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Conservation
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NATIONAL ROLE

Mandate

The Game Act and CITES are officially positioned under the office and portfolio of the Head of State, giving wildlife elevated status in the Kingdom. The Head of State has delegated the administration and responsibility of the Game Act to Big Game Parks through the King's Office, whose mandate includes permitting, representing Swaziland on wildlife issues, CITES and law enforcement. All of this is funded from the self-generated revenues of Big Game Parks, making it essential for this institution to be self-sustaining.

Brief History of Environmental Legislation

The colonial government established various environmental laws in the mid-1900's, some of which have been updated from time to time. The responsibility for environmental legislation rests with the Ministries of Tourism & Environment and Agriculture. In 1990, amid Swaziland's Rhino War (1988-1992), King Mswati lll ordered a new draft of the Game Act. The draft included advice from other countries and experts in the field, and finally it was submitted to the King, with extensive explanation. From there, it was taken to the Minister of Agriculture to proceed through the system as a matter of urgency.

More than a year followed while the draft stuck in Parliament, until in desperation, Reilly loaded yet another poached rhino's carcass and delivered it to the King. The reaction was the draft being expedited.

The Game Act was eventually removed from the Ministry of Tourism and placed in the King's Office and, in an unprecedented move, the administration thereof was delegated to Big Game Parks based on track record. This is an incredible honour, and a tight rope. Big Game Parks recognizes the sensitivities and the need for integrity in all matters of administration.

Game Act (1953 as Amended)

The Game Act (1953 as Amended) applies to all wildlife in Swaziland. It relates to 3 different schedules – Common Game, Royal Game and Specially Protected Game.

The Game Act is often referred to as draconian, but it works and the harsh elements are the result of hard lessons learnt. Salient points of the Game Act Amended include:

  • First Schedule – Specially Protected Game (rhino, elephant, lion) – 5 years minimum mandatory imprisonment, without the option of a fine PLUS replacement of the animal taken or its value compensated, failing which an additional 2 years imprisonment;
  • Second Schedule – Royal Game - Mandatory minimum sentence of E4000,00 or 2 years imprisonment, PLUS replacement of the animal taken or its value compensated, with provision that the fine imposed may not be less than the value of the animal taken;
  • Third Schedule – Common Game – Minimum of E600,00 or 6 months imprisonment, PLUS replacement value of the animal taken;
  • Values of each species are gazetted for each Schedule;
  • Section 28 reads – “No sentence or part of any sentence may be suspended by court” and “No vehicle, gun or other apparatus can be released by court unless the accused is acquitted”
  • Mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 months without the option of a fine for any official convicted of defeating the ends of justice;
  • Rangers may search and arrest without a warrant; may use all force necessary to affect arrest; may bear arms and use them in life-threatening circumstances; and in doing any of the above in the course of duty, rangers are immune to prosecution;
  • Non-Bailable Offences Act – Offenders of First & Second Schedule of the Game Act may not be granted bail by the court. (The Non-Bailable Offences Act has since been deemed unconstitutional and removed from laws in Swaziland.)

Schedules

Schedule 1 – Specially Protected Game (PDF link)

Schedule 2 – Royal Game (PDF link)

Schedule 3 – Common Game (PDF link)

Flora is governed by the Flora Act implemented by SNTC.

Cities

Swaziland is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and thereby bound by the convention. Cross-border trade and movement of wildlife and wildlife products are governed by the relevant CITES species appendixes.

cites.org

Permitting Requirements

Permits are required from Big Game Parks for any hunting, harvesting, import, export, translocation, moving, confinement, capture and possession of wildlife or CITES products within Swaziland.

As per the Game Act, Permits are required for:

  • All movements of scheduled species or parts thereof to destinations within Swaziland, or being exported from, or being imported into, Swaziland;
  • All carcases or parts thereof, of scheduled species being translocated to destinations within Swaziland;
  • The capture and conveyance of live scheduled species between destinations;
  • The hunting, culling and possession of scheduled species or parts thereof, within Swaziland;
  • The keeping of scheduled species in captive circumstances;
  • Accredited game capture operators to operate in Swaziland
  • Any scheduled species or products thereof being transited through Swaziland

As per the provision of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), Permits are required for:

  • All species of fauna and flora, all products thereof from all areas of the world, which are listed in the CITES appendices, which are either imported into Swaziland or exported out of Swaziland, or transited through Swaziland.

