Rhino Card access to iSimangaliso Wetland Park 2016

New_letterhead_oct2013

UPDATE:

We are delighted to inform you that iSimangaliso Authority have generously confirmed that VALID Rhino Gold Card members will be granted free access through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park gates until 31 March 2016.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember that the Community and Conservation Levy of R 5 per person per day is a SEPARATE FEE ALTOGETHER AND IS NOT PART OF THE ENTRY FEE. All visitors including Rhino Club Gold members, must pay this fee (take CASH), which is collected at the entrance gates.

Exciting sightings in iSimangaliso

Exciting sightings in iSimangaliso

The early part of 2015 in iSimangaliso Wetland Park brought some tremendous excitement as far as visitors and staff of this world heritage site are concerned. As the Park takes solid shape and grows its game population and species range, the discovery of lion cubs heralded the beginning of the next generation of these predators which were reintroduced in December 2013.

Lions

A lioness and two of her cubs were caught on camera traps in the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in January. Judging by their size in these pictures they were estimated to be three months old at the time. Excited visitors and staff have subsequently confirmed the presence of three cubs, as well as another pregnant female. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Patrick Mbathe who guides trails and game drives at uMkhuze also reported the exciting sighting of four cheetah cubs recently. See below for iSimangaliso’s photographic challenge. *

Social media is buzzing with fantastic photographs posted by visitors to iSimangaliso, in particular kuMasinga Hide in the uMkhuze section which is gaining something of a cult status as the place to see an ever-changing show of animal behaviour. iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said, “With summer 2015 being noticeably drier than usual, game at the permanently-watered hide has been prolific. Lions, a perennial favourite, have been particularly accommodating in showing themselves for regular photographs, as well as much other interesting animal activity.”

Amongst his numerous incredible images captured from uMkhuze’s kuMasinga Hide, regular park visitor Romano Volker recently witnessed a moving drama when a young wildebeest calf became trapped in mud. The mother and other members of the herd rallied around to nudge the baby free. He also witnessed a similar scene with a zebra and her foal. “I have seen this in birds, lions, elephants especially… all animals care. It is too awesome to watch,” he said.

WildebeesWildebees 2Wildebees3

Another of Romano’s great sightings at kuMasinga Hide was of a Woolly-necked stork playing tug of war with a terrapin over a frog. (The terrapin got the prize!)

STork1

Patrick and Dominic Rollinson, participating in one of iSimangaliso’s Birding Big Day teams in November 2014, reported that their highlight was seeing an aardvark in uMkhuze, while also clocking up an impressive list of bird species that saw them placed in the top 5 nationally. This prompted Rusty Lupton to send us this great photograph that he took at kuMasinga Hide in 2012 – an incredibly rare and wonderful sighting.

Aardvark

uMkhuze visitor Jasper van Vessem sent us this photo of a breeding herd of elephants at uMkhuze. Jasper, who took part in the dry run for last year’s iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day through the same area, quipped that he was “very pleased not be on his (single speed) bicycle this time”!

Elephant

Not to be outdone, the Eastern Shores section has also produced some exciting discoveries for visitors. Stacey Farrell, a guide with iSimangaliso concession-holder Heritage Tours and Safaris, took these pictures of a Grey Crowned crane at Nsombiza Pan – a most uncommon sighting for the area. Stacey said she last saw a pair of these birds about four years ago. “It was truly an amazing experience sitting with this bird,” she said. “He seemed to have made some friends as he was surrounded by Spur-winged geese and wherever they went he was sure to follow. Slowly the restoration of the Eastern Shores is proving to be fruitful as more birds find their home where there were once plantations”. Spur-winged geese have also been seen grazing on the Western Shores’ newly rehabilitated grasslands.

Grey-crowned Crane

St Lucia resident Dennis King, well known for his outstanding underwater images, has also sent us a great shot of an African finfoot on Lake St Lucia estuary. The bird caused great excitement for the 37 Mtubatuba Bird Club twitchers on their Sunday estuary boat cruise.

African Finfoot

Mtubatuba Bird Club Chairperson and iSimangaliso staff member, Ingelore Taylor took some spectacular pelican photos at the False Bay section of the Park recently. “We saw huge flocks of Great White and also a few Pink-backed pelicans,” she reported. Pelicans are regularly seen in various parts of the Park, including Kosi Bay, uMkhuze, Charters Creek, Lake St Lucia Estuary mouth and the uMfolozi River mouth near Maphelane.

Pinkbacked Pelicans

Send us your pics!

