Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
voa

A Lion is seen at the Balule Nature Reserve, in northern Limpopo, Aug. 31, 2021. Lions are synonymous with the African Continent, but over the years their numbers have been decreasing.

At sunset, a buffalo calf's distressed grunts reverberate through the bush.

But it's a trick.


The grunts are blaring from a loudspeaker, designed to lure lions to a tree and let a South African wildlife reserve carry out a census of its apex predator.

As an added enticement, the carcasses of two impalas are affixed to a tree. The scent promises a fresh meal.

In the headlights of a 4x4, armed rangers with night binoculars and torches watch over the scene.

"We know our lions, but with this process, we verify them," says Ian Nowak, head warden at the Balule Nature Reserve.

A wildlife researcher next to him listens intently, her ears tuned to clues from the nocturnal sounds.

That's how she knows a rumbling is from elephants grazing in the tall grass. And that's how she knows when to raise her camera to photograph lions, looking for distinctive scars or peculiar ears -- anything that identifies them for the count.

This job requires patience. The team once spotted 23 lions ripping into the bait.

"They growl and they fight. Then they lie down and eat," Nowak whispers. "It can be quite a frenzy on the bait. They smack each other and then settle down."


A lion approaches an impala used to attract predators during a census at the Balule Nature Reserve in northern Limpopo, Aug. 30, 2021 Image source: voavoa


Don't fence them in

At 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres), Balule is huge -- yet it connects with an even bigger ecosystem that, all told, is almost the size of Belgium.

Balule and other nearby game farms have transitioned into nature reserves, joining up with the Kruger National Park to create a vast territory without internal fences, covering 2.5 million hectares, that extends to Mozambique.

To create such enormous space for wildlife is a rare success story these days.

Conservationists meeting in Marseille, southern France, are deeply worried for Africa's "big cats", facing loss of habitat and human encroachment as well as poaching.

Balule is so big that its census-takers have to criss-cross the terrain to make the count as thorough as possible.

"Sometimes they've eaten. If they're full, they don't come," Nowak said. "Especially the males, they're lazy as hell."

Twenty years ago, Balule was mostly farmland and lions were few.

Last year, the census found 156 of the lordly beasts.

"Lions are doing incredibly well, mainly because there's a large enough space to operate," Nowak says.

Overall, the news is good for lions in South Africa, thanks to government conservation efforts -- helped by the inducement of tourists who are willing pay to see the animals. Private investors have also stepped in.

A years-long drought has also been a boost. Antelopes and buffalo did not have enough to eat, making them easier prey for large carnivores.


A ranger stands next to a vehicle during the annual census at the Balule Reserve, in northern Limpopo. Aug. 31, 2021 Image source: voavoa


'Lions don't share'

The loudspeaker rumbles again with the recording of the injured buffalo calf. This time, a small jackal appears, hoping for a nibble. At the slightest sound, it dashes away.

The wildlife researcher detects another movement in her thermal binoculars. The headlights flash back on, illuminating the majestic mane of a lion approaching stealthily, careful but calm.

"He's initially cautious," says Nick Leuenberger, one of the regional wardens. "He doesn't know if he'll be walking in on another pride."

"Lions defend their food, they don't share," he adds.

"Here the lion tolerates the jackal. He knows he's not a major threat to his food source."

Suddenly, the lion leaps up to one of the suspended impalas, biting into its belly. After his meal, he lies at the foot of the tree.

Now the team can move on. No other animals will dare approach.

The next night, seven hyenas take turns snipping at the fresh impala, without a lion in sight.

But on the way back, the 4x4 slams the brakes. To the left, a hippo roars furiously, its mouth wide open.

To the right, seven lionesses raise their heads above the grassline. A magical sight, but no danger to the hippo. Nowak says it would take at least twice as many lions to threaten the hippo.

The tension eases. A lion emerges from the brush and walks along the trail. A lioness joins him, and the 4x4 follows them slowly until they disappear into the night. (VOA/RN)

Keywords: Lions, South Africa, Fenceless Parks


Popular

IANS

In all the wedding excitement, it's easy to overlook the impact a wedding has on the environment.

By Prerana Agarwal Saxena

In all the wedding excitement, it's easy to overlook the impact a wedding has on the environment. While everyone is making their big fat Indian wedding dreams come true, they are also adding their carbon footprint and undue energy consumption. Modern couples are now looking for ways to have a wedding with a sustainably conscious mindset. It's become about incorporating less waste, locally sourced and seasonal food, natural materials over the use of plastic. Mindful wedding planning and decor includes the use of recycled paper and goods along with eco-friendly venue needs. Check out this quick guide to achieve a sustainably conscious wedding without compromising on luxury:

Choose locally sourced material to uplift artisans
Sustainable can be luxurious too, incorporate some native flavour into the decor and theme. With the use of locally sourced materials and local artisans coming into play, the wedding instantly becomes sustainable. Include the work of local vendors ensure minimal packaging requirements, thus saving on unnecessary plastic and lamination. It also decreases the need for transporting elements from other cities and hence lowers the carbon footprint. For instance, at one of our weddings, we made use of sand art for a setup in Jodhpur. This helped promote local work while also being environmentally friendly with zero wastage of other materials. In another instance from Rajasthan, the traditional glass-blown technique was used to build decor items while giving a cultural touch to the destination wedding.

sustainable sand art Sustainable can be luxurious too, incorporate some native flavour into the decor and theme. | Photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

The vaccination was administered from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. and the compiled data was made available late at night.

The Tamil Nadu health department has administered 16,43,879 lakh doses of vaccine in the second mega vaccination camp organised by it. The state public health department in a statement on Sunday said that this has taken the total vaccination to one crore since the beginning of September till date. The vaccination was administered from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. and the compiled data was made available late at night.

The health department officials also said that as the state has almost exhausted its quota of vaccines, there would not be any vaccines on Monday. Regular vaccination will resume after the vaccine supplies arrive from New Delhi, officials said. The state health department had expected to vaccinate 15 lakh people on Sunday in 18,824 centres spread across primary health centres, anganwadis, noon meal centres, government hospitals, schools and some auditoriums.

person in white long sleeve shirt holding gray pen The health department officials also said that as the state has almost exhausted its quota of vaccines, there would not be any vaccines on Monday. | Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
IANS

Hanisha Kapoor, COO, ArchiesBeauty.com shares makeup trends experimented by these Bollywood divas throughout 2021 for inspiration.

Festivals are just around the corner and while you brainstorm about OOTDs (outfit of the day), don't forget the right makeup. Hanisha Kapoor, COO, ArchiesBeauty.com shares makeup trends experimented by these Bollywood divas throughout 2021 for inspiration. While some stuck to the classics, others mixed it up... take a look:

The Classic Red Lip
We don't see a future where classic red lips go out of fashion. The right way to achieve this celebrity look is to focus on accentuating your lips and keeping the rest of the face minimal. Give your lips a good scrub to plump them, moisturize and follow it up with a red lip liner to define the shape of your lips. Now go on with the perfect shade of red and finish your look with a slick of eyeliner, minimal concealer, and foundation.

Keep reading... Show less