Ndzalama Wildlife Reserve, a 10 000 ha private wildlife reserve near Gravelotte in the Limpopo Province, recently released its anti – poaching statistics for 2014 and revealed that an alarming 2000 wire snares were removed by its anti-poaching unit off the reserve during this period. This reflects the national trend in wildlife poaching in South Africa as indicated by the increased number of recorded rhino that have been poached during the same period last year in South Africa.
Wildlife poaching seems to be on the increase in certain areas of South Africa and this also includes the poaching of wildlife owned by local communities. Ndzalama is a private wildlife reserve that belongs to the Balepye Community near Gravelotte in the Letaba valley and is managed as a partnership between the Balepye Community and private investors. The reserve creates employment for two different communities bordering on the reserve and is earmarked as a flagship project of the department of environmental affairs to allow ownership of wildlife, including rhino, by the communities. Although in its development phase, the reserve has already successfully introduced various management systems, including the anti – poaching project, which enables the participation of the communities in mainstream wildlife farming.
One of the major challenges faced by the project has been the increasing poaching activities in the reserve. It was clear from the start that with the introduction of valuable wildlife onto the reserve, e.g. rhino, effective anti – poaching programs using community participation would need to be implemented. An anti – poaching unit under the management and training of a private security firm was established and members of the community were recruited to participate in formalized training in this regard. The result was that over 2000 snares were removed off the 10 000 ha reserve and one group of poachers was successfully arrested. The initiative was sponsored by V-Tech, a Midrand based Animal Health Company, as part of their social responsibility program.
“Unless rural communities experience the commercial benefit of wildlife ownership, we will never be able to effectively control poaching. The progress made with the anti-poaching activities on Ndzalama is encouraging and valuable lessons learned in the process. We will build on these experience gained in 2014 to further develop our anti – poaching program to control this continuous threat” Johan Meyer, Reserve Manager.