Visitors are out in the park every day, capturing amazing images and enjoying the myriad miracles of this incredible destination. We are as keen as you are to get a great shot of uMkhuze’s new cubs! iSimangaliso would like to invite you to send us your best photographs, to build our gallery for marketing and our social media platforms and show the world the beauty and magic to be found here. We would be delighted to share and credit your work and showcase South Africa’s natural assets to the world. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and tag us on Instagram… and keep an eye on our social media pages for a chance to win a great prize!

For more information on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, follow us on Youtube, or visit our website at www.isimangaliso.com. Media enquiries should be directed to Media Officer Siyabonga Mhlongo at siyabonga@isimangaliso.com or on 084 382 0884.

Newsflash No.: 2015.03.08

iSimangaliso’s new park developments

iSimangaliso’s new park developments

iSimangaliso Wetland Park has kicked into high gear as far as improvements, rebuilds and new visitor facilities are concerned with an ambitious list of conservation and visitor infrastructure projects underway throughout the world heritage site, totaling some R250 million.

Says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis, “iSimangaliso highlights for 2015 include the delivery of conservation/visitor infrastructure, completing the return of all historically occurring species, and to continue work on restoring the natural functioning of Lake St Lucia. This forms part of our drive to create Africa’s greatest conservation-based tourism product driven by community empowerment.”

The next two financial years’ list includes a wide range of facilities, from operational structures like roads and field ranger camps to cutting edge hides, entrance gates and visitor centres. Access for the physically disabled is part of the new infrastructure in line with iSimangaliso’s strategy to enable all to enjoy the incredible beauty and solitude of the world heritage site.

This map of iSimangaliso Wetland Park indicates infrastructure projects already completed, in process and planned.

uMkhuze

Following its rebuild, kuMasinga Hide offers a first rate experience over one of Africa’s favourite waterholes – especially in drier times of the year. Good news for tourists is that work has begun on the rebuild of the 200m walkway to kuMasinga, including ablution facilities in keeping with other recent improvements throughout the Park. The car park is being reconfigured and ‘invisible’ fencing placed between the car park and start of the walkway allows visitors the unparalleled experience of walking unfettered in nature, yet should add to the peace of mind of those somewhat apprehensive of the presence of the section’s growing lion population.

The popular kuMasinga Hide was rebuilt in 2013. The second phase of development includes replacing the old walkway (seen above, entering the hide) with new screens, an improved parking area and ablutions. The park’s recently introduced lions are frequently seen drinking at kuMasinga’s waterhole (credit Romano Volker).

The dated kuMalibala and kuMahlala Hides have been demolished to make way for similar improved, eco-sensitive structures offering better viewing over these two popular pans.

The final touches to the stunning 254m Fig Forest Aerial Boardwalk have been finalised with new swing bridges and a final 12m high treetop canopy level walkway recently completed. A total of eight platforms and landings, linked by three suspended bridges, afford spectacular views and experience of the soaring trees. The two traditional swing bridges across the uMkhuze River, totaling 134 metres, have been solidly rebuilt. Seen above: old and new alongside each other during construction. The Ophansi Gate complex is complete and operational, while additional planting will add the finishing touches to this attractive facility.

Work will begin this year on the western side’s re-sited eMshophi Gate Complex. One of the newly built bird hides at iNsumo Pan is receiving ablution and additional visitor facilities.

Park-wide developments

Out of the public eye, but particularly important for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s hard-working field rangers in iSimangaliso doing anti-poaching patrols, is the upgrading by iSimangaliso of seven existing field ranger camps as well as four brand new ones in the uMkhuze, Ozabeni and Western Shores areas of the Park. As the number of female field rangers increases, the new accommodations also incorporate separate facilities for men and women.

Great news for visitors to the Western Shores is that it will continue to expand its visitor offering as the Charters Creek resort is part of a refurbishment and rebuild programme set to begin in the last quarter of the coming financial year. Also in the pipeline are the Nhlozi Gate Complex building and an improved parking at the uMthoma Aerial Boardwalk.

In line with the striking gate design at the Dukuduku Gate entrance (Western Shores), the Eastern Shores’ Bhangazi Gate complex will follow suit with a well-designed facility to welcome guests to the busiest section of the Park. The new iSimangaliso Gate complex design comprises a gate house, ‘Meet and Greet’ centre with ablutions, and in some places, a craft market as well.

The St Lucia beaches, Lake St Lucia Estuary and Siyabonga Centre areas are undergoing rehabilitation and repairs to jetties and boardwalks.

