Management Plan for Olifants West Nature Reserve

October 2010

Introduction and Background:

Olifants West Nature Reserve (OWNR) is a region within the Balule Nature Reserve, which, in turn, is a member of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). As such, we are bound by the provisions of the management plan for the APNR (Agricultural Research Council & International Conservation Services CC, 2007).

A guideline has recently been developed for the development of management plans in terms of Act 57 of 2003 (Cowan 2006). 

This includes specific requirements that must be contained in a management plan. These have been addressed in the management plan for the APNR. This document is intended as a supporting document and must be read in conjunction with the Management Plan for the Associated Private Nature Reserves (2007).

The OWNR measures a total of 8 533.3913 hectares and is comprised of 57 separate titles deeds (see annexure A).

Land-use practice:

The APNR and the Olifants West region is a typical “co-operative protected areas model” that requires a different management approach to a formal legislated or state managed protected area. There are several land-use practices that we have identified that must be accommodated and respected in order to perpetuate the protected area as a voluntary and co-operative model and ensure that the goodwill is not undermined. The land-use practices are identified as follows:

1.      CONSUMPTIVE USERS:

1.1.  Sustainable hunting of animals for meat rations and for providing invaluable resources and income for the substantial staff component in the proposed reserve.

1.2.  Sustainable commercial hunting of high-value and sporting species to fund the operational expenses of the proposed nature reserve and providing an alternative source of income for stakeholders and staff.

2.      NON-CONSUMPTIVE USERS:

2.1. Commercial game-lodges eco-tourism based activities. Wildlife and wilderness are the key marketing tools in this category.

2.2. Private land-owners who seek solitude and wilderness.

In the above categories, there are both permanent as well as absentee land-owners.

Historical: 

The land-parcels that make up the OWNR and APNR were historically agricultural holdings of varying sizes. Many of the farms were beef cattle farms with others that operated as game farms and / or hunting farms. Most of these were individually fenced and managed according to land-owner-specific ideals and strategies. Each farm had water-points and various fire and grazing regimes were implemented in a non-consistent manner.

In recent years, a memorandum of agreement with South African National Parks was engineered by several land-owners, which led to the inclusion of several of the larger farms dropping their fences with the internationally recognised Kruger National Park. Peer pressure and the obvious benefits of this action led to the further inclusion of the properties that now comprise the Association of Private Nature Reserves and more specifically for us, the Olifants West Nature Reserve. The last fence was dropped in 2004.

Prior to the formation of the APNR and OWNR, the standard practices included predator numbers management in order to protect the farmers assets (cattle and game) and supplementing the feed of game and cattle and manipulation of the veld for optimum grazing. This was not sustainable and as long as the farms bordered the national park, human-wildlife conflict was inevitable, particularly with predators and mega-herbivores breaking out of the adjacent Kruger.

Furthermore, with few exceptions and without sound management practices, the farms were not financially sustainable. With the advent of the APNR, the region saw a new set of investors purchase the properties as they came on the market. Those that wished to retire in a clean and healthy African wilderness area, those that wished to take holidays in their own private nature reserve and those that wished to benefit from the new nature reserve financially. Many of the old families still exist and harbour much valuable knowledge about the area.

1. Olifants West in the Context of the Greater Kruger National Park Protected Areas Network

The Greater Kruger National Park is now an impressive protected areas network that includes a core area of approximately 2 000 000 hectares of state-owned land and a further 172 000 hectares of privately owned nature reserves, collectively referred to as the Association of Private Nature Reserves or APNR.

The Olifants West Nature Reserve currently measures a total of 8 800 hectares and forms part of the Balule Nature Reserve, which in turn measures a total of 36 327 hectares. Together, these reserves form part of the Association of Private Nature Reserve, which collectively total 172 000 hectares (Figure 1a & 1b).

Table 1 demonstrates the value in terms of land mass that each private nature reserve contributes to the APNR.

Table 1. Total areas that each private nature reserve contributes

Private Nature Reserve

km2

ha

Timbavati

533.92

53392

Umbabat

240

24000

Klaserie

579.18

57918

Balule

363.27

36327

 

Figure 1a. The Association of Private Nature Reserves in relation to the Kruger National Park

 

 

Figure 1b. The Greater Kruger National Park Protected Areas Network, including Balule and Olifants West

Olifants West Private Nature Reserve is an important region within the Balule Nature Reserve, which employs the federal system of management, recognising the unique management requirements of each region whilst supporting the objectives of the APNR and the Kruger National Park. The federal system has been depicted in figure 2.

 

Figure 2. A diagram depicting the federal system within the APNR and Balule, indicating how Olifants West fits into the Protected Areas Network

 

Figure 3. The regions of Balule Nature Reserve

 

2. Specific Values That Olifants West Contributes:

The Proposed Olifants West Nature Reserve is designed to assist the APNR in meeting its objectives as established in their management plan (Peel, 2007).

The revised primary objective for the APNR is now as follows:

The primary objective of the Private Nature Reserves that constitute the ANPR and the APNR itself is to provide for ecologically and aesthetically sustainable (non-consumptive and consumptive) use of the area for its owners, based on wildlife focused recreation, tourism and hunting.

