Friday, May 02, 2008

Fw: KZN Wildlife Rhino Club May 2008


Hello Rhino Club members. When the first section of Ithala Game Reserve was offered to the then Natal Parks Board by the Louwsburg Municipality back in the early seventies, a flight for the senior executive was arranged to view the area. One of them was heard to remark that it was baboon and goat country and not much good for anything else. Well, how wrong he was! In this issue we profile Ithala and its award winning camp, Ntshondwe and some of its inhabitants. Plants that move fascinate people, especially children. Blue Bottle jellyfish are actually a colony of individual animals but watch out for painful stings if you touch their tentacles. Our Last Minute Leatherbacks make for great getaways and get snapping to win one of the great photo competition prizes.

It is said that giraffe never occurred in KwaZulu-Natal prior to the twentieth century. The swift rivers and steep terrain of some of the valleys prevented their establishment in suitable areas in the province. Whatever the facts, since their introduction in the sixties they have done exceedingly well and no where more so than Ithala Game Reserve. So successful has the introduction been, that the emblem of Ithala is a giraffe, and to the regular visitor, the park has become known as Giraffic Park. Large groups are seen all over the rugged terrain and no part of the park seems barred to their movements.
The giraffe in particular is an African icon, instantly recognised around the world. The genus contains only a single species, Giraffa camelopardalis, though there are a variety of recognized subspecies throughout Africa.
The giraffe is the tallest of all terrestrial animals but quite surprisingly, the long neck has only seven vertebrae, the same number as most mammals, including man. They are very elongated and have very flexible joints between them. It uses its very long, tough and flexible tongue, which seems impervious to thorns, to strip off foliage and it is also used to clean its eyes and ears.
The huge heart (about 60 centimetres long, weighing about 10 kilograms and with muscular walls several centimetres thick) generates the highest blood pressure of any mammal, necessary to pump blood up to the brain against gravity.
It is the only animal born with horns, and even these are unique. Known as ossicones, at birth they are not attached to the skull, being cartilaginous pegs folded flat under the skin. They soon assume their erect position and while they grow slowly from the base they ossify (turn to bone) from the top down and eventually fuse with the parieatal bones of the skull. The male giraffe uses his skull as a big knobbly club to fight with other males. As a result the ends of males' horns are bald, while females' are tufted with hair — a good way to tell sexes apart. Males also tend to darken with age and oldsters can be almost black.

A swim in the sea or an early morning walk down the beach at certain times of the year reveals masses of iridescent blue jellyfish either floating on the water or stranded by the retreating tide. Sight of these blue balloons is a signal to get out of the water quickly, or risk a painful sting.
Blue Bottles or Portuguese Man O' War as they are known in some parts of the world are commonly thought of as jellyfish but are actually siphonophores, colonies of specialized polyps and medusoids. These so called jellyfish are actually made up of zooids. Each zooid has a specific role and together they function as if it were a single animal. For example a number of zooids will make up the stinging tentacles, others will make up the feeding tentacles and yet others all the essential components of a functioning individual.
There is an air bladder, known as the pneumatophore or sail, that allows it to float on the surface of the ocean. It has no means of propulsion and is pushed by the winds and the currents. The bladder must stay wet to ensure survival; every so often it may roll slightly to wet the surface of the float. To escape a surface attack, the pneumatophore can be deflated allowing the Man O' War to briefly submerge.
The blue bottle feeds on small fish and other small ocean creatures. They envelope their prey with their tentacles, where a poison is released thus paralysing its prey before being consumed. The tentacles adhere extremely well to their prey. If a tentacle is put under the microscope you will see that it looks like a long string of barbed hooks, which explains the ability of the tentacle to attach.
If a tentacle attaches itself to a human, it releases a poison (through the use of nematocysts), and if you continue to rub the skin after the tentacle has been removed more poison or venom will be released. If you are stung, it is best to wash the area without touching, using hot water which denatures the toxins.
The Loggerhead Turtle, which is apparently immune to Blue Bottle toxins, is commonly seen feeding on these animals.
There is another genus of 'jellyfish' called Velella or commonly by-the-wind sailors or purple sails. They resemble miniature Portuguese man o' war. They are small, being typically about 30 mm across. They are usually blue in colour, but their most obvious feature is a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them over the surface of the sea. In certain conditions, they can become stranded on beaches in their thousands.
Though the toxins injected into their prey are very powerful, Velella are harmless to humans as they are unable to pierce the skin with the barbs on their tentacles.
Like Blue Bottles, Velella are also colonial animals made up of an orderly cooperative of chondrophores. The tiny individual animals are specialized to perform specific tasks; some form the central gas-filled disc (which is a golden brown colour and hardened by chitinous material) essential to keeping the colony afloat; others form radiating tentacles for tasks such as catching prey, reproduction, and digestion.

