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Upper Bushmans River Valley Protected | Kariega Game Reserve

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Kariega Game Reserve has actualised a 15-year dream to bring the upper reaches of the Bushmans River Valley into the reserve and under protection forever. Thus, heeding the urgent conservation directive, to bring back and protect our planets biodiversity.

Kariega in partnership with the Kariega Foundation embarked on this ambitious habitat expansion project three years ago, with the objective to acquire and incorporate critically important farmlands along the Bushmans River into the Kariega Game Reserve protected area, ensuring the protection and conservation of 25km of this pristine river valley forever.

The biodiverse Bushmans River Valley by Brendon Jennings

This intensive project concluded in November 2023 and resulted in significant habitat expansion and conservation benefits for keystone herbivores like elephant and rhino and apex predators like cheetah and lion.

In addition, the reserve is now fully appointed as custodians of South African government black rhino, made possible through a partnership with WWF South Africa and their Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).

The Rushmere and Fuller families, owners of Kariega Game Reserve, reflected on the sentiment of the moment saying:

“When you reach the culmination of a project of this nature you feel incredibly inspired but also humbled because you realise that you are only at this point of success because of the significant contribution made by so many generous and hard-working people. We are so deeply grateful to you all. We keep reminding ourselves that we are custodians of this planet for a very short time and simply must work together to serve and protect her.”

Kariega Game Reserve and the Kariega Foundation extend a heartfelt thank you to these key partners and donors of the Bushmans River Habitat Expansion project: The Ferguson Family; Phil and Trish Liggett and the Freedom To Roam Adventurers; Simon Jones and Helping Rhinos; Coyote Petersen, Brave Wilderness, Mike Veale and Global Conservation Force via Save The Horns.

Special thanks must also be given to Ndlambe Municipality, The Department of Environmental Affairs, and Kenton on Sea community members for their support.

The Kariega estate, ecology and wildlife protection teams have been the outstanding heroes of this story working relentlessly to get the job done. Incorporating new land into a conservation area is incredibly complex, multifaceted, and work intensive. ‘Thank you’ does not adequately express our gratitude for your dedication and service to Kariega Game Reserve our planet and wild animals.

Kariega team members involved with the project

Black Rhinos Roam the Bushmans River Valley Again

A particularly significant outcome of the expanded habitat is the reserve’s appointment as custodians of South African government black rhino, made possible through a partnership with WWF South Africa and their Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP).

This year BRREP celebrated its 20th anniversary and achieved the amazing milestone of successfully translocating and rehoming a total of 250 rhinos. Kariega Game Reserve is very proud to be part of this programme.

Graeme Rushmere, co-owner and Director of Kariega Game Reserve comments:

“This is the first-time black rhino have roamed the Bushmans River Valley since 1850! An unbelievable and historic event to experience. It is simply amazing.”

Reserve ecologist working on at a black rhino translocation procedure

In preparing to take on this enormous responsibility the Kariega Game Reserve, APU Manager has worked closely with 4Diginity, Wildlife Protection Solutions and Hikvision on advanced technologies that enhance wildlife protection measures; as well as Kilo9 and Global Conservation Force in building and capacitating our anti-poaching K9 and Mounted Units. Thank you to all these partners and donors including Rhino Tear Jewellery; Veldskoen SA; Chipembere Rhino Foundation; PARCA and each guest visiting Kariega Game Reserve who becomes our partner in wildlife protection and conservation.

Kariega K9 APU on patrol

Conservation and Community working in Harmony

Kariega Game Reserve now demonstrates how a community of people, and a wildlife conservation area can harmoniously co-exist. The removal of this last significant, fence within the reserve, has opened a stretch of nearly 25 km of tidal river within a Big 5 Game Reserve, for the Kenton-on-Sea community to enjoy. This is a unique example of humans and wildlife living adjacent and side-by-side with mutual benefit.

It is an inspiring conservation story and an excellent outcome for our planet, people, and wildlife.

Here you see the fence along the Bushmans River, dividing the reserve.

Kariega team taking down fence on the Bushmans River

And here you don't!

A final internal fence within Kariega has been removed

In addition, the Kariega Foundation in partnership with Kariega Game Reserve and numerous, additional partners works closely with the communities of Ekuphumleni, Marselle and Klipfontein on community development and capacitation programmes. The most significant being our Youth Development Programme which invests in the holistic development of our youth, with access to skills development and tertiary education and opportunities of job creation.

The sustainability of these projects is rooted in the conservation and protection of our beautiful wildness’s, like Kariega Game Reserve which attract visitors from all over the world.

To quote, Lindy Sutherland, Director of the Kariega Foundation:

When we look after our wild animals, they look after us. This is the ultimate expression of ubuntu within South Africa.

Community youth at a white rhino Procedure

A Historic Milestone for Kariega Game Reserve

The completion of this habitat expansion project in the Bushmans River Valley has been a historic milestone for Kariega Game Reserve.

There have been many standout moments in the reserves 33-year history that has seen 23 farms rewilded into the current 11 500 hectare protected wilderness; numerous endemic species reintroduced; five beautiful Safari lodges established as top choice safari destinations and the Kariega Foundation established as an authentic contributor to conservation and community rejuvenation in the area.

Mark Rushmere, co-owner and Director of Kariega reflected on the journey, saying:

It has been incredibly fulfilling. I think back to when we first introduced white rhino in 1999 and elephant and lion in 2004! We went out to the reserve in the middle of night when the elephants arrived. We watched them walk peacefully off the truck into the boma. That matriarch is still with us today!”

Tony Fuller, co-founder of Kariega Game Reserve visited the site of the final fence dropping and honoured his partner, friend and founder of Kariega Game Reserve, the late Colin Rushmere. Tony said, simply and truthfully, “Colin would have loved this moment!”

Kariega co-founder Tony Fuller visiting site of fence dropping

The current Directors of Kariega Game Reserve and the Kariega Foundation, Mark and Graeme Rushmere, Lindy Sutherland (nee Rushmere) and Mike Fuller mark this historic moment with love and appreciation for Colin and Tony. We feel a deep sense of purpose and privilege in continuing the legacy of Kariega Game Reserve and contributing to the growing conservation landscape in the Eastern Cape.

Video credit: Ferg Clark and Reece Dodd

Photo credits: Brendon Jennings

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