Please note additional valid permits may be required from relevant countries.

Hunting Season (01 May to 31 August)

The Game Act allows landowners to hunt Schedule lll species (Common Game) during season without a permit on their land.

Permitting Procedure

  1. Complete the relevant Permit Application Form below
  2. Collate Evidence of Providence (proof of legal possession by origin, possession or import as applicable.)
  3. Obtain written authority of landowners as applicable.
  4. Email the above to conservationhq@biggameparks.org for consideration
  5. Await authorization and notification of permit status
  6. Seek reciprocal permits as required for export/import from the other country including:
    1. Veterinary
    2. Nature Conservation of national authority body
    3. CITES
    4. Collect permit from Big Game Parks Headquarters, Malkerns or arrange courier

Application Forms:

  • Game Act & CITES Import, Export, Translocate, Transit, Move, Confine or Capture Game or Game Products Permit

Download Form

  • Problem Game Animal Control Permit

Download Form

  • Capture, Translocate, Move, Confine, Possession of Game or Game Product within Swaziland Permit

Download Form

  • Hunt or Cull Game Permit

Download Form

Please note: further clarification and information may be requested before permits are issued.

HISTORY OF CONSERVATION IN SWAZILAND

Introduction

In the beginning, it is easy to identify the theme of each decade, but as conservation matures, this becomes more difficult.

Pre 1960's From rich hunting grounds to decimation of wildlife Populations

At the turn of the last century, the Swaziland lowveld (east) was considered a rich hunting ground, providing wagonloads of meat for the growing mining industry in Jo'berg. Amazingly, legislation was developed for the protection of various aspects of the wildlife and environmental heritage between 1914 and 1953. The first protected area was established in 1860, but discarded for British soldier settlement after the World War 1. Swaziland then succumbed to the “taming of the land” attitude of colonial rule, and wildlife paid the price.

1960's Establishment of Conservation Ethic

At the age of 21 years, Ted Reilly proposed the British Government establish a National Park System for Swaziland, but this was declined on the grounds that Swazis could visit Kruger to the north, or Hluhluwe to the South. Reilly refused to accept this and approached King Sobhuza ll, who gave full support, seeing the value of national heritage.

Reilly converted his own farm, establishing Swaziland's pioneer park Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, and Hlane Royal National Park soon after. Strategic relations began with Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Dr Anton Rupert and WWF, creating long-term friendships. The 1960's was a time of establishment, reintroductions and foundation relationships. Swaziland regained her independence from Britain in 1968.

1970's Twin Priorities – Secure Conservation Land base and Environmental Education

Having established two conservation areas, it was time to establish Reilly's dream of a park system. The formidable 2-man team of Ted & Liz Reilly realized Swaziland's original Protection Worthy Areas Survey and successfully motivated the creation of Swaziland National Trust Commission (SNTC).

Reilly identified twin priorities – secure conservation land and educate the nation. 4 conservation areas were established, 2 private and 2 government, along with the National Environmental Education Programme (NEEP), based at Mlilwane. Intensive education was engaged over Swazi Radio reaching all corners of the country. The Nguni conservation project was adopted, saving this breed from the brink of extinction thanks to King Sobhuza ll.

1980's Building viable wildlife populations, establishing anti-poaching team

More land comes under conservation, with resident populations growing well, enhanced by additional game reintroductions. While international support grows, local politics play devil with conservation agencies. Reilly leaves SNTC after 17 years and concentrates on parks under his direct management.

In 1988 Commercial rhino poaching hits Swaziland, reducing the national numbers by 70-80% in 4 short years.

1990's International Eco Tourism increases

Swaziland's Rhino War reaches climax, resulting in the amendment of the Game Act, which together with strong implementation, brings an end to the rhino war. The Game Act is transferred to the King's Office and conservation politics become public domain.

While conservation becomes politically explosive, eco tourism surges through extended marketing efforts and Big Game Parks intensifies her forerunner role in eco-tourism with associated increase in private investment and development of tourism product. Big Game Parks name was adopted for marketing purposes.

2000's Promotion of Private Game Farms

Swaziland's conservation and tourism sectors mature and grow, with implementation of legislation and establishment of parastatal Authorities. Groundwork is done to promote Game Farming as a viable land use, with great success.

