The talk this month for the Scientific Exploration Society was on KwaZulu Natal, an incredibly diverse province on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. Angus Wingfield (expedition leader, conservationist and Director of Africa Wild Trails) talked on the provinces history, it’s people and conservation challenges as well as Angus’ own ethos and involvement in the region during the last 15 years.
Starting with an overview of the San Bushman and the Nguni migration, Angus went on to talk about the rise of the Zulu people and eventually the rise of King Shaka, the Zulu Empire which began in 1816 and ended at the hands of the British in 1879 at the end of the Anglo-Zulu War.
The talk proceeded to give an account of the decimation of animal populations in the region and across southern Africa during the 1800s as the African population hunted for skins and meat and colonial hunters slaughtered animals with impunity as trophy’s and for their ivory, skins and of course, Rhino horn.
We were then given an account of the creation of the first conservation areas, which were in KwaZulu Natal in 1895, these were the Hluhluwe and the Umfolozi game reserves. They were set up specifically to provide a safe haven for the White Rhino as they had been hunted almost to extinction. These game reserve were joined together and once again, they are one of the last strong holds of the White Rhino and the centre of an incredible conservation effort to save the species from poaching.
Angus talked about a variety of conservation efforts that he and his partners in southern Africa are involved with. The latest is Giraffe research which is an SES inspired conservation expedition for SES members as well as anyone else who might be keen to take part.
This expedition duration will be 14 days, with 12 days in country in between flights.
Departing for Durban, South Africa on the 31st May, the expedition will cost £1,380 per person and be delivered in 3 phases:
-Phase 1 Acclimatisation, Orientation, Skills Development.
-Phase 2 Expedition and Data Collection.
-Phase 3 Collation of Data and Presentation of Results.
-Complete a census of the giraffe in the biosphere.
-Create an identikit for Giraffe in the area for the use of local rangers.
-Follow movement patterns and habitat use directly on foot and remotely using modern tracking techniques such as VHF and GPS telemetry.
-Observe the dietary preferences of these Giraffe, how this changes between seasons and possible competition for food with other species.
-Understand basic population dynamics, estimating population size, demographics and growth rates.
Only 30% of the study site is accessible by road and even then 4x4 vehicles are necessary. Most of the data collection will be done on foot and operating out of remote base camps. Participants will be led in the by a Field Biologist who will oversee data collection. Data and samples will be collected according to accepted scientific methodology and sent off to laboratories for analysis where necessary.