Preserving and protecting the environmental integrity of the property has been MalaMala’s rasion d’être for over 60 years. This unyielding focus on the environment has resulted in one of the most beautiful and bountiful tracts of land in Africa, internationally renowned for offering some of the finest Big 5 game viewing on the continent. In the words of Russell MacLaughlin of National Geographic: “Nowhere in Africa can the scenic beauty and wildlife behaviour be remotely compared to MalaMala in any aspect and it is hands down the most remarkable place I have ever filmed in."
In a concerted effort to reduce the human footprint on MalaMala, the bed and vehicle densities have been kept to an absolute minimum. At 1 bed per 500 acres (200 hectares) and 1 vehicle per 2 350 acres (950 hectares), these densities are amongst the lowest of any private game reserve in the country, consistent with the principle that the environment is the essence of MalaMala.
One of the great advantages of having an unfenced boundary with almost 5 million acres of the Kruger National Park is that the wildlife is free to live and move in a natural, unconstrained environment with minimal need for human intervention and interference.
Sadly, with the threat of rhino poaching, this is not always possible and poaching has become our greatest conservation challenge to date. Fortunately, MalaMala is strategically sandwiched between two sizeable protected areas, the Kruger National Park to our east and the Sabi Sands game reserve to our west. This makes access to MalaMala more difficult but even so, we have not remained unscathed.
MalaMala spends millions of Rands annually in the fight against rhino poaching and we are continually bolstering our anti-poaching capacity. We have significantly increased our team of anti-poaching field rangers and have added multiple high-tech cameras with SMS functionality for real-time poacher identification.
While the anti-poaching program consumes a significant amount of MalaMala’s time, energy, and resource, we are also involved in many other conservation projects:
Research and monitoring:
Numerous research projects are carried out on an annual basis, mostly designed to monitor the impact of our environmental management practices on the habitat. We have studied the effects of the ever-growing elephant population on the property and tracked the progress of threatened species like the Southern Ground Hornbill. MalaMala has a detailed Vegetation Monitoring Program and we also work closely with independent conservation groups like Panthera who assist in monitoring our leopard population.
Habitat and wildlife management:
Many of these projects are the unglamorous and behind-the-scenes tasks that are critical to the wellbeing and sustainability of the property.
MalaMala has several invasive plant species that encroach on the reserve and we have an annual control program for the containment of these alien species. One specific challenge, brought about by climate change, has been the encroachment of ‘woody plants’, creating dense woody thickets on what used to be semi-open savannah. This could potentially change the wildlife composition in these areas and, as a result, MalaMala has embarked on a bush thinning program to protect these savannah areas.
We have an annual burning program which serves to protect the property through an extensive network of firebreaks, but it also plays a critical role in savannah management and the rejuvenation of the bush.
Road maintenance and erosion control programs are ongoing and are essential maintenance functions for the property.
Finally, although MalaMala prefers a “light-touch” approach to wildlife management, we do occasionally require veterinary interventions for threatened or endangered species. We also conduct an annual aerial game count which is a critical management tool and enables us to monitor the changing trends in our wildlife population and distribution.
All these conservation projects, but specifically the anti-poaching program, are costly exercises that require significant, ongoing investment. Should you wish to support MalaMala’s conservation efforts and contribute to the long-term sustainability of our environment, then please use the Donate button at the top of the page.