Sitting poolside at Singita Faru Faru Lodge at tea time, in the dappled shade of the acacia trees, our guests are treated to a feast of sweet and savoury delights before their afternoon game drive. It is a wonderfully indulgent spread; all manner of cakes, candies and confections are on offer, all washed down with homemade lemonade, iced coffee and exotic teas. It might be very hard to imagine that the hands of the pastry chef responsible for these heavenly morsels were also once those of a poacher.
Peter Andrew was born in a small village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. At the age of 15, with no apparent employment alternatives available to him, he started poaching. He was a skilled huntsman and extremely fast on his feet, which made it easier to escape from conservation officers. This deadly combination made Peter a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t an easy or ethical way to make a living.
In 2003, Peter was approached by Brian Harris, former Wildlife and Community Development Manager of Singita Grumeti, who wanted him to stop poaching in exchange for a job at one of the lodges. He was hesitant initially due to his lack of education, but after further prompting from his grandmother, Peter was eventually persuaded and started off helping with the construction of Singita Sasakwa Lodge. The following year, he was accepted as an apprentice in the kitchen at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, where he excelled in his position. Peter also took it upon himself to specialise in pastry and learn English so that he could improve his situation further. He developed so quickly in fact, that in 2005, Peter was promoted to Commis Chef and then moved to Singita Faru Faru Lodge in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef, where he remains a vital part of the kitchen team.
Peter’s achievements are numerous: he turned his back on poaching, found himself a wonderful new profession, worked hard to overcome his circumstances and changed his life for the better. He is rightly proud of himself, as we are proud of him, and the determination and strength of character that make him an invaluable member of the Singita family.
This is the third in a series of short films profiling the people of Singita, many of whom come from challenging circumstances to become artisans and professionals in their chosen field. These #singitastories share a common thread; of people from humble beginnings who choose to effect positive change in their lives, and the lives of those around them. Read more about the anti-poaching unit at Singita Grumeti and subscribe to the blog to make sure you catch the next video in the series.
Conservation has always been pivotal to Singita’s existence, as it lives hand-in-hand with Singita’s other two operating principles; ecotourism and community development. We believe it’s the responsible way to maintain and extend the sustainability of the reserves under our care. As we reflect on the successes of the past year, it seems fitting to report on the positive findings of a recent census that took place at Singita Grumeti earlier in 2013.
The hands-on conservation teams on each property are committed to protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land and its fauna and flora. For example, Singita Grumeti has as one of its goals the rehabilitation of the wildlife populations of Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves and associated wildlife management areas in the Serengeti, Tanzania. Over the last eight years, Singita Grumeti has made a significant investment into the protection of wildlife in the area as well as the infrastructure required to support ecotourism. The effectiveness of these inputs and the management activities that result need to be monitored for appropriate outcomes, the most logical of which is the change in status of the resident herbivores.
Having an understanding of the number of animals, their distribution and numerical trends forms one of the most basic sets of information necessary for the informed management of a wildlife operation. A starting point is a regular and accurate assessment of population size of possibly all, but certainly the ecologically and economically most important species.
A census was therefore undertaken by way of an aerial survey between the 23rd of August and the 3rd of September 2013 in the Ikorongo-Grumeti Reserves complex. This survey was the tenth undertaken over a period of 11 years, under particularly favourable counting conditions and with a very experienced team of enumerators.
At the initiation of this project, the Grumeti Fund management team’s primary purpose was to facilitate the recovery of the resident large herbivore populations in this part of the Serengeti ecosystem. This was seen as an important step in the rehabilitation of this particular region, protecting the migratory herds but also helping to fully restore the tourism potential of the area.
Notable statistics from the census include the slowing population increase of buffalo (although this species has shown a six fold increase in estimated size over the last 10 years) and this year showing the highest number of elephant in the area since inception. The population estimate for elephant has varied substantially over the last eight years, probably as a result of the animals moving in and out in response to resource availability. Overall, the population showing a gradual increase of 5% per annum over the last 10 years. In addition, the topi, a local migrant antelope, would appear to have stabilised at around 15 000 animals. Fluctuations are likely due both to forage conditions as well as predation.
