Tag Archives: Wildlife Conservation

The Story of Saitoti Ole Kuwai

June 27, 2014 - Experience,People of Singita,Singita Grumeti

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

If you have been an avid reader of our blog and monthly Wildlife Reports, then the name Saitoti Ole Kuwai won’t be new to you. He is a regular contributor to the bush ranger diaries from Singita Grumeti, where he works as a field guide, and his photographs often feature in our Highlights posts.

Zebra at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Saitoti is a proud Masai and grew up in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania, where he took his first steps towards his future profession by learning how to track animals from other tribesmen. He was inspired to follow a career in wildlife conservation after seeing the effects of poaching first hand, and pursued his formal training before joining Singita in 2005.

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

Leopard at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

He describes his work in the Serengeti as “an honour and a big privilege” and is completely dedicated to the protection and conservation of African wildlife for future generations. “My day starts in the dark; I always wake up at 4 o’clock. It’s early in the morning but you can still hear things like hyena and jackal calling and that tells me that the bush is awake.”

Cheetah at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

To Saitoti, game drives are like fishing, where the vast plains are an endless sea and you never know what you’re going to catch. He says: “What’s needed for you is the passion, the passion to wait.”

Saitoti Ole Kuwai - Field guide at Singita Grumeti, Tanzania

“I love to tell guests about the traditions, culture, customs and lifestyle of my tribe. The best thing about my job is being involved in ensuring the health and growth of the area’s wildlife. Living in close harmony with animals is important because through them we learn so much.” Watch the video to learn more about this dedicated conservationist:

This is the second in our #singitastories series, introducing you to some of Singita’s team members. We previously featured Time Mutema, a field guide at Singita Pamsushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Browse our Vimeo channel for more about the people of Singita, interesting wildlife sightings and to see the inspiration behind all our lodges and camps.

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Beekeeping for Biodiversity

April 04, 2014 - Community Development,Conservation,Did You Know?,Singita Grumeti,The Grumeti Fund,Wildlife

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

Singita Grumeti

There has been much written about the plight of bees on a global scale, and the disastrous impact their dwindling populations could have on commercial agriculture and food production. Looking closer to home, the conservation of bees in particular is critical to the survival of local plant life; a crucial element of sustainable environmental conservation and biodiversity enrichment.

At Singita Grumeti in Tanzania, through the Grumeti Fund and the local outreach programme, beekeeping projects have been promoted in local communities since 2010, who in turn earn an income from the sale of honey. This way, the community is supported while the bees’ natural habitat is preserved, and serves as a great example of how conservation and community development are integrally connected.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

To date, seven beekeeping groups and various individuals and families have become involved in the project, and are now responsible for 744 beehives. Among the most successful groups is the Bonchugu Community, under the thoughtful leadership of Amos Matiku. He is described as an energetic, enthusiastic and a results-oriented person who never gives up.

“I first heard about the beekeeping project from a Community Outreach officer in 2011 and although skeptical at first, eventually myself and nine others in the community applied to join the project,” Amos says.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

It started with 20 hives, and members had to contribute 33% of the cost of running each hive, with the Grumeti Fund providing all necessary support needed for the project. In a very short time, the hives were stocked with bees and the members were able to see the fruits of their labour. In June 2012, the group celebrated their first harvest, and just 2 days laters were able to sell all the honey. The income generated covered the initial contribution of each member and they decided as a group to reinvest the profits in order to grow the project.

33 more hives were added, and in 2013, their harvest was the most successful in the whole Serengeti, which afforded them to opportunity to attend an international exhibition in Dar es Salaam. Their organic acacia honey was the show’s bestseller and allowed them to raise additional funds for the project. The group was also invited to attend another regional exhibition and are deservedly proud of their achievements so far.

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The Grumeti Fund also facilitates training for the group, helping them to stay abreast of the latest in beekeeping technology. Amos says: “Through this programme, we have realised the impact conservation can have on all our lives. The acacia forests which were previously degraded are now flourishing with new growth. Beekeeping has created employment and income for local families, while helping to conserve our land and its wildlife.”

Beekeeping in Tanzania | Singita Grumeti Fund

The keeping of beehives helps to maintain riparian zones, natural springs, and remnant forest and bush areas as these are the the optimal habitat for the bees. The presence of the hives also prevents timber and firewood harvesting in those areas, and discourages elephants (they don’t like bees!) from trampling the nearby farmland and destroying the crops.

In 2002, the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund, a not-for-profit organisation, was granted the right to manage and conserve 350,000 acres, for the benefit of Tanzania, Africa and the world. Four years later, Singita took over the management of the property, at the request of the concessionaire and began the task of generating, via low impact tourism, the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve through conservation and community partnerships.

 If you would like more information, please contact Pam Richardson, Singita’s Group HR and Community Development Manager.

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Wildlife Census 2013 in Tanzania

December 27, 2013 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,Environment,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

census_7

Click the image below to see the full-size infographic depicting population growth until 2011:

Wildlife Census 2013 | Singita

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.

