This study aims to assess the influence of (historic) agriculture and rural settlements, as well as conservation efforts, on the chemical and physical status of the Palala river from its source to where it pours into the Limpopo River. This is done by performing biological and chemical assessments of the river at multiple sites. About 38 kilometers of the Palala river runs through Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve. Longitudinal trends in macroinvertebrate community structures are studied using a river health program approach. The effects of turbidity, flow velocity and water depth on macroinvertebrate diversity, abundance and richness is also assessed, as well as the chemical composition of the water at every site. This study will provide valuable information and help Lapalala in making informed decisions on mitigation efforts to minimize negative river impact.
Collaborator: University of South Africa (UNISA)
The historical data on our rhino population has provided interesting material to study the reproductive performance and survival of our rhino populations (both black and white). Rhino were first introduced onto Lapalala in 1982, under the watchful eye of a dedicated rhino monitoring team. Since then, the team has collected a valuable pool of data about the status of our rhino. The research team is analysing this data to identify factors affecting the species’ reproductive performance and survival.
Collaborator: University of the Witwatersrand
Lapalala is a collaborator and provides opportunistic sampling of a variety of wildlife species for a larger-scale systematic investigation into the role of certain sub-saharan African species in the epidemiology of foot-and-mouth disease virus, Coxiella Burnetii, Brucella Spp and selected tick-borne pathogens.
Collaborators: Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pretoria
The aim of the Lapalala Elephant Landscape Experiment (LELE) project is to determine the long-term impact of elephants on vegetation dynamics such as tree biomass, tree structure, plant species composition in Lapalala. To achieve this aim, it is important to distinguish between the impact of elephants and other herbivores by means of a combination of elephant-exclosures, herbivore exclosures, and control plots. Eight experimental plots have been constructed and are monitored and maintained on a weekly basis. Another aim of the LELE project is to determine the long-term impact of elephants on the regeneration of trees. Such impact of elephants would be very difficult to recognise and slow to detect if we were to observe tree regeneration from the current situation only. The LELE project will help predict the long-term impact of elephants on the landscape and tree regeneration – a starting point for effective evidence-based elephant population management.
Collaborators: Karlsruhe University, University of Johannesburg, TNH Fencing
Lapalala’s predator research program was launched in 2018, shortly after the re-introduction of lion and cheetah on the reserve. This multi-disciplinary initiative has already resulted in a multitude of projects investigating different aspects of Lapalala’s predator populations – including prey selection, activity patterns and ranging ecology. The data will give us greater insight into the species’ behaviour and ecology, which will help us to make well-informed management decisions. The broad aim of this program is to develop a better understanding of the ecology of reintroduced carnivores, particularly cheetah and lion, and to understand the mechanisms that structure prey communities (top-down vs. bottom-up).
Collaborators: Nelson Mandela University, University of Mpumalanga