Category Archives: Conservation

Rhino Relocation at Singita Pamushana

July 03, 2015 - Conservation,Conservation,Lodges and Camps,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Sustainable Conservation

In an age where the destruction of pristine wilderness continues to accelerate, Singita is making a profound difference in many parts of Africa. Orchestrating an interdependent relationship between communities, wildlife and tourism that ensures true sustainability, Singita is blazing a trail which is seldom achieved on this scale anywhere else on the continent.

Black rhino - Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

One recent example of this ongoing effort took place last week, when eight, critically endangered black rhinos were safely relocated by the Malilangwe Trust, Singita’s conservation partner in Zimbabwe. The black rhinos were sent from the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve to the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana to help rebuild the local population and battle the devastating effects of poaching.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

The rhinos were bred from a group that was released onto the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve as part of a range expansion programme in 1998. After originally being relocated from South Africa, their numbers had grown rapidly in the Reserve, which is also the home of Singita Pamushana Lodge. A decision was made to relocate a small group of animals in order to reduce competition for space and food, while helping to establish a new population north of the border.

Black rhino - Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

Following a call from the Zimbabwean government to donate 10 black rhinos to Moremi in late 2014, ecologists determined that the habitat in Botswana was both suitable and adequately protected. So on June 14 this year, the rhinos were successfully moved to their new home with the assistance of the Botswana Defense Force.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita’s 100-year purpose – to protect and preserve large tracts of wilderness for future generations – is supported by the Trust, whose central aim is to promote the conservation of rare species, including black rhino, and to add value to its neighbouring communities. The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, home to an unrivaled gathering of birds with more than 400 species, including many raptors, remains virtually untouched by humankind. Through eco-tourism, Singita Pamushana Lodge helps in fostering the sustainability of the wildlife and broader ecology, while enabling guests to share the magic of the lodge and the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.

Black rhino - Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

Focused on eco-conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and evolving local communities, Singita’s vision is to share a unique part of the world while respecting the natural environment and challenging today’s notion of luxury. Find out more about this commitment to responsible tourism on our website or visit the Conservation category on our blog.

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Conservation & Community: How Tourism Helps

June 24, 2015 - Community Development,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Sustainable Conservation

For more than two decades, Singita has been a “place of miracles”, offering guests a unique and extraordinary safari experience. Our 12 lodges and camps have been the recipient of numerous awards and the number of guests who return year after year speaks for itself. And while we are extremely proud of this, Singita’s enduring purpose, which is to preserve and protect the miraculous places of which we are custodians, remains our primary focus. Our concessions, reserves, and properties represent some of the most pristine wilderness areas on the continent and we are dedicated to maintaining these incredible pieces of earth for future generations. As well as our commitment to environmentally conscious hospitality, our core vision supports sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities.

Malilangwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Malilangwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Dr Bruce Clegg, Resident Ecologist at the Malilangwe Trust, Singita’s conservation partner in Zimbabwe, explains the extent to which tourism contributes to wildlife conservation and rural community development in Africa:

Dr Bruce Clegg

Dr Bruce Clegg

“Travel and tourism contributes only 3.6% of the total GDP in Africa, the majority of which is generated from just a handful of countries on the continent. Ecotourism accounts for only a fraction of this relatively small figure, putting wildlife conservation and development of rural communities at a considerable disadvantage.

Wildlife conservation at Singita

Tourism is a difficult business. Africa only attracts 5% of global travellers. The market is very competitive, overhead costs high and profit margins low. In addition the industry is sensitive to shocks caused by political instability, disease outbreaks, natural disasters etc. and it takes many years to develop a credible reputation. This means that little extra money is available for large-scale conservation efforts or community development. Strong competition between companies for bookings necessitates promotion of the charismatic animal species that underpin the industry (most notably lions and the other members of the Big Five) and more urgent conservation needs such as protection of critically endangered, but less captivating plants and animals are overlooked. For these reasons the hope placed in ecotourism as a solution to Africa’s poverty and conservation problems has not been fulfilled.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Child Supplementary Feeding Programme

However, a small light is beginning to shine at the end of the tunnel. A few progressive organisations have recognised these failings and instead of continuing to base their activities on wishful thinking have changed their approach and setup partnerships between their ecotourism ventures and charitable NGOs or generous philanthropists. These partnerships appear to work better. Ecotourism provides environmentally sensitive employment for locals thereby promoting community development, and the charitable partners provide the extra funds required to conduct meaningful conservation projects and additional community upliftment.

