Saturday February 24, 2018

The Marlothii Conservancy

The Marlothii Conservancy is registered with the Mpumalanga Parks Board as an Urban Conservancy and was the first in Mpumalanga to do so. It aims to generate interest and active participation by registered land owners, accredited residents and the business community in the conservation of indigenous and endemic fauna and flora and the protection of the environment in the area based on scientific principles of nature conservation and sustainable utilization of the area's natural resources. The Conservancy exists in partnership with the Marloth Park Honorary Rangers and the Marloth Park Property Owners Association. You can see our registration certificate by clicking here and read a brief historical note by clicking here.

The occurrence of perennial species indicates improved veld conditions. With increased competition for light, the grass species grow taller with more bulk and provide better soil protection. In many cases they become less palatable with inedible stems, like the grass used for thatching. It should be remembered that almost all grass species are palatable when young but as they grow and age the cellulose content increases at higher rate in some species resulting in reduced palatability. Cymbopogon spp. are good examples of this.

The leaves of many of these tall grasses are only accessible to certain ungulates with the necessary adaptations. The horns of both male and female Sable and Roan antelope, as examples, help part the long grass stems to reveal the palatable leaves below. If the adapted species of antelope are missing, these grasslands may become unutilised and 'moribund'. The long grasses found in the vicinity of Pretoriouskop in KNP are good example and Sable are often seen in that area.

Too much shading from moribund material can smother plants and result in die off. Under-utilisation of grasses, while resulting in better soil cover, is nearly as detrimental as over utilisation. There is a very necessary relationship between grazers and grasses. In natural circumstances the 'coarse grazers' (like Cape buffalo) will move through thick swathes of grass, opening it up for other species, which will shorten it further, making it suitable for the next species, and so on through the season.

The various species of ungulate assist each other with this type of interaction which results in ideal grassland management, producing a trampled mulch to retain moisture and permit light penetration. Essentially the moribund material is “converted “to mulch. Where this doesn't occur the use of fire either naturally or artificially created may become necessary to maintain ideal conditions. 

Many people consider veld management to involve solely the numbers of animals in a particular area. Under natural circumstances that is not true, animal populations would move around to the best grazing areas, unhindered by fences. Herds would tend to aggregate in large numbers at the end of the dry season, when they had to keep on the move to find food. It this way they acted like a natural mowing machine. When the rains arrived the large groups split up into their herds once more, with the benefit of 'new blood'. These natural systems enabled the grasses to receive the required rest periods for growth.

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