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A landscape of grasslands filled with Buffalo and Giraffe

The plains, forests, and wetlands of the Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve (GUNR) safeguard more than 1,200 remarkable species. Credit: Chantelle Melzer

Our partner Wild Tomorrow‘s Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve (GUNR) is home to more than 1,200 charismatic species, from towering Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) to tiny Suni Antelope (Nesotragus moschatus).With our spring appeal: Connecting Ukuwela underway, Wild Tomorrow’s staff shared with us some of their favourite wildlife moments at the GUNR, in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal.

Hatching Crocodiles

“One of my favourite wildlife stories features the Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). Whenever I see crocodiles on the reserve I have to stop and take a moment to admire them as, to me, there is something truly special and surprising about protecting land for these reptiles.

They are very much in need of our assistance. Unlike so many of the other incredible species we protect, it is not farming that has put them under stress but, in fact, invasive plants. We were tasked with clearing a whole swathe of Castor oil plants (Ricinus communis) – a highly toxic plant that grows on riverbanks and quickly reaches up to eight feet in height. Around two months later, when we returned to the cleared spot to make sure the plants hadn’t regrown, we came across a crocodile nest full of eggs. As we stood watching, the eggs began hatching right in front of us. The reason that nest was suddenly there was that the crocodile was finally able to get onto this piece of riverbank because we had removed these invasive plants. So, something as huge as a crocodile can be stopped by something as flimsy as a castor oil plant and required our help to restore the balance.”

John Steward, Co-founder & Executive Director

Nile Crocodiles bask on a riverbank

With invasive plants removed, Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) can bask on the banks of a river. Credit: Markus/Flickr

A Hidden Friend

“My favourite encounter was one I didn’t actually realise at the time. I found a Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) that had been killed by a Leopard (Panthera pardus) nearby my house, so, I set up a camera trap beside the carcass to photograph the Leopard in case it returned. That afternoon, I went running and passed the carcass on the way back— it was still lying there, just as before. But, when I later downloaded the photos, I saw that there had been a Leopard hidden behind the carcass. It has been perhaps 10 metres from me when I ran past, and I hadn’t even seen it. I had no idea it was there, it was just sitting there, going about its meal with no concern of me running past. So that’s my favourite wildlife story for the reserve.”

Greg Canning, General Manager- Africa

A Leopard lies partially concealed in a tree

A Leopard (Panthera pardus) will lie silently in wait until the perfect moment to strike. Credit: David Berkowitz/Flickr

Passing Through

“My favourite is the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). They are one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa. Not long after we secured our second piece of land, our rangers began patrolling; in less than six months, they found and removed over 350 snares set on the land by poachers. We also set up camera traps on this land which captured footage of a pack of African Wild Dog. It is the only time we have seen them on the cameras so far, but they were there, and they travelled through. What is so remarkable about that story is that, even though we hadn’t yet taken down the fences that separated the land, it is still a corridor and certain species such as this still got through— either over or under. Snares are one of the biggest threats to this species so to see African Wild Dog come through safely was an amazing thing and gives us a lot of hope for the rest of the land.”

Wendy Hapgood, Co-founder & Chief Operating Officer

A pack African Wild Dogs pause in a woodland

Packs of African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) will travel long distances to find the best place to make their dens. Credit: Derek Keats/Flickr

Read more here about our spring appeal: Connecting Ukuwela and donate today to see your donation matched to double its gift value.

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