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Ethical tourism and affordable game drives are on your doorstep Gauteng! This is our favourite.

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve and coffee shop prides itself on being one of the top ethical tourism destinations in the province. The reserve was brilliant.

 

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is situated in Pretoria and boasts a wonderful amount of wildlife. Good Things Guy visited the reserve to interview Ranger Brad Stevens.

We were set to meet up with Brad at the Rietvlei Coffee shop and before we even got halfway there we spotted a sleeping Rhino in the veld. We watched as his body vibrated with every breath he took and he flicked the flies away from his ears. It was a sight we will never forget!

Sitting down with Ranger Brad Stevens was an experience in itself. His passion for conservation and promoting ethical tourism was evident in every word. His knowledge of the wildlife in the park and everything being done to protect them was fascinating! We don’t want to leave any detail out so we are breaking the interview down into categories.

The Reserve protects more than just the Rhino, they are saving the Cheetah by working with other reserves across Africa and rescuing Lions from unethical parks and private breeders. The reserve is owned by the Tshwane Municipality and is managed by Tshwane conservation.

Saving the Rhino and proactively reducing poaching.

Currently, in the reserve, there are 13 Rhino, a few of which are breeding pairs. In 2017 the reserve had two new births and they are both doing really well.

The reserve started being proactive in the war on poaching and started dehorning the Rhino in 2010. This method and constant policing are working for the reserve.

“Night patrols are always fairly effective. Visible policing is one way to go, especially when you looking at a smaller reserve. So we have about 3800 hectares surrounding us, with quite a large volunteer base.”

The Honorary Rangers are one of the groups involved in the reserve but there is also a group called ‘Friends of Rietvlei’ who do patrols and fundraising. They help the reserve with funds for any equipment needed.

The Rhino we saw on our way in, his name is ‘Oorkies’ (we are not 100% on the spelling of his name), is over 30 years old and was one of the original Rhino in the park. He has contributed to quite a few generations of Rhino.

Cheetah population rehabilitation and new babies!

The Cheetah in the reserve are a mating pair and recently three cubs were born. We never managed to spot them while on the drive but we learned a lot about the Cheetah we didn’t know before.

“The Cheetah breeding programme is another awesome project going on here, it is run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust in association with 56 other reserves, continent-wide. It’s about broadening gene pools.”

When the cubs become active hunters, they will be selected to move to other reserves to diversify the gene pool.

“Fairly recently we have realised that Cheetah is critically endangered.”

“With Cheetah especially and why I think it is very important that we do mix up gene pools is because of what we call the bottleneck effect. We had a lot of Cheetah, they were all hunted and then we took the remaining few to breed. So now all of them share the same genes. If you get one disease you can lose the entire population.”

Genetic variation creates resilience which will save the cheetah population should they ever be hit by an illness or disease. The reserve swaps cheetah with other reserves within South Africa and African countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe and Kenya to name a few.

Saving canned Lion and offering an ethical tourism experience.

The Lion project is a private project being run inside the reserve. It is something Brad believes has huge potential, especially in South Africa where lion tourism is done so poorly.

“We offer homes for rescued lions. The three adults were actually confiscated from a guy keeping them as illegal pets and the other three were donated to the project. They came from one of those ‘walking with tourists’ places. In both cases, the lion cannot hunt and we don’t want to let them reproduce when there are 6000 to 8000 captive lions in our country”

“There are only 2500 lions in the wild in our big parks which is the same number as Black Rhino.” he continued “what I am trying to do there is educate the public, ‘don’t go pet a blady lion, you directly supporting canned lion hunting!'”

“Ethical toursim is what we are all about, you don’t need to interact with that lion, elephant or whatever” 

You can never release a canned lion, they are not genetically fit and they can’t hunt. The lion project is a seperate fee and is done by Brad from the Rietvlei Coffee Shop. It is aimed at educating tourists and doesn’t allow any interaction with the lions.

The lion tour is rated as one of only two ethical tours in the province according to the Tshwane Tourism association. Ethical tourism is important and the project also works to educate school children on the issue.

Other wildlife in the park and surrounding areas.

The Cheetah is not the only predators on the reserve, a few are nocturnal so we missed them and others were really good at hiding but Brad confirmed that there are Caracal, Serval, Meerkat, Mongoose, Brown Hyena and Black Back Jackel to name a few. They have also seen signs of Leopard that come in from across the farms.

You can also spot Aardvark, Aardwolf, a massive variety of buck and bird life. We even heard the nearby hippo snorting away in the water while we had our picnic at the Marais Dam picnic site.

The reserve and all its beauty.

The reserve is in Pretoria and is really cheap to enter, we paid R55.00 per person and spent the entire day there. There are 60kms of tar and dirt roads that allow you to spot all kinds of wildlife. There are a few hides scattered around the reservve that allow you to sit quietly and watch the wildlife right below.

There is also a beautiful picnic spot to sit and have lunch at or you could eat at the Coffee Shop.

Brad Stevens can be seen below shortly after our interview as well as some pictures from the reserve including the sleeping Rhino we spotted when we first arrived.


Sources: GTG interview
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