Welgevonden Game Reserve has proudly announced the establishment of a R30 million game purchase programme. With the programme, the existing game population will be increased significantly with the introduction of more impala, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck and hippo. This dramatic step is the result of many years of academic research into the specific nutritional conditions of the Reserve.

About eight years ago, the Reserve’s researchers concluded that the birth rates of many ungulates on the Reserve was lower than expected. The focus soon turned to the nutrition-poor vegetation and strategies were developed to counter this problem. A large-scale intervention plan was established, aimed at creating self-perpetuating grazing lawns with more palatable and better quality nutrition. The science behind the strategy aimed to manipulate the vegetation using methods that included the use of fire, mechanical interventions, fertilisers and the addition of micro-nutrients to the system. These manipulations were the key to transforming the poor food resources in the reserve into more nutrient rich areas to stimulate ungulate propagation and survival. An important goal has been to re-engineer these areas permanently so that they become self-perpetuating and do not require further human intervention. This strategy became a proven concept and towards the end of 2014 the tactical rollout was planned.

In order to establish these grazing lawns, and thus to maintain and grow the ungulate population, R30 million will be invested in introducing new game between 2015 and 2018. This game purchasing programme was developed by the Welgevonden Scientific Steering Committee, which advises on the Reserve’s scientific and ecological management. Professor Herbert Prins of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who is a key member of the WSSC and was instrumental in developing this programme, spent some months on the Reserve to focus on this matter.

“To ensure that the ungulate population will survive in a self-regulating manner, a large number of animals should be introduced onto the reserve”, Professor Prins said. “The increased number of ungulates would ensure a more rapid increase in grazing lawn expansions and the productivity of more palatable and nutritional grasses, which are required for the nutrition of the ungulate populations and to improve their chances of survival.”

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Frank and Myriam Vogel, the owners of Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, one of the Reserve’s lodges, have generously backed the game purchase programme by providing the first half of the required capital through an interest-free loan of R15 million provided by their MF Foundation. “In a world that is rapidly becoming more populated, we believe that man has the responsibility to protect nature where he can”, says Mr. Vogel. “Living in this beautiful part of the world, we feel obliged to keep it that way. With this vision in mind and with the help of Mhondoro’s previous management couple Jasper Bruinsma and Annemarie Sechterberger, we have decided to contribute to the game purchase programme in Welgevonden Game Reserve through our charity, MF Foundation.”

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