• Pongola River dried up due to the drought
  • giraffe
  • Game drive

Press Release: Drought....no Doubt

Posted by Dr Heinz on Sat October 1, 2016 in General.

Southern Africa is in general, a very arid region, with erratic climate and seasonal rainfalls, and the Pongola Game Reserve in North East Zululand is no exception.

Since the summer of 2014, we have been experiencing one of the driest spells in living memory. Certainly this is our first major drought at White Elephant since the lodges opening in 1999 (17 years ago).

When my family bought Leeuwspoor farm in 1954, all previous farming operations had failed because of one of the areas renowned drought cycles. Crop (i.e. cotton) and livestock (i.e. cattle) farming was unsustainable because of droughts.
Thanks to the laws of nature, in this case the extreme dry spells, we today have the Pongola Game Reserve dedicated to conservation. A wilderness that has survived the hand of man's agricultural developments.

In 1994 fences were dropped between neighbours and the 14 000 hectare Pongola Game Reserve was returned to the wild. Elephant, rhino and buffalo were re-introduced to replace the cattle as bulk grazers. As a veterinarian privileged to be working and living close to nature, it has always been a concern as to what would happen when the elephant and other species have multiplied and we are faced with yet another dry cycle?

The main reason for having dropped fences was to establish an ecologically viable larger conservation area (Biosphere) that included the entire Pongolapoort dam (Lake Jozini) shoreline. The Pongola Game Reserve together with The Phongolo Nature Reserve and Lake Jozini today makes up the greater, close on 40 000 hectare Pongola Conservation area (Biosphere) where animals are able to roam freely. This allows Elephant, Buffalo and other herd species to multiply and migrate from north to south, west to east, and vice versa - following the rains providing the best grazing.

However, not all species migrate. In the dry conditions we therefore capture and move surplus animals like Impala, Nyala, Kudu and Giraffe for economic, veld management (ecological) and animal welfare reasons. By reducing the numbers we ensure that those animals left behind have sufficient food to survive until the next rains. The other alternative is to watch animal starve and expire.

This summer the Phongolo Nature Reserve to the north across the Pongola River had more rainfall than White Elephant Safari Lodge to the south. Many Buffalo, Zebra, Wildebeest and Elephant have moved into these northern sections in search of better grazing where more rain has fallen. In the interests of ensuring that guests of White Elephant Safari Lodge & Bush Camp still have the best game viewing opportunities, we have secured an additional 6000 hectares of game drive traversing area in the Phongolo Nature Reserve north of White Elephant. This takes the entire White Elephant traversing area up to 10 000 hectares or around one quarter of the entire Pongola conservation area.

Access to this area will be directly through the reserve across the now dry Pongola River inlet to the lake. When rains return to the area, so to then will the traversing revert back to normal as the river will once again separate the two sectors of the greater conservation area. Pongola Game Reserve is unique for its massive Lake Jozini, offering water based activities such as boat cruises, canoeing and fishing. Our lake shoreline wetland is still teeming with wildlife and birds.

It is during these extreme drought cycles when properties like White Elephant Safari Lodge & Bush Camp needs your support the most. If our wilderness area cannot survive through hospitality and ecotourism, then monoculture, such as sugar cane farming irrigated with water out of the lake Jozini, will destroy this historic Pongola Game Reserve (the first proclaimed in Africa) forever.

Ecotourism can survive the laws of nature. Your support is vital.
"Wealth is poverty adjusted to the laws of nature".

Warmest Regards,

Dr Heinz Kohrs - Owner

Tel: +27 (0) 034 413 2489
Email: elephant4@xsinet.co.za
Web: www.whiteelephant.co.za