Maremani Nature Reserve

Establishing Maremani Nature Reserve

By Dr. Salomon Joubert.
MNR Ecological Adviser – former Director: Kruger National Park.

Since the acquisition of the initial properties the history of the MNR has developed through four distinct phases, i.e.

Phase 1. The labyrinth of farm roads and tracks, often the cause of soil erosion, had to be prioritised.

Phase 1: laying the foundations

The first priority for the MNR was to appoint a manager and supporting staff to contend with the demolition and removal of undesirable structures and material (old farmsteads, staff quarters, outbuildings and fences) and to erect game-proof fencing on the boundaries.

Simultaneously to the above the first steps towards a wildlife management programme were also initiated. This entailed the appointment of an ecological consultant, conducting systematic censusing of the larger animal populations and removal of excess animals to allow for the rehabilitation of the habitats after prolonged heavy utilisation by domestic stock.

During this phase the labyrinth of farm roads and tracks, often the cause of soil erosion, had to be prioritised: retaining some and rehabilitating others. A comprehensive map of all roads retained was drawn up by GPS, which made the MNR accessible to visitors and others less acquainted with the area.

Phase 2: towards accountable management

During this phase a comprehensive management plan was compiled in compliance with the vision and mission statements adopted for the MNR. These were:

Vision: the rehabilitation and management of the natural assets of the MNR to enhance their most pristine qualities and to contribute meaningfully towards the prosperity of the surrounding communities.

Mission: the MNR is committed to the rehabilitation of the negative impacts of past injudicious land-use practices and to return the area to its most natural state possible and to seek active engagement in ventures aimed at contributing towards the social and economic interests of the region.

Extensive and intensive inventories were undertaken of all cultural and environmental resources by acknowledged experts in the various fields, which included surveys of rock-art sites ascribed to the earliest Black races that inhabited South Africa, the KhoiSan, more recent archaeological sites, geomorphological features, water resources, geology, soils, vegetation, past and present animal populations and animal diseases to be expected in the region.

Rock-art, Maremani Nature Reserve.

In addition to the documentation of the resources, policies relating to their management were also formulated. This made it possible, amongst others, to give visitors access to selected rock-art sites, to prescribe a water provision policy and to manage animal populations in accordance with accepted carrying capacities. Removal of excess animals is accomplished by hunting and/or mass capture.

Particular attention has also been given to the reintroduction of species that once occurred in the area but had become locally extinct and the augmentation of species of which the numbers had been severely reduced. Reintroduced species included white and black rhinoceros, roan and sable antelopes and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Elephants had also been reintroduced to the farms originally acquired as the core area. At present all the large African herbivores known to have roamed the area in and around the MNR have successfully been reintroduced.

With the single exception of lion, and possibly cheetah which are very rare, the MNR has good populations of all the other large predators (leopard, wild dog, spotted and brown hyaena, side-striped and black-backed jackal). A section of the MNR has, however, been set aside for the reintroduction of lion and permission has been obtained to go ahead with the project. The implementation of the project is, however, being kept in abeyance pending other considerations in the development of the MNR.

Phase 3: social responsibility

The Aage V Jensen Charity Foundation has made very considerable contributions to the upliftment of previously disadvantaged communities in the immediate neighbourhood of the MNR. Not only have services and infrastructure been renovated and upgraded at two schools, at considerable cost, but also essential aids for education has been provided to the schools.

School children visiting Maremani Nature Reserve.

For a number of years regular school groups have been received at MNR. These school groups are guided by competent instructors in environmental education, driven on game drives by a bus provided by the Foundation and dedicated to the purpose and provided with a free meal on their visits. These excursions have proved extremely popular with the school teachers and learners, as evidenced from the feedback received.

Phase 4: consolidation phase

The establishment of a formal environmental education centre.

A property adjoining the town of Musina and belonging to its municipality, is ideally suited for the establishment of a formal environmental education centre, with lecture rooms, laboratories, dormitories and kitchen. The Foundation is prepared to fund the facility. A number of roads to interesting vantage points have already been constructed by the Foundation.

Initial problems in the negotiations with the municipality and the government, who onws the land are still pending.

Establishing the MNR as a formal private nature reserve under provincial legislation.

Recent legislation passed by the Limpopo Province, in which the MNR falls, makes it possible to register nature conservation land – subject to certain requirements – as private nature reserves. Once registered the land cannot be subjected to any other form of land-use, even if it changes ownership. Acquiring private nature reserve status will be a major step forward in ensuring the safety of the MNR.

In conclusion

In the relatively short space of years the MNR has been established as a highly successful nature conservation project, a major roleplayer in social upliftment programmes and a substantial contributor to the local economy.


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