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana

Singita has taken this approach a step further and also included professional conservation and community development organisations in their partnerships to provide the technical input and experience required to run truly meaningful projects. This has the added advantage of giving the donors confidence that their funds will pay for best practice, and visiting tourists the assurance that their dollars will actually make a difference. A three-way partnership of this nature is very promising and may well be the industry standard of the future. If this approach becomes widely adopted, ecotourism’s role in conservation and community development may at long last reach its full potential.”

Wildlife conservation at Singita

Singita is the trusted guardian of a million acres of pristine land in Africa and responsible for many successful community development projects, making a tangible difference in the lives of the people living and working in and around our lodges. Please visit our website to find out more about the wonderful work of our conservation and community upliftment teams.

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Rock Art at Singita Pamushana

May 11, 2015 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,History,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge

The forests and sandstone kopjes surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge are home to more than 80 known rock art sites with more almost certainly yet to be discovered. These range from single figures to large ‘galleries’ containing multiple paintings, sometimes from different time periods.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Carbon dating from pieces of charcoal found in sediments at two of the sites suggest that the paintings range from 700 to 2,000 years-old and fall into three main traditions. The oldest are those painted by San Bushmen hunter gatherers who used porcupine quills and bird feathers as brushes, and ochre mixed with blood and dyes from tree-bark as paint.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

The more geometric spot paintings found in the reserve were painted by Khoi San herders, while finger-paintings, often white in colour, were made by the Bantu-speaking people using ground egg shells as paint.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Many of the earliest paintings are figurative and illustrate everyday scenes from the lives of the hunter gatherers who made them. These include hunting scenes and animals like elephant, rhino, zebra and many other creatures of the bush including, most significantly, eland which were sacred to the San and represented rain and fertility.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Many rock art experts now believe, however, that the original interpretations of these paintings by the early colonialists were too simplistic. Scenes which looked easy to interpret missed complex underlying meanings, including metaphors for aspects of the San’s strong spiritual traditions that included trance, rain and initiation dances among other rituals. Many scenes on closer inspection show creatures that are half-animal and half-human, for example, and probably depict shamans in a trance state.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

The study of rock art is open to interpretation and the full meanings of these paintings will probably never be known for sure. “The San Bushmen were intensely spiritual people,” says Dr. Bruce Clegg, Resident Ecologist at the Malilangwe Trust. “At the Lisililija Spring site, for example, on one panel there’s a row of people in a trance dance which is connected by a spiritual line to a rainfall event pouring down on a female figure which is a sign of fertility in San belief. It’s one big celebration connecting human people to their spiritual counterparts.”

WATCH THE VIDEO:

The San Bushmen are the original hunter-gatherers and one of the earth’s oldest continuous cultures. Guests at Singita Pamushana Lodge can take an educational tour of the best rock art sites in the reserve, including those shown in the accompanying film, and learn about their remarkable way of life.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Richard and Sarah Madden are freelance travel writers and filmmakers currently based at in the Malilangwe Reserve at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Their series of short films from the region is entitled “Bush Tales” and explores Singita’s community development, ecotourism and conservation work in Southern Africa. Richard and Sarah met while producing documentaries for the Discovery Channel and are now freelance and, prior to working with Singita, spent two years in Africa writing and filming the multi-media Bush Telegraph column for the Daily Telegraph.

