Zululand reserve paints it black
Resting on the softest pillow, I stretch out my sleepy body in the hammock on the deck of my private chalet, soaking up the spectacular view of Zululand’s beautiful bush.
As I listen half-heartedly to myriad different bird calls, among them a persistent woodpecker, I drift off to sleep and dream of the magnificent black rhinos I will encounter in the morning…
An abundance of peace and quiet, combined with mouth-watering food and exhilarating excursions is everything you desire when visiting a bush lodge. And you get all this at Leopard Mountain Game Lodge.
But what’s even more intriguing, is that this is where the Zululand Rhino Reserve was born.
An endangered wildlife sanctuary of 25 000ha, the Zululand Rhino Reserve started off as an exciting idea, but rapidly developed into one of the most successful conservation projects in South Africa. The 21 black rhinos introduced in October 2005 have effectively adapted and reproduced in this Big Five reserve. The conservationists behind this achievement are aiming to preserve the reserve’s biodiversity, including landscapes and ecosystems, and, in particular, promote the conservation of black rhinos.
Through sheer dedication, results of their hard work are already visible.
The seeds were planted when Clive Vivier found out that the World Wildlife Fund was working on a black rhino expansion programme.
He approached them to discover that they had identified the area around Leopard Mountain as a possible release site. The WWF then asked Vivier if he could put together a minimum of 20 000ha. One can imagine how difficult it was to persuade farms and lodges in the area to pull down their fences. "It was an enormous challenge," admits Vivier. But he never gave up, and the reserve was born a year later.
Thirty-eight properties make up the Zululand Rhino Reserve today. "We don’t intend to make a profit. We are just a group of South Africans trying to keep Zululand as natural as it was," says Vivier, who as the chairman and founder of the reserve tries to guide it in the right direction.
It’s a long training process for rangers and security who work with newly-introduced black rhinos, as they are not known to be the friendliest animals on the planet.
Karen Odendaal, however, doesn’t carry a rifle, because, she says, she would never shoot a black rhino. Karen does the black rhino monitoring and deals with the ecological management aspects of the reserve. Each black rhino has a radio transmitter, and every day Karen tracks them and makes a note of their location, condition and behaviour.
In April and May last year the first two black rhino calves were born, and spotting them for the first time was incredibly rewarding for everyone involved.
It indicated that the black rhinos were happy in their new home. Another three are pregnant, so soon 30 black rhinos will roam the reserve.
Monitoring the black rhinos is a costly task. For R900 a month you can get involved in the reserve’s conservation. Contact Clive Viviers at 082 574 7808