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Behind the scenes in the game parks of the Eastern Cape

The original article was written by Reishonger. To view it, click here.

What you might not think about at first is what the wildlife parks have to do to preserve the animals and the rest of the beautiful but vulnerable nature. It is not for nothing that there are protection programs that ensure that future generations, like us now, can continue to enjoy the extremely varied vegetation and wildlife that the country has to offer. A proper balance is needed to keep the ecosystem intact. We got an exclusive look behind the scenes at Kuzuko Lodge (Place of Glory) and the Addo National Elephant Park. This yielded very impressive stories from exceptionally passionate people, on their mission for nature.

KuzukoChalet - sunset

KuzukoChalet - sunset

We can not get enough of the beautiful Eastern Cape. In our last blog we wrote about our honeymoon and the road trip through the Eastern Cape.

The Eastern Cape is known for its wildlife, rugged wild coast, pristine beaches, peaceful estuaries, lush forests and the arid Karoo landscape. Add to that the breathtaking views during the characteristic sunsets and your ultimate travel experience is complete.

Lionesses in Kuzuko Lodge

Close-up of the lionesses in Kuzuko Lodge

Being economical on nature

Did you know that most South Africans will never have the privilege of looking at the nature and the wildlife that their own country possesses? Unemployment in South Africa is simply too high, making it difficult for people to keep their heads financially afloat. They do not have the means to give themselves access to these wildlife parks.

More and more national parks believe that everyone should have the opportunity to view nature and wildlife up close. For this reason, collaboration with schools in the area is increasingly being used to give children access to nature. During these visits they teach the children about the need to preserve nature and together with the rangers they can watch the beautiful animals up close during the game drives. By giving information to the children they want to create more awareness and let them experience the importance of being economical with nature.

Sylvester, the most famous lion in South Africa

In Kuzuko Lodge (Place of Glory), Gerhard de Lange tells us personally the exceptional story of Sylvester and his new family. Kuzuko Lodge is a former franchise of Addo Elephant National Park and is about a 3-hour drive from Port Elizabeth. Kuzuko Lodge houses a number of wild animals, of which the most famous is a male lion named Sylvester. Previously he was housed in the Karoo National Park in Beaufort West, where he escaped from the park twice.

Sylvester managed to escape from his pursuers for three weeks. Sylvester even succeeded in bridging 370 kilometers before he could finally be seen again. He was able to feed sheep for weeks and was a threat to the farmers and the environment. Sylvester would escape again later. The political majority in South Africa would prefer to shoot Sylvester because of the problems with his environment. Eventually he was captured.

Sylvester: the most famous lion in South Africa

Sylvester: the most famous lion in South Africa

John Adendorff, conservation manager of Addo National Ellephant Park, and Gerhard de Lange, conservation manager of Kuzuko Lodge, decided after a serious debate about his future to stick their neck and transfer Sylvester to Kuzuko Lodge. Thus he would in any case not be shot. At the time a controversial decision. Would he not escape again? And would the male lion Felis not see him as a threat? Who says that the lionesses Angel and Nicka will accept him? The transfer was by no means without dangers. Sylvester can be killed when they do not accept him. But now there were four lions without a future. So somewhere that was worth the risk.

Passionately, Gerhard de Lange tells us about the extremely careful way in which they have integrated Sylvester into Kuzuko. Great was everyone's relief that he knew how to make friends with the other young male lion Felies. They even built up an intimate bond. Together they are now waving the scepter in Kuzuko. Sylvester finally found the place where he is at home.

Sylvester and his new family

The absolute crown on the work is that Sylvester has recently become the father of two lion cubs. Angel, the mother of the two cubs, kept the cubs hidden for the first time. Because of this, they thought that the cubs had not survived. The discovery that they were still alive was a particularly emotional moment for Gerhard de Lange and his team. Angel grew up in captivity and in their game park she taught her to live in the wild and to provide for herself (hunting, preying out). That makes the story even more special. These little ones are rightly the new pride of Kuzuko. Do you want to see how we went looking for the lion cubs? Check out our vlog at the bottom of this blog.

Lion in Kuzuko Lodge

Angel in Kuzuko Lodge

The right balance in Kuzuko Lodge

Gerhard de Lange and his team work daily to maintain the right balance in Kuzuko Lodge. Currently there is a right balance between all wild animals, the animal population is in order. Some 3,000 animals live on 15,000 hectares of land. The goal for the coming years is to bring the population of cheetah back into the wild. The cheetahs are threatened and may not die out. They now try to teach cheetahs born in captivity to hunt again and to prey out prey in the wild. They do this mainly by raising a lot with the animals and giving them a good example. By addressing their own instincts, they let mother nature do their work, so that in the end they know how to bury themselves in the wild.

Cheetah in Kuzoko Lodge

Cheetah in Kuzoko Lodge

Of course the focus is not only on the wild animals, but also on the vegetation. The vegetation is at least as important. The goal is to plant 5,000 hectares of tree. The bacon tree is a succulent plant and the leaves are fleshy, bright green and ovoid. The elephants find the top leaves the tastiest and can eat up to 200 kilos per day. For that reason it is really necessary to keep a close eye on the vegetation.