Click the image below to see the full-size infographic depicting population growth until 2011:
Singita Grumeti also has a highly successful Anti-Poaching Unit comprising 120 game scouts (most of the ex-poachers) who work together with the Wildlife Division to eradicated illegal hunting within the concession. Visit our Conservation page to learn more about how Singita manages the half a million acres of pristine African wilderness that it is proud guardian of.
There is an all too familiar story in Africa. It is one of poverty, exacerbated by a lack of education and subsequent unemployment, often fuelled by a voracious foreign market eager to exploit these circumstances. The net result is a culture of poaching – the illegal “harvesting” of natural resources, either for direct subsistence or further sale, all in an effort to feed and educate a poacher’s family. The rewards are scant for those locals who risk life and limb and the cycle is a tremendously difficult one to break.
Students at the Singita Grumeti Environmental Education Centre (EEC) were recently given a very stark glimpse into that world by a most unlikely champion of the anti-poaching fraternity – a hardened and once-feared poacher named Shaban Andrea.
A skilled hunter of much repute in the local communities, Mr Andrea’s grade 7 level of education precluded him finding gainful employment in the formal economy of Tanzania, so he exploited his primary skill to tremendous effect. His poaching exploits crossed international borders and his “hit list” included elephant and rhino, amongst other vulnerable and protected species. Despite his efficacy as a poacher and his position as a leader of one of East Africa’s best-known poaching gangs, he still struggled to feed, let alone educate, his growing family. Most of the money he earned was used to bail him out of jail following two separate arrests by Singita Grumeti Fund scouts who patrol the 350,000-acre conservation area adjacent to the Serengeti National Park.
After being arrested a third time, he was inspired to hang up his rifle and look for work outside of the world of poaching. The Fund saw his potential and offered him an opportunity to work with the Anti-Poaching Unit. After negotiating a reduced sentence and serving his time, Mr Andrea was released and appointed to the Wildlife Monitoring and Research team where he has worked ever since. For the first time in his life, he earned an honest wage and with hard work has been able to build a home for his family and is very proud to have two sons currently at university.
Beyond the personal success of this story, the opportunity that Shaban Andrea was given by Singita has had a far-reaching effect on the young minds that listen to him recount his experiences whilst at the EEC. He leaves the learners with a short and simple message: that there is simply no benefit to the killing of Africa’s wildlife and that the future lies in their protection.
The problem of poaching in Africa remains a complex one, one that requires a multi-faceted and often unconventional approach in the search for solutions. Through a very human act of giving a man a second chance, Singita has exposed an invaluable resource in the fight against poaching – a man with a story.
You can find out more about the EEC on our website, as well as our other community development and conservation efforts. You might also like to know about Singita’s recent involvement in the rollout of the Rhino Horn Treatment Programme to help combat poaching in the Sabi Sand.
The plight of the critically endangered rhino population is one of the more heartbreaking realities of life as custodians of over half a million acres of land in Southern and East Africa. Singita is proud to be a part of a number of projects aimed at eliminating the poaching of these majestic animals for their horns, including the Rhino Reintroduction Programme at Singita Pamushana Lodge (Zimbabwe) and the anti-poaching unit at Singita Sabi Sand (South Africa) which uses specially-trained tracker dogs to deter and catch would-be poachers.
As part of these ongoing efforts, we are now participating in a horn infusion treatment programme, which was pioneered by the Rhino Rescue Project in the Sabi Sand. The horn is treated by infusing it with a compound made up of an antiparasitic drug and indelible dye that contaminates the horn and renders it useless for ornamental or medicinal use. A full DNA sample is harvested and three matching identification microchips are inserted into the horns and the animal itself.
This treatment has resulted in zero losses in areas where it has been applied, and is seen as an important intervention to deflect prospective poachers. Over 100 rhino have already been treated in the reserve and all animals in the initial treatment sample are in excellent health. Since all the products used in the treatment are biodegradable and eco-friendly, there are no long-term effects on the environment. The treatment “grows” out with the horn and so poses no long-term effect and, if a treated animal dies of natural causes, retrieval and registration of the horn is a legal requirement.
Please visit the Rhino Rescue Project website for more information and FAQs on the treatment. You can also find out more about Singita’s wildlife conservation initiatives and environmental protection policies on our site.
Photographs courtesy of Singita Field Guide Dylan Brandt.
