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Complex Project Adds Mountain Reedbuck to Summerplace Game Reserve

Summerplace Game Reserve recently became home to another 15 Mountain Reedbuck. It was a complicated project that was seamlessly executed by a small, highly skilled team of wildlife professionals in just half a day. Here’s how it was done and why the Mountain Reedbuck is important to our reserve.

“We know that there are a handful of Mountain Reedbuck at Summerplace, but we wanted to introduce more to create a free-range breeding population in the Waterberg. This introduction concludes our first phase of conservation commitment to selected antelope species at Summerplace, and adds to our recent introduction of Sable, Tsessebe, Roan and Common Reedbuck,” said Summerplace Game Reserve conservationist, John Mackie.

Mackie has been heading up the introduction of the various animals to Summerplace with the overall intention of firstly ensuring their adaption to their new home is smooth and secondly, that they flourish. For the Mountain Reedbuck, he sourced the animals from the nearby Elandsberg Private Nature Reserve.

“They have a thriving population of around 250 indigenous Limpopo Mountain Reedbuck at Elandsberg. Although only 80km away as the crow flies, Elandsberg is quite different to here. Summerplace is in the Waterberg and has quite a range of gradient, geology and vegetation and it’s actually highly suitable for both Common Reedbuck and Mountain Reedbuck. We brought 15 Common Reedbuck into Summerplace about a year ago and now it was the turn of the Mountain Reedbuck,” explained Mackie.

Mackie anticipated a five-hour capture session at Elandsberg, but was pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the capture team, who completed the exercise in half that time with a very slick process.

A helicopter carrying a veterinarian flew from the base to find Mountain Reedbuck. The vet would pick out an animal, work out how much tranquiliser it would require to incapacitate, load the dart appropriately and shoot the animal. Then he’d get lowered down by the helicopter to pick the animal up in his arms, take off again and fly to the base, where he handed each animal to the ground crew without moving away from the helicopter. The helicopter then immediately whisked him off again to dart and collect the next animal.

On the ground, a strong guy ran to the helicopter, took the sedated animal from the vet, carried the animal to a bakkie, which then reversed to the game transport trailer where another vet would be told what tranquiliser dosage was used on that particular animal, she would then give the animal an antibiotic and vitamin jab, reverse the tranquiliser, apply a de-tick liquid and do a quick health check before it was loaded into the transport trailer.

[We have created a video reel on our Instagram account so you can see the slick process in action.]

“It’s a highly specialized project. It’s not like darting Impala,” explained Mackie. “The darting vet needs to pick out which animal he wants, work out how much tranquiliser it will need according to its size, shoot the dart at the animal, jump out of the helicopter when it drops to the ground, pick up the darted buck, which weighs up to 30 kilogrammes, get back in the helicopter, holding the sedated buck and then hand it over to the ground crew. He also needs to shoot the right number of males and females. It’s not easy to pick out young males from the air because they don’t yet have horns. They were truly incredible with how efficiently they carried out the process,” remarked Mackie after attending the capture from start to finish.

The 15-strong capture saw the transfer of 11 females, two of which were pregnant, two young males and two breeding males. Once at Summerplace, the animals were released into the large grass field near the Bike Village. Some were still a bit groggy and needed a helping hand to get out of the trailer before bounding off into the bush and eventually, expectedly, to the higher ground on the reserve.

“It’s important to release them near the centre of the reserve so that they can get accustomed to the reserve no matter which way they run. If they encounter a fence early on, they might try and crawl under it and we don’t want that. We hope that they settle quickly. If they do, we anticipate the number will grow to around 50 in the next five years,” added Mackie.

The Mountain Reedbuck is a relatively small antelope. It measures around 75cm at the shoulder and weighs an average of 30kg. It has a grey coat with a white underbelly and reddish-brown head and shoulders. The male has ridged horns of around 15cm, which curve forwards. It’s predominantly a grazer and requires a good water supply. It normally lives in herds of up to six and occupies ridges and hillsides in rocky regions and high-altitude grasslands at 1500-5000 metres above sea level.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Mountain Reedbuck is considered threatened.

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