Buffalo Kloof Private Game Reserve (BKPGR) would like to take the opportunity, through the following media statement, to respond to the claims made by Dr. Bool Smuts, Director of Landmark Foundation Trust (LFT), following the recent halting of the planned relocation of four leopards from commercial farmers’ land in the Baviaans Kloof area, to the Buffalo Kloof conservancy. This occurred after an interim court order – against the Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) and BKPGR – was obtained by LFT.
According to Warne Rippon, co-owner of BKPGR, the private game reserve has been acting in the interest of the leopards – in stark contrast with the questionable legal process driven by Dr Smuts and the LFT – where an ex parte application was approved over a weekend, without any written notice being given to BKPGR or DEDEAT, nor opportunity to state their cases.
“We would firstly like to categorically state that there is no lactating female among the leopards which we have received permits to relocate, as was falsely stated by Dr. Bool Smuts on broadcast and social media,” says Rippon.
He adds that the leopards, if left at their current location, are practically on death row. They have been hunting sheep from commercial farmers, which is an indication that there is not enough wild prey to support them. Farmers in the area have reported losses of at least 174 sheep, to the value of R427 000, and the leopards have been caught on camera on their properties.
History unfortunately shows that the usual fate of such leopards would be death through poisoning, as their invasion of commercial land is causing serious damage. The farmers in the area therefore contacted BKPGR in order to provide a better alternative for the animals. Furthermore, surrounding reserves such as the Addo Elephant Park and Andries Vosloo conservancy are currently at full capacity with leopards, and therefore not able to take them in.
“The solution we are aiming to implement is to introduce these leopards to an area where they can flourish. BKGPR is a combination of privately-owned, local community-owned and government-owned land, which has received protected area status from the South African government, largely as a result of our tireless efforts to conserve and re-establish the ancient eco-system in the area.
There are currently no resident leopards on the reserve that could interfere with the introduction of these animals, and there is ample game for them to hunt. Furthermore, all internal fences on the reserve have been removed, which means that animals have 20 000 ha of space to roam freely,” Rippon explains.
“We can say with confidence that no leopards have or will ever be hunted at BKPGR – this practice is, in fact, illegal in South Africa. In contrast, our reserve is a haven for critically endangered species. In line with our ethos of ‘conservation with class and hunting with thought’, we do allow very limited hunting of non-endangered species like buffalo or antelope from a single, isolated bush camp. This is done in order to finance our extreme efforts to protect our endangered species from poaching,” he continues.
BKPGR has furthermore invested significant sums of money in a state-of-the-art security system, which includes 24-hour rhino surveillance and monitoring; as well as rhino horn infusion, a 10 000-volt electric perimeter fence with constant patrolling, night vision and license plate recognition-enabled camera poles around the reserve, and as a highly skilled on-site task team to respond to poaching threats. These measures cost in excess of R10 million, of which a large part came from the owners’ private funds.
“We are further going to extreme lengths to ensure the survival and adaption of the leopards on our reserve – measures include gps collars and 24-hour monitoring with a highly respected veterinarian on call. In addition, we have a track record of successfully establishing populations of other endangered species: including elephant and rhino, of which our private herds are among the largest in the country. We have also managed to introduce a male and female cheetah during the past year and these animals are thriving,” Rippon points out.
“We have spared no expense in preparing for the leopards’ introduction, which, to date has cost more than R 500 000. We truly have these animals’ best interests at heart, and have adhered, in all aspects, to the threatened or endangered species regulations of South Africa.
One can therefore clearly see that BKPGR is a conservancy in the truest sense of the word, driven not by questionable financial or fashionable populist considerations; but by genuine passion for wildlife and the land, where animals are given the opportunity to flourish without human interference as far as practically possible.
As such, we pride ourselves as being custodians of one of the most thoughtfully conserved pieces of wilderness left in South Africa and we will leave no stone unturned to keep it that way,” he concludes.