Wildlife


Wildlife In THE HLUHLUWE iMFOLOZI PARK

Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

The park is home to Africa’s Big Five: elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard. Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve boasts 86 special species. It is one of the world’s top spots for viewing nyala.

The park is a prime birding destination and is home to 340 bird species. The Hluhluwe River Flood Plain is one of the only areas in the whole of South Africa where yellow-throated, pink-throated and orange-throated longclaw species can be seen together.

Today, the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is world renowned for its white rhino conservation and its Centenary Capture Centre is setting exceptional standards for animal capture and sustainable utilization in Africa. Operation Rhino the brainchild of the late Dr Ian Player initiated in the 1950s and ’60s put the park on the map in terms of rhino conservation and game capture standards.

Fauna and Flora

At Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge guests have the opportunity to experience all the classic African big game including the Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and black and white rhino. In addition there are also hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, cheetah, warthog and many antelope species.

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Mammals

Due to highly successful conservation efforts the park has the highest population of white rhinos in the world believed to be in excess of 1600. Below is a checklist of the most visual species:

It is home to 86 special species including: Nile crocodile, hippo, cheetah, spotted hyena, blue wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, black and white rhino, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, common warthog, bushpig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys, a variety of tortoises, terrapins, snakes and lizards.

Aardvark Baboon chacma Badger honey Bat epauletted, Peter’s
Bat freetailed, little Bat tomb, Mauritian Buffalo Bushbaby, lesser
Bushbaby, thicktailed Bushbuck Bushpig Caracal
Cane-rat greater Caracal Cat wild, African Cheetah
Civet Dog wild Duiker common Duiker red
Duiker common Duiker red Eland Elephant African
Genet large-spotted Genet small-spotted Giraffe Hare scrub
Hare red, Natal Hyena spotted Hippopotamus Jackal black-backed
Leopard Kudu Lion Mongoose banded
Mongoose grey, large Mongoose dwarf Mongoose slender Mongoose water
Samango Mongoose, white-tailed Mouse, multimammate, Natal Monkey vervet
Nyala Suni Otter clawless Porcupine
Polecat, striped

The Home of Rhino Conservation

(A version of this article was originally published in The Horn, autumn 2010. Authors: Jeff Gaisford, Media Liaison Officer, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; and Dirk Swart, Section Ranger (Manzibomvu), Hluhluwe-Game Reserve)

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) is the flagship park of Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Wildlife and, through efforts both past and present, it has brought the white rhino population in Southern Africa back from the brink of extinction. Every single Southern white rhino population in the world has its genetic origin in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The organisation is currently trying to do for the black rhino what it did for the white rhino and to achieve this HiP is playing an important role in the ongoing WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

Within the last few years syndicated rhino poaching, as opposed to sporadic poaching, has become a potential threat to the rhinos in KZN, and throughout Southern Africa. Because of its preference for browse and deep thickets, the black rhino is more difficult to hunt than the white but its scarcity makes the species susceptible to localised extinction because of poaching. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff work very hard to protect their stocks and have managed to keep rhino poaching to a minimum so far, but it is not an easy task given the size of HiP Park (96,000ha), the extent of its fence-line and the nature of the terrain.

It has long been recognised that conservation efforts need the active support of the communities neighbouring protected areas. Accordingly, Ezemvelo KZN began its Community Conservation Programme. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has undertaken many projects amongst local communities including the building of: classrooms, water reticulation systems, livestock enclosures and community-based business opportunities. Communities are also encouraged to visit our parks and learn more about their wildlife heritage.

These projects are funded through a levy on park entry fees and tourist accommodation in our protected areas.

Biodiversity Management at Park level also has a positive future. The Zululand Invasive Alien Species Project (ZIASP) has for a number of years controlled the spread of invasive alien weed species, mainly Chromaelina odoratum. Large areas have been cleared of this weed allowing more niche areas for black and white rhinos. HiP also has a disease-monitoring programme, which has seen a drastic decrease in the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis amongst buffalo and which can be carried by other animals.
HiP is lucky to have an eco-advice department to assist managers on activities such as controlled veld-burning programmes, animal censuses, biological monitoring, environmental impact assessments and the processing of raw data. Their analyses, coupled with input from management staff, provide a scientific evaluation of rhino populations and the environmental influences affecting their future which influences management decisions with respect to rhino numbers.

The population of white rhinos in the HiP is deliberately kept slightly below the maximum capacity (2,000) to stimulate breeding. Accurate monitoring allows management to establish numbers for removals to other parks or on offer on our annual game sale. Similarly, monitoring of black rhinos informs management of the black rhino population in the Park. It is a management goal to create a dossier on each black rhino through photographs and a unique ear-notching record.

Birds

The Park is a prime birding destination and is home to 340 bird species. Bird life include night heron, wood stork, Wahlberg’s eagle, Shelley’s francolin, black-bellied korhaan, Temminck’s courser, Klaas’s cuckoo, little bee-eater and crested barbet. Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park contains almost half of the bird species in the entire Southern hemisphere – of which 16% are recognized as red data species.

Vegetation

Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park covers an area of approximately 960 square km, with altitudes ranging from 40-590 meters above sea level. Logistically, the two sections are managed separately; however, ecologically they are managed as one park. The park falls within the savanna biome in the southern extremity of the Maputaland – Pondoland biodiversity hotspot. There are suggested to be around 1200 plant species. Of these 300 tree species have been described and 150 grass species. Plants that are protected in this area include Natal giant cycad, stangeria and the pepper bark tree. Habitats in iMfolozi are primarily grasslands, which extend into acacia savannah and woodlands. Within iMfolozi is a large Wilderness Area, which has no roads and is very inaccessible, making it virtually impossible to patrol by vehicle.

The iMfolozi region has hilly topography and the high ridges support coastal scarp forests in a well-watered region with valley bushveld at lower levels. The north of the Park is more rugged and mountainous with forests and grasslands.