From Livestock to Wildlife: Different Experiences at Two Private Game Reserves in the Eastern Cape

The last ten years have seen a massive shift from livestock farming to wildlife conservation and ecotourism in the Eastern Cape. Amakhala and Shamwari are two neighbouring private game reserves between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.

From Livestock to Wildlife: Different Experiences at Two Private Game Reserves in the Eastern Cape

The last ten years have seen a massive shift from livestock farming to wildlife conservation and ecotourism in the Eastern Cape. Amakhala and Shamwari are two neighbouring private game reserves between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth.

Both were converted from livestock farming to wildlife conservation in the 1990s, and both are now among the premier Big 5 private game reserves in the province. But whereas Amakhala was formed by a group of neighbouring farmers, Shamwari was founded and backed by a successful business venture. The transition from livestock to wildlife has been challenging and rewarding.

The reserve managers needed to rehabilitate veld, plan and manage the introduction of various game species, estimate carrying capacities and monitor animal impact, particularly of megaherbivores like elephant and rhino. Added to this, social issues like employment and re-training of farm labour and the long-term economic viability of ecotourism ventures had to be addressed. Both reserves have and support a range of conservation, research and training programmes.

This tour will explore and compare these different challenges and initiatives on the two reserves with their different histories.

Tour itinerary

We will travel from Grahamstown to Amakhala, which was formed in 1999 when neighbouring farmers dropped their fences and started managing the area together as a game reserve. After exploring the reserve and stopping for a picnic lunch, we proceed to Shamwari, established in 1992, which at 20,000 ha is the oldest and biggest of the Eastern Cape private game reserves. We will traverse the reserve and return to Grahamstown via Alicedale.

Both reserves are found in thicket-savanna mosaic with magnificent scenery and boast a mixture of wildlife, including the Big 5. The tour will be guided by Prof. Winston Trollope and Wayne Vos, both of whom are active in research in Eastern Cape game reserves. The group will be accompanied by reserve managers or ecologists at Amakhala and Shamwari.

For more information on the two reserves, see www.amakhala.co.za and www.shamwari.com.

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