High in the apex of a Zulu hut is a small shelf on which the occupants place all their very valuable possessions. This shelf is called iThala in isiZulu. It is no wonder that this beautiful reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal is called Ithala Game Reserve as there are many precious things there.
Dropping from the heights of the Ngotshe Mountain 1000 meters into the deeply incised Pongola River valley, where the oldest rock layer in the world, the Mozaan, lies exposed, the reserve has an astonishing variety of habitats and scenery.
There is evidence of mans occupancy of this areas as far back as the Middle Stone Age, some 20000 thousand years ago. Hillsides are littered with banded ironstone which the early Nguni people smelted to make tools and weapons. In the deep caves below Ntshondo Hill, after which the camp is named, the Zulu people hid when the battle for succession was being fought between brothers for the Zulu throne.
Two abandoned gold mines which produced gold until the early nineteenth century are littered with stamp mills and steam engines. These huge machines attest to the resourcefulness and determination of these pioneer miners because the transport from the port of Durban to this extremely rugged and remote area was by oxwagon must have been an almost impossible task! Against this backdrop is a stunning array of birds and animals to delight the visitor.
After the initial donation of town lands by the Louwsburg community, additional land was acquired and the reserve now covers 30 000ha. From high cliffs that support klipspringer and Verreaux`s eagle, the reserve drops through grassy plateaus and forested valleys to the Pongola River valley, home to crocodiles, magnificent waterbuck and the bright red and green Narina trogon. Animal reintroductions have been particularly successful and game viewing is extremely rewarding with black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo, a host of antelope, zebra and giraffe as well as leopard and cheetah.
Accommodation choices suit all tastes and visitors can opt for basic camping in Doornkraal Campsite or more private and comfortable lodgings in one of the three bushcamps. Ntshondwe Camp nestles in a well vegetated hanging valley on the slopes of Ngotshe Mountain. With a full restaurant, bar and conference centre, the camp offers both self-catering and nonself-catering chalets, as well as a luxury lodge with the most magnificent views. Tourist roads take you into some very varied habitats and there are a number of walking trails which provide a unique sense of freedom in this beautiful game reserve.
Sept 2008 - 25% discount for Gold members during month of September-iMfolozi Game Reserve Base Trails

Winter Special for GOLD members at 15% discount
Valid from 04/05/2008 to 26/06/2008 (excludes Youth Day, 16/6)
Crisp days and cosy evenings in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game reserve - all accommodation including Lodges, Bushlodges, Chalets, Rest Huts.

Visit the Didima Rock Art Centre with 4 people and pay for 3

Masinda, Mtwazi, Thendele, Rock Lodge and Ithala Lodges - 15% discount

SANTA LUCIA BOAT TRIP (Gold Members) - 30% discount if you overnight in one of our camps; 20% for Day Visitors, valid until 30 September 2008


The Comment of the month goes to Mr Gangat for making a point of phoning in to tell us about his Game Viewing experiences whilst taking advantage of his rhino Club membership. The highlight of one of his trips to HIP was the magnificent viewing of a Goliath Heron feeding in the water. He was accompanied by a colleague who was inspired by this incident, as he had never before visited a game reserve!

For Bookings and enquiries about the Rhino Club and Special Offers, please contact
Kay on 033 8451011/13

Upgrade or renew your Rhino Card, email

MAY 2008

Enjoy the MAY LEATHERBACKS at 40% discount for GOLD CARD members!!!!!
Valid 23rd of May until the 8th of June

Warm days and wonderful starry skies!!
Cape Vidal - cabins, camping
Umlalazi - camping
St Lucia - camping
Ndumo - chalets, campsites
Maphelana - campsites
Sodwana Bay - chalets and camping
Mkhuze - hutted and Safari tents
Vernon Crookes - huts
Oribi Gorge - huts