Conservation law enforcement intensifies and very positive relationships develop with relevant law enforcement agencies locally and regionally. More Endangered species projects are established resulting in highly productive collaboration with international zoos. Swaziland receives numerous wildlife visitors from across the border, creating much excitement.

Eco-tourism developments and implementation of internal tourism standards bring Big Game Parks in line with regional tourism offering.

2010's Forging Links with International Conservation Agencies & Donors

Conservation and humanitarian politics begin to threaten the effectiveness of ranger force and undermine the Game Act. Genetic management of wildlife populations intensifies, with extension of game farming and the establishment of the Swaziland Game Ranchers Association. Rhino poaching reaches crisis proportions in Southern Africa, while Swaziland holds the record for lowest poaching losses.

Problem animal control pressures increase as human population expands and wildlife habitat diminishes. National Conservation takes on a more formal and bureaucratic character.

Reilly and Big Game Parks step back from the bureaucracy while maintaining the administration of the Game Act.

Download History PDF

BIO DIVERSITY

Swaziland is a tiny country, smaller than the Kruger National Park, yet it is blessed with 4 geo-regions including Highveld, middleveld, lowveld and the unique Lebombo Mountains. We have more bird species than Kruger (500). Each of our parks sports well over 200 bird species. Big Game Parks manages parks in each of these areas, offering incredible diversity of habitat and tourism experience.

Biodiversity has become a buzzword in conservation circles in recent times, but in the 1960's when Ted Reilly began his conservation dream, all that was evident was that Swaziland had lost her rich wildlife heritage to exploitation and extermination in the name of advancement. Habitat loss is of real concern in our small Kingdom, which naturally has an incredibly diverse ecology.

Throughout our very brief 50-year exposure to the realities of nature, Big Game Parks' aim has been to safeguard environments and re-establish species in Swaziland. Swaziland has 2 broad biomes, Savanna & Grassland, with small areas of thicket and forest. The mountainous west has temperatures ranging from sub-zero on winter nights to summer daytime temperatures of 30+ deg Celsius, altitude 660-1800m asl (above sea level), annual rainfall over 1200. This area is largely grassland, and Mlilwane falls into this category.

The eastern lowlands are typically savanna – temperatures can drop to about 0 deg on cold winter nights in depressions, but daytime temperatures range between 20-45 deg Celsius, altitude 200-300m asl, annual rainfall 235-1000mm. Both Hlane and Mkhaya fall into this biome. Within these broad biomes, each park has their own habitat variations. Habitats are dynamic and modified by chosen land use.

Since 1960, 22 species of larger game have been reintroduced to Swaziland, all of which had gone locally extinct. These species are broad spectrum, from common game to endangered species, including Swaziland's Royal Symbols, the lion and elephant.

Swaziland has survived an onslaught of poaching and trafficking of species which severely threatened biodiversity. From subsistence poaching to commercial horn poaching, with commercial meat poaching and illegal export of thousands of wild birds in between, along with heavy-handed mineral and agricultural deals, our small country has seen the dark side and valiantly stood its ground in maintaining biodiversity.

Protection Worthy Areas Survey of 1979

Ted & Liz Reilly initiated and conducted the Protection Worthy Areas Survey of 1979 in order to record the status quo. This document was intensive and led to the protection of 6 formal conservation areas in Swaziland. It has also formed the basis of more recent studies. Of XX areas suggested, only 6 were legally protected, although there is a recent renewed effort by the Swazi Government to extend land under conservation.

Iconic Species

Certain species have played an ‘iconic' role in the history of Big Game Parks. They may not make the typical line up for other countries, but in some way or form, they have contributed enormously to the progression of conservation in Swaziland, or are significant in some unique way and therefore require their story is told.  Among these are Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Roan Antelope, Nguni and Vultures.

Mammals

Big Game Parks suggests that our organization focuses on the larger mammal species. Mammals are notoriously more popular with the general park visitor than other classes, hence the name. Interestingly, the species count under mammals is generally much lower than other animal classes. The species listed are those most likely to be seen. The smaller mammals such as rodents are not listed but do exist.

