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Conservation at Singita Sabi Sand

Sabi Sand - South Africa

Conservation at Singita Sabi Sand

Singita Sabi Sand employs a dedicated team focused on protecting and conserving the biodiversity of the incredible land under its care. The team’s primary task is ensuring that the land, complete with its diverse flora and fauna, remains as close as possible to the untouched state in which the Bailes family found it some 85 years ago.

The earliest aerial photographs, taken in 1935, are used by the team as a template to guide them in achieving this task. The success of their reserve management approach has resulted in thriving wildlife populations and a flourishing ecosystem.

This in itself creates another challenge, as the abundance of species, such as rhino, that carry a high price tag in the global illegal wildlife trade, attract international poaching syndicates to the area. The team’s second main focus area is therefore a dedicated anti-poaching unit tasked with ensuring the safety of these precious natural assets.

A Stand Against Rhino Poaching

Today the stakes couldn’t be higher for Africa’s two rhino species: extinction in the wild is increasingly becoming a plausible scenario. As anti-poaching operations look to stem the losses, so poaching methods become increasingly sophisticated, and poachers more daring.

Following past incidents in the Sabi Sand, Singita decided it was time to secure a dedicated in-house anti-poaching unit to secure the safety and preservation of the species in the reserve.

In response to this need, Singita began working with specialists in counteracting illegal hunting and wildlife trade through the use of highly trained tracker dog units.

Tracker dogs, trained to track both animals and humans, are 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.

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 sniffing out rhino horn and ammunition from vehicles and bags, the dogs are deeply valued, professional assets supporting important conservation initiatives.

Another reason for the success of the canine operation is that its mere 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 has been shown to drop dramatically.

Leopard conservation, research and on-going monitoring

Often considered an extremely resilient and adaptable species, recent research suggests that leopards are in trouble, having lost as much as 66% of their historic range in Africa.

In the Sabi Sand, we are fortunate to have a very high density of these magnificent animals – more than 70 known individuals currently roam the reserve.

The fact that they are also incredibly tolerant of game viewing vehicles makes this property a prime area for leopard research.


Our lodges have been operating commercially for over 20 years, and daily sightings data and records have been kept since the inception of Ebony Lodge, making this one of the longest running studies on wildlife to date. For the last few years, we have been sharing our historical and current sightings data with Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation organisation. Using these data, Panthera’s scientists are busy piecing together the fascinating, cryptic world of leopard behaviour.

Their research findings will not only improve our understanding of the species, but also help guide future decisions aimed at ensuring its survival.

Assistance in the protection of biological assets

The Sabi Sand Wildtuin is the oldest private game reserve in Africa. It is composed of various pieces of land held by private landowners, each of whom contributes financially to cover the overall running of the reserve.

This is done via the payment of levies by each owner in relation to the amount of area owned and the number of guests they host. Funds are also generated through conservation levies, as well as gate fees.

As no fences separate the various sectors, these funds are used by the reserve to finance common conservation efforts such as game censuses, fence maintenance, anti-poaching operations and snare-removal patrols.

Singita contributes a significant proportion of these funds, and has representation on both the Board of Directors and the Ecological Committee of the reserve.

Environmental team

Managing a dynamic ecosystem to maintain its natural function is a complex process that must consider flora and fauna, as well as abiotic components such as soil and water.

To ensure the integrity of the reserve’s plant and animal populations, our dedicated team’s work therefore ranges from managing fire in the system, preventing erosion and conserving water, to removing alien vegetation and minimising any negative impact of the tourism operation on the environment.


As with all Singita properties, our Sabi Sand lodges support our low-impact ecotourism philosophy of ‘fewer beds in larger areas.’

We monitor our performance through periodic carbon footprint analysis, backed up by monthly reports detailing our use of various resources.



Lodge effluent is passed through a biolytic system and natural reed bed to ensure that water returning to the Sand River is free of pollutants. Recyclable waste is sorted, collected and sent to an offsite processing facility.

Recent projects include the practical elimination of plastic bottled water to reduce plastic waste and a (current) investigation into the deployment of more solar power to run the lodges.