Road maintenance and fencing

This is currently taking place throughout the Park as follows:

  • Eastern Shores – (35km gravel, 35km tar) including repairing of the washed-away bridge over the Lake Bhangazi berm, rehabilitating the concrete strips and construction of a new Forest Loop game road.
  • Western Shores – (38km gravel, 3km tar) including improvements to the uMphathe Loop
  • uMkhuze – (48km gravel, 51km tar)
  • Sodwana Bay– rebuild tar access road from boundary to car parks
  • St Lucia Estuary – 7km of tar road rehabilitation
  • Fencing in various sections of the park is also being repaired or installed, including the Eastern and Western Shores (9km), Ozabeni (25km), Futululu (54 km) and uMkhuze (20km).

Finally, the Lake St Lucia estuarine system restoration project will move part of the dredge spoil pile, placed in the mouth over the past several decades. This will reinforce the link between the uMfolozi River and the Lake St Lucia system. A tender for this work will be advertised in March.

Lake Bhangazi: The rebuilding of the washed-away berm bridge on the Eastern Shores’ Grassland Loop will enable visitors to spend time at this wonderful site once again.

Sodwana Bay

The Sodwana Bay section of the Park is an integral and highly valued part of iSimangaliso, both from an ecological perspective (including that it contains some of the most rare forests types and species in the country), and from a tourism perspective. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) authorisation is in place for the building of the new Sodwana Bay Entrance gate on the Park boundary. It is now iSimangaliso’s intention to rehabilitate and redevelop the Sodwana section of the Park, specifically to address ecological issues in and around the Sodwana Beach Node, modernise day-visitor facilities with a view to improving the visitor experience, and optimising economic opportunities and job creation. It is important to note that visitor needs have grown and requirements have changed over the last 20 years to include those visitors coming for the nature experience (such as diving), those wanting to fish and increasingly those for beach recreation. As such Sodwana Bay is the preferred beach destination for some 70 000 people who live within a 100 km radius of this section of the Park. The Basic Assessment is available for public comment in the first half of March.

Finally, in the Coastal Forest section, two new ‘eco-loos’ are being installed at Lala Nek and Mabibi Beach, while existing toilet facilities at other northern beach destinations are being repaired.

Zaloumis is hugely enthusiastic about the projects afoot, saying “in all aspects, iSimangaliso is making enormous, visible progress in indelibly positioning itself as Africa’s most exciting and relevant destination. We are working with a highly professional team including SIP Project Managers, Landmark Studies, FWJK Quantity Surveyors, Mowana Timber Projects and MBB Consulting Engineers. Together, we are creating empowerment and job opportunities that underpin what we are doing to achieve this bold vision.”

For more information on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, or visit our website at www.isimangaliso.com. Media enquiries should be directed to Media Officer Siyabonga Mhlongo at siyabonga@isimangaliso.com or on 084 382 0884.

Newsflash No.: 2015.03.01

World Pangolin Day

Thanks to H.A.N.D.S for spreading the word on WORLD PANGOLIN DAY 2015 – THE WORLD’S MOST POACHED ENDANGERED SPECIES

ONE MILLION – 1,000,000 – Pangolins are slaughtered EVERY YEAR.

Pangolin are a threatened species!

Pangolin are a threatened species! H.A.N.D.S. photograph

R 74 between Harrismith and Oliviershoek – reconstruction has begun

Sources inform us that at the end of January 2015, work began on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the pothole-ridden R74 road between Harrismith and Oliviershoek.  The Free State provincial government has appointed a contractor, Edwin Construction, to ‘rehabilitate and reconstruct’ the road and work on the road is expected to be completed by September 21, 2016.  The Contractor has stated that they are rebuilding 16 km of the R 74 road and rehabilitating another 7km. Hopefully, this ambitious plan will be completed within the 18 month timespan allotted to the project.