Big Game Parks Mammal Species List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

Birds

Between our parks, there is a wide range of grassland, forest, woodland, aquatic and montane birdlife, even where the habitat occurs in small pockets. Preferred habitats are indicated on the lists for convenience. In the 1980's, Big Game Parks arrested an international syndicate which was exporting thousands of wild birds to the Far East. The birds were mostly aquatic fowl and owls whose populations were severely impacted on and which have recovered to some extent. The list below is a Swaziland list, with the park species indicated in separate columns.

Big Game Parks Bird Species List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

Reptiles

All our parks have a variety of reptiles including crocodiles, tortoises, terrapins, lizards and snakes. The most popular are the crocodiles, with the monitor lizards and the colourful and charismatic Southern Tree Agama a close second. Terrapins often test the eye, especially when they hitch a ride on hippo. The most feared of course are the snakes, of which the endangered African Rock Python is an exciting sighting.  The list below is based on species which probably occur in Swaziland, with park species indicated in respective columns.

Big Game Parks Reptile Species List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

Amphibians

In Swazi culture, frogs and toads are often feared and poorly respected. However these amphibious creatures are top indicators of the health of an environment. If they disappear, it is a sure sign that the area is out of balance. Our parks are home to numerous interesting amphibians and during summer, their calls are deafening.  The list below is based on species which probably occur in Swaziland, with park species indicated in respective columns.

Big Game Parks Amphibians Species List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

Arthropods

The insects and spiders are a large group, and of course occur in great diversity. Look closely and marvel at the incredible colours and shapes. Special mention is made of the essential dung beetle and termites, with respect to all other arthropods.

Trees

Swaziland's growing human population is causing deforestation and desertification at an alarming rate, along with the reduced medicinal plant resource. Conservation beyond park boundaries hardly exists, making Parks far more valuable and simultaneously vulnerable into the future. The concept of natural resources benefit sharing is a huge challenge for smaller parks and countries in Africa, with little regard to the practical balance of demand and supply, nor the heavy private investment made in order to conserve resources.

Big Game Parks Tree Species List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

This list includes trees not indigenous to Swaziland, but growing on our parks. Many of these were planted at Mlilwane in the 1960's as part of a botanical garden for education purposes.

Plants & Wild Flowers

Wild flowers bring the veld alive, especially in spring. The mountains of Mlilwane are floral delights, while the bushveld has its fair share of flowers. Quite apart form the flowers, the parks have interesting and diverse plant life.  The list below is based the beginnings of a spcies list, mostly collated on Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.  Work is currently underway to extend and develop this list for our other parks.

Big Game Parks Plant & Wild Flower List

We welcome any comments and updates to our species lists.

MEDIA

Filming

Big Game Parks has an astonishing conservation history, with results that show on the ground. A variety of habitats offer diversity of wildlife and scenery across our three parks. Our wildlife is amazingly tolerant of humans, which makes for brilliant documentary footage. The small size of our parks and the high levels of security reduce the time needed for collecting footage, therefore providing venues very attractive to film makers. All filming requires adherence to our Filming Policy. Interested parties are required to complete our Application Form, and permission is awarded on merit of each application. Please note, film crews are required to apply for permission to the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT).

Film Policy Doc 

Film Application Form

Media Visits

We receive many requests from media, covering conservation and tourism subjects. Bona fide media are welcome on our parks, having been authorised by either our Marketing or Conservation Departments. All media are requested to abide by our Media Policy. Interested parties are required to complete our Application Form, and permission is awarded on merit of each application. Please note, media groups are required to apply for permission to the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT).

Media Visit Policy Doc 

Media Visit Application Form 

Ministry of ICT

Press Releases

CoP17 Proposal

Rhinos Need Help

 

PROJECTS

Many projects are multi-pronged in that they may focus on one project category, but their benefit spreads through other categories, or one project may require work in different categories simultaneously. The categories below are broad for this reason.

Potential Projects PDF

Anti-Poaching, Equipment & Training

Big Game Parks' anti-poaching team is in essence self-funded and operates nation-wide in accordance to the Game Act. Our team is small and hailed as one of the better teams in existence. We maintain intricate strategic links with other teams and organisations across the SADC region, constantly reinventing skills and sharing information on endangered species crimes, while maintaining vigilance on the local bush meat trade. Big Game Parks' has an impressive arrest record, supported by its investment in local Environmental Awareness within the country to curb poaching and encourage the embracing of conservation ethics.

