CONSERVATION AT WORK
When the concessionaires took possession of the reserve, the game was severely depleted. A civil war and successive periods of unrest had reduced the buffalo number to fewer than 50.
The reserve was granted permission to bring in 50 head of buffalo to improve the stock and blood line of the remaining herds. Following this successful programme, the team fought long and hard to persuade the Government to grant the reserve a further 200 head of buffalo.
INTRODUCTION TO THE RESERVE
Though technically free of charge, the cost of darting, capture and transportation from the Delta area was borne by the owners, as was the building of an enclosure (boma). This required the erection of 8 km of fencing to form the boma in order to contain the new arrivals until such time as they had become localised and proved free of disease.
Were they to wander into neighboring lands they would have been swiftly poached and trapped by the locals who have littered the ‘’non-reserve’’ bush with gin traps.
There is little remaining wild life outside the reserves !
Today, hundreds of buffalo roam free on the reserve. A very successful operation but delivered at substantial economic cost.
Approximately half a million US dollars.
Student groups who come to the reserve will be encouraged to take part in the lion monitoring program.
During their week's stay, students will photograph evidence of lion activity - this could be anything from lion sightings; lion tracks to evidence of kills.
Findings will be documented on the 'Cyber Tracker' Software uploaded onto smart phones and tablets.
This data, together with GPS locations, will be downloaded onto the Lion Project's database and form part of the reserve's ongoing research.
YOU NEVER KNOW
This fella popped up right next to the reserve's resident zoologist's house as she returned from a morning run.
She has stopped running for the moment !
Picture taken by Holly Rosier
HQ HILL - BUSHCAMP
Taking its inspiration from a typical African village it is being designed to accommodate 20 clients and staff under secure and comfortable field conditions.
It will be the camp from which all educational programs will be run.
A NETWORK OF DAMS, PANS AND DIRT ROADS
Over the years the owners have built a series of dams, pans and access roads.
Elephant, Eland, Sable and Buffalo dams represent an enormous feat of engineering that, together with a number of pans, captures the summer rains in order that the reserve has sufficient water for the dry winter months and provides for the growing animal population including the ‘big 5’.
Vehicles are restricted to the network of dirt roads providing access to staff and guests. First a suitable route is chosen through the bush and trees marked with a machete or axe (‘blazes’) – hence the phrase ‘blazing a trail’.
Employees cut back the bush, only wide enough
to let a car through; a grader prepares the road surface.
These routes are almost impassable during the rainy season between November and April.
Traffic is kept deliberately light in those months so as not to churn up the roads. Each season the routes simply require the grass to be cut to open
up access again.
AIRBORNE ACCESS TO RESERVE
The bush airstrip allows clients to fly in and out of the reserve.
Additionally it makes emergency extraction (not that it's ever been required) relatively simple for both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
Arial surveys are also conducted from the airstrip.
Anti-poaching patrol camps can be as simple as a lean-to shelter and fire.
Quick to erect and leave little human impact on the environment
5 man anti-poaching patrols are transported to drop off zones by 4x4 where they will patrol an area of operation for up to 5 days. In areas where there is no natural water source they require re-supp. Otherwise they drink straight from sip wells, dams or other natural supplies.
ROLL CALL & MORNING BRIEFING
Anti-poaching teams attend a briefing prior to deployment in 5-man sticks. They were an interesting bunch, some of them infamous former poachers now working for the game reserve.
PHONE AND INTERNET ACCESS
Built some years ago using local materials and labour, it provides some real old world luxury in the middle of the bush.
It is one of the base camps from which
conservation and tourist operations are
Accommodation comprises brick built
chalets that each sleep 4.
An en-suite shower and toilet ensures
that no lion that happens to be wandering through camp gives you a scare if you are cut short during the night.
A fire is lit at 04.30 each morning to provide hot water.
Meals are superb: –breakfasts vary from
porridge or cereal to bacon, eggs and kudu
All served in the open-sided dining area.
An outdoor BBQ (braai) area provides
stunning views over the river bed.
Professional kitchen bush style
A water hole in the garden area attracts
bush buck, kudu, baboon and the