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Our Latest Monthly Newsletters

Relaxed Motlala leopard looking at Jordan and guests

November 2019

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At long last the rains have fallen ! This year the rains have been extremely late and the grazers have struggled. Before the rains, there was exceptional game viewing around the water points and our lucky tourists have seen numerous kills this month. The grass has rapidly turned...
Young white rhino cow near Masango

October 2019

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We are regularly requested by prospective tourists to advise the best time to visit Kruger Park. There is no simple answer. Each season has its own attractions. The greatest concentrations of game are found towards the end of the dry season months. It is impossible to predict...
Elephants sparring near Campfire Dam

September 2019

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The number of trees destroyed by elephants in late Winter is alarming. With their need for moisture, elephants do a lot of damage in debarking trees ( mainly Marulas ) or knocking trees over to get to the succulent roots. Once elephants ring-bark a Marula tree, the cambium layer...
Different steenbok - any guesses?

August 2019

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The Sable Antelope, Hippotragus Niger, is a stunningly beautiful animal. Both sexes are blessed with magnificent recurved horns and I rate the adult Sable bull as the most majestic antelope in all of Africa. They are uncommon but recently Viva Safaris guests have had some luck in...

July 2019

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The Cut-Throat Finch, Amadina Fasciata, is aptly named and the male is easily recognised via the bright red band under the throat. As with most birds, the female is less colourful and lacks the red band.   Cut-throat finches are found throughout the northern and eastern...
Lioness within touching distance of our open vehicle

June 2019

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The Saddle-billed Stork,  Ephippiorhynchus Senegalensis, is a striking bird. Not only is it the tallest stork in the world but it also has attractive pied plumage. It has a black and red banded bill with a prominent yellow saddle at the base of the bill. Interestingly, the male...
Bernard falling in love with elephants

May 2019

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By now it is common knowledge that some of the private Nature Reserves around Kruger have decided to dehorn all their rhino. Such drastic action is explained as “better a dehorned rhino than no rhino at all”. I have serious reservations but accept that the action was done with...
Great leopard sighting

April 2019

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The African Mourning Dove, Streptopelia Decipiens, is well known in wildlife reserves in Botswana and East Africa. For many years, it was known as the Angola Mourning Dove. It is easily recognised by its diagnostic red skin around a yellow eye.   In South Africa, it is...
Lion right next to vehicle

March 2019

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At the beginning of this month, after good rains in Kruger, one of our guests was mortified when viewing a big bull elephant flatten an even bigger tree. Our tourist guide tried his best to explain that other animals would benefit from the accessible leaves, bark and roots. This...
Vehicles with many tourists = more employment opportunities for locals.

February 2019

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I believe that the most serious problem in S A today is the shortage of jobs. Unemployment figures for the 18 to 35 year old bracket is way over 60% and climbing !! This is an extremely explosive situation and we all should try to do our bit to alleviate the problem. It is...
Our lovely Shannon close to a lovely lion !

January 2019

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The African Green Pigeon, TRERON CALVUS, is an attractive bird with green, yellow, mauve and red markings. It has an olive-green back, grey-green head, yellow leggings, mauve eyes and tricoloured bill. It is fructivorous and frequents the canopies of evergreen fig trees where it...
Nyala ewe with newly born lamb at Reception of Marc’s

November 2018

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When I first started guiding, we used the word “ herd “ to describe groups of antelopes, giraffes, rhinos and zebras. More colourful and descriptive collective nouns have since emerged. For example we use the word “ dazzle “ for a group of zebras, “ crash” for a group of rhinos...
White lion near Satara.

October 2018

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The dire conditions because of a shortage of natural food in the bush have resulted in some irregular behaviour by very hungry animals. We had 2 break-ins at Katekani Luxury Tented Lodge by baboons – they messed things up comprehensively on both occasions. Margrett was...
Elephants at waterhole in front of Tremisana Lapa.

