September 2021

Fire in the bush

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Fire in the bush

Joffers McCormick
By Joffers McCormick
Field Guide

It’s that time of year once again, the fire season. During our previous rainy season, we received close to double the amount of rainfall than usual and this in turn has resulted in a large fuel load due to the vegetation drying up. The dry vegetation provides little to no nutrients for animals to feed on. This is where the importance of fire comes in and brings with it multiple advantages, not only for feeding purposes for the animals but also for the game viewing and photographic opportunities. Having the chance to see a large variety of animals feeding and taking advantage of the new growth is something exceptional to see.

One will notice when driving around the reserve that there are multiple areas that have been burnt. One of the reasons for this is for fire breaks. Fire breaks are extremely important as they not only stop a wild fire from spreading but they also allow for vegetation and animals to be unharmed. Should there be a wild fire it can often be fairly tough to contain, so having these areas of fire breaks where the fuel load has been burnt allows for the teams to get a wild fire under control at a much faster rate and aids in preserving all forms of life. When we are doing these firebreaks, it is always great to see everyone getting involved and doing what they can to help with the success of the environment. It also offers some unbelievable bird
viewing as multiple insects are flushed out of the grasses and one can see a large number of bird species having a field day filling themselves up on all the easily available food sources, everything from the smaller passerines to the larger birds of prey.

When it is time to burn larger areas that have not been burnt for a number of years, fire plays a crucial role in the success of the environment. Not only does it allow for the bush to thin out benefiting all types of species from insects to large herds of buffalo, it also helps with promoting new growth and feeding opportunities. When the larger areas are burnt, there will often be a number of trees that will burn fairly slowly and over a long period of time - the advantage of this is that there will be a large amount of nitrogen deposited into the soil, that combined with some light rainfall is the perfect recipe to promote new growth, giving the animals some much needed nutrients.

We have already been fortunate enough to see the benefits of the burns after receiving a small amount of rain. It has created a green carpet layer bringing with it beauty and fantastic feeding opportunities. Not only has it drawn the grazers to the area but we have also seen an increase in predator activity. The new fresh vegetation brings the prey species that then attracts the predators that will in turn attract the scavengers.

It is amazing to think that this is all the result of fire and really explains the circle of life in the bush and the importance of fire out here in the wilderness. I have always said that fire can be seen to be a great servant but at the same time it can be a harsh master. Thanks to our environmental teams at Singita we are able to manage these burnt areas and ensure that they are as close to their natural state as possible.