I do hunt, and I do fish, and I don't apologize to anybody for hunting and fishing. -Norman Schwarzkopf

Conservation & Youth Portfolio

It has been a huge privilege to serve on EXCO during 2015 and it gives us great pleasure to provide you with our portfolio report for the year.

After being elected to EXCO in November 2014, Willem de Valence was elected as Zululand Chairman and Max Donnoli as Vice Chairman. This, I must remind you, was during the most challenging period in the history of the Zululand Branch! EXCO and the Branch were faced with a number of challenges which have taken up an inordinate amount of time since 2013. This, as was reported in the President’s and Zululand Chairman’s Reports for 2015, prevented EXCO and the Zululand Committee from reaching all their goals and objectives.

Willem, Max and the remainder of the Zululand Committee rose to the challenge of resolving all these challenges amicably and getting all the key stakeholders in the association to reunite. We are proud to report that 2015 was an eventful year which has turned out extremely well! Unfortunately, all of these happenings have prevented us from contributing to the Association as a whole in all the ways which we had planned, as we had to focus all of our efforts on the Zululand Branch. However, once our efforts are established at Branch level, we will work on expending our initiatives to interested branches in support of growing our association. A large part of our goal is to train and involve juniors in all our activities. The main events we had this year in support of this portfolio are as follows:

Youth development

“Introducing kids to the outdoors must be one of the greatest joys of parenting.”
Willem De Valence

The main focus of the Zululand Branch for this year was to start and establish a youth
interest group. Jakkie Roos, who has a background in education, headed up this project for us and received a good response from our younger members. Under Oom Jakkie’s leadership, the juniors managed to start their own interest group during our monthly Waterholes. The juniors choose how they want to run their interest group and their meetings, and they do whatever they deem valuable. Oom Jakkie will work with the juniors to ensure that they have a jam-packed calendar for 2016 with a number of planned outings. We will continue with our efforts to encourage our youngsters to be part of our branch and Association in all planned activities. All parents are invited to bring their sons and daughters along to our Waterholes and all other activities. As our Chairman, Willem de Valence puts it “I have noticed that if you catch them young, you train them for life!”

Dads & lads .22 rifle gong shoot

The concept was the brainchild of the Northern KwaZulu-Natal branch. It seemed that the idea was the perfect opportunity to get parents and kids to compete in a fun
activity. Six stages of five gongs each were designed and these gongs were engaged at various distances with .22 rifle. Competitors varied in age from three to 60 and because the age difference was so vast, they participated in four different age categories. Prizes were generously sponsored by local business owners. Durban branch members Hannelie Wagner and Andre Postma joined in the fun and a great time was had by all. This will definitely become an annual event on our calendar and we trust that Zululand Branch can support rolling this event out to other branches.

Dads & Lads/Lasses – July 2015

Willem de Valence, with support of Neel Polton and Chris Jennings, arranged our first Dads and Lads/Lasses hunting opportunity in the Phongolo Game Reserve Controlled Hunting Area. This in itself is a great achievement for the association in support of getting our youth development off the ground. This event was held from 4-8 July 2015 in the Nkonkoni Hunting Camp. Willem and Neel hosted Zamian Maré (14), Larissa de Valenće (14) and JJ de Valenće (11) on their first hunt. Alvin Abrahams (Butch) also participated in the event.

In preparation for this hunt, it was required that the juniors load their own ammunition. The juniors were taken to a shooting range prior to the hunt for some practise and to ensure that they were all familiar with the hunting rifles. Willem discussed some pertinent aspects such as firearm safety and hunting technique with the juniors. Prior to any hunting in the reserve it was required that each hunter shoot an Ezemvelo qualifying test to ascertain their level of shooting competence. All of the hunters passed the shooting test with flying colours, with the juniors earning honor and well deserved respect for their shooting competence. Ezemvelo’s Ferdi Myburgh was quite pleased with the competence and attitude of the juniors and happily gave the green light for hunting to commence. Everyone managed to hunt what they had planned for during this trip. We also managed to fit some Tiger fishing into the trip.

I have personally once again realised how important it is to align projects with youth development and junior hunting programmes. There is such a need out there to not only impart life skills but also skills and knowledge relating to conservation, fauna and flora, stewardship, bush craft, fishing, hunting, firearm safety and first aid, to mention just a few aspects at hand.

Monthly Shoot

The Zululand Branch hosts a monthly shoot every month of the year, dependent on the weather and a range order. The branch had our annual Arbor/Top Gun shoot on 24 October at the Dukuduku shooting range. This was the perfect opportunity to have our junior members join in the shoot, followed by tree planting and a braai. This year was quite special with five juniors participating in their own .22 shootout. Juniors participating were JJ de Valence, Nellucia Botha, Larissa de Valence, Annchen Fourie and Ruan Mitchell.

