We left Capetown and flew up the east coast to Port Elizabeth… From there, we drove about two hours NNE to Kariega Game Reserve. The drive passed through many beautiful cattle and dairy ranches. I wondered if this land had once been inhabited by the animals we were coming to see, then cleared of vegetation for farms ???
The state of safaris here is interesting. It turns out that more and more of the game sanctuaries are private. This is due to a couple of factors. First, the public parks, run by the governments, who also collect the money, do not always put the money back into the parks. Their inconsistency of dealing with poachers also dilutes their product consistency. Second, most of the land owners of private reserves are farmers. With the change in government, many people began claiming that these farms were on their previous tribal land… They made legal petitions to reclaim the land. The farmers countered this by purchasing animals and fencing off the property. This process counters these other legal claims. Our present location was built by merging three local farms, buying additional land, and bringing in experts on the formation of a game equilibrium.
This brings up the next interesting point. To create an adaptive environment, you can either support hunting, or balance the environment using natural selection. For example, let’s say that a farm has lots of antelope and elephants, but no predators. The grass can only restore itself if the owners kill off some of the animals to maintain a balance. In the case of Kariega, they are talking about introducing cheetahs to glean off some of the grazing animals. They already have lions, leopards, and smaller dog and cat breeds that provide a balance. Their electric fences keep animals and poachers at better bay, as well as an active program to remove the horns of rhinos to prevent their slaughter. What made Kariega our destination were the diversity of its wildlife, no hunting, its size ( 16000 hectares), and the quality of its support services: food, guides, chalets, and administration. It has really seemed like a glimpse of the bush in the two days we have been here. More on the animals in the next post.