Gumbi clan opt for game reserve on restored land

2011-02-24 00:00

IN a first of its kind, a tract of land restored to the rural community under the land reform process was last week proclaimed as a protected area.

The Somkhanda game reserve located in northern KwaZulu-Natal was proclaimed after the Gumbi community who received the land under the land restitution programme decided to continue operating the land as a game reserve.

For an area to be proclaimed a protected area it has to be significant in conservation.

The Gumbi clan had put a claim on the land just after 1994; they received the land in 2005. The area is an estimated 20 000 hectares.

The community decided to designate 16 000 hectares as a game reserve and 4 000 hectares for subsistence farming and residence. In an interview with The Witness, Wildlands director of conservation programmes Dr Roelie Kloppers said the game reserve already has endangered species such as black and white rhinos, leopards and they are looking at introducing lions, elephants and wild dogs.

Kloppers said apart from the support given to the initiative by Wildlands and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, it has also attracted interest from investors.

eLan Property Group has drafted the integrated management plan for the reserve, an essential component in the process of protected area declaration and critical for the future management of the reserve.

The property group is expected to build accommodation in the reserve, to be complete in 10 years.

A statement released by Wildlife Conservation Trust said the initiative will develop the Gumbi community through skills development.

“The investment from the eLan Group is expected to create 200 permanent jobs and an annual income of R6,8 million for the community.”

Kloppers said Somkhanda will create a vital corridor linking the Zululand Rhino Reserve and Pongola Nature Reserve, and the ultimate vision is to connect this area with St Lucia and Swaziland reserves.

He says the priority will be to get Somkhanda managed to the same standard as the adjoining private reserves to enable the dropping of fences between properties and the appointment of a single management authority.

“This is one of the last big areas in KwaZulu-Natal that can potentially create migratory corridors between reserves for large mammals, such as critically endangered black rhino and African wild dogs.”

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