A history of pioneering change
&Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve was established in 1991, on a model that is widely regarded as one of the most ambitious and successful blueprints for international ecotourism. Overgrazed agricultural land was purchased and rehabilitated before the reintroduction of all the large mammal species that had originally inhabited the region. The land was considered key conservation land because it formed a link between the Mkuze Game Reserve and what was then the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (now iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of South Africa’s first World Heritage Sites). It was also home to a small area of critically endangered sand forest, as well as a number of other threatened or endangered species.
But Phinda’s name, which means ‘the return’, has been prophetic in more than one way. Not only was the wildlife returned to the land but a significant portion of the land has since been returned to its ancestral owners in a ground-breaking agreement between &Beyond and the Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities, making a marked difference in the lives of local communities. This partnership has been so successful that, as additional pieces of land have been handed back to the communities, they have requested that it be included in &Beyond Phinda, believing that their best financial return would be gained through the use of the land for conservation tourism. Neighbouring Zulu communities were – and continue to be – consulted in all aspects of development, ensuring that their expectations and aspirations are met in a sustainable way.
A league of it’s own
Being a fenced reserve, wildlife and land management practices are crucial for the natural biodiversity and sustainability of the ecosystem. While Mother Nature absolutely runs her course, a considerable amount of daily intervention is required to help maintain a harmonious balance in this fragile ecosystem and the surrounding conservation landscape. From lion, cheetah and elephant, to nyala, wildebeest and other antelope, translocations to neighbouring reserves help bolster new meta populations and diversify gene pools. Unilateral hysterectomies have also proven to be a successful and humane way of restoring the natural balance among lions, the same way aerial contraception darts are helping to reduce the growth rate among elephants. Phinda supports numerous studies and research projects and is also part of a first-of-its-kind Temminck’s ground pangolin rehabilitation, release and monitoring initiative that is proving highly successful. This is just one of numerous world-firsts perpetuated by this special reserve.