A strong conservation ethic has been passed down by the forefathers of the Amakhala Game Reserve (AGR) to the current generation. The farms that joined together to form the Amakahala Game Reserve have been kept in the same farming families since the 1850s and the concept of sustainable stocking rates and domestic stock clearing of invasive vegetation have been instilled into the reserve since the 1920s.
Family members of the current AGR generation have been recognised with ‘Conservation in Farming’ awards in the 1970s and the 1980s. Some members have even served in the local Soil Conservation Committee, a Department of Agriculture watchdog of farming practice, for many years.
Today, the AGR strives to uphold this conservation ethic in new and exciting ways. The considerable pressure on the economics of agriculture worldwide and the serious drought in the late 1980s lead to the idea of using the land in the area differently. The desire was to use the land in a manner that did not require irrigation from the erratic Bushman’s River or artificially high stocking rates and that would counter the economic trends.
The development of the Eco-tourism industry in the Eastern Cape provided the opportunity for the establishment of the AGR. This was achieved in 1999 when four neighbouring farming families joined their farms together. Initially, founder populations were introduced to the land which had limited impact on the natural environment of the reserve.
In time, the wildlife population increased and other species were introduced to the area, this lead to the need of a greater management of the ecosystem. Thus the Ecology Unit was formed with staff dedicated to the monitoring and management of AGR’s wildlife, vegetation and the relationship between the two.
The reserve now has approximately 20 members involved in the running of the Land & Game Department. These members range from a General Manager with a B. Tech in Nature Conservation, an Ecologist with a B.Sc degree in Zoology and Field Rangers who are involved in foot patrols for maintenance and security purposes. The AGR also has a large intellectual body that ranges from a respected vet, a zoologist, a lawyer, an agriculturalist, an engineer and teachers that can all be called upon within the running of the reserve.
Dr. William Fowlds and Brent Cook, members of AGR, are conservationists in their own right. Dr.Fowlds is currently supported by Investec Rhino Lifeline and has been extremely instrumental in their efforts to save the Rhino whilst highlighting the rhino’s current plight internationally. Brent is also focused on conserving the rhinos and is the co-founder of the Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
AGR’s conservation efforts don’t stop here, we are also dedicated to educating our youth on various methods of conservation. Many children are positively influenced by environmental education programmes that are run through the Amakhala Conservation Centre. These programmes include: World Environment Day, Water Day and Arbour Day. Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) has a number of environmental considerations in their accreditation process including: electricity and water usage, sewerage and garbage disposal and recycling. We are privileged to have 1 of our lodges accredited with FFTSA.
While Amakhala Game Reserve is specifically involved in rhino and cheetah conservation, the provision of a safe environment for all animals, whether endangered or not, to live and breed is how we shape our contribution to wildlife conservation.