Awesome mountains-beautiful weather!
Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park
Chelmsford - chalets and camping
Giants Cup Trail
Giants Castle - chalets
Injisuthi - cabins and camping
Lotheni - hutted and camping
Highmoor - camping
Ithala - Ntshondwe, Mbizo, Thalu, Mhlangeni
Thendele - chalets

2008 Photographic Competition

This years competition has started and ends on the 31st of November.
Use pictures from previous holidays or you have a whole year of holidays to get that perfect shot and win a great prize!
Remember-To enter you must be a Gold Card member.
Photos must be taken in KZN Wildlife parks and you are limited to three entries. Please record where each picture is taken.
First Prize
Bushlodge at Hluhluwe Game Reserve - weekend for 8 people
Second Prize
Thalu Bushcamp - weekend for 4 people
Third Prize
Thendele Lodge - 2 day mid-week (any 2 days from Sunday to Thursday) for 6 people
Fourth Prize
Simes Cottage - 2 day mid-week (any 2 days from Sunday to Thursday)


We all think of plants as fairly fixed and the only time they move is through some external force such as the wind. Some plants do move however, and fairly swiftly at that! Mimosa pudica, known as 'shame a lady', a sensitive, bashful or shrinking plant is one such. Originally from Central and South America, it is now a pantropical plant and is found right around the world. Though it is considered an invasive alien in some countries, it has relatively little impact on indigenous plant systems and has sort of blended into the various landscapes. Touch it and instantly all the compound leaves fold up and it droops as though dead. This is obviously a survival tactic as it looks dried up and unpalatable and is thus avoided by grazers. It has colonised Ithala and children are fascinated by it, rushing around in the veld and finding plants to put to sleep. The movement is caused by "a rapid loss of pressure in strategically situated cells that cause the leaves to droop right before one's eyes and this type of motion has been termed nyctinastic movement.
Another plant that displays rapid movement is the Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, which closes rapidly when triggered by the movement of an insect.
The traps are formed from leaves whose terminal section is divided into two lobes, hinged along the midrib. Three trigger hairs on each lobe inside the trap lobes are sensitive to touch. When the trigger hairs are bent by a crawling insect, it allows the lobes, held under tension, to snap shut, flipping rapidly from convex to concave and interring the prey. This whole process takes less than a second. Spurious closure in response to raindrops and blown-in debris is prevented by the leaf's having a simple memory.
Plants also have other ways of reacting to threats or competition and though not instantaneous as in the two mentioned above, just as effective. Acacia trees respond to browsing by increasing the levels of tannin in the leaves which makes them very unpalatable. If there are too many browsing animals such as giraffe, confined to a small area, they will eventually starve as all the acacias become totally inedible.
Certain plants release toxins, which they are immune to, from their roots into the surrounding ground and these inhibit the growth of other competing plants.
The next time you take out an axe or saw, give a thought to the offending plants and their possible response!


Jeffrey N Makwala is the Hospitality Services Manager at Ntshondwe camp in Ithala Game Reserve. He joined Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on the 1st of May 2004. He was previously a Restaurant Manager with Anglo American Company in Vereeniging where he worked for 11 years. In 1998 he joined the National Parks Board as an Assistant Restaurant Manager at Skukuza Camp and was later promoted to a duty manager post at Oilfants camp.
Jeffrey's career in the hospitality industry started about 24 years ago and he has a considerable experience in almost every department of the hospitality entity. He has achieved a number of important things in his current post which has turned Ntshondwe into a multi award winning camp. Apart from his achievement in motivating his staff, he has ensured that the camp receives an Annual Echo Highly Recommended award every year since 2004. His latest achievement has seen the camp being awarded a 3 STAR Grading in 2008 by SA Tourism Grading Council.
Apart from completing a number of short courses Jeffrey has a Diploma in Hotel Management and has also completed a Leadership Development Programme with UNISA. He is currently pursuing his Degree in Tourism Management. He attributes his camp's success to his ever supporting team and his seniors who are always behind him. He therefore invites both local and foreign tourists to pay Ntshondwe Camp a visit so they can enjoy the experience provided by staff that go the extra mile to provide excellent service and he fully subscribes to the first law of service (Satisfaction equals perception minus expectation - Davidoff 1994)

What is the correct name for giraffe horns?
E-mail us an answer on First correct e-mail wins a mystery prize. (Courtesy of KZN Wildlife and Exclusive Books in Midlands Mall)

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