Written by Marlon du Toit, Singita Guide, Singita Kruger National Park
Elephant, Cape buffalo, White Rhino and Hippo are plentiful on the concession. There are two prominent water sources within the concession during the dry season: the Nwanetsi River system and Gudzane Dam. As the last remaining water holes dry up west of the concession, animals are forced to move east in order to quench their thirst.
Elephants can trek amazing distances in pursuit of water. They prefer to drink at least once a day and will cover up to or more than 12km in a single journey. We have a large resident hippo population. As the water evaporates under the heat and the pressure mounts, some sections of the river can house more than eighty hippos. This is not ideal for them as they are territorial animals that do not like to share, but they have no choice. Battles between dominant male hippos are a common sight.
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Wildlife conservation is a pursuit Singita is committed to with heartfelt determination, but unfortunately one is inundated all too often with distressing stories when viewed on a global scale. However, from Singita Pamushana on the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, we can report a resounding success that took place in October. We’ve just completed a relocation of 210 African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) to a nearby conservancy.
Our annual census via helicopter confirmed that there were approximately 2 300 buffalo on the reserve. The ideal carrying capacity for buffalo given the area and resources is about 2 000. Statistics show that the population is growing at 10 to 12% every year which is as expected in a well-managed, balanced ecosystem. These encouraging results allowed us to sell some of the buffalo to another Zimbabwean conservancy that was underpopulated. Healthy buffalo fetch very good prices and this revenue will of course, be generated into further conservation efforts.
Rounding up hundreds of one of Africa’s most dangerous animals is a task of bravery, discipline and well-planned procedure. A helicopter herds them into a large area cordoned off with poles and reinforced sheeting. Then a vehicle with a large crusher attached to the bull bars directs them into a chute, and finally on to a transportation vehicle.
It is hot, dry and dusty work for the toughest of teams used to dealing with danger and split-second decisions; and although the animals are unavoidably stressed in the procedure this is kept to a minimum and is all highly worthwhile knowing that they’ll be able to repopulate another conservation area, thanks to Malilangwe’s conservation efforts.
Report by Jenny Hishin (previous Singita Guide). To follow more of our updates at the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, read our Guides’ Diaries posted monthly on our website.