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game census safari, wildlife conservation, buffalo and conservation

Another Game Census Safari Success

By Conservation & Community, News

From game counting and darting, to capturing and relocating wildlife on horseback, the annual game census safari serves to keep the private reserve and its wild residents thriving.

While having traditionally been carried out from a helicopter, conducting a game census on horseback continues to be more accurate than a helicopter count and, perhaps most importantly, significantly minimises disturbance to the wildlife. Each year, guests join us for several nights, and each day is spent heading out into the reserve – either on horseback or in a vehicle – to count, dart and relocate game animals.

Ant puts his riders into place around, but out of sight of the animal, so that if it runs, we can keep track of its movements. Once the dart is in, everyone stays in their position, and everything is done quietly to keep the animal calm to stop it wanting to run away. Once the animal is down and completely sedated, the radio calls through for guests to come and observe while the vet, Paul, is working on the animal.

game census safari, Riding South Africa, Waterberg game reserve, wildlife conservationThis year, we had an exciting five-day game census safari jam-packed with incredible wildlife encounters that were all part of caring for the many game species that call the reserve home. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a safari at The Ant Collection without many exhilarating horseback rides, bushveld views, and those all-important sundowners.

Day 1: All about the antelopes

Every day of the game census is exciting, but there is always an extra buzz in the air amongst our staff and guests on the first day. This year, we started off by darting two sable bulls, five young Roan bulls, and two oryx bulls. The young sable and Roan bulls were relocated to a separate area where they will form their own bachelor groups.

Once these are firmly established and the rainy season arrives, they will then be released onto the main reserve. For the two oryx bulls, this was their day of release into the main reserve. The day ended with some long canters to the sundowner spot where we watched the sun go down with a drink in hand.

Day 2: It’s all hands on deck!

We got up close with two buffalo bulls that were darted for relocation. It was all hands on deck with these very big, very heavy boys that needed to be loaded into the game trailers. After much huffing and puffing, that job was done and the next was tracking down a female giraffe with a nasty abscess on her buttocks.

game census safari, wildlife conservation, buffalo and conservationThe group cantered to the area where she had been spotted and wound through the bush quietly to get to her. The vet couldn’t dart her in the thickets, so the horses worked hard in trying to push her out into an open area to make darting and treating her easier and safer. Unfortunately, she was very elusive and so we were unable to complete this job successfully. Nevertheless, it was a good second day and well-deserved gin and tonics awaited the guests for sundowners.

Day 3: How to outsmart a buffalo herd

The day started with darting another two buffalo bulls. We have to space out buffalo darting over two days because the herd is very clever and quickly realises what we’re up to, often running off before Paul can dart them. Once the animal is lying down and sedated, the vet will check its condition, give it medication if necessary, and dip it for ticks. A staff member holds the animal’s head in a comfortable position, ensuring it can breathe comfortably and continually monitoring its breathing.

game census safari, Riding South Africa, Waterberg game reserve, wildlife conservationNext up was darting a Roan bull that was in poor condition because of it being winter. The vet gave the bull medication to build up his immune and make him strong again for the next few harsh months. We are happy to report that after several days of monitoring, the Roan bull has taken well to the medication.

In the afternoon, the helicopter assisted us in darting three kudu bulls and one eland bull, which were released onto the main reserve. The team of riders were divided into two, each having a recovery vehicle to load the animals into. The riders and horses love this because it involves following the chopper and cantering through the bush after the animals.

With the sun beginning to set, it was a race to sundowners, where we ended the day sharing stories of everyone’s experience of the captures so far.

Day 4: Second time lucky?

Our aim for this day was to locate sable and Roan bulls in the main reserve for relocating. The riders were divided up into teams and given areas to look for the animals – it can be quite tricky to find one specific animal in an area of 5000 hectares! Later in the morning, everyone cantered to where a sable bull was located, and Ant put everyone at specific point around the animal in case it decided to run. Fortunately, the darting went smoothly, and the vet did all he needed to in good time.

game census safari, Riding South Africa, Waterberg game reserve, wildlife conservationAfter a morning filled with riding and excitement, we cantered to bush lunch at our biggest dam where we were met with the smell of food cooking on the open flame. The guests relaxed under a shady tree, with a drink in hand overlooking the dam and spotting some beautiful birds.

We then tried to dart the same female giraffe from Day 2, but she was once again in thick bush. So we called upon the riders and the trusty horses to try their best to push her out and into an area where the vet could work with her. Like the first time we met her, she had other plans and evaded us once more before daylight ran out. It was time to call it a day and enjoy sundowners.

Day 5: That’s a wrap!

We started the morning on horseback looking for wildebeest. Capturing wildebeest is very difficult so we were all thrilled when we managed to do so successfully. We located two different groups and darted two wildebeest cows and one bull from one group, and two wildebeest cows from the second that were safely transported by game trailer to another reserve.

After several days of early mornings, being on horseback before the suns up, lots of cantering and heavy lifting of animals, we wrapped up Day 5 in the afternoon. Ant took the guests out for a ride to see the reserve from a different perspective for sundowners, a well-earned treat after all the hard days of riding. Everyone was in high spirts on the ride home because it was time for the game census party.