For further updates: http://www.tourismupdate.co.za

 

Somkhanda Community Game Reserve

Somkhanda receives Top 100 Sustainable Destination Status

Somkhanda Community Game Reserve, owned and managed in partnership with the Gumbi Community and Wildlands, has been added to the ‘Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100’ list. At the end of 2014 a ‘Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100’ list was launched to celebrate the management efforts of the most sustainable destinations on earth. This is a joint initiative of four leading organisations in sustainable tourism – namely, Green Destinations, Travelmole, Totem Tourism and Tourism Vision. “These 100 destinations stand out for making meaningful and measurable progress in their individual journeys toward greater sustainability,” said Dr. Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. “Measuring sustainability is not simple and straightforward. This list recognizes those destinations that are moving in the right direction according to the assessments of neutral experts utilizing objective criteria.” When asked how he felt about Somkhanda Game Reserve receiving this prestigious title, Kevin McCann, Deputy Director of Conservation SPACE at Wildlands, said: “Wildlands has invested significantly, together with its many partners into Somkhanda Game Reserve, with the aim of developing a sustainable and viable conservation orientated enterprise with the Gumbi community. After many years of hard work, we are extremely pleased to be recognised as one of the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations – this really is a proud moment for our staff and partners.” Valere Tjolle of Totem Tourism and Vision Sustainable Tourism said: “We believe that sustainability is integral to both destination benefits and the healthy provision of quality holidays to visitors. Destination communities have more to gain (and lose) from sustainability in all its aspects – economic, cultural, social and environmental.” Should you wish to visit Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu – Natal, please visit www.africaninsight.co.za.

Run the Three Cranes Challenge – Karkloof, 27, 28 February and 1 March 2015

Blue_Cranes_ithala

The Three Cranes Challenge is around the corner – 3 day trail running event.

Please diarise the 27, 28 February and 1 March 2015. This three day running event supports the work of the Karkloof Conservancy and the running of the Karkloof Nature Reserve and takes you through the Karkloof area.

Registration: Please contact Twané on 072 376 3023 / conservancy@karkloof.co.za.

CONTACT:-

Charlie and Twané

Karkloof Conservation Centre

p: 072 376 3023 | e: conservancy@karkloof.co.za | w: www.karkloofconservation.org.za

 

Wildlife and Roads Project Endangered Wildlife Trust

Report “road kill”

Wildlife and Roads Project Endangered Wildlife Trust recently appeared on South African breakfast TV, on Kyknet’s Dagbreek – follow the link below if you missed it.

http://youtu.be/zJP5nfEdr34

Contact details for Wendy Collinson – Wildlife and Roads Project Endangered Wildlife Trust

Work + 27 11 372 3600 | Ext 44 |

Fax + 27 11 608 4682 |

Cell + 27 73 596 1673

Email: wendyc@ewt.org.za

Web: http://www.ewt.org.za

Skype: wendy.collinson21

Blog: http://endangeredwildlifetrust.wordpress.com

Mining threatens KZN’s only Wilderness area and its community

iMfoloziiMfolozi

Fighting for Ian Player’s legacy

An article written by RICHARD COMPTON

The coincidence is deeply ironic. At a time when people in South Africa and around the world reflect on the loss of one of the world’s most celebrated conservationists, Dr Ian Player, frantic efforts are being made to save one of his finest achievements – the establishment of the Wilderness area inside KwaZulu-Natal’s premier HluhluweiMfolozi Park (HiP).

Burgeoning opposition to the proposed Ibutho coal (anthracite) mine on the doorstep of his internationally famed Wilderness area has taken on further, dramatic significance. It’s not lost on anyone familiar with the history of this region that it was the first established Wilderness site in Africa. Equally, the 95 000ha HiP was proclaimed the first protected area in Africa, established in 1895 to prevent the extinction of the Southern white rhino.

It would be logical to view our custodian of this park, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, as the bulwark against allowing a mine to operate 100m from its boundary. But this would be an over-simplification and ignore the complexity of development dynamics in South Africa. At the beginning of this year Ezemvelo’s former chief, Dr Bandile Mkhize, made what many considered a wise decision by signing a 10-year memorandum of understanding with Richards Bay Minerals to recognise the fundamental interdependence of mining and conservation in the South African economy. “Whatever our varying interests, mining is a critical economic driver. It makes absolute sense that conservation and mining work together, to ensure development is pursued sustainably and in the combined interests of conservation, mining and community upliftment.” And herein lies the rub. Invariably, our conservation body would face a time when mining and conservation wouldn’t see eye to eye. And the Ibutho coal mine represents the face of this division. Ezemvelo is confronted with the dual responsibility of honouring its appreciation for the mining sector’s role in our economy while having to perform its oversight mandate on the suitability of this mine’s location.

Despite the resolute impartiality and professional responsibility that Ezemvelo’s integrated environmental management unit (IEM) has to play in this mining application, their findings to date are overwhelmingly in favour of protecting this area and rejecting any mining activity as planned.