September 2018

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The drought continues. My friend of many years, Michael, who has drilled more boreholes than he can remember, sunk yet another borehole at Tremisana. Water was obtained at a depth of 55 metres, but I was advised to continue drilling. Eventually we drilled down to a depth of 110...
Great shot of White Rhinos.

August 2018

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Thanks to Marco, our brilliant webmaster, I am now in possession of numerous files that have every single newsletter I wrote starting in May 2002. What a lot of memories! Pity in only one way – I had completely forgotten some names and events – a reminder that age is marching on...
Great lion sighting

July 2018

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The African Porcupine, Hystrix Africaeaustralis, is a common animal in Kruger Park. It is strictly nocturnal and spends the day hidden in holes in termite mounds. The porcupine is a rodent and is exclusively vegetarian. Its diet includes roots, bulbs, wild fruits, seeds and the...
Fast asleep near Ezulwini Lodge

June 2018

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I have had a number of positive and constructive responses to my last newsletter that indicated some of my ideas on the role of guides and drivers. I have been asked to share some of my ideas on tourist expectations. Over many years, Viva Safaris has been fine-tuned in respect of...
Elephant close to our safari vehicle.

May 2018

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May is traditionally one of the quietest months in terms of guest arrivals. We ensure that all staff take their annual long leave between April and June. Our drivers and guides are encouraged to rest and not do any freelance work. We use the Lodge guides to fix roads. This year...
Good shot of White Rhino on the move.

April 2018

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The Ostrich, Struthio Camelus, is a universally recognised bird. It was fashionable to wear hats and dresses made from ostrich plumes, especially during the colonial era. Large numbers of ostriches were exported to places all over the world, and, as a result, the ostrich is well...
Sighting of Hippo in Olifants River while o Bush Walk.

March 2018

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The White-backed Vulture, Gyps Africanus, is the most common vulture in our area. It is so named because of the white  feathers on the lower back, best noticed when the bird is in flight. Large numbers of these birds are seen at kills. They have extremely good eyesight and from...
Close and personal with elephant on Tshukudu.

February 2018

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The Wild Dog, Lycaon Pictus, is nomadic and travels vast distances in search of prey. Wild Dogs generally try to avoid areas where there is a regular lion presence. They are able to slip in and out of fenced reserves using passages made under the fences by warthogs. Consequently...
Brilliant shot of young White Lion

January 2018

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As a result of feedback from regular recipients of our monthly newsletter, I have decided to cut down on detail in the reports submitted by the tourist guides. This will result in a shorter newsletter that I am advised will be more “user-friendly”. December 2017 and January 2018...
Great shot of White Rhinos.

November 2017

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Towards the middle of November 2017, I was approached by a group of 4 guides : Rex, Elias, Eva and Shannon. All of these do their guiding ONLY in the Balule Reserve and informed me rather sadly that there were no buffalo left – as a result of the drought the buffalo had trekked...
Elephant near Tremisana Lodge.

October 2017

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The Leopard, Panthera Pardus is, for many tourists, the most sought after animal in Kruger Park. It is the quintessential cat, displaying qualities so familiar to humans who have house cats : it is aloof, able to climb tall trees, opportunistic and generally solitary. Perhaps the...
Red-billed Quelea. Photo by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE

September 2017

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On a recent safari conducted by another company, the guide informed us that the most populous bird in the world is the Red-billed Quelea, Quelea Quelea. I am not sure of this as I reckon the domestic chicken wins that title. He probably meant undomesticated flying bird. What...
Leopard on Leadwood branch.

August 2017

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One of the responsibilities of tour operators/ game lodge owners, in my opinion, is passing on a conservation ethic to our guests. It is well and good to provide brilliant game-viewing opportunities along with real African experiences but we would be failing dismally if our...
Leopard close to Viva vehicle.