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Creatures Great & Small: Leopard Tortoise

December 22, 2014 - Conservation,Did You Know?,Wildlife

Leopard tortoise at Singita

Leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis)

My partner, a tracker named Johnston, is quick to spot wildlife and fun… With his hand raised to stop the vehicle, we stare at his movements and look in the direction he’s looking. While we are expecting him to point out a predator track in the sand or an animal in the distance, he turns to us and says, “Leopard!” Everyone grabs their cameras and looks frantically around to see where this elusive leopard is. Johnston climbs off the tracker seat and saunters off down the road. By this time our poor guests are all speechless not knowing what’s going to happen. Then he points to the ground, smiles broadly, and announces, “Leopard. Leopard tortoise.” Indeed it was a leopard tortoise, and on this occasion it had retreated into its shell after feeling the vibrations of the vehicle. We all sat quietly and slowly a small head poked out and all four legs were set in motion. It may not be a Big Five species, but it is one of the Little Five and shares this accreditation due to their names being similar to the Big Five.

Field guide and tracker

Field guide and tracker

Leopard tortoises all have unique and beautiful gold and black markings on their shells, hence their name. They generally eat grasses, and this must suit them well because they live up to 100 years. They are great diggers although they only burrow when building a nest for their eggs.

Singita Sabi Sand

Singita Sabi Sand

The leopard tortoise is one of the world’s largest tortoise species as they can grow to 70 cm in length and 12kgs in weight. As with other tortoise species, the leopard tortoise has a large shell which protects its softer body. It is able to retract its limbs back into its shell so that no body part is left vulnerable.

It’s easy to forget that there’s more to Africa’s wildlife than elephants, giraffes, leopards and lions; the continent is home to all sorts of fascinating small creatures too. We shine a spotlight on these more diminutive beasties in our Creatures Great & Small blog series, which has previously showcased the flap-necked chameleon and the Giant African land snail.

You can read more stories like this one in our monthly Wildlife Reports, which are written by our field guides and illustrated with their stunning photography.

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World Rhino Day 2014

September 22, 2014 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

World Rhino Day was established in 2010 and serves to celebrate all five species of rhino: Black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. It is celebrated every year on 22 September and has grown to become a global phenomenon, uniting NGOs, zoos, cause-related organisations, businesses, and concerned individuals from nearly every corner of the world.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

It is devastating to think that 500 000 rhinos once roamed the continents of Africa and Asia, and that this figure has dwindled to a mere 29 000 rhinos living in the wild*. Large-scale poaching of this now critically endangered species has prompted intensive conservation efforts in recent years, not least of all by our wildlife teams at Singita.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Today, the environmental stakes couldn’t be higher, as poaching methods have become increasingly sophisticated and poachers more daring. One way in which Singita Sabi Sand takes a stand against the unlawful massacre of these majestic creatures, is with the dedicated in-house anti-poaching unit that secures the safety and preservation of the species in the reserve. Working with specialists in counteracting illegal hunting and wildlife trade, a highly trained tracker dog unit was created to track both animals and humans. This tactic is being included in many national parks’ security operations, including the Kruger National Park and the units have become an integral part of Singita’s anti-poaching measures.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand says, “The biggest advantage of a dog unit is that the dogs track using their keen sense of smell and thus are extremely effective – even tracking in pitch darkness.” The dogs’ work rate and endurance surpasses that of a human and they ask for very little in return for the unenviable tasks they are called to do. Highly trained and able to perform multiple functions from pursuing intruders to tracking sick or injured animals or sniffing out products from illegal possessions, the dogs are highly valued, professional assets supporting important conservation initiatives.

Singita Anti-Poaching Unit | World Rhino Day 2014

Another reason for the success of the canine operation is that their presence acts as a deterrent to potential poachers. Once tracking dogs have been deployed into an area, the news quickly spreads amongst poachers and criminal syndicates and the level and frequency of poaching incidents is shown to drop dramatically.

*Statistics courtesy of savetherhino.org

Sustainable tourism is what allows Singita to be able to carry out this important work. Each guest represents a valuable contribution towards conservation measures in the reserve. Not only does the revenue from tourism support conservation initiatives, but just by coming to see this place, putting value on it and sharing the beauty with others, it inherently makes a world of difference.

