to be just under half full. Good rains had fallen in the area from the Mbyamedi plots south. Saw one lone young sable bull. Looked at the control burns. S12 burnt well and little damage due to a hot fire was done. Unfortunately, S15 was a very hot burn, also S16 and S23.
The Mtomene and Nhlowa were both running and the Mtomene dam was overflowing, very good rain fell here. Most of the impala that were seen along the Voortrekker Road were rams. A few lambs were seen in the vicinity of the Myamedi causeway. Saw a magnificent specimen of martial eagle at Mbyamedi. The Kompaite windmill was pumping well and there was a wonderful show of Barberton daisies in the vicinity of the 'gat'. Light rain last night of 3,5 mm. Attended the park sale. Delivered rations and water to Toulon Gate and Masutlu picket.
The Sabie river rose overnight considerably. On Mr Labuschagne's request took a party up to Tshokwane abd back via Mlondozi. On the way back up the Lower Sabie road, picked up one of the 'hitch hiking' baboons about three miles out and brought him all the way into the camp before he decided to get off.
This 'hitch hiking' is now becoming a regular thing amongst several of the larger males. Sent a lorry and gang of staff from the engineering section down to section three to burn block S28. Went over to Pretoriuskop and had a look at all the two year spring burns, which are already looking green. Also looked at some of the erosion work that was done in the section. Saw a very good variety of game in the spring burns.
Wildebeest calves were plentiful, these being very early this year. Also saw three cheetah at Sithlabe. Ranger Smit reports that there have been cases of wildebeest calves being killed by the cheetah. Received radio instructions from nature conservation officer to deal with the plague of spotted backed weavers nesting in the trees in the camp where they are stripping the trees of all their leaves. To destroy the birds with any means at our disposal is almost impossible and I think the most effective method will be to destroy all the nests and hope that this will drive the birds away.
Sunday Two people arrested at the station with spion and handed over to the police. Saw three giraffe in the lower portion of the Sabi-Sand river corner, this I think is rather unusual. Quite a number of steenbok are seen along the Lower Sabie road which is not their typical type of veld, it being rather bushy. During the past week the number of impala lambs have increased rapidly, especially along the Lower Sabie. Started the spotted backed weaver campaign; pulling down 520 nests from the trees in the camp.
These were mostly old deserted nests and only 40 chicks were found and few eggs. In one nest a small python of about three feet was found. Light drizzle most of the day. Did monthly game count up he Sabie and back via Doispane. The impala seen were mostly rams. Few lambs were counted. Good rains fell during the night in the Doispane- Masahalane area.
Continued the weaver operation and destroyed 900 nests with 214 chicks. Arranged to burn up Mbyamedi with assistance from ranger Espach. Met him at Hlambamaduba. Burnt S15 and S14. Both blocks are fairly green and did not burn too well. A heavy storm fell late in the afternoon and put out all the fires. The burning was done with a gang from the engineer's section.
The staff knew very little or nothing about burning, nor did they know the area and several were lost for a few hours and much time and mileage (55 miles) was wasted looking for them. On day occasional leave. Continuing the war on the weavers. Today 180 nests were pulled down from knoppiesdoring trees with 31 chicks.
These chicks are of varying ages, some newly hatched and some just ready to fly. The trees that were dealt with on the 7th and 8th are now deserted. As all the nests are either in knoppiesdoring, torchwood or buffalothorn trees,which are all full of thorns, it takes time to get the nests down. One Diedericks cuckoo chick was found in one nest.
One woman was arrested at the station with a bottle of spion. Light drizzle in the morning. Received a radio request to proceed to Satara and give rangers Kloppers and Lorentz a hand with shooting an elephant that they had wounded and which had retreated into very thick bush. Neither of them had had any experience with elephant shooting before.
This was a bull that had repeatedly been doing damage in the Satara Camp. Met rangers Kloppers and Lorentz and followed the spoor for about 14 miles to the Mavumbye windmill where it was killed. The day was extremely hot. Arranged for a lorry up from Skukuza to stay over the night and return with the meat. Returned to Skukuza in the evening.
Received a message from the 06h00 train that there were several buffalo lying dead near Kemps Cottage. Went down and found that nine buffalo had been killed by the train, most probably by the 03h00 train. This was never reported to us. Arranged for all the meat to be brought in. Four of the legs had been removed by someone before we got there and the suspicion was on the 03h00 train staff. The Railway police were contacted but no trace of the meat was found.
One woman was arrested being in possession of meat which she had helped herself to and paid five pounds admission of guilt. Extremely hot with emperature at 100 degree F. Again very hot and humidity high. The war on the weavers continued and 167 nests were pulled down, but no eggs or chicks were found.
Went to Tlapa-la-Mokwena. A little rain fell in the area and there was a little extra water in the dam. Returned via Maklori. Day of the covenant. Hot, temperature 105 degree Fahrenheit. Pulled down a few nests again, mostly old.
Temperature up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit but the humidity is down. Foot and mouth reported in the Numbi-Sabie corner and across the Sabie on Madras. Further nests were removed, but no eggs or chicks were founds. 6mm of rain at night.
Days occasional leave. Light drizzle most of the day. In the evening had to go out on Hippopool road to pull car out of mud. Overcast and light drizzle.
Accompanied the warden to Tlapa-la- Mokwena. Spoor of large herd of buffalo crossed Napi road from the direction of the Mbaymedi heading towards Mlalene. Looked at Napi dam and found both adms full. It will be necessary to stone the two spillways as these are likely to erode with heavy rains.
During the last few days, weavers have started building again in some of the trees. Today pulled down 154 new and old nests. Went down to Crocodile Bridge.
The section received light soaking rains and the grazing looks good. Along the Lebombo flats there are large herds of wildebeest and zebra. Burnt block S14 along the new firebreak from Napi road to Ngwenyene. The grass is very green and burning is very slow.
Burnt through the centre of block S14 from west to east. This burnt well at midday, but I do not think it worth the trouble to attempt to burn this block any more. Saw several small flocks of Quela feeding of grass seeds in the Mbyamedi area. The Ngwenyene waterhole is full and there is a fair amount of spoor there. One day occasional leave.
A quiet and orderly day. On patrol to Pretoriuskop saw a herd of nine roan, one was this season's calf, two last season's and the remaining adult animals. Also saw a lone sable bull at the Mhlanganene, this being very much east of their normal habitat. General duties.
Small flock of Quela in my garden. Road patrol - Lower Sabie. Warden's clerk now on leave till the end of January, which rather ties me down to Skukuza as I the daily three Met recordings to do. Had the field rangers and three camp staff cut down the reeds opposite the restaurant. Light drizzle at night.
The weavers have almost deserted the camp now. There remain a few isolated ones that seem to be nesting, though they do not seem to be doing this in earnest, and I think the trouble is now over for the season. 2272 nests were pulled down, from which over 300 chicks were killed, plus a large number of eggs being destroyed.
I should think that in future years the big trees could be saved from being stripped of their leaves by destroying the nests as soon as they start building. The main attraction for buildings in the camp is the easily available supply of food, mainly the porridge from the staff quarters. Staff Christmas feast.
General duties. Received an enquiry from Dr Naude as to the position with the weavers. I notified him that there was no need at the moment for any action from his department.
Land Rover: 40098 miles Total for month: Ranger duties: 721 miles, other: 201 miles Outside Park: none Private: none Petrol consumption: 18.4 mpg (miles per gallon) Rainfall: 86.8mm Field ranger establishment: 13 Field ranger strength: 12