The vegetation on a property determines the type and number of animals that can be housed on that particular property. It is therefore very important to monitor the health and composition of plants on the property. Mabula has implemented a vegetation monitoring system 16 years ago which is implemented every year once the grasses have flowered. The focus of this monitoring system is to determine the species composition of grasses and the biomass available for grazing. The result of this exercise and the game counts that are performed during March and September each year are used to determine which animal species numbers to reduce or increase. Mabula also adopted a policy of excluding short term burning of the veld as a management tool. An extensive vegetation management system is in place that involves the slashing of thatch grass, the reduction of bankrupt bush, the eradication of invasive plants such as lantana and prickly pear and the control of bush encroachment. All of these resulted in a gradual increase in veld condition and therefore also an increase in the number of animals that the veld can sustain. It is therefore no surprise that Mabula is currently home to more animals than ever since its start almost 30 years ago.
The Mabula elephant herd entered a new era in their long and fruitful history. In April this year we sadly lost one of the Mabula icons. Ngama, the adult elephant bull, unfortunately passed away as a result of serious injuries sustained during a fight with the younger bull Mafuta. Mafuta, aged 16, now has the responsibility of filling the shoes of an adult. This role usually fall upon elephant bulls at the age of about 25. This means that Mafuta did not have the opportunity to go through his teenager phase. The sudden passing away of the dominant bull resulted in Mafuta going into musth a lot sooner than anticipated. This sudden change in his hormones causes confusion for both him and the herd. It is therefore that we replaced his old satellite collar with a new one so that we can keep track of his movements and closely monitor his behaviour. During this exceptionally long and dry winter, we needed to supplement their diet. Supplementing their diet is a vital part of managing these animals. If we do not supplement their diet in winter, the veld cannot provide in all their nutritional needs. This then lead to them uprooting many trees in order to get to their nutrient rich roots. Adding some supplementary feed reduces this seemingly destructive behaviour of the elephants. Overall it is still going very well with the herd. They continue to provide good sightings for those lucky enough to come across them on their game drives.
In January 2015 Mabula became the proud home of 4 baby cheetah. It was a very welcome surprise when we found out that the young female(Released in December 2013) gave birth to 4 healthy cubs. We decided to stay away from her and the cubs for five weeks in order for her to start raising her first litter without interference from people. Unfortunately, when we tracked her again after the five weeks we noticed that she lost two of her cubs. The remaining two cubs, a brother and sister, is doing very well. They follow their mother all over the place and is already big enough to start taking part in hunts. They are still very clumsy and do not know what to do with their prey once they have caught it. In the meantime the males are carrying on with life as normal. Between all of them, they hunt a wide variety of game that include impala, eland, zebra, blue wildebeest, kudu, nyala, red hartebeest and other smaller mammals. This is very good news and means that they do not target one specific prey species and therefore leading to that species disappearing from Mabula.
A new water reservoir has recently been built at one of our Timeshare camps. This reservoir increased the holding capacity of water on Mabula with 350,000 liters. This means that should we experience a power failure or should one of our water supply pipes burst that we now have the ability to provide water for up to 36 hours without having to pump water.