Ranger equipment includes reconnaissance, combat and communication equipment. Ranger training includes everything from basic tracking, apprehension, combat & scene of crime skills. We have recently developed a Tracker dog unit with the help of stoprhinopoaching.com .

Our major donors in anti-poaching have included Ngwenya Rhino Fund, stoprhinopoaching.com, Neushoring and Individuals including Andrew Dorking.

Poaching & trafficking hotline +268 7604 3867 /  76 500 501 or poachingalerts@biggameparks.org

Species Propagation

Given that the inception of Mlilwane eventually led to the creation of Big Game Parks and formal conservation in the kingdom, and that Ted Reilly has stood at the helm throughout the 50+ years, Big Game Parks can be credited with re-introducing over 22 mammal species which had gone locally extinct in the Kingdom. Of great significance to the Swazi nation, this included the return of our national cultural symbols (the Lion and Elephant).

Over 50 years, wildlife populations have grown and with the relatively small size of our conservation areas in Swaziland, there is a call for more intricate wildlife management. Natural migrations and balances are difficult to maintain without radical peaks and troughs. Populations are controlled through game capture and translocation and culling programmes as best fit. It is fascinating to note that Big Game Parks has restocked the Sabi Sand with wildebeest and KZN with Nyala – a species KZN is known for. Most of the parks and game areas in Swaziland have been stocked with Big Game Parks surplus stock, a sign of successful conservation.

Any habitat improvement benefits all species in an area, however our focus is to ensure the propagation of endangered, rare and threatened species, including those locally threatened. Species Propagation projects include game capture, relocation, re-establishment and genetic management.

The following links highlight some of these projects:

Small Antelope & Endangered Species Programme

Roan Antelope Programme

Our major donors in species propagation have included Natal Parks Board (Now Ezimvelo Wildlife), National Parks Board (Now SANParks), Comanis Foundation, Back to Africa, Marwell Zoo, WWF, Taiwan, San Deigo Zoo, Back to Africa. A little history on some of the more iconic species is offered under the Bio-Diversity section of this page.

Range Expansion, Infrastructure, Development And Upgrades

Conservation requires space, preferably with intact habitats. Swaziland does not have much pristine natural environment left outside conservation areas, and even within, they have often been modified by past ranching and agriculture. Both Mlilwane and Mkhaya were commercial farming operations, with the veld modified as a result of cultivation (Mlilwane) and overgrazing (Mkhaya). Both these areas still bear the scars but the bush has bounced back convincingly and the biodiversity and land value multiplied. It is fast becoming obvious that the more land under conservation, the healthier the resource base is of the country.

Projects in this category include land purchase, fencing, habitat management, dams & water reticulation, anti poaching towers, ranger pickets and roads. Our major donors in Range Expansion, Infrastructure, Development and Upgrades have included Prince Bernhard, WWF, San Deigo Zoo.

Community Projects And Human-Animal Conflict

Big Game Parks' national Game Act mandate takes us into rural communities nation-wide, handling human-animal conflict of various proportions. This experience has lead to the initiation of donor partner projects in select communities, which benefit the community directly, such as water projects, hippo and crocodile management and education. We are very grateful to have solid support from organisations and individuals in these various projects.

Our major donors in community, human-animal conflict & education have included Cologne Zoo, Swazi Kidz, the Carlson Family and many minor donors.

Human-Animal Conflict pdf

Research & Monitoring

Nature is dynamic and on-going research and monitoring is essential to maintain rhythm and relevance. Researchers and scientists are consulted when a specific need arises.

Botanical Garden

During the establishment of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in the 1960's, the Rest Camp was planted up as a botanical garden showcasing tree species from sub-Saharan Africa. This project included Gilbert Reynolds Memorial Aloe Garden, with his daughter, Liz Reilly, receiving half of his collection. In time the trees grew, casting shade that compromised the Aloes. See Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary for the Botanical Walk.

In 2001 a new Botanical Garden was developed on Mlilwane Hill, with ample sun for the Aloes, gentle walking trails and the ever-present antelope, chosen for their grazing rather than browsing habits.

Our major donors in the Botanical Garden have included...

