We recently started with our annual controlled bush burns.
Although it may look destructive to the untrained eye, it is a natural process and vital for the health and ecology of the grasslands.
Bush burning returns valuable nutrients to the soil, burns away moribund grass to open up space for new grass growth and reduces parasite populations such as ticks and fleas which affect the animals.
Our reserve management team have all been professionally trained by “Working on Fire” to safely conduct the bush burns.
They form an integral part of our Veld Management Plan, which is reviewed annually by Jack Fillery and his team. The program is adjusted when necessary taking into account external factors such as drought which may have a bearing on whether we burn or not, each year.
If we need to incorporate new animals into the reserve or remove others there may be certain areas that needing clearing. Invasive plant species for example might need removing or we might need to clear space for road maintenance. All these factors are taken into careful consideration for managing the sustainability of the reserve.
We usually burn up to around 15-20% of the total hectarage of the property annually, and we do this in stages starting in late May with our firebreaks. These are vital for protecting the property and buildings from runaway wild fires. We usually end the burning in September.
This way we ensure that there is new grass growth in the burnt areas for the animals throughout the year.
We complete each burn as a ‘block’ which is usually defined by existing roads where possible. The burns are carried out in these months as the grass is dry enough to burn easily. We usually burn earlier in the day because it allows for a ‘cooler’ burn; this means that only old growth burns away and it does not damage trees or scorch the earth which can occur with a ‘hot’ burn.
Controlled burning is followed by beautiful new, fresh, green grass growth.
Mammals are attracted to green bush so you can expect good densities of grazing animals such as kudus, zebra, wildebeest, warthog, impala and blesbok after the burns in these areas.
Swallows, Bee-eaters and flycatchers are also particularly active during controlled burns as they catch insects attempting to flee fires.