Responsible Tourism in Action – Ant’s Reserve
Giving back to nature and the community is core to the Ant's Reserve philosophy
Responsible Tourism in Action:
Situated on its own private game reserve, The Ant Collection comprises 12,500 acres of pristine Waterberg bushveld, the perfect place to see wildlife on foot, in a game vehicle, or on horseback. The reserve is a fine example of responsible tourism and is made up of 12 different ecological zones from open grassy plains to thick savannah bushveld to beautiful mountainous areas, and given the location along an intercontinental divergence zone, they have a wider variety of flora and fauna than elsewhere in Africa.
Over 40 species of game including Sable Antelope, Nyala, Oryx, Eland, Giraffe, Buffalo (disease free), White Rhino and well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds make this areas their home.
As members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy they seek to conserve and promote the natural wilderness of the Waterberg, its landscape, rivers and heritage sites. The Warterberg is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the nature conservancy is made up of numerous private game reserves covering an area of 300,000ha; all committed to ensuring a mutual balance between conservation, education and sustainable human development; key to responsible tourism.
With strict environmental management systems Ant’s Reserve strives to conserve and build in the most efficient and eco-friendly ways possible.
Sable Antelope Breeding Project:
In 2001 the first sable antelope were reintroduced onto the reserve and over the years they have seen the numbers grow into to viable and healthy herds. Having been a natural resident in the Waterberg, the species had been hunted to near extinction a century earlier. By monitoring their genetics the animals have thrived. A number of breeding groups have also been sold on to other reserves in order to establish new populations. It is always a thrilling sight to see these iconic antelope with their Scimitar shaped horns gracing the Bushveld.
The objectives of breeding Sable Antelope are:
- Breeding of a conservation dependant species
- Increase the numbers of a conservation dependant species for the general well being and future of the species
- Prevent inbreeding of a conservation dependant species
- To run the project in an ecological sound manner taking into
consideration the natural behavior and habitat of the species and to
promote an understanding to visitors of the importance of this responsible tourism project
- To gather information on their behavior to gain a better understanding
of these animals
Eco-Friendly Pest Control:
Ant’s Reserve has introduced an innovative way of dealing with the rodents which are inevitably drawn to the stables. They have installed ‘Owl boxes’ to encourage Barn owls to set up new homes around the stables and target the rodents specifically. The system is highly effective and can be an encouragement to people elsewhere to stop using deadly poisons and let nature run its course. Pairs of Spotted Eagle owls have established themselves in the area.
Some time before responsible tourism was a concern, cattle farmers started using cattle dip containing arsenic to combat ticks which lead to the death of many oxpeckers feeding on dipped cattle. This almost caused the extinction of the yellow billed oxpecker and caused a dramatic decline in the Red billed oxpecker population, in turn leading to an increase in different tick species as they no longer had any natural population control.
It has become extremely important to understand the natural balance of our ecosystems and by removing one species it will have a knock on effect upon others which is why Oxpecker compatible dips (pyrethroyd based dips) have been introduced.
At Ant’s we strive to develop and research different methods of tick control, having the least impact on the animals and the environment, while also trying to reintroduce Oxpeckers back into the area.
A series of dams have also been built in erosion gullies which were caused following heavy storms in areas of overgrazing by cattle. These dams hold the water and form small wetlands below them creating micro environments for insects, birds, and plant life alike. On the spillways of our dams overflows have been built using gabion baskets in order to prevent erosion which is highly effective, and safely lets the storm water flow back into the river bed.
Brush Packing is done in areas of overgrazing where the soil has become bare and does a similar job to that of the sickle bush. It prevents further erosion and helps to regenerate the land
Numerous tree, plant and grass species rely on bush fires to reproduce and regenerate, for example the Protea Tree, the King Protea being South Africa’s National flower. The seeds of the Protea are protected in fire proof cones. Following a bush fire the cones dry out and release the seeds which then germinate after the first rains. It is therefore very important for Ants to have controlled fires to ensure the regeneration of our plants, trees and grasses.
Burning is also required to clear old vegetation as many grass species have a short life cycle and die after a few years, unlike the everlasting European grasses. The dead grass prevents new grasses from germinating. As the fire sweeps through it removes the dead vegetation and leaves behind fertile soil, ideal for new growth.
Controlled burning is also one way to control ecto-parasite populations.
Alien Plant Control:
Invasive alien pants are non-indigenous plants which are introduced to an area and adversely affect the native species which naturally occur there. Early settlers introduced many non-indigenous plants in the form of trees and shrubs to create their “home from home” in their gardens. This has created a lot of work for those practicing responsible tourism. Invasive plants need to be constantly controlled/eradicated as they displace the native plant species and have no natural controls like insects, animals and disease to stop them growing
Some need to be removed at specific times of the year, others need to be dug out from the root, cut or poisoned.
