2001-2021 Zuka Private Game Reserve Celebrates 20 Years!

2001-2021 Zuka Private Game Reserve Celebrates 20 Years!

2001 – 2021

Words by Jessica Getty

Nature.

Thriving and beauteous in her perfection, she needs nothing from us.

We are called to be with her and to watch, witness, observe and learn. Nature is our axis that inspires an instinct to revolve around her and respond.

Zuka is our response.

Under our auspices since 2001, Zuka has an infinitely wide matrix of history before it and around it; angles, truths, humans and circumstances that account for and construct a different beginning before our own. For Tara and me, to put Zuka and our personal commitment in to context, 1990 is the rightful starting point to our story and the germination of what would birth 10 years later: Zuka Private Game Reserve.

Zuka is one of myriad examples around the world of the common point where humanity meets the natural world in order to protect her.

Every minute since 2001 has been filled with nature playing her role, there for us to coexist, to immerse in wonder. Simultaneously, every minute since 2001, has been filled with the best intentions from a vast human collective connected to Zuka. All those minutes have turned in to days and years threaded together bringing us to this place in time, 2021, where we allow ourselves a pause, to notice and celebrate.

We honour 20 years of this collective of human hearts, attributes and actions. These humans have been on board and held on tight over 20 years with tenacity, expertise, passion, kindness, willingness, loyalty and mercifully, a sense of humour!

2021 is our vantage point to look back, be here, notice Zuka quietly thriving and with gratitude and vigour, go onwards.

 

2020

2020

2020

Words by Musa Msweli
House Manager Zuka House & Gladstones

Food insecurity is a reality for many South African households with approximately 50% of households living below the poverty line and unable to afford food for basic healthy eating.

The spread of the 2020 global Covid-19 pandemic across South Africa added pressure to vulnerable households as they faced temporary or permanent employment interruptions. In addition, the primary care givers of these households had more mouths to feed with children that previously benefited from the national school feeding programme.

From the outset, and through the lockdowns of Covid-19, Zuka Private Game Reserve, responded to what quickly became the most urgent needs of our surrounding communities: food and personal protection.

We put our human resources, funding and donations in to compiling, transporting and distributing much needed food parcels, masks, sanitisers and essentials.

During these critical months, Zuka Private Game Reserve delivered these essentials to 10,500 people in urgent need of assistance in KwaNgwenya and Mnqobokazi.

Our gratitude to all who participated, for your kind and generous support.

Tembe Elephant Introduction

Tembe Elephant Introduction

2020

It is estimated Tembe Elephant Park, situated in northern Zululand, is home to the largest concentration of Big Tuskers anywhere in Africa.

Although these giants once roamed freely across the Pongola River between South Africa and Mozambique, in 1989 as a result of frequent poaching incidences in Mozambique, a fence was erected to contain the elephant population within the Tembe Park.

A 30,000 hectare reserve limiting them, their population grew to such an extent that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the custodians of the Tembe Elephant Park, took the decision to relocate a number of bulls and small family groups to other reserves within South Africa.

The Munywana Conservancy, seized the opportunity to help out with this relocation programme and in September 2020, two adult bulls (29 and 39 years old) arrived on the conservancy.

Since their introduction, these placid giants, fitted with GSM collars for monitoring, have settled into their new environment, integrating already with the existing herds bringing an additional gene pool and boosting our elephant population.

This success prompted the relocation of a further 11 animails from Tembe Elephant Park to the Munywana Conservancy in 2021 .

Tembe Elephant Park

Pangolin Reintroduction

Pangolin Reintroduction

2019

Pangolins are the most heavily trafficked wild mammals in the world (Chandler et al., 2014) with the demand for live pangolins, their meat and scales, leading to a global decline in their populations. The declining numbers in the Asian populations has seen increased pressure in the African populations and the Temminck’s Ground Pangolin (a species indigenous to Southern Africa) is now classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

In an attempt to curb the decline in the Pangolin numbers the South African Government appointed The African Pangolin Working Group (APWG) to oversee the rehabilitation of pangolins retrieved from the illegal wildlife trade.

The Munywana Conservancy was identified by APWG as a suitable reintroduction site and in 2019 Temminck’s Ground Pangolin were reintroduced onto the Munywana; the last records of their presence date back to the 1940’s. This project also serves as a pilot study and guide for the reintroduction of Temminick’s Ground Pangolin, both assessing feasibility and to provide a “best practice” model for future reintroduction projects.

The reintroduction process involves a two-phased approach. During phase one, the soft release, each individual is taken out daily over a period of 2 to 3 weeks for foraging walks. This period is dependent on the body condition and behaviour of each animal.  The animals are transported to and from their intended release site for their foraging sessions. The animals are weighed before and after each foraging session and once the monitoring teams are confident that the animals are settling, displaying normal foraging patterns and gaining weight, they can progress to the second phase of the release process.

During the second and final phase of the reintroduction, Pangolin are released into their chosen release area and monitored twice daily to check on burrow locations and times that the animals emerge from their burrows to start foraging. Daily location information is collected by SAT tags and UHF data loggers fitted to the animals’ scales. This second phase of the reintroduction and release programme can last for up to three months with weighing intervals being extended as the animals settle into their new home.

At various stages throughout the rehabilitation and reintroduction process a dedicated pangolin monitor will systematically follow each individual during foraging sessions to check on general health, movement patterns and behaviour.

The reintroduction and rehabilitation project is thus far a great success and in 2020 the first pangolin pup was born on the Munywana Conservancy.

Musa Msweli

Musa Msweli

2019

As a young boy growing up without parents in Mnqobokazi, a rural community adjacent to Zuka Private Game Reserve, life was not easy or straightforward for Musa Msweli, however, matriculating in 2002, Musa’s character, intelligences and determination created opportunities which took him on a path he loves and relishes to this day.

Working for andBeyond at Phinda Mountain, and after completing the Siyakwamukela programme, there was, in Musa’s words, a significant moment in his life when he was awarded the chance to study further through Wild Impact’s CLEF (Community Leaders Education Fund) a bursary for tertiary education and a gateway to dreams of promising young students.

This next step as a result of CLEF took Musa to Fanshawe College, Ontario in Canada where he studied tourism and the hospitality industry for six months.

Still working for andBeyond, Musa started at Zuka Lodge in 2004 as a butler and training staff. This founded his relationship with the Getty family and his next move, to Zuka House.

Musa’s trajectory, exemplary of the successful partnership between andBeyond and Wild Impact, with his strong desire to develop continued. Through his constant openness to learning, applying his skills and with his well respected, capable, humorous character, Musa became House Manager at Zuka House and Gladstones in 2018, a position he thrives in today, contributing in immeasurable ways to the life and soul of Zuka Private Game Reserve.