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Special Species at Singita

July 09, 2013 - Africa,Conservation,Experience,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Field guide James Suter has spent a year travelling between Singita’s lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania and reporting on the wildlife population of each reserve. He recently visited Singita Pamushana Lodge and discovered some unusual local inhabitants.

James Suter at Singita Pamushana Lodge
The diversity of wildlife to be found at Singita Pamushana Lodge is unmatched in Southern Africa. It is home not only to the well-known “Big Five” but also  the “Little Six,” a group of small antelope which includes klipspringer, suni, grey duiker, steenbokgrysbok and oribi. The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve also provides a sanctuary for three very uncommon antelope: the sable, roan and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. These shy animals are rarely seen and this area provides a fantastic opportunity to spot them.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Sable antelope live in savanna woodlands and inhabit grassland areas during the dry season. Their remarkable, scimitar-shaped horns, while beautiful, have unfortunately led to a sharp decline in the species as they are hunted for this highly prized trophy. They are unmistakable and luckily for us, sightings are relatively common in the concession. We were even lucky enough to see a large breeding herd of fifteen recently, as they made their way through the Mopane forests.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The roan antelope, named for their reddish-brown colouring, are similar in appearance to the sable and are one of the largest species of antelope found in Africa, exceeded in size only by the African buffalo and eland. There has also been a substantial reduction in both numbers and range of these animals, largely as a result of illegal poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat. Roan antelope are also heavily reliant on tall grasses and are vulnerable to lack of rainfall, making extended dry seasons and drought a serious threat to their survival.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

The Lichtenstein’s hartebeest is the rarest mammal in Zimbabwe. They can run up to 60 km per hour and the males are highly territorial. The herd is generally led by an adult male, who often takes up watch on a patch of elevated ground, usually in the form of a termite mound. This male defends a territory of about 2.5 square kilometers year-round and during the rut, a male with a territory will try to round up as many females as possible. At this time, fights between rival males are common, and can last for extended periods of time.

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Little Six at Singita Pamushana Lodge

Visit our website to find out more about the conservation programmes at Singita Pamushana Lodge and don’t forget to read our monthly Wildlife Reports from the region. 

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Rhino Horn Treatment Programme

May 07, 2013 - Conservation,Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita 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.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

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.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

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.

Rhino Horn Treatment at Singita Sabi Sand

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. 

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Man’s best friend comes to the rescue of rhinos

November 16, 2012 - Conservation,Environment,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

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.

Dogs in the Field

“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”.

Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

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.

Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

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.

Baby Rhino | Singita Sabi Sand

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.

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On Foot with Big Cats

October 24, 2012 - Conservation,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

One’s first thought when thinking of the N’wanetsi concession in the Kruger National Park is the sheer size of the area; 33,00 acres to be precise. It’s a magical place and I made sure that a decent amount of our time spent there was on foot, exploring this unique area and all it had to offer.

One of the most exciting encounters was being on foot with eighteen lions and when there is nothing between you and a number of unpredictable cats, it is an intimidating but somewhat addictive sensation. Tracking them is a different story and can often be a frustrating experience, but can also be an incredibly rewarding exercise involving some skill and often a little bit of luck.

We hit the tracks early one morning with the assistance of one of the trackers, Daniel Sibuyi. We started following the tracks that were from the previous night and in a rather isolated area of the concession. Looking at the tracks, we knew that they belonged to the Mountain pride, due to the number of tracks that littered the area (this is an extremely large pride of lions). The tracks were relatively fresh and we knew we were hot on the trail of these animals.  The exercise had begun and we were determined to find them.  What an exhilarating feeling tracking a pride of lions through the heart of Kruger National Park, predicting the animals’ movements and trying to utilize and apply all the skills we had learned over the years.

In winter the bush turns an arid brown, with the grass at shoulder height making it very difficult to spot these animals as they seem to vanish into the colors of the environment. This makes tracking a little more interesting and enriches the already uneasy atmosphere.

After three hours we became slightly despondent as the tracks were all heading in different directions and it seemed that the pride had split up while hunting the night before. We were now walking through thick bush, the grass meeting us at eye level in certain areas, walking slowly with every step – careful not to miss any signs of these predators lurking nearby.

After totally losing their tracks, we needed another plan. We needed to start thinking like these lions, which may sound a little odd but none the less, an effective method. This area was desolate with very little surface water, so our best option was to head towards the area where water is found in the hope we might locate signs of the pride.

After investigating a warthog’s den, we crossed an open area when I noticed the flick of an ear. Picking up small movements like these becomes second nature when one has worked in the bush for some time and I was happy to know I still retained my “bush-sense.” We stopped immediately, raised the binoculars and there they were, the Mountain pride. They seemed reluctantly satisfied with our distance, so we kept it that way and made no attempt to approach any closer. All of them with heads up, staring at us in an unnerving fashion. I decided to not think about what the scenario could have been, if we had bumped into them in the thick grass, just meters behind us. It was our first encounter with these animals since we had arrived two days earlier and I was happy to see the pride again and even happier that it was due to some great teamwork and perseverance. With abundant excitement and a feeling of accomplishment we made the long walk back to the vehicle to call in the sighting.

