I’ve worked at Kwantu Private Game Reserve for the last 3 weeks and my time there is now over. Most of my time was spent performing basic manual labor that the park needs. However, I’ve learned a bit about the operations of such places while I was there.
There’s a huge business in Africa concerning their large Animals, especially the big 5 (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, and Buffalo). Keeping a balance in reserves is important for the ecosystem to thrive and the goal is to have an environment that maintains itself. However, if there is an imbalance in a reserve, then they will find another reserve needing animals and sell/trade as appropriate. The money hungry among us could see this as an opportunity to exploit these animals for sheer profit.
Some game parks are only concerned with making money and not the conservation of these animals. They populate their land with animals and allow hunters to come, “track”, and kill these animals for amusement. Personally, I find this disgusting and don’t understand why it’s legal under South African law. Despite this, of all the African countries, South Africa is probably most concerned about wildlife conservation. It seems rather contradictory to me.
But then there are reserves like Kwantu, whose mission is based solely in conservation. Yes, the reserve makes money from tourists wanting to see these animals and volunteers wanting to learn more, but something must fund the efforts. Kwantu does not allow any hunting to occur on its lands. They take guests on drives through the reserve, guests get to see and experience these animals in their natural habitat and that’s it. Given the current state of these animals and their natural habitat, I believe this a fair solution to ensuring their survival.
Tourists should do their research and ensure they’re supporting businesses that align with their values. Granted this is true regardless of the product being purchased.
As I’ve said before, Kwantu has a big cat rehabilitation center where cats where were used in circus or held as pets are reintroduced to a near-wild like to reinstate natural instincts before being released in a protection reserve. Many of the lions here have a plan for release into the Kwantu reserve or other similar protected reserves.
Kwantu has a few tigers in their rehab center as well. Tigers aren’t indigenous to Africa, so Kwantu has been working with reserves in China and India to try and find a natural protected habitat for them to be released to. Kwantu is very concerned with ensuring these tigers end up somewhere appropriate where they will be cared for. They have been working several years with these tigers and until they find the right place that signs the right agreement, they will remain under the protection of Kwantu. I really appreciate their diligence.
(One of the tigers looking to go back to his homeland when a good home is found for him.)
Another great project Kwantu is involved in, is supporting local school children. Once a week, Kwantu and it’s volunteers make their way to a local school with a hearty meal for the children. We serve out lunch and then spend several hours playing with the kids. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved to learn more about each other. The kids are full of life and energy – running, playing, dancing, and singing. It’s a very different environment to western schools, and I might just say it’s better than such. I had a lot of fun playing with these kids when I had the opportunity.
(The cool kids.)
All in all, Kwantu works hard at preserving its African animals and heritage, while helping the local community. These are great qualities and I have really enjoyed helping with their mission. Next I’m headed to Cape Town for some stellar adventures!