The juniors were not going to miss the opportunity to experience the revolutionary features and benefits of a crossbow brought to the event by Sijmen van der Merwe. It gives me great pleasure to report that we all had a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyed the day!

Junior Ranger’s Course

The Junior Bush Rangers’ Course was held at Tonevale Game Lodge, Heatonville in Zululand, from 9 to 11 October 2015. As normal, the kids arrived on Friday afternoon for a weekend promised to be full of fun with a jam packed program. A young impala ram was shot and formed part of the weekend’s educational programme for the youngsters. Another highlights was the shooting with the .22 rifles and shooting clay pigeons with a 12 gauge shotgun. The weekend was followed by an exam. Our trainers were Hennie Brits and Wollie Wolmarans. Anne Brits and Rynette Wolmarans helped with the food, drinks and well-being of the children. Jakkie Roos and Dauw Fourie assisted with the shooting activities.

Richardsbaai Hoërskool Target Shooting

This project has been running successfully for more than a year now. Willem de Valence from the Zululand Branch stills runs with this project, which now supports itself as an independent club. All shooters are accredited with SANSSU, which has a good footprint in KZN. Highlights for this year is that Sijmen van der Merwe (JNR) has been awarded as the Best Shooter of the year, with Larissa de Valence awarded for having made the Best Progress of the year – an improvement of 24%! Both Sijmen and Larissa represented Zululand at the KZN trials this year and earned school honour colours for this achievement.

CONSERVATION KWAMBO CONSERVANCY

The Zululand Branch of the KZN Hunting & Conservation Association is a proud member and supporter of The Kwambo Conservancy, which in turn is a member of “The KwaZulu-Natal Conservancies Association.” The Conservancy meets monthly to plan and track their initiatives, which can include engaging local authorities on a particular concern, eradicating invasive weeds from terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems or patrolling natural areas in search of snares and illegal dog hunting. The Kwambo Conservancy operates under the auspices of the KZN Conservancies Association.

It is required from the Zululand Branch to support the initiatives of the Kwambo Conservancy. Herewith some of the pertinent projects ran with the Kwambo Conservancy:

  • The incidence of snaring is still incredibly high in the conservation areas. All security patrols will be trained to destroy all snares immediately when found. All security guards have been equipped with side cutters for this purpose. Cancelled members over the years will also be contacted to ascertain whether they want to rejoin the conservancy to ensure that a wider area is covered by the security patrols.
  • The Mposa and Nseleni Rivers are clogged with water hyacinth. These water systems are so badly contaminated that the conservancy can only do aerial spray or dredging to contain this situation. A WFW helicopter was arranged to spray parts of the two rivers, which will be monitored by Neel and others over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, a mat could not be sprayed on the Nseleni Lake confluence due to low Eskom power lines in the area. The area will have to be sprayed by boat. Neel will be sure to arrange some Zululand Branch members to assist in the spraying of this lake over a few weekends.
  • It is suspected that untreated sewage is released into the Nseleni River is contributing to the uncontrolled water hyacinth contamination. The Conservancy will engage with the Catchment Management Forum to report this.
  • Richards Bay Minerals’ Eco schools were hosted at Grantleigh School recently with great participation. A volunteer group was sent to WESSA to learn facilitation skills.
  • Project funding remains a challenge with regards to supporting conservation efforts.
  • Discussions were held around the possibility of the Conservancy setting up some cycling routes on willing members’ farms and to collect and manage access measures to somextent. The idea is that all cyclists are ‘licensed’ and that all routes are colour coded. This will be further explored in the near future.
  • The closest cattle pounds to Richards Bay was discovered to be in Eshowe and Pongola. It is sad that there is no pound in the Richards Bay area. The pound master Bruce Mattinson can be contacted for all enquiries.
  • Nkwalini Valley is interested in starting a conservancy and there are various interested parties. Neel Polton is driving this initiative and will keep the Conservancy and the Zulland Branch in the loop to assist with all activities to start this up. It will be great to have the Nkwalini Valley Conservancy reporting into the KZN Conservancies Association as well.

Tony Roberts Presentation

Tony Roberts was a District Conservation Officer for 23 years with the Natal Parks Board/Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and also Environmental Conservation Officer at the Vulintaba (Old Dunblane) Country Estate close to Newcastle. Tony was hosted by the Zululand Branch during a waterhole, and gave a great presentation of slides with lots of photos from the Zululand area.

Zululand Branch Sponsored Ballistic Tanks

It was really unfortunate to learn that ongoing testing of firearms issued to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rangers has positively linked to five weapons to shooting incidents which may include rhino poaching. It is great, on the other hand, to know that the two custom-built ballistic tanks sponsored by the Zululand Branch, are successfully being used to identify crime activities. The poaching of rhinos is totally unacceptable and is something that really concerns all conservation-minded individuals.