Environmental Education

In the 1970's Mlilwane did extensive environmental education over Swazi Radio, reaching all corners of the kingdom. This developed into the National Environmental Education Programme (NEEP) in 1975, housed at Mlilwane until it moved to SNTC in the 1980's. During this time, outreach programmes and in-house participation projects were conducted, supported by USAID and wonderful individuals including Dr Irma Allen and Suzie Ellis. The ethos of school visits was established.

Hlane Royal National Park and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary continue with highly subsidized school visits, averaging over 13000 local school children and teachers every year. For many Swazis, this is the only time in their life they will get to see an impala, let alone lion, elephant or rhino.

With the celebration of our 50th Anniversary in 2014, Big Game Parks has implemented media and participative environmental awareness programmes within Swaziland. These include campaigns such as #ConservationConversation discussion on Swazi Radio, Instameets #LookCloser, and celebrating Swazi Conservation Day on the 12th July annually.

Our major donors in Environmental Education have included the USAID, Canada Fund, Engen.

Big Game Parks has adopted a more artisitc angle in recent years, combining conservation with the arts in anattemtpt to better engage the community at large.  This has included collaboration with Swaziland's infamous Bushfire Festival, commissioning of sculptures and commissioning ELA BHEJANE, a beautifully African song crafted to celebrate our rhino in a positive and soulful manner.  THis amazing song was launched at Bushfire 2016, created and performed by Kyle Deutch (SA) and Mozaik (Swaziland).  The video was filmed exclusively on Big Game Parks.

Ela Bhejane - Kyle Deutch & Mozaik

Nguni Conservation

Rather lost in History and documentation around the indigenous Nguni Cattle breed is the fact that the pure Nguni was literally saved from extinction in Swaziland, not South Africa. In the 1970's King Sobhuza ll lamented the disappearance of the indigenous Nguni cattle through contamination with foreign breeds.

Identifying the Nguni as a conservation project, the Reilly's began a country-wide search for pure beasts. Liz Reilly's sharp eye was trained by invaluable insight and knowledge gleaned from rural Swazi cattlemen, Mandathane Ndzimandze being the star. The breed was so deeply crossbred that a in 1975 a small herd of 20 cattle was mustered with the foundation bull being bought off a truck destined for slaughter. Only 4 suitable cattle could be chosen out of the supposedly pure Zulu herd. Nguni are small cattle and were therefore considered inferior, taking 5 years of hard promotion to convince the South African Stud Book to recognize the Nguni Breed. Today the Nguni Breed Society is the largest of its kind in Southern Africa. It's a fascinating story...

NGUNI HISTORY PDF

Documentation

Throughout the 50 years, Big Game Parks has contributed to national conservation in numerous ways. Mlilwane initiated the creation of a number of historical documentary films including Rhino Ride (recording the return of white rhino, 1965), Jezebel (an Anglia Survival production recording the beginnings of Mlilwane, 1966), Custodians and Imvelo Yakitsi (educational, 1983) all produced with Howard Kirk. 2 books have been written by Ted & Liz Reilly recording historical events through the 50 years – The Mlilwane Story (1985) and The Lion Roars Again (1994)

Tourism Infrastructure

Tourism infrastructure enables revenue-earning possibilities, which in turn finance all conservation efforts. Big Game Parks is self-sustaining, covering costs of conservation and maintaining tourism through tourism revenues, conservation revenues and highly valued donor support.

Our major donors in Tourism Infrastructure include British Government, South African Government, SNTC

Community Projects

See Community Projects for information on Natural Resource Harvesting, Water & Resource Conservation Projects, Problem Animal Control and Recycling.

AFFILIATES

While Big Game Parks, and each of our individual parks, are self-sustaining on tourism and conservation revenues, contributions from individuals and organisations make large projects possible in a more effective time frame. It is also through strategic partnerships that beautiful things happen!

Over 50+ years, Big Game Parks has been privileged to enjoy the support of incredible individuals and organisations, each having a personal material hand in the creation and conservation of Big Game Parks and Swaziland’s natural heritage.

Outstanding Individual Contributors

Two generations of the Royal House of SWAZILAND, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Dr Anton Rupert of South Africa and the Prettejohn Family of Swaziland stand out in their support of Big Game Parks over many decades.

HM King MSwati lll is a solid supporter of conservation in Swaziland, recognizing our intrinsic link to nature and the significance of the environment in Swazi tradition. His Majesty is a leader who is not easily swayed by public opinion and is a realist.

