10 DONATED BUSHBUCK FIND A NEW WILD HOME
This August, Wild Tomorrow Fund was delighted to welcome ten donated bushbuck onto the Mfuleni Conservancy in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. Read more about how these shy bushbuck found their new home, and check out the video of their release back to the wild.
On Tuesday the 20th of August, 10 bushbuck started their day not knowing it would entail a 3-hour journey by truck to their new home thanks to an initiative by South African wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity, FREEME Wildlife.
FREEMe’s Islands of Hope program promotes collaboration to respond to the need to protect wildlife and the environment in South African backyards and communities, not just within the confines of big wildlife reserves. Individuals or organisations can successfully create a safe-haven for wildlife where, if protected, wildlife can flourish. These ‘islands of hope’ then "spill over" into other protected areas and reserves, by supplying or donating animals to these areas.
The ten donated bushbuck’s prior home was the 456 hectare Zimbali Coastal Resort, which lies just under an hour north of Durban in an area by the sea known as the dolphin coast. “Zimbali” in Zulu means “valley of the flowers” and is a sub-tropical location blessed by nature, where miles of deserted beaches divide the warm Indian Ocean and the lush coastal vegetation. Zimbali is home to over 200 species of birds and indigenous wildlife, including the shy blue Duiker and families of Bushbuck.
The Zimbali Coastal Resort did indeed form an island of hope for bushbuck, where they lived peacefully alongside a five-star golf course, two world-class hotels, Zimbali Lodge and Fairmont Zimbali Resort, ten restaurants and a spa - plus natural predators including pythons and crowned eagles. Bushbuck bred very successfully in this environment, which Brendan Smith, the environmental manager at Zimbali, attributes to the secure environment without poaching pressure and its pristine floral habitat. Zimbali’s bushbuck were indeed able to flourish and multiply, now numbering around 110 in a space that ecologically is at capacity at approximately 65 individuals.
In the past, the Zimbali Coastal Resort has sold its excess bushbuck to generate additional revenue for conservation projects. However this year, in collaboration with FREEMe Wildlife Rehabilitation and the Zimbali Estate Management Association ( the management association of Zimbali Coastal Resort) decided to donate 10 of their bushbuck as a contribution to wildlife conservation.
“Eco-estates in South Africa provide a unique opportunity for conservation in South Africa,” explains Brendan. “These secure, well managed and often ecologically rich ‘islands’ can become flora and fauna nurseries to repopulate areas outside of these gated communities. This is my vision for Zimbali and I hope the example we have set with this project will be followed by other eco-estates. With so much negativity in the press with regards to our environment and conservation in South Africa and indeed worldwide, it is great to contribute towards a good conservation story.”
Brendan says that he hopes that Zimbali can continue to act as a breeding ground for bushbuck to help them to re-populate other areas of KwaZulu-Natal where they formerly ranged, and that doing this kind of work is his personal goal to help give back to conservation.
”The actions taken by these individuals and organizations brought to life a dream that can be shared by generations to come” said Wade Whitehead, CEO of FreeMe Wildlife. “In this way, we are all opening our hearts to the bigger picture, to persue the unification of knowledge, and become to our communities and our wildlife, an "Island of Hope". FreeMe Wildlife is proud to have been a catalyst and role player in this project, working together to enrich lives.”
It was an early start for the team at Shemungwe Game Capture who began work at Zimbali at 6am and by 11.30am had captured 2 rams and 8 females who were then loaded carefully onto a truck to begin their 240km journey to Mfuleni, Wild Tomorrow Fund’s newly protected area.
The 1,171 acre Mfuleni Reserve is located 3 hours drive north of Zimbali, and lies directly in between the Munyawana Conservancy and the UNESCO World Heritage iSimangaliso Park. As a wildlife conservation non-profit organization, Wild Tomorrow Fund is committed to saving habitat for wildlife as a conservation tool to protect against extinction.
“It is hopeful and encouraging to see wildlife being re-introduced so quickly to the Mfuleni Reserve since we took over management this May.” said Wild Tomorrow Fund ecologist and conservation manager, Clinton Wright. “We believe that the donation of wildlife from smaller protected areas is a great model for other eco-estates to consider being a part of. It’s a way for fragmented islands of habitat to become a much needed positive boost for larger-scale conservation areas, particularly for species that are absent in their native range.”
Wild Tomorrow Fund’s rangers conduct regular patrols of the protected Mfuleni reserve, removing snares in order to keep the bushbuck and other resident wildlife safe. A team of volunteers, together with Wild Tomorrow Fund ecologist Axel Hunnicutt, will conduct a camera trap survey in early September to check in on the bushbuck and capture images and data of their new lives in a wilder habitat. We can’t wait to ‘see’ how they are adapting to their new home.
“Contextual knowledge is knowing how the pieces of a puzzle fit together; the ability to see the bigger picture” said Wade. “We all need to work off a foundation of contextual knowledge, in order to inspire an educated and engaged empathy for our wildlife and our environment.”
Special thanks to Wade Whitehead for ‘connecting the dots’, to Shemungwe Game Capture for all of their hard work and expertise, to Zimbali Coastal Resort and Estate and the Zimbali Estate Management Association for their bushbuck donation and vision, and to KZN Ezemvelo. It is all of these people and organizations whose collaborative efforts together made the bushbuck arrival at Mfuleni possible.