From the very beginning, the heart of Singita’s philisophy has been the balance of conservation with the development of communities surrounding the reserves. Each Singita lodge employs a dedicated conservation team focused exclusively on preserving the land and protecting wildlife. The team at Singita Sabi Sand has taken that principle a step further and introduced the use of highly trained tracker dogs in their anti-poaching units.
“The rhino plight is obviously not just our concern, but a conservation issue on a national and global scale,” says Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand. “Making an impact on current poaching statistics – almost two rhino have been poached per day so far in 2012 – is a daunting task, but we’re up for the challenge”.
Following rhino poaching incidents in the Sabi Sand earlier this year, Dave Wright, head of conservation for the past 32 years, explains that they had reached a point where “we needed a professional, dedicated, in-house anti-poaching unit to secure our own property”.
So began an initiative between Singita and K9 Conservation, specialists in counteracting illegal hunting and wildlife trade through the use of highly trained tracker dog units. Explains Mark Broodryk: “The biggest advantage of dogs is that they track using their keen sense of smell and thus are extremely effective – even tracking in pitch darkness. A major part of the success of the K9 operation is their presence in the area.” Once trained dogs are deployed into an area, the news quickly spreads amongst poachers and criminal syndicates and the level and frequency of poaching incidents and related crime is shown to drop dramatically.
The dogs patrol day and night, seven days a week, to protect the wildlife that inhabits the reserve. Population numbers on the reserve are constantly monitored, as well as the movements of the animals. Any unusual activity, such as a congregation of vultures in a specific location, is logged and reported immediately.
We are extremely proud that Singita’s proactive anti-poaching initiative is already proving its worth, and that it has the potential to become a successful model for other wildlife conservation areas.
You can find out more about the wildlife at Singita Sabi Sand by reading one of our recent Guides’ Diaries from the area.
Thanks to talented photographer and Singita field guide Marlon du Toit for the beautiful rhino photos.
Controlling poaching in the Sabi Sand Reserve is one of the Singita environmental team’s prime responsibilities. World Rhino Day on the 22nd of September provided a valuable opportunity for staff at Singita to build awareness of the devastation that is caused by poaching which is slowly reducing the world population of rhino on a daily basis. To date this year in South Africa alone, a count of 290 rhinos have been poached – we take those statistics very seriously.
On the 22nd the team at Singita Sabi Sand put their full efforts behind supporting World Rhino Day – starting the day with the Guides and Trackers sporting red caps, branded with the World Rhino Day logo. Guests soon donned red caps for game drives to show their support. For the more energetic, twelve Singita staff took part in a cycling event – the ‘Ride for Rhinos’ 25 kilometre challenge through the Sabi Sand Reserve and into the local communities – with the goal to raise awareness of the misconception around rhino horn usage for medicinal purposes. Not only was it a fun and engaging activity in the community but it also helped to generate generous funding to be channeled directly to a rhino fund.
A sweet ending to the day – even the cupcakes at tea-time helped to nudge conversations toward the future of rhinos. Thanks to guests and staff for their enthusiasm and support for a day of awareness, well-celebrated.
To find out more about Singita’s conservation efforts, read about significant projects on Singita’s website.
Our very own Jaco Ehlers, Singita Sales Manager and charity-superhero, has just completed a 7 day cycle challenge all in the name of a good cause.
Jaco cycled the 330km-long Challenge4aCause challenge through the harsh, dusty terrain of the dramatic Damaraland Desert in Namibia to raise funds for the Save the Rhino Trust.
All the funds raised through the 2010 Challenge4aCause have been donated to an anti-poaching unit. The aim of this unit is to help preserve the highly endangered, and desert-adapted, black rhino.
And we have more cycling superheroes among us – Sabi Sand GM, Jason Trollip, and Singita Sabi Sand Head Ranger, Mark Broodryk, also recently took part in a charitable cycling event: the third and final Tour de Tuli (previously known as the Tour de Kruger). The 2010 Tour de Tuli saw 290 cyclists pedal 350kms to raise an impressive R700 000 for charity.
Every Rand and cent raised through the event will be used to teach rural children about the importance of the environment and the critical role they play in the preservation of our world.
For more photos visit the Singita Facebook page.