HM King Sobhuza ll, with incredible foresight, supported the Conservation initiative when many, including traditionalists and learned individuals, challenged it. Although Mlilwane was officially opened 4 years before Swaziland regained her independence, it was King Sobhuza’s support which made it all possible. In fact, King Sobhuza ll changed the land use of his own personal farm, Hlane, to conservation having seen the cultural and conservation value of Mlilwane.

HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands had an incredible impact on Big Game Parks spanning 50 years. Our association began at a World Wildlife Fund Conference in Europe in 1967, where Prince Bernhard was intrigued by the Mlilwane initiative and personally opened doors which lead to a successful Sanctuary. Remaining a friend to the end, Prince Bernhard supported Big Game Parks with sound advice, a donation of black rhino and finance. HRH Prince Bernhard’s generosity has been overwhelming, to say the least. Following his donation of black rhinos to Mkhaya, Prince Bernhard and Dr Anton Rupert visited a year later to see them and were so impressed that HRH visited us annually thereafter right up until his passing in 2002. Prince Bernhard was horrified at the extravagance of bank loan repayments which were encumbering the development of our parks. Expansion of Mkhaya by means of bank loans at an interest rate of up to 25% had equated to paying the capital cost of one large property 4 times over in interest alone before we were able to pay off the capital, and this caused Prince Bernhard to clear our bonds with the bank and to loan us the money at 3%. Then, from his hospital bed, the Prince required Ted Reilly’s urgent written approval to convert his loan into a gift. His Royal Highness passed away 2 days after he signed the conversion papers in his hospital bed. Ted Reilly attended his funeral in Delft.

Wherever one goes in the wildlife world, Prince Bernard’s presence is felt. In the remotest places you will find a tree planted by the Prince here, or a monument opened by him there. He is everywhere – even in this tiny Kingdom of Swaziland, and as co-founder of WWF with Sir Peter Scott, a former Foundation Trustee of Mlilwane, he has left in his wake many wildlife legacies which have immortalised him and his generosity. Prince Bernard was truly a great man and a very dear friend.

Dr Anton Rupert was creating the South Africa Nature Foundation (SANF - now WWF SA) at the same time Mlilwane was coming into being. Prince Bernhard introduced Reilly to Dr Rupert, and as a result Mlilwane became the first project to receive funding through SANF. Dr Rupert was amazed at a young man handing his entire inheritance over to conservation, creating a Trust to protect it and that the land was extremely fertile, unlike other areas placed under conservation.

The Prettejohn Family of Ngwenya Glass Swaziland set up the Ngwenya Rhino Fund at a time when funding for rhino conservation was critical. With the blessing of the Prettejohn Family, this Fund has broadened its application and developed into a channel for conservation donations. Consistent funding of any size is extremely valuable. See Ngwenya Rhino Fund under the Donate tab for more details.

Corinne Itten of Switzerland took a particular shine to our endangered and threatened species project because of her love of nature and the joy she derived from actually seeing the fruits of her contributions in the animals being propagated during her many visits to Swaziland. Corinne and her Comanis Foundation have helped to establish roan antelope, suni, vaal rhebuck, blue duiker, and has sponsored essential fencing costs among other developments. She paid for a sable and a red hartebeest bull, to diversify the genetics of these two species in Swaziland, but the sable she sponsored was unfortunately struck down by lightning before it could be used. This bull has recently been replaced by two more.

Critical Supporters In Foundation Years

Mlilwane’s Founding Trustees – Guided by Dr Anton Rupert’s advice, the foundation Trustees were hand-picked for their various skill sets, moral standing and credibility. Each bought in to the Mlilwane dream, and we were fortunate to have extremely influential and high quality guidance from our founding Trustees including Sir Peter Scott, Sidney Spiro, Dr Tony Harthoorn, James Verwey, Howard Kirk, Johnny Payne, Ted Reilly, Billie Wallis, Mfundza Lukhati. Liz Reilly, Johnny Masson, Grahame Lindop, Ian Haggie, Chief Sifuba, Shovela Munro. Pierce Newton King and Hugo O’Hagan Ward became Trustees at a later stage.

South African Nature Foundation (SANF, now WWF SA) recognized the passion, dedication and integrity in Reilly and his team, choosing Mlilwane as their first project in southern Africa. SANF financed the purchase of Nyonyane Mountain which quadrupled the size of the Sanctuary, making it a much more viable conservation area.