For guests seeking to make a larger contribution, donations are accepted and welcome. Please contact Pam Richardson at pam.r@singita.com.

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The Cutest Cubs

August 04, 2014 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

Singita Kruger National Park is especially well-known for its exceptional big cat population, as well as a remarkable concentration of the rest of the ‘Big 5’. They have free reign over Singita’s 33 000-acre concession in the southeastern reaches of the Kruger National Park, and beyond.

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

There are a number of large “mega prides” in the area, the sheer size of which is forcing groups to split off and create their own prides and start new bloodlines in the process. In April this year, it was reported that the five Shishangaan males had fought their way in and taken over the territory from two previous males. This led to copious mating activity, the results of which we are starting to see in the N’wanetsi section of the Park.

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

In the June Wildlife Report from the region, field guide Nick du Plessis says: “The Mountain pride of lions is, and has been for a while, growing at a rapid rate. To date we’ve seen a total of fifteen cubs in the northern half of the Xhikelengane drainage, with a couple of adult females still looking very heavily pregnant – and cubs from them are imminent. The pride at this point is still fairly fragmented, which is by no means unusual, with most of the cubs still being too young to leave den-sites and follow the pride. This should all change once the cubs reach the age where they are introduced to the rest of the pride, at which point they only have a couple of months before they are weaned and the pride needs its strength in numbers. With the small pans and waterholes slowly drying up, water is becoming less readily available with the defining change of the season. With all the general game concentrating where there is still a place to drink it won’t be long before all the pride members will converge at this point.”

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

lion_cubs_6

The photos you see here are by field guide and wildlife photographer Barry Peiser, who tracked the lions while working at Singita Kruger National Park. He observed the Mountain pride moving with their cubs between the northern and eastern parts of the concession, hiding the youngsters in the drainage line where long grass and fallen tress offer good coverage for them.

Lions cubs at Singita Kruger National Park

You can follow the antics of these gorgeous little cubs on Facebook and in our monthly Wildlife Reports. You can also subscribe to the blog to see more of Barry’s photos of the cubs in the coming weeks.

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Singita Boulders Lodge: A Sustainable Solution

July 11, 2014 - Accommodation,Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Singita Boulders Lodge

As the first guests start to experience the newly refurbished Singita Boulders Lodge, we celebrate the achievements of the talented people behind the stunning new look. Responsible for the vision, creative direction, interior architecture and design is Boyd Ferguson and his team from Cécile & Boyd. Drawing inspiration from the natural setting and environment and responsible for recreating the lodge’s physical spaces is architect Sally Tsiliyiannis from GAPP Architects & Urban Designers. Every effort has been made to reuse and recycle all the building materials, as Sally explained in a recent report from the site while the work was under way:

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

“Every door broken out has been repositioned somewhere else. Nearly all the new balustrading is actually just sections of the old balustrade removed from elsewhere and re-used.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

By this time next week, literally 100% of the stones from demolished walls will have been reused. Natural features that were previously covered up have been uncovered and new decking has been carefully shaped around these so they are now main features within the design. Superfluous areas of decking have been cut back to make way for more foliage and where decks have been lowered the views of the river are less obstructed. Nearly all the building rubble is being used as backfill for the new gabion walls to minimise waste.”

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

This environmentally sensitive approach is an extension of Singita’s dedication to ecotourism and “touching the earth lightly”. Environmentally conscious hospitality, sustainable conservation and the empowerment of local communities is the guiding light for everything we do. You can find out more about our sustainable practices on the website, as well as a recent success story in Tanzania, where Singita Mara River Tented Camp has become our first “off the grid” property, setting a benchmark for responsible but luxurious travel.

Singita Boulders Lodge | Photo by Peter Browne, Conde Nast Traveller

Photos by Peter Browne, Associate Editor of Condé Nast Traveller who was lucky enough to get a sneak peek before the lodge formally reopened. You can see more photos of the newly refurbished lodge in our latest blog post and follow us on Instagram for more.