There are several secondary objectives:

• To manage the ecosystem, landscapes and species populations so that a meaningful contribution will be made towards their conservation;

• To cost-effectively restore and conserve the ANPR’s landscapes, ecosystems and biodiversity in a productive and aesthetic state that will achieve the primary objective and be considered to be sustainable within the climatic and geological constraints of the area;

• To make investment opportunities available that are compatible with the primary objective and involve the participation of members of the local community wherever appropriate;

• Where possible, to provide direct employment to local communities;

• Create opportunities for members of previously disadvantaged communities to acquire a greater involvement in the tourism industry in line with the tourism charter;

• To manage the reserve so that, without compromising the ecological and aesthetic objectives, the economic viability and investment value of the properties are maintained;

• To enlarge the APNR’s sphere of influence by collaborating with other adjoining properties where the objectives and management are similar to those of the APNR.

• In accomplishing these objectives, ‘Best Practices’ will be implemented in natural resource management, and in forming constructive and beneficial relationships with the neighbouring communities and conservation bodies.

Therefore, within the OWNR, sound ecological principles are applied to management within this region whilst trying to accommodate the various land-use practices mentioned later in this chapter.

Values of the Olifants West Nature Reserve:

The values that the OWNR contribute to the region can be broadly summarised as follows:

1.  Ecological values: Assisting national and regional authorities in meeting their objectives and conservation targets. Providing additional range for mega-herbivores and other far-ranging species such as wild dogs.

2.  Providing a buffer for the Kruger National ParkRead in conjunction with Government Gazette, 5 March 2010: NOTICE 170 OF 2010 “Draft policy on Buffer Zones for National Parks”. OWNR provides opportunities for additional wildlife based land-use practices to be accommodated outside of the core area (Kruger National Park) and therefore provides an essential buffer for these activities. Many of these activities, especially the consumptive user-groups, are not conducive to the management of the core area.

3.  The potential security function in relation to poaching activities of high-value species (such as the rhino): Olifants West can act as a shield for the Greater Kruger Park as the OWNR protects and manages a substantial portion of the western boundary of the Greater Kruger National Park.

4.  Social and Economic values: The OWNR is in a prime position to contribute to the social and economic development of the region by providing skilled and unskilled employment opportunities within the adjacent local communities as the wildlife industry develops (commercial lodges, etc).

5.  Providing and protecting quality of lives: OWNR provides property owners with a unique opportunity to enrich and add value to their lives in a clean and healthy African savannah environment.

6.  Research facilitation: There are existing research initiatives within the APNR and Balule. OWNR contributes to these initiatives and supports legitimate research by providing opportunities to researchers and tertiary education institutes. 

VISION

The broad vision for the APNR is as follows:

• The consolidation and enhancement of conservation interests of the APNR to gain recognition as an integral and essential part of the conservation priorities and regional interests of the Lowveld (as stated in the old master plan);

• To consolidate, expand and manage the APNR as part of a world-class Trans Frontier Conservation Area.

The vision and mission for the APNR (and therefore OWNR) in accordance with the Management Plan for the Associated Private Nature Reserves (2007):

MISSION

The mission of management entails the following:

• The APNR is committed to the conservation of biodiversity for the sake of posterity, and to manage its assets as a sustainable resource to serve the ecological, social and economic interests of the central Lowveld (old master plan);

• The APNR landscape will be developed to maintain the faunal and floral assemblages, ecological processes, cultural resources and landscape characteristics representative of the area, to foster international cooperation for the development of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), and offer long-term benefit to the people of the area;

• To conserve a wide diversity of indigenous species and their associated habitats using sustainable utilisation principles (Leibnitz, Peel, de Villiers, Venter).

The primary objectives have already been mentioned on page 6, and the secondary objectives are listed as follows:

Secondary objectives:

• To manage the ecosystem, landscapes and species populations so that a meaningful contribution will be made towards their conservation;

• To cost-effectively restore and conserve the ANPR’s landscapes, ecosystems and biodiversity in a productive and aesthetic state that will achieve the primary objective and be considered to be sustainable within the climatic and geological constraints of the area;

• To make tourism and investment opportunities available that are compatible with the primary objective and involve the participation of members of the local community wherever appropriate;

• Where possible, to provide direct employment to local communities;

• Create opportunities for members of previously disadvantaged communities to acquire a greater involvement in the tourism industry in line with the tourism charter;

• To manage the reserve so that, without compromising the ecological and aesthetic objectives, the economic viability and investment value of the properties are maintained;

• To enlarge the APNR’s sphere of influence by collaborating with other adjoining properties where the objectives and management will conform to those of the APNR;

• In accomplishing these objectives, ‘Best Practices’ will be implemented in natural resource management, and in forming constructive and beneficial relationships with the neighbouring communities and conservation bodies.

POINTS OF DEPARTURE:

When considering management action on both a macro and micro scale, the following points of departure must be born in mind:

1.  That the OWNR is a component of the Balule Nature Reserve, which is a member of the APNR and therefore a component of the Greater Kruger National Park. Therefore,

a.  The area is an “open system” and therefore manipulation and intensive management practises are undesirable unless based on sound scientific input.

2. The “adaptive interference management model” is applicable.

3. The precautionary approach must be adopted.

Conclusion:

The OWNR is a crucial component of the Balule Nature Reserve and the APNR and is subjected to the provisions of the APNR management plan. The specific micro scale management needs of the region must be addressed in the OWNR constitution and enforced by the elected committee. This constitution is a dynamic document and is bound to change from time to time.