Finally Kuzuko Lodge has a very social purpose. Training local people to make them work sustainably in Kuzuko Lodge. Thus they do the necessary for society.

Vegetation in Kuzuko Lodge

Vegetation in Kuzuko Lodge

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is the third largest national park in South Africa. About 600 elephants live here. During our trip to the Eastern Cape, visiting national parks and spotting animals in the wild is high on our wish list. In Addo you can not only spot the Big Five: elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros and lion, but even the Big Seven: whales and sharks. The Addo Elephant park in the Eastern Cape is the only park in the world where this is possible. A unique combination! The Addo Elephant National Park is just a half-hour drive from Port Elizabeth. A good option to start or finish your journey.

View in Addo Elephant National Park

View in Addo Elephant National Park

The man-elephant conflict in Addo Elephant National Park

Today, some 600 elephants live in the Addo Elephant Park. This has been very different. The climate in the Eastern Cape is very good for growing citruses and oranges. At the beginning of the 19th century there were many farmers who were engaged in the cultivation of citruses and oranges. However, they were in conflict with the elephants. The elephants posed a threat by eating everything. The farmers started killing the elephants. This went so far that there were only eleven elephants left. The government intervened and began to buy back the land from the farmers to get the population back in order. Nowadays you find many elephants in Addo and you see the most beautiful scenes.

Elephants in Addo Elephant Park

Brilliant scenes in Addo Elephant Park

Protection programs Addo Elephant Park

Addo started with a number of protection programs and leads the way with anti-poaching. Especially with regard to rhinos and elephants.

Elephants leave traces when they eat and easily demolish the area. There are protection programs to protect the area. By moving the drinking water holes, among other things, they ensure a spread of the elephants through the park. The drought is also a major threat. When the elephants drink too much, the rhinos do not drink enough. Every day the park faces these challenges and they always have to make certain considerations to ensure the right balance.

The goal is to make a multifunctional park so that animals can function optimally in their natural environment. The starting point of Addo Elephant Park is that they want to show the animals as much as possible in their natural habitat, with minimal human intervention.

Elephant in Addo Elephant National Park

Mother nature up close in Addo Elephant National Park

History

John Adendorff has been conservation manager at Addo Elephant National Park since 1991 and has great respect for his predecessor Harold Trollope, the first park manager. "It all started with him when the park was founded in 1931. On horseback he drove the remaining eleven elephants in the area to the new park. Then it was only 4,000 hectares; now it is almost 50 times bigger ". Nowadays Addo is rated as a mega-park of 186,000 hectares of land, plus Bird Island with its huge breeding colony of 200,000 hectares. An additional 200,000 hectares of protected sea area is planned and this includes the coastline from Kouga to Kenton-on-Sea. The Addo Ellephant National Park has developed from a small park with a few elephants to the world's most diverse park.

Work in progress

"It was an incredible journey," continues John. When he arrived in Addo 25 years ago, there were only 122 elephants and now there are more than 600. The buffalo population consisted of 190 animals and now there are about 1,000 buffaloes that are disease-free and regularly sold. The proceeds from this are used to buy more land to expand the park. The objective of the park is to connect different areas with each other, so that the animals can start to live and move in an ever larger and more natural environment. This way they can also better move the elephants and better preserve or restore certain vegetation. What is needed again to feed the elephants.

Never a boring day

Many species that historically lived in the park have been reintroduced - such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs and mountain zebras. According to John, it is a big responsibility, with never a boring day. Addo continues work in progress, explains John. "Elephants will probably never walk on the beach, but they will move more freely in the future". A railway runs through the park, so they look at the development of overlying animal bridges so that elephants can cross safely. The work is exciting because there is always so much to do with continuous expansion.

Hyena with a carcass in Addo Elephant Park

Hyena with a carcass in Addo Elephant Park

To involve the community against poaching

Poachers are mainly from Vietnam (international trade). For the most part, they misuse the local population for the dirty work. In the meantime 1,200 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa. They are killed by bullets that burst into the rhinoceros.

The white rhinoceros is a grazer. He can mainly be seen in the open field. An easy target. The black rhino goes mainly between the trees and bushes, where he eats the leaves. That is why he is a more difficult target. However, both species are threatened with extinction.

Proactive with the neighbors

Remarkably, John says that poaching is not a current problem in the park. "We are proactive and have good relationships with our neighbors". They understand the importance of conservation and the protection of the natural heritage. They are our eyes and ears on the ground, which is one of the reasons why we do not have serious poacher problems. A rhino has never been poached. For John, support from the local community is the ultimate success of the park. The park in turn helps the community where possible and donates furniture to them when accommodation upgrades are made. Because of this constant attention and awareness, the animals and the park are optimally preserved, so that in the future we can also enjoy all the beauty it has to offer.

Involve the community at Addo Elephant National Park

Involve the community at Addo Elephant National Park

Pay a visit to the game parks in the Eastern Cape

We highly recommend a visit to these parks. You not only enjoy the impressive nature, but you also support its preservation. Both parks offer the possibility for a stay.

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