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Conservation at Sanbona

At Sanbona, we’re proud to be a key impact player for conservation. We recognise the responsibility of the 58,000ha of land entrusted to us, prioritising sustainable development. Sanbona was founded upon the foundation of conservation management, and to this day, we strive to preserve the reserve’s ecological, commercial, and social integrity.

Conservation

Rewilding Our Little Karoo

Since 2002, the transformation of the lands has included the slow process of recreating an ecosystem as close as possible to the way it’s thought to have been 300 years ago, giving visitors a vision of the Klein Karoo that its early San inhabitants would recognise. To this end, there’s an ongoing process of restoring the region’s biodiversity through rehabilitation and restoration, and the reintroduction of animal species, which, long extinct locally, are known to have once roamed freely among the San. In 2002, we started our mission to conserve our unique Little Karoo heritage, ecosystem, and landscapes while also creating employment opportunities for local South Africans. The idea was to follow a “rewilding” conservation method, the first of its kind ever attempted in the arid Karoo environment.

As we were the first to do this, there were no guidelines to follow, through our scientific services on Sanbona, we have developed a growing understanding of the area’s rare and sensitive fauna and flora to suitably manage within this arid environment.

Conservation

A Conservation Milestone

In 2020, Sanbona made history in the Western Cape when it rezoned from agricultural to conservation use and registered the property as a non-profit company. The goal is to use this unique non-profit model to maintain and conserve the reserve for future generations. Furthermore, Sanbona wants to use its large private conservation area as a vehicle to collaborate with conservation bodies and community development as an internationally accepted model for sustainability. Today, Sanbona continues to protect threatened ecosystems, reintroduce extirpated wildlife, and restore degraded habitats preserving numerous rare species.

Conservation

Flagship of Private Conservation in the Western Cape

In recognition of our exemplary achievements, Sanbona is now being proclaimed a nature reserve in partnership with CapeNature. Moreover, its many innovative projects have attracted powerful collaborations with local and international academic institutions and renowned conservation organisations.

Sanbona’s Vegetation Under a Microscope:
Vegetation is a result of the interplay between geological formations and rainfall. Since the Warmwaterberg Mountain Range forms part of the Table Mountain Group, a sedimentary rock that develops into acidic, nutrient-poor soils, the Fynbos biome thrives at Sanbona.

Due to the diverse geological composition of the reserve, not all of its soil is acidic. The Bokkeveld and Witteberg formations on the Sanbona reserve also form nutrient-rich clay soils, allowing the critically endangered Renosterveld vegetation (also part of the Fynbos family) to flourish in the south. To the north of the Warmwaterberg, where the average rainfall drops dramatically, the more arid Succulent Karoo biome multiplies steadily. However, the driest biome, the Thicket, makes up most of the reserve’s vegetation.

Conservation

The Road To Rehabilitation

Two hundred and fifty years of agricultural impact on the Little Karoo has left its mark, influencing Sanbona’s conservation management objectives. Fences, road networks, overgrazing, trampling and ploughing all leave scars on the natural landscape, and the Wildlife Department must facilitate natural rehabilitation of the vegetation as best we can.

By combatting soil erosion, halting the spread of alien vegetation and regulating the wildlife’s impact on vegetation, Sanbona hopes to nourish our land back to life. Although this process is slow, especially in a semi-arid environment such as Sanbona, we are confident that our hard work will bear much fruit in the near future.

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In previous decades, the ‘rewilding’ conservation model had been successfully implemented across South Africa, but this would be the first attempt in an arid Karoo environment. There were no case studies or scientific literature to inform the process, but slowly – with grit and determination – the dream was born on Sanbona Nature and Wilderness Reserve.

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Conservation

Conservation Success Stories

Long before humanity made its mark on the Little Karoo, a wide array of wildlife used to inhabit these vast plains. Through historical records and the application of sustainable innovation, Sanbona is steadily reintroducing animal species that once roamed the area to their natural habitat.

Our Wildlife Department runs this lengthy, ongoing process as continuous study and monitoring of the region is paramount to our success. Our goal is to achieve an ecological balance that will enable a self-sustaining ecosystem to thrive at Sanbona for years to come.

Riverine Rabbit
The highly elusive riverine rabbit is the 13th most endangered mammal globally. Our Wildlife Department continually monitors its formerly-dwindling population, sharing the information gained with CapeNature and the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The presence of a healthy riverine rabbit population on the reserve confirms the vital role played by the private sector in biodiversity conservation.

Desert and Southwestern Black Rhino
Since the very beginning, our reserve has been identified as the ideal reserve for reintroducing black rhino, in particular, the desert and southwestern subspecies. We’ve since successfully reintroduced both these species into our region after being extinct in the region for nearly 200 years, which will help protect this near-threatened species.

Cape Mountain Zebra
We’re proud to have established the most genetically diverse Cape mountain zebra population to help metapopulation growth. It started in 2016 when we assisted CapeNature in removing select family groups of these animals living on farmland around its De Hoop Nature Reserve. We then translocated 28 animals, releasing them onto the 25 000ha predator-free southern section of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. These newcomers of Cradock-Kammanassie origin joined two resident Cape mountain zebras. In 2018, we introduced another ten animals to the Sanbona population to provide genetic diversity and breeding competition. As a result, the Sanbona population was secure and would contribute to genetic diversity and boost sub-populations in other areas.

Cheetah
Cheetahs are racing toward extinction, with only around 7,000 of these elegant cats remaining on earth. They’ve disappeared from approximately 90% of their natural homes across Africa, with Southern Africa now being their only fortress. We embraced the challenge to conserve cheetahs and provide them with sanctuary space at Sanbona. A groundbreaking conservation effort launched in 2003 named Sanbona the first protected area in the Western Cape to reestablish cheetahs back in the wild. With eight cats brought in, we made conservation history once again, with cheetahs now residing in Little Karoo.

Conservation

Sanbona Anti-Poaching Unit

Sanbona’s conservation efforts are built upon our four pillars of security, scenery, stewardship, and sustainability.
Owing to the nature of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve’s vision on conservation of critically endangered species and the reintroduction of historically prevailing species, coupled with range expansion in order to be proactive in safeguarding the future of such species, we recognise poaching as a serious threat. Sanbona’s Anti Poaching Unit (APU) started with a vision to train local youths from the surrounding community to become well-disciplined and focused field rangers on the reserve. Not only would this unit protect the wildlife, but it would also empower the local communities, offering professional job opportunities. Great strides have been made to ensure the very best tailor-made security solutions for Sanbona, to ensure the massive conservation efforts made so far are not compromised. Not now or ever.

Conservation

Team on the ground

Our dedicated Wildlife Department enables us to manage our ecosystem effectively, consisting of:

  • Outsourced wildlife veterinarians
  • Ecologists
  • Conservation managers
  • Security operatives
  • Field staff

Our team takes pride in our status as a conservation pioneer in the Western Cape regarding ecotourism and sustainable development.

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Blog

Explore stories from Sanbona’s plains

Find out what's been happening in and around Sanbona, our conservation success stories, and more in our blog.

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