Eucalyptus trees A large Eucalyptus can utilise up to 2000 litres of water a day through transpiration, therefore use up our scarce water resources.
Bankrupt bush (Seriphium plumosum) one of the Cape. Fynbos plants that takes over open grassland.
Prickly pears (Opuntia spp) – introduced from Central America and widely cultivated for their fruit, as a fodder and as a hedge, they are rapacious invaders
Lantana (lantana camara) which can produce impenetrable thickets.
“Queen of the night” (Cereus jamacaru) a succulent cactus like plant that displaces grazing
Fluff bush (Lopholaena coriifolia) which spreads across grassland and kills the plants that grow underneath it.
Waste disposal and Manure Management:
Ant’s Reserve is very aware of the amount of waste that they produce. As a lodge they recycle all their waste products. All rubbish is divided into plastics, paper, bottles, cans and compost.
All the manure from the stables and the fenced off paddock is collected and placed on a manure pile. Once this manure has dried out, we then burn off the dry stuff, letting it smoulder (mainly only done in summer as winter is high risk fire season). Dung beetles play an important role in managing our manure, they lay their eggs in the manure and the larvae of the Dung Beetle break it down. We then use this compost in Gardens, and on lawns to keep them looking vibrant all year round for our guests.
The Waterberg Rhino UK Charity:
The Waterberg is home to one of the three largest rhino populations remaining on the planet. Killing for its horn is still a serious threat to the rhino’s survival. The illegal wildlife trade is a cruel and relentless burden on the local community that has to cope with the terrible consequences of poaching.
Waterberg Rhino UK (charity no 1187429) was set up in January 2020, bringing together a wealth of support that spans communities in the Waterberg, the UK and across the world.
Based in the UK, the 5 trustees all have strong links with the region
The charity fundraises to help in the conservation and protection of rhino, whilst working in collaboration with carefully chosen organizations and individuals in the Waterberg, to ensure the best outcomes for both the community and environment, and to improve education and sustain livelihoods – all in line with respnsible tourism practices.
The reserve is home to a healthy herd of free ranging, Cape buffalo, which are “Disease free” as they do not carry Tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth disease, Corridor, or Brucellosis. The genetics of our buffalo are made up from three distinct gene pools; the Addo, Kruger and the East African strain of buffalo (introduced via Zoo’s in Europe). Before any animal may leave or enter the property they are quarantined and tested for the four diseases mentioned above to ensure they are disease free.
It is essential that these animals maintain their “disease free” status and being in a cattle producing area it is important they do not contaminate the National herd. These iconic animals embody the toughness and uncompromising nature of Africa and it is thrilling to ride amongst the herd on horseback.
Responsible Tourism is a Community Commitment:
Tourism is a significant employer in the Waterberg. The majority of the staff at Ant’s Reserve is employed from the local community and many of them have been with us for years and have become part of the Ant’s family. We regard community commitment as an important part of responsible tourism and we are fortunate to be in a position to help and uplift our neighbours in the local villages with a number of programs. There are many charities and incentives in the Waterberg area that we are part of.
Sponsor a child’s education:
We are fortunate to have the exceptional Waterberg Academy on our doorstep, which offers an outstanding academic environment from pre-prep all the way to matric. As an independent school, it has an active scholarship and bursary fund to enable as many local children as possible to benefit from and education there. Like many of our neighbours who practice responsible tourism, we highly encourage our guests to sponsor a child through school, and many have already done so. Set in the African bush, the Academy is an eco-school dedicated to teaching the importance of the planet alongside educational excellence.
The plight of the young and defenceless has always been close to our heart and The Fold exists to provide refuge to children in need by investing love. The primary vision is to assist children who have been ravaged by the loss of family, poverty, disease and abuse.
Pack for a Purpose:
Pack for a Purpose’s mission is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travelers who want to bring meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit.
Make your travels meaningful by simply using a small amount of space in your luggage to pack supplies needed by community projects worldwide.
Pack for a Purpose does not condone visiting orphanages, as this can often lead to negative impacts on children. The accommodation or tour company working with the orphanage will deliver the supplies in a coordinated and respectful way so that the children can benefit from them. Your generosity is not diminished because you do not interact with the children
Pack for a Purpose has two responsible tourism projects that you can become a part of:
Project #1: African Community Outreach supports hundreds of families, visiting with them in their homes, providing food, providing medical care, and helping to get children into schools.
Project #2: The Fold benefits children from ages 4 through 15 years old from the area of Vaalwater where by families are unable to provide for their children financially, physically and/or emotionally. We also provide education on the premises.
We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country and the Waterberg community of game farm owners and managers who are committed to responsible tourism and work ceaselessly to help this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve deserving of its status.
Please contact Ant’s Reserve if you would like to help sponsor one of our any projects.