With the Department of Environmental Affairs having already rejected the mining company’s scoping report and the IEM unit highlighting the location as “overwhelmingly threatening” to the park’s status and Wilderness area, all eyes are focused on the forthcoming environmental impact assessment.

A compliance investigation is under way to probe the alleged noncompliance by Ibuthu Coal with its environmental management plan for prospecting activities. A 3km temporary road was constructed a stone’s throw of the HiP boundary, and many mature trees and several hundred Aloe marlothii, estimated at between 80 and 110 years old, were up-rooted and destroyed.

If this mine was allowed, the consequences would be catastrophic for the park and depreciate the living conditions of adjacent communities. The dust, water pollution, infestation of alien plants, noise, visual impact, vibrations from explosives and significant disturbance of thenatural habitat would see to this. And iMfolozi would inevitably lose its Wilderness status.

Ezemvelo’s highly respected principal conservation planner for its IEM unit, Jenny Longmore, said the application showed a “complete disregard for this flagship protected areaand the ecological and resource benefits its offers local communities”. ”Also the Somkele coal mine, established near HiP six years ago, resisted mining a viable seam of coal adjacent to this very same area. They acknowledged the value of wilderness and moved to the north and east which, while still too close for our liking, has significantly lessened its impact.” Given this precedent and theIEM’s findings to date, Longmore said it “strongly advised” that Ibuthu Coal voluntarily retreated.

Critical to the entire outcome are the opinions of the local community. Here active opposition to the mine has increased significantly over the past few months with the Wilderness Alliance (an umbrella collection of conservation NGOs established out of Player’s Durban-based Wilderness Leadership School) leading such opposition.

It has been the communities themselves who have approached Ezemvelo’s community conservation officers and park management staffto address them on the “pros and cons” of mining versus eco-tourism. Ezemvelo’s social ecological research unit, as well as the Wilderness Alliance, have given numerous presentations on what coal mining is likely to offer them and how it will affect their lives. This quest to offer a balanced picture involved some innovation, with the employment of a documentary theatre grouping as well as a social learning project for the Fuleni community.

With the support of Jabulani Ngubane, HiP’s park manager, and the African Conservation Trust, money was raised to hire actors who gave a performance in front of 800 people. The response was so positive that the play will be extended and performed in schools in the area. “Ezemvelo has a responsibility to not just provide planning oversight but also to look after the long-term interests of our people living on theborders of our protected areas. People are the single most important consideration in the entire roll-out of conservation in KZN,” said Phindile Xulu, of the socio-ecological research unit. The benefits of protected areas, she said, were often hidden or taken for granted: “A study in 2009 found that tens of thousands of households are benefiting directly from the existence of HiP though various means, such as quality of life, employment, tourism operations, clean water, fresh air and the like.”

Xulu concluded that people had to know that in the event of mining, houses, schools, graves and clinics, for example, would have to be moved, while grazing and crop land would be lost.

 

A TRIBUTE – DR IAN PLAYER – from Wildlands trust

A TRIBUTE – DR IAN PLAYER
This morning the global conservation movement is mourning the loss of one of the greatest conservationists of all time, Dr Ian Player. Ian was intimately involved in the Wildlands Conservation Trust, as one of our Founders, as a long term Trustee and as a Patron. The unique blend of passion, vision, commitment and determination which characterised every moment of his life, challenged and inspired us all.

Ian’s personal fight for the conservation of rhino is legendary. However, his conservation legacy extends well beyond rhino. He personally catalysed, led and inspired a Wilderness movement which now covers every continent and has resulted in the conservation of millions of hectares of Wilderness area, formally protecting some of the most beautiful and spiritual areas on this planet.

At a local level, he founded and championed many leading environmental organisations, including the Wilderness Foundation, Wilderness Leadership School and Magqubu Ntombela Foundation. He challenged conventional conservation wisdom in South Africa, at a time when contrary opinion was regarded as unpatriotic and a threat to the stability of (the old) South Africa. He personally championed the transformation of conservation from a white elitist and fortress-based approach to a broader community-based approach, personally identifying and mentoring many of the champions of this new conservation movement.

Christopher Reeve defined a hero as “an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”. There were many times over the past 50 years that Ian could have stepped back from the fight and lived a much simpler and more peaceful life. Yet he never did, persevering to the very end. He was a true hero of the environment movement and someone that we will all miss dearly. Our thoughts are with his family and close friends. Know that he has inspired an army of activists who will fight for his legacy and the conservation of this planet’s spectacular natural and cultural heritage.

Lala Kahle Madolo

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