James Suter, Field Guide, exploring Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

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Introducing James Suter

May 16, 2012 - Safari,Wildlife

From a young age I had always dreamed of working in the bush. I visited the Lowveld a couple of times with my family growing up and had always longed to work in this beautiful area that was filled with all sorts of natural wonders. In 2008 I was selected to partake in the Singita Guide training course. This entailed an intensive six months of training under the head trainer Alan Yeowart, based at Singita Sabi Sand.

This is where my career as a guide began and where my passion for photography grew. We spent most of the six months out in the bush – learning to track game, and animal behaviour, how to shoot a rifle and identify the vast amount of organisms found in the area. We were also able to visit the Malilangwe Reserve in Zimbabwe (Singita Pamushana Lodge) and trail the elusive black rhino as well as visiting the N’wanetsi concession in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. These three concessions were all so different and so we became familiar with  many different types of vegetation, birdlife, and wildlife that occur in Southern Africa.

Once I was equipped with the skills that were instilled in me during my training, I was placed up at Singita Kruger National Park working as a Field Guide in the N’wanetsi concession.  This would be my home for the next three years. It was an incredible place with high concentrations of lion, breathtaking scenery and a wealth of diversity, all within fifteen thousand hectares of wilderness.

With four years of guiding under my belt, this year I have the opportunity to revisit my old stomping ground at Singita Kruger National Park, as well as all of the other Singita properties situated in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. I hope to continue learning throughout the year, and share the newfound knowledge gained. I also hope to document my time spent in these incredible locations and all the beautiful and amazing sightings I am exposed to. Follow me as I share with you the unique character, amazing wildlife and incredible people that make Singita the place it is.

(Singita Kruger National Park – photograph by James Suter)

(Singita Sabi Sand – photograph by James Suter)

(Singita Grumeti Reserves – photograph by James Suter)

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The Astonishing Trek

August 01, 2011 - Events,Sustainable Conservation,Wildlife

The annual wildebeest migration is one of the world’s most breathtaking spectacles but it also plays a vital ecological role.  Head Guide at Singita Grumeti Reserves shares some insights into the progression of the migration across the plains of Singita Grumeti Reserves this year.

The Wildebeest Migration was declared the 7th new Wonder of the Natural World in June 2006 and it is well justified.  This annual mass movement of over a million wildebeest has to be one of the most awe inspiring sights on earth.  It is very possible that these animals have been making this astonishing trek for millions of years and if that is so then man must have been marveling over this for millennia.

There have been literally rank after rank of wildebeest filing onto the plains on a daily basis.  From the 25th May we watched as the numbers swelled until it seemed there would be room for no more.  Yet they continued to arrive.  The herds of topi and zebra gave way before encroaching hordes; elephant left the low lying areas and headed for the hills.

They passed by Singita Sabora and spent a few days on the plains in and around the tented camp, consuming the new grass that had sprung up after the fire a few months ago.

From there they headed east, grazing and honking as they went.  Thousands of them staked out areas around the Sasakwa airstrip and we spent many hours on the strip keeping it clear for arriving and departing aircraft.

With them came the scavengers, hyena walked unperturbed between them, and the wildebeest hardly gave them a glance.

Vultures soared overhead or dropped down onto carcasses and the wildebeest didn’t seem to care; it seemed that everything benefitted from their arrival.

There was literally nowhere on the property you could go without driving through thousands of wildebeest.  It is an amazing experience that is impossible to describe:  the constant movement of all the animals, the noise of their continual honking, the clash of horns as the bulls charged into one another, and calves and mothers that have become separated call to one another in an attempt to reunite.

The migration faces all challenges head on.  Sometimes there is a bit of trepidation or hesitation by each animal when faced with a tricky river crossing or a wooded area but in order to survive they have to keep moving.  Food and water are the main motivation and as much as wildebeest are responsible for consuming vast quantities of grass on a daily basis they are also a key component in the regeneration of the same grasses, and other grasses they don’t eat.

(Outstanding view of the wildebeest right in front of Singita Faru Faru Lodge.)

Herbivores can and do play a large role in grass successions.  When the rains come through after the migration has moved on there will be a marked regeneration.  The millions of hooves crush and trample the moribund material into the earth and their dung helps to fertilize it.

To read the full report of the annual wildebeest migration through Singita Grumeti Reserves this year, take a look at June Guides’ Diary on the Singita website.  For daily and weekly updates of the location of the migration, follow Singita on Facebook.

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Seeing Spots…More Cheetah Sightings

June 13, 2011 - Wildlife

As the sun was setting this image was captured in the more central parts of Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park.  In the past, Singita Kruger National Park has not been regarded as a concession that produces abundant cheetah sightings.  Well that’s all changed!  This month alone we have had over 10 different sightings – all of them unbelievable in their own way.  This female and her three cubs have realized the benefits of the abundance of general game in the concession and both her and the cubs are in a very healthy condition.  We will watch with interest as they continue to grace us with their presence.

By James Suter, Guide at Singita Kruger National Park.  Follow our monthly Guides’ Diaries for more enthralling updates about the diverse wildlife at each of the Singita game reserves.

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