Dinner was amazing! We cooked a hearty potjie – a traditional South African dish – and once everyone was full and happy, it was time to party. It was a great way to end another successful game census safari.

rhino encounters at Ant's Nest

Sundowners with the Rhinos

By Conservation & Community, Rhinos, The Ant's Experience
[:en]Written by Claire Birtwhistle, a guest at Ant’s Hill

Sundowners on safari is always an enjoyable occasion. Add some special rhino guests to the mix and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an incredibly memorable sundowner experience.

Sundowners with the rhinos; this is what the guests at Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill Bush Homes often find themselves being treated to, and one that I was fortunate enough to experience during my stay at Ants Hill.

Rhino sundowners at Ant's Nest

After a long and hot afternoon of some seriously up close and personal experiences with the rhino population in the reserve, some ice-cold drinks were definitely in order. Arriving at the home of Ant Baber, owner of the Ant Collection, a spread of delicious and freshly cooked finger food was waiting for us next to the pool. As we tucked into the snacks, our attention was quietly directed towards a group of approaching rhinos. Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, all of a sudden there were rhinos everywhere. Watching from the safety of the raised deck area, I took great delight in attempting to recognize the rhinos from the various differences that Ant had pointed out to me earlier in the day.

Once all the rhinos had arrived, the real spectacle began as the Lucerne and feed was divvied up among the feeding stations, making sure that each rhino got their fair share.

rhinos being fed at Ant's Nest

Throughout this whole experience, despite the thrill of being so close to these majestic animals, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the nagging feeling at the back of my brain that something about this was just wasn’t quite right. After all, rhinos are wild animals, surely feeding them habituates them to humans? Curiously, I asked Tess how guests generally react to the rhino sundowners and Tess admitted that there has been some concern raised by guests however they still strongly believe in the practice. After hearing their reasoning why, I couldn’t help but agree. Of course, in an ideal world, the rhinos wouldn’t need to be fed or protected at all, however that’s not the reality we live in.

rhino conservation in waterberg

Here’s why the Ant Collection does sundowners with their rhinos:
Putting aside the obvious reasons of drought relief and supplement feeding, the team at Ants has very specific reasons for letting their guests get so close to their rhinos. Simply put, after an experience like that, you can’t help but fall in love with these animals. These rhinos are like children to the team; each of them has their own name and unique personality and once you’ve been exposed to that, there’s really no going back. It’s an opportunity for guests to be educated on the poaching situation, while at the same time, taking personal responsibility for the rhinos.

Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill Bush Homes will do anything to protect their rhinos, however, this protection comes at a great personal expense. After a devastating poaching attack in 2012, Ant and Tessa Baber, together with Victoria Crake and Gustav Collins, founded the Save the Waterberg Rhino Foundation in an effort to fight rhino poaching in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. The Waterberg is home to the second-largest concentration of rhino in South Africa outside of the Kruger National Park. Its population is vital to the survival of the species and it is therefore critical that these rhinos are protected. The Save the Waterberg Rhino is at the forefront of trying to save this last frontier for the rhino. Its main objective is fundraising in order to achieve their mission and other aims of increasing security, creating awareness, supporting education, facilitate training and employment.

At the moment, guests who visit Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill Bush Homes are playing a huge role in keeping this foundation going. After personally meeting these rhinos, many of the guests often want to get involved in the fight. Whether it be donations, or valuable skills and resources, the Waterberg Rhino Foundation needs all the help they can get.

rhino encounters at Ant's Nest

Find out more about the Save the Waterberg Rhino Foundation and how you can get involved here: http://waterberg.net/save-the-waterberg-rhino/[:]

Lending a Helping Hand/Hoof

By Conservation & Community
[:en]“The objective of the Ant Collection is to create sustainable tourism by means of conserving the environment around us, enriching the lives of our guests and staff alike as well as uplifting the community and providing as much skills and development to the locals as possible.” – The Ant Collection

In a developing country such as South Africa, the tourism industry is so important. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing economic sectors and can be used as a great tool for promoting sustainable development and accelerating poverty eradication. Community-minded and always willing to help out when needed, we understand that tourism is directly linked to conservation and community development, and embraces that responsibility wholeheartedly.

Here are 3 of the many ongoing projects that Ants is currently involved with:

Save the Waterberg Rhino

Ant and Tessa Baber founded the Save the Waterberg Rhino foundation in 2012. The foundation aims to raise funds to protect rhinos on privately owned land within the Waterberg Biosphere area. Soon after it was founded, Save the Waterberg Rhino teamed up with The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve and StopRhinoPoaching.com to help private landowners safeguard rhinos from poachers. A team of respected members of the community, rhino owners, rhino specialists, and security experts help to manage the Save the Waterberg Rhino foundation.

African Community Outreach

We are active supporters of the African Community Outreach non-profit organisation. The project supports hundreds of poverty-stricken families, widows, and orphans in the Vaalwater area by visiting with them in their homes, providing food, medical care and assisting children in getting into schools. African Community Outreach relies on donations from the general public, businesses, and the commercial sector for funding. It costs R20 per day to feed a child and guests at Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill often donate generously towards this worthy cause.

Community Support and Upliftment

We also work in partnership with the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve on the YES Project (Youth Environmental Services). This provides unemployed youths from the area with training and skills to get back into employment. There are four training projects; wildlife security, chef training, housekeeping and nature guiding. Ants offers placements for all of the above and the majority of the staff are employed from the local community.

It seems safe to say that when you’re staying with us; your conscience can rest at ease![:]