Mashatu Game Reserve forms a major component of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Situated within the ‘jewel area’ of the reserve and flanked by the national parks of both South Africa and Zimbabwe, Mashatu management pride themselves on the ecological preservation of the flora and fauna that reside within the reserve.
It is recognised that there are no fences that divide the sovereign components of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park. Unlike the vast majority of private parks in southern Africa where the animals within that reserve are constrained by fences, there are no fences inhibiting the free movement of wildlife between the three countries. Instead, it should be appreciated that the animals that reside on Mashatu are not constrained by fences and other manmade limitations but that they reside on Mashatu for no other reason other than that they choose to do so. An enormous endorsement of Mashatu.
It is well known that pursuant to the massive poaching threat that Africa’s rhino poaching populations face, elephant are next and are already feeling the impact of ruthless poachers in East Africa. Mashatu provides a refuge for the largest herds of elephant on privately owned land in Africa.
Human densities within national parks and private reserves are ever increasing as the viabilities of such conservation areas are threatened by ever increasing costs of management and anti-poaching initiatives. Mashatu management have made a firm decision to maintain human densities on Mashatu as levels below the comparative statistics of reserves on private land in South Africa and elsewhere. By limiting the number of tourists, one naturally limits vehicle traversing in the reserve. Instead, the tourism focus has been expanded to adventure tourism where the impact is substantially less severe. Horses (horse safaris), bicycles (cycling safaris), the human footprint (walking safaris) and ‘stationary tourists’ (photographic hides) limit the imposition of tourists in conservation areas and, in addition, provide a unique selling point for the Mashatu enclave in the greater ecotourism industry in southern Africa.
Mashatu has, over the past 30 years, made it policy to benefit the residents of community villages on the periphery of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve through the opportunities of employment and provision of services. Priority is given to these community residents and, in many instances, present employees of Mashatu are the children and grandchildren of community members who have worked at Mashatu.
Children in the Wilderness
Mashatu is actively involved in the Children in the Wilderness program. Children in the Wilderness is a non-profit organization with facilitates sustainable conservation through leadership development and education of rural children in Africa. Insight, care and commitment are required to conserve Africa’s pristine wilderness and wildlife areas. If we are to ensure that these places continue to exist – in this generation and those to come – we need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives.
Our Children in the Wilderness programme at Mashatu is an environmental and life skills educational programme for children, focusing on the next generation of decision-makers; inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in future.
Mashatu Tent Camp is closed for 12 days each year to run two camps of six days each. 16 children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old are pre-selected from neighbouring schools and communities for each camp. The Camp Director, with a full staff complement of volunteers and mentors, runs an educational and fun-filled programme. During the year Eco-Clubs are run at the schools, to encourage the children to continue with their education, as well as keep their love of wildlife and their heritage alive.
Children in the Wilderness increases children’s awareness, bridges cultural divides, broadens horizons, builds confidence, provides opportunities for new friendships and choices, and reveals career opportunities. In turn, Mashatu Tent Camp staff are allowed to be mentors and leaders, connecting them to their jobs, instilling them with pride for their culture and their community and offering an enriching experience exposing new skills and talents. On the camp the children participate in wildlife activities; they attend interactive workshops on conservation, environmental management, the geography and geology of the area, culture, HIV/AIDS, nutrition and the importance of wilderness areas to their communities and their country; and they learn the life skills and values necessary to one day become great leaders and great conservationist.
The Children in the Wilderness Camp programme and curriculum:
- Practices and teaches sustainable environmental education.
- Exposes the children to new experiences and new friends.
- Uses teambuilding and communication games and other educational tools to help build self-esteem and life skills, and strengthens the children’s capacity to cope with the challenges in life.
- Inspires the children to continue with their education.
- Teaches the children skills, crafts and sports that they have not had the opportunity to experience.
- Enables the children to experience the various careers available to them as adults, within the Northern Tuli Game Reserve and Mashatu.
- Increases awareness and knowledge of HIV/AIDS and overall health and nutrition.
Some of the topics covered in the curricula are herbivore, bird and insect work sheets followed by herbivore and bird drives, Illala the elephant play and the circle of life which have strong conservation and moral messages. The creative activities include lapdesk decorating and making of dream catchers and memory mobiles. Some valuable and interesting anti-poaching activities are included and are most important to these children as they all know poachers who live in their communities and sometimes within their families. The photography course is always a popular part of the programme and the children are taught to “shoot” with cameras and not with guns. HIV and nutrition activities form part of the curriculum. The children also take part in many outings including the Limpopo Valley Airport, Mashatu Main Camp and the Pont Drift Customs and Immigrations Office, where they learn about different careers and various job opportunities associated with these places.
As well as being much fun, the morning games, songs and team challenges provide moral lessons. It is during these activities where the various personalities of the children becoming apparent. Game drives always prove to be an invaluable time to get to know the children and their various personalities. The children love to interact and bond with volunteers during game drives and outings.
By exposing children to their natural heritage, Children in the Wilderness aims to create a network of learning sanctuaries that uplifts and cares for our children and conserves our planet. In this way, we hope to inspire the children to care for the environment so that they can become custodians of these areas in future.
Children in the Wilderness is a non funded organization and anyone wishing to make donations can contact Tanya McKenzie on Tanya@mckenzie.co.za . For more information, please visit the Children in the Wilderness website www.childreninthewilderness.com .