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Burning/fire in Kruger - discussion

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bwana
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Unread postby bwana » Mon Jan 24, 2005 8:00 pm

Anita wrote:Hi everyone,
I'm not realy the talkative kind,but I would like to ask the people that know a question. You say that veldfires are good for the field and the animals (like the elephants). Now surely veldfires that is caused by nature itself is very scares, do you agree with manmade veldfires that is under control? I ask this question b'cause when I went on one of my FGASA tours this was a question that had as all confused. Nature is surposed to be left alone yet we find ourselfs interfering with it all the time


Hi Anita
Simply put, I think that fire is the one part of nature that can be controlled be man without having a negative effect. Natures fires are random and infrequent so while waiting for a fire to start in the park naturally might seem like the right way, by burning specific parts of the park that are in need of revitalisation, all the park is doing is pinpointing the specific area and thereby leaving the 'good' parts alone. Even if a natural fire starts the fire would still have to monitered as there are people and buildings in the park that would have to be protected. Not only that, a decision to let nature handle the burning might put the whole park at risk, and being a tourist destination that would be disastrous. Fires in nature will obviously also burn into areas that dont necessarily need burning. If Africa was uninhabited this wouldn't be a problem. The KNP is still a man made area, albeit with minimal intervention, however a certain amount of intervention is needed.
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Unread postby Tabs » Tue Jan 25, 2005 3:27 am

Man made fires are needed because 'we' have taken over the environment and 'fenced in' the animals making it impossible for them to follow the old migration routes.
The resulting roads and fire-breaks mean that 'natural fires' will not burn the large areas which they did before man's encroachment (and, without the possibility of natural migration, the animals can, in the main, no longer escape the fires without these fire-breaks) which in turn results in areas where the grass becomes moribund and/or the trees start to encroach on the grasslands. If grass becomes moribund it cannot then be utilised by the animals.

By setting fires the parks and other game reserve managers can burn off the moribund grass allowing for fresh, new and nutritious growth which can be utilised by the animals and at the same time eliminate the tree saplings which would otherwise take over the grasslands. This also serves as local migration of the animals - as the herbivores are attracted to the new growth - and the ash from the burnt grass and trees acts as a fertiliser for the soil as well as being utilised by some animals for trace elements.

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Unread postby Wild@Heart » Tue Jan 25, 2005 6:29 am

As they all said above.

The beauty of such a controlled fire is usually seen within a week, when the green start coming out..the contrast of colour is amazing. Then you also spot some great sightings.

2 things I also want to mention with this regard:

1) Have any of you noticed the ellies when the grass burn. Now, maybe someone can answer me, but when the grass burn, is the ground softer? The reason why I'm asking is because we saw some ellies, stamping with the foot into the ground next to a tree and it seemed to me, that they were reasching for the roots of the plant?

2) If you do come across a veldfire, have a look at all the birds. Most likely you will find them on the road. And then sit back and enjoy as all the smaller "game" come out. It's a feast for the birds.

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Re: Important info if you are visiting the Park soon

Unread postby Meg » Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:43 am

fevertree wrote:I know many of you have trips to the Park coming up soon. For those who are going to the south, there has been extensive bush burning this past week. I travelled from Croc Bridge to Tshokwane yesterday, and the majority of the bush east of the Tshokwane Skukuza road has burnt, as well as the area to the east of the Croc Bridge - Lower Sabie Road.
Relatively low game numbers obviously, but wonderful raptor sightings ove the burn areas.


We always have brilliant luck with lion after a burn, especially around Croc Bridge. Good luck to everyone going soon!
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fires

Unread postby fevertree » Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:47 am

It seems as if they were controlled burns, but the rainy season has now past, so it is unlikely that there will be any rcovery before October or November again when the rains return (hopefully).
It is an extremely large area that has burnt. If you stand on Nkumbe, it is burnt as far as the eye can see.
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Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:47 am

I have been in the Park when there have been extensive burns before and was amazed at how quickly the new grass shoots appeared. And you are correct Meg, we saw a fair amount of lion.
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Unread postby hornbill » Mon Apr 18, 2005 8:54 am

You're right, the grass does seem to sprout quickly. Hopefully it will have recovered a bit by the time we get there in June.

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Re: bush fires

Unread postby DinkyBird » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:06 am

fevertree wrote:Meg you are 100% correct. Was in the Park 5 minutes yesterday and a big male lion just outside Croc Bridge!
My experience from working in the bush, is that burning at this time of year, you get absolutely minimal grass regrowth. A few pioneer grasses will resprout,but the important grazing species do not regrow until the next seasons rains.
But when the rains do come, it is this beautiful carpet everywhere that attracts everything.!

Surely this increases the animal concentrations in the areas not burnt.
(All these questions because I am going to be in those exact areas in 2.5 weeks time :? )
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bush fires

Unread postby fevertree » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:15 am

Burning does cause a shift in the animals range usage and movement patterns - they have to find food somewhere, but for highly territorial species, it is a problem as they are not welcome intruders into new areas. Also they are subjected to stress as they are now operating outside of their normal range, in strange territory and sometimes on reduced quality diets.
The biggest effect as I see it with this area that has burnt, is the normal congregation of zebra and wildebeest on these plains in the winter will now have to adapt to other areas or remin further north along the Sweni and Nwanedzi rivers.
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Unread postby Jock » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:18 am

Why was such a large area burnt? It seems so early to be burning. Surely it is best to burn just before the rain so the grass is not under so much pressure from animals getting at the roots etc.
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Re: fires

Unread postby wildtuinman » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:33 am

fevertree wrote:Large blocks are burnt in order to prevent excessive grazing pressure that occurs when the grass regrows. However, I do agree that this is a particularly large block that was burnt. I am not sure if the burnt area extends further north than Tshokwane, I never went higher yesterday.
The best time to burn is from September, after the August winds and just before the rains. The soil standing exposed from now till the next rains is subject to extensive erosion, and it puts pressure on the grazers and browsers for many months to come.

Unless I am missing the point here completely, it does not sound like controlled burning to me then.
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Unread postby fevertree » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:40 am

I can only assume that it was controlled - we have not had any lightning storms in the lowveld this past week, and there has been no excessive wind, so if it was an unnatural fire, then I am sure it could have been controlled.
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Unread postby Shidzidzii » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:27 am

I think this is all good news.
Autumn burns are cooler than spring 'cos there is moisture about. There are late rains, in south especialy, and the residual moisture will regenerate veld rapidly. Autumn burns were common in J Stevenson-Hamiltons days.
The vegetation build-up was very extensive and if this had ignited in winter the damage could have been extensive.
I'm visiting Lower Sabi 26 April so the viewing should be excellent, 'cos you can see deeper and game, raptors and predators will have been attracted .

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Unread postby fevertree » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:56 am

Yes, the raptor sightings yesterday were amazing. I have never seen so many bateleur eagles together. It may laso be good news for cheetah - more open hunting grounds and easier to see danger, but also more difficult to stalk and hunt.
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burnt areas

Unread postby wildjohn » Mon Apr 18, 2005 10:25 pm

Have just come back from the park (16th), and noticed that in tb south, near Steilberg-Bergendal and also upper Sabie river area, west of Kruger gate there are also extensive burnt areas. I was wondering why at this strange time ? Maybe theyre experimental or something ? Spring is traditional time, though it seems that many areas have been subject to burns - not just one area.

Saw storks cruising around in the blackened landccape.

Regards,

wj


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