July 2017

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The Serrated Hinged Terrapin, Pelusios Sinuatus, is a common resident of all rivers and major dams in Kruger Park. Terrapins are essentially fresh water turtles. It is called Hinged as it has a hinge in its shell which can be closed after retracting its head. The carapace (hard...
Elephant antics at the Waterhole.

June 2017

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About 3 weeks ago, I went on a safari into Kruger with one of our newer guides, Lamby. Although I was well aware of his exceptional abilities while he was Head Guide at another safari company, it is part of my job to evaluate all our guides. Lamby was very good BUT the rhino...
Zanelle and friends

May 2017

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The domestication of wild animals is, for me personally, not a good idea. I have little interest in walking with lions or “interacting” with elephants. The fact that most elephant-back safari operations are closing down is good news to me. There are some of Viva’s guests that...
Lioness right in front of Rex’s Landcruiser.

April 2017

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The Spotted Hyena, Crocuta crocuta, is so named because of the irregular brown spots on a sandy yellow background coat. The young, interestingly, are dark brown, almost black. The Spotted Hyena has a strong neck and forequarters with a sloping back. It is the “Jaws” of the bush,...
Impressive shot of Black Rhino.

March 2017

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The Warthog, Phacochoerus Africanus, is now as common and as entertaining a visitor to the Tremisana Lodge gardens as the monkey troop. Perhaps they are even more welcome as warthogs do not bother guests at breakfast time, trying to steal food. We have replaced the small yoghurts...
Lucky Viva guests !

February 2017

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The Bateleur, Terathopius Ecaudatus, is a striking Eagle . Its colourful plumage and short tail render it unmistakeable. “Ecaudatus” in Latin means “ tail-less “. In Afrikaans it is called “Berghaan “ literally “Mountain Rooster” – a good description !   The word “Bateleur”...
Baboon troop with young.

December 2016 / January 2017

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The rains have had an amazing effect on the veld. Lush grass and vibrant green foliage bear testimony to the end of the drought. The young impala are having a great time ! The herbivores certainly suffered during the drought and I believe that the numbers of zebra, wildebeest,...
Brilliant shot of Wild Dog pack on the road.

November 2016

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The Greater Kudu, Tragelaphus Strepsiceros, is the third largest antelope in Kruger Park, after the Eland and Roan Antelope. The Kudu is an elegant antelope with bulls having magnificent spiral horns that can grow up to 1.75 metres long. Its coat is fawn-coloured with the sides...
Honey Badger.

October 2016

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The Honey Badger, Mellivora Capensis, is so named as it is believed that it follows a bird, the Greater Honeyguide, to a beehive. Once the Honey Badger opens the beehive, the Honeyguide gets its sweet share. The fact that it survives any number of bee stings is eloquent testimony...
Yellow-billed hornbill.

September 2016

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The drought continued throughout September 2016. Unlike Kruger Park, some of the Private Game Reserves that Viva Safaris visit have decided to feed the animals. Both Kapama Game Reserve and Tshukudu Game Reserve have been feeding their grazers on a daily basis. In Kruger I am...
James and guests near lion

August 2016

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The Small-spotted Genet, Genetta Genetta, is widely distributed throughout South Africa. Genets have long, sleek bodies and equally long tails, short legs and relatively long, rounded ears. The general body colour is off-white to grey and is liberally covered with dark brown to...
Leopard with fresh Duiker kill up a Marula Tree.

July 2016

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Last month’s newsletter indicated our concerns about poaching by ill-informed locals. Underpinning these nefarious activities is a need to earn cash – poverty is widespread in the communities adjacent to Kruger Park. It is critically important that the owners of Game Lodges and...
The mighty Ezulwini.

June 2016

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The White-backed Vulture, Gyps Africanus, is the most common vulture species in the Kruger Park. It is also the most common vulture in Africa. Guests who book our 5 and 6 day packages go to Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre where they can interact with some rehabilitated...
A good waking up yawn!

