Mission: Nile Crocodile count in Pongolapoort Dam
Requesting organisation: Garreth Champion of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus
Location: Pongolapoort Dam
Pilot: Donavan Bailey
Report from the beneficiary, by Garreth Champion
Currently an MSc study on the population dynamics of the Pongolapoort Nile Crocodile population is being undertaken by Garreth Champion of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.
This flight was the first aerial survey for this project and is hopefully the first of a number of flights needed to estimate the total population of Nile Crocodiles in Pongolapoort Dam. It aided in providing a rough estimate of the number of crocodiles in the dam and their distribution during August 2009. This is a relatively large expanse of water and the aerial survey is the most practical way of getting a total population estimate. A total of 134 crocodiles were spotted during the flight, with the majority being found along a 7km stretch from the inlet of the Pongola River to in front of Inkwazi Game Lodge. As this was first aerial survey, some of the techniques for recording numbers and distribution need to be perfected. The weather conditions were ideal giving excellent views. A great deal was learnt and the objectives for this initial flight were successfully met.
These aerial results will be used for various data collection including seasonal population estimates of the entire Pongolapoort Dam, and seasonal crocodile distribution and density around the dam. Comparison of aerial survey data with the monthly population estimates of day and night (spotlight) counts of the inlet section (mentioned above) done by boat will be possible. There will also be comparison of any shifts in crocodile distribution/densities around the dam.
Many thanks to our pilot, Donavan Bailey, for his enthusiastic help, and the Bateleurs for making the flight possible.