ELATION AS NEW WILDLIFE ARRIVE AT AQUILA
The magical story of Aquila Private Game Reserve evolved over 18 years ago from nothing other than pure passion and the strong desire of one man: Searl Derman. The 10,000 plus hectare conservancy is situated an hour and 45 minutes from Cape Town just off the N1, between the Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Klein Karoo surrounded by spellbinding landscapes.
With Derman’s passion for wildlife and his desire to share his love with Cape Town, the reserve has evolved from its early days of being residence only to a variety of antelope species to becoming the home of the Big 5 – elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard – as well as a significant amount of other wild game, which roam freely on the reserve. Derman’s altruism for wildlife extends beyond just his passion for opening his reserve to thousands of domestic and international visitors each year. Two hundred and fifty years ago, all of the animals recently reintroduced to Aquila roamed freely around vast areas of the Western Cape. Our growing human population is having a negative impact on not only wildlife in Africa but the world over. Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing our wildlife towards extinction. Wildlife conservation therefore remains top of Derman and his teams priority list.
The practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats can be seen throughout Aquila. From the ‘Veld Regeneration Project’, which ensures game friendly indigenous trees are planted monthly and offers all visitors an opportunity to plant a tree, to the raising of orphaned rhino, and even composting from the lodge’s restaurant, horses, elephants and worms to organically fertilize the trees, Aquila are doing their utmost to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy. Regardless of how big or how small, all wildlife plays an important role in balancing the ecosystem and provides stability to different natural processes of nature. Each Spring the reserve enjoys a bounty of new life and this year was no exception.
As the new season sprung, after a particularly dry winter, visitors have been treated to sightings of young zebra, springboks, a variety of game, hippos and even a special new rhino calf. While new life creates joy it also brings with it hope, especially for many species as it comes as no surprise that several of Africa’s precious and unique wildlife are creeping higher up the list of vulnerable or even endangered animals.
In an enormous effort to add to these new offspring, Aquila Private Game Reserve has always committed to further their conservation endeavours by constantly adding new animals to the gene pool. They have now extended their immense efforts in their latest investment into conservation with a multi million Rand commitment. It was an incredibly exciting and surreal start to the day as the Aquila staff welcomed the first seasonal delivery of animals to their new home on Tuesday 5 December. All hands were on deck to gently usher the first of numerous Cape giraffe off specialised trucks, after making the trip safely from the Eastern Cape to the reserve. And as the hot Karoo sun dipped below the horizon, staff watched in awe as the first of many new eland excitedly bounded into their new environment. Aquila is already home to a tower of giraffes, as they are collectively known, however the new additions will strengthen the gene pool and ultimately greatly increase their chances of long-term survival.
While the terrifying future of Africa’s rhino, elephant and lion are widely publicised here in South Africa and around the world, few are aware that the global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40% over the last 30 year. This decline has sadly earned them a spot on the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list as being ‘Vulnerable’ – this was announced exactly one year ago. The iconic giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), one of the world’s most recognisable animals and the tallest land mammal, is now too threatened with extinction and Derman knew it would be important that Aquila played an increasingly active role in their conservation.
The strikingly beautiful and stately eland antelope are listed by the IUCN as ‘Least Concern’, however they too are experiencing notable decreases in population numbers due to human hunting for their superior meat, trophy hunting and the current global biodiversity crisis as habitat destruction still far outstrips habitat protected areas across most parts of our planet. Tuesdays new arrivals is the first delivery of a substantial investment in a variety of game to boost numbers and to strengthen gene pools – an additional 20 buffalo, among others, have been purchased with the first 5 arriving at the reserve in early January. In the waning days of 2017, Derman believes it’s important to pause for a moment to celebrate the accomplishments for our wildlife, even the small ones. And while there’s still work to be done, every victory shows us that we can challenge the threats to nature and help ensure their future. It’s not too late – we all can make a difference.