May 2016

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We apologise for the lateness of this month’s newsletter. The drought continues! Grazers are really struggling and there are large areas of Kruger Park that simply have NO grass! I expect serious mortality amongst animals such as hippo, buffalo, white rhino and to a lesser extent...
Christopher our new walking guide.

April 2016

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Notwithstanding the assault on Rhinos throughout Africa, the rangers and tourist guides at Viva Safaris still regard the Leopard as the most difficult member of the Big Five to find on our game drives. The reason for this is the secretive nature of leopards. Usually our sightings...
Tanya and guests close-up to lioness.

March 2016

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We had a group of 18 Italian tourists earlier this month who, on their Sunset Drive, witnessed a territorial fight between two Black Rhino bulls. This is an unusual and very impressive sighting. By all accounts it was very exciting with lots of snorting and vocalising. Black...
Lioness and elephant share a water hole

February 2016

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With the ongoing drought, animals are having to move great distances to find both grazing and water. Certain animals that are normally found in specific habitats are now forced to move away from their usual home ranges. Recently I saw a Klipspringer, Oreotragus oreotragus, very...
Great off road experience with lion pride.

December 2015 / January 2016

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This is a double-month edition so I shall keep my introduction short. There is only one thing on everyone’s mind at this time : the persistent drought. It looks like the El Nino effect will limit the rainfall in our region to less than half of what normally falls – we expect that...
A baby Nyala.

November 2015

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The VERVET MONKEY, Chlorocebus Pygerythrus is widespread across the eastern part of South Africa. It has been introduced to a number of states in the USA as well as the West Indies. Vervet Monkeys are highly interactive and great fun to watch because of the complex social...
Great lion sighting

October 2015

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The Woodland Kingfisher, Halcyon Senegalensis, is an amazingly striking bird. Colourful and noisy (it has a loud trill as its call), it is easily noticed. So far this year, we have not seen nor heard a single Woodland Kingfisher and that, for me, is very bad news. The Woodland...

September 2015

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Despite what my family may otherwise believe, I think that as I have grown older, I have become a little more tolerant. Things that used to drive me mad are now less maddening as I try to put issues into proper perspective. One issue that still drives me up the proverbial wall is...
Lions, lions every day!!

August 2015

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The drought has continued throughout August and the bush is very dry. Game viewing has been excellent throughout the month and there have been numerous occasions when our guides have had sightings of all Big Five before lunch-time. It has been an amazing month for lion sightings...
Elephant crosses in front of Viva Safaris clients

July 2015

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The introduction of a camera trap at the Tremisana waterhole has been a wonderful revelation ! It is attached to a Marula tree that thankfully has survived some seriously close encounters with elephants and buffalos. Despite the camera covering only a third of the waterhole (and...
Leopard grabs hold of warthog on Sunset Drive

June 2015

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From my home in Durban, I normally drive via Northern kwa-Zulu Natal through Swaziland and enter the Kruger Park at Crocodile Bridge and then proceed to Tremisana Lodge via Orpen Gate. It is a journey of about 850 km. On my most recent trip (end of June) I was very concerned to...
Bongani leads a focussed group on a walk along the banks of the mighty Olifants River.

May 2015

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The African Civet, Civettictis Civetta, is a strikingly attractive animal. Generally but not strictly nocturnal, the Civet stands roughly 300mm at the shoulder and has a mass of around 4 kg. Civets are sometimes called “Civet Cats” but this is a misnomer as Civets display...
Lioness really close to us on the tarred road

April 2015

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I was pleased to receive feedback to my last newsletter (March 2015). There were two notable responses to my call to exterminate Mallard ducks and their hybrid offspring from all nature reserves. Cosimo Brescia, MD of Sandown Travel, plans to organise Italian hunters to do duck...
Brilliant photo of excellent Leopard sighting