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Say Hello to the Butamtam Lion Cubs!

June 13, 2014 - Conservation,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Wildlife

These pictures hardly need a caption – we would be surprised if you could tear your eyes away from their little furry faces long enough to read it! If you are interested however, you may like to know that these gorgeous young lions are offspring of the Butamtam pride at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. These lions are healthy breeders; over the past two years one of the major prides got so big that it split into two, and two of the other prides seem to be heading in the same direction. In addition, all of their cubs have higher than usual survival rates which is wonderful to hear.

The Butamtam lion cubs at Singita Grumeti by Ryan Schmitt

The Butamtam lion cubs at Singita Grumeti by Ryan Schmitt

butamtam_cubs_3

Photos by Field Guide Ryan Schmitt. Ryan regularly posts snapshots from his adventures in the bush on our Facebook and Instagram feeds so follow us there to see more!

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The Migration 2014 Arrives at Singita Grumeti

May 20, 2014 - Community Development,Conservation,Experience,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Sasakwa Lodge,Wildlife

It’s that time of year again! The wildebeest have started arriving on the Sasakwa Plains of the Serengeti and the herds seem to be multiplying at an astonishing rate with each passing day. Overnight, the grassland below Singita Sasakwa Lodge has been flooded by tens of thousands of wildebeest, making for some very exciting horseback game-spotting for our lucky guests.

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

The Great Migration 2014 | Singita Grumeti

Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, the home of the Great Migration. Singita manages 350,000 acres of this land, and generates the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve via low impact tourism. Visit our website to find out more about our conservation and community development projects in the area.

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Touching the Earth Lightly: Celebrating Earth Day 2014

April 22, 2014 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Experience,Lamai,Lodges and Camps,Singita Mara River Tented Camp

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Earth Day is honoured every year on April 22, in a worldwide show of support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year. Singita’s lodges and camps are committed to “touching the earth lightly”, and this is manifested in the way the lodges are constructed; how they operate today; and how guests experience the wildlife and the natural habitat around them.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Singita Mara River Tented Camp is the epitome of sustainable tourism and consciously seeks to eliminate the unnecessary use of energy. In keeping with this philosophy, the camp operates “off-the-grid” and relies on a custom designed solar power system, with an inverter battery bank that ensures an uninterrupted power source at night or on rainy days. The photo voltaic solar panels used to harvest energy from the sun supply electricity to the camp’s energy-saving LEDs lights, pool pump, and washing machines, among other things.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

The camp’s potable water comes from a borehole near the site and is, in turn, heated by solar geysers. Although this water is drinkable, Singita is also planning an additional filtering system which will be in place before the end of the year, eliminating the need to use any plastic bottled water at this location.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

The camp has been purpose-built to be environmentally conscious, and as a result has a clean and efficient recycling programme that is leading the way for the rest of Singita’s lodges. Waste management is extremely important to this process. For example, fresh produce is transported and wrapped using traditional methods, such as recycled wooden boxes and wood chips or sawdust for packing. These boxes are then returned to the local supplier for the following week so that no plastic or modern packaging is used, eliminating unnecessary waste going into the country’s landfills.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

To limit the construction footprint, Singita Mara River Tented Camp makes use of a series of open-air decks instead of separate buildings for the gym and spa. Energetic guests have access to yoga mats, kettle bells and jump ropes, while the spa offers treatments on the decks or in the tents, without using any electrical equipment. Toiletries used in the lodge are also all organic.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Singita’s achievements with the efficient and environmentally-friendly construction and operations of Singita Mara River Tented Camp are significant in light of our planet’s ongoing struggle to maintain balance and fight climate change. The wonderful “lightness” of this property will serve as a template for all future lodge designs, setting a benchmark for responsible but luxurious travel.

Singita celebrates Earth Day

Conservation lives hand-in-hand with ecotourism and community development at Singita. We believe it’s the responsible way to maintain and extend the sustainability of our wildlife reserves. Read more about our conservation efforts on our website.

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