Natal Parks Board (NPB, now KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife) was spear-heading the art of game capture and breaking unprecedented ground in rhino conservation while Mlilwane was in her infancy. NPB supported our fledgling Sanctuary with the supply of mammals, including white rhino. Sharing the same pioneering spirit, solid friendships enabled the sharing of invaluable guidance and skills.

South African National Parks Board came on board, supplying game, advice and expertise. Anglo American enlarged the size of Mlilwane, again enhancing her viability as a conservation area.

Benefactors

There have been so many generous individuals and organisations that have supported Big Game Parks throughout our existence. We have attempted to collate a List of Benefactors to express our gratitude and record their contributions. We apologise for any unintended omissions.

Benefactors PDF

Become a Benefactor

Please visit our Donate page for information on how to support our conservation efforts.

Affiliated Organizations

Big Game Parks is affiliated with a number of organisations in various ways.

Wild Programme – A SANParks initiative providing affordable annual access to conservation areas in South Africa. This was extended to other organisations, and Big Game Parks is the only non-South African partner in the Wild Programme. There are currently 5 partners in the Wild Programme including SANParks, CapeNature, Msinsi Holdings, Ezimvelo KZN and Big Game Parks.

Wild Card Programme

Lebombo Conservancy is a collaboration between Mbuluzi Game Reserve, YSIS, Mlawula Nature Reserve, Shewula Community and Hlane Royal National Park. Although the boundaries between the parks are still fenced, park management teams work together on the conservation of the greater area.

Lebombo Conservancy 

African Rhino Specialist Group

Game Rangers Association of South Africa

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Ngwenya Rhino Fund 

Ngwenya Glass is a famous Swaziland export, producing exciting and creative high quality recycled glass products that are underpinned by the very essence of sustainability and environmental ethics.

The Ngwenya Rhino Fund created by Alix and Richard Prettejohn in 1989, is the Kingdom's most successful conservation fund, originally focused on addressing the plight of the rhino during Swaziland’s first rhino war in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s during which Swaziland lost nearly 80% of her rhinos to poaching in 4 short years.

Richard & Alix’s initiative has been continued by their son’s family, Chas & Cathy.  The Prettejohn family’s contribution to nature conservation has been extremely generous and meaningful and included for a while, a percentage of the gross takings of Ngwenya Glass worldwide.

The Ngwenya Rhino Fund was later handed over to Big Game Parks to administer, becoming Big Game Parks’ donor account.  While endangered species remain a priority aim, all conservation projects have knock on benefits for all species. With approval of the Prettejohn family, the Fund has diversified its scope and has since received substantial contributions from organisations and individuals across the globe.  Donations from most of our Benefactors listed under Affiliates have been channeled through Ngwenya Rhino Fund.

Every cent of all donations is spent directly on projects. No donor money is spent on administration, extravagant dinners, costly travel and other costs. All costs are prudently incurred and are absorbed by Big Game Parks recurrent budget. Parkinson’s Law is entirely absent from the project, maximising the cost effectiveness of all donations.

The funds have been utilised by Big Game Parks in a number of ways including (but not limited to):

  • Animal transport and immobilization and treatments
  • Anti-poaching projects (Staff training & Recruitment)
  • Payment of rewards to poaching informants
  • Observation Tower Construction
  • Equipment Procurement
  • Park expansions
  • Management of endangered and threatened species
  • The Botanic Gardens on Mlilwane Hill
  • Certain other vital conservation needs

Combating poaching is a massive drain on resources, particularly for a private not-for-profit Trust which relies on tourism receipts in the absence of government subsidies. The Ngwenya Rhino & Elephant Fund provides much needed monetary support to assist us in preserving Swaziland's natural heritage and keep the threat of extinction at bay. 

Potential Projects

Big Game Parks is a private Trust, serviced through self-generated income.  We have a number of incredible and loyal supporters to whom we are most grateful.  We believe our work is never done, and some amazing projects with huge add-on community benefits are still in the pipeline, requiring funding.  Contributions towards the potential projects listed below are most welcome.  Interested parties will be sent a detailed project proposal together with a business and implementation plan.  Kindly email our Conservation Department for assistance.

Potential Projects PDF

Donation Pledge