March 2015

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I am writing this newsletter from Cape Town, where there has been a major issue regarding the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the grounds of the University of Cape Town. Rhodes is seen by radicals as a colonialist who brought terrible hardship to Africa. The...
Lionesses resting after a good meal of Kudu

February 2015

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It is very unfortunate that most people are scared of snakes. Perhaps the snake is maligned as a result of negative connotations. For example, we read in Genesis that Adam and Eve were tempted to do evil by a “crafty” snake. Similarly there are pejorative expressions such as “a...
Elephant bull near Tremisana Lodge feeding on a Marula Tree

December 2014 / January 2015

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There can be no bigger thrill than having a Black Rhino bull sense our presence on a Bush Walk. I accompanied Rex on a walk this January. We were walking through a dry watercourse when we heard the most terrifying bellow – Rex, who was ahead of the group, came charging back and...
Young male leopard resting in the shade

November 2014

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The sighting of a Pangolin at Marc’s Camp as reported in last month’s newsletter by our tourist guide, Vanessa, has caused a substantial stir. I have received a number of comments from friends and previous guests. Old timers to the Kruger Park who have been there hundreds of...
Rhino mother and calf

October 2014

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The Sausage Tree, Kygelia Africana, is so named after its fruit which looks like a short fat salame (singular form of salami). Perhaps it was the Italian connection that led me to buy one specimen about 15 years ago and plant it at Tremisana Lodge. This year is the first year it...
Lioness near Satara

September 2014

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Unlike last year, when the rains fell on 1 September, this month the ground was parched and dry. No rain fell in September 2014 and both grazers and browsers are having a tough time. The condition of the veld is deteriorating rapidly. The old, sick and weak are moribund and the...
Great shot of a cheetah

August 2014

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The Barberton Daisy, Gerbera Jamesonii, derives its name from its geographic origin. Barberton is a town south of Nelspruit in the Lowveld and it was here, in the granitic soils, that the early gold diggers first saw this beautiful flower towards the end of the 19th century. It...
New sliding doors in treehouses 1 and 6

July 2014

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The home page of our website, has videos taken by guests of two lion kills. These videos were taken in July 2012 and July 2013. I was hoping that we could make it 3 out of 3 with another video for July 2014. No such luck ! Nevertheless, at the beginning of...
White Rhino bull

June 2014

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There is no doubt that the most colourful bird in our region is the Lilac-breasted Roller. The bird is easily noticed not only by its visual splendour but also by its raucous call. To make it still more noticeable, the Roller does some great physical exhibitionist displays. In...
Warthogs having a disagreement

May 2014

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Sandra and I spent part of our long leave this May on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, led by the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town, Stephen Brislin. It was a truly amazing and unforgettable experience. In between the wonderful visits to the places where our Lord walked, I...
Wesley's brilliant photo of young male leopard seen regularly near Tremisana

April 2014

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Last week we received an animated email from an upbeat Craig Spencer, Warden of Olifants West Game Reserve, in which Tremisana Lodge is located. Craig informs us that a Black Rhino calf was born in our reserve during the last week of April 2014. You may recall that, as part of...
Mating lions

March 2014

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After the heavy March rains this year, the butterflies have appeared in greater numbers than usual. I took this photo with my cell phone on a bush walk. A friend of mine, Ian Sharp, is an avid lover of butterflies. Viva Safaris helped in sponsoring a checklist of butterflies...
Young lion cub

February 2014

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My Italian background has played an important part in many facets of my life. Probably the biggest part has been in my founding of Viva Safaris in 1991. Because I can speak Italian fluently, the big Italian travel agencies like Sandown Travel and International Travel supported...
Bongani and nearby elephant during Sunset Drive

December 2013 / January 2014

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The year has started badly – one of our Black Rhino bulls was killed on the first full moon of January. A year ago exactly I predicted in my Dec 12 / Jan 13 newsletter that the rhino poaching deaths for 2013 would reach a figure around 987. This was based on a simple mathematical...