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Home » Volume 55 Issue 4- February-March 2018 » Feature » Article Details

The untamed conservation reserve

The Khama Rhino Sanctuary’s unspoiled, untamed environment stirs deep emotions and enables you to experience the wild side of Botswana.

Before the unforgettable two hours game drive experience that Friday afternoon, I marveled at the sky as the dark clouds morphed from a sky blue into a glowing giant deep purple.

Our tour guide who only identified himself as OG had assured us that this was a superb time to catch sight of the park’s teeming wildlife.

I was eager to make the most of my experience here and asked if I could explore the wilderness on foot but was warned that I might make a good meal for nocturnal predators who have now winded down to daytime slumber tired from hunting the previous night.

Nevertheless rhino tracking adventures are offered as part of the package here. Once again today we are fortunate to visit because it is that time of the year when the circle of life unfolds, a time normally referred to as the mating period.

We took on to our open safari vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser 4.5 litre engine and in the expansive interior before us lies an 8 600hectare conservation park, awash with greenery and the surrounding bush still moistened by the recent past heavy rains.

A few metres from the main gate the sound of our vehicle causes the grazing antelope, three male kudus to be precise, to pause and watch us curiously.

According to authorities here the idea of this breathtaking wildlife reserve was formulated some twenty eight years ago.

“In 1989 a group of Serowe residents conceived the idea of a wildlife reserve near Serowe. Serwe Pan, a large grass-covered depression with several natural water holes that was then being used as a cattle post. The area had been a traditional hunting area teeming with wildlife in the past, and the residents wished to re-establish it to its earlier splendour. In 1993 the Ngwato Land Board allocated the land around Serwe Pan to Khama Rhino Sanctuary Trust” explains acting chief warden Thapelo Baiphethi.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary Trust (KRST) is a community based Non-Governmental Organisation conceived in 1989 and formally registered in 1992.

KRST is run by a Board of Trustees elected by the participating villages of Serowe, Paje and Mabeleapodi.

According to Baiphethi trustees are elected after every two years at kgotla meetings in the three villages.

A Management Committee comprising certain members of the Board of Trustees and other members of the public meets on a regular basis to give advice and support to the Trust’s management team.

The Board of Trustees appoints the Committee after every election of the Trustees. Communities of the participating villages are informed about any developments relating to the Trust’s projects through the Kgotla meetings.
Baiphethi said a certain white man namely Raymond Watson who had business ventures in the area was instrumental in the establishment of the sanctuary.

President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama is said to have advised for the conservation of the rhinoceros species which was facing serious extinction here.

By then only four rhinos were left in their population. Diamond mining company Debswana provided funds for fencing then stocking begun, and that was the beginning of the Khama Rhino sanctuary.

Though Baiphethi admitted to financial challenges in the formative years he explains that over the past ten years there has been a relative financial stability mainly due to the sanctuary’s strategic location, a gateway to the Okavango Delta.
Serwe Pan was chosen as the site for the Sanctuary due to its excellent habitat for rhinos, central location and proximity to a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) base, which provides the Sanctuary with 24hours protection.

The Sanctuary started with a land that covered approximately 4 300 hectares of Kalahari sandveld. 

An additional land of 4 285 hectares was later allocated to the Sanctuary and is currently 8 585 hectares.

Serwe Pan provides prime habitat for white rhinos and other grazing animals, whilst the dense vegetation in the southern area of the Sanctuary is favoured by browsing animals such as giraffe.

Somewhere closer to one of the pans inside the park our guide highlighted to us what an untrained eye would have skimmed over, but years of thorough training unveiled what would turn out to be rhino tracks.

Darkness gathered slowly and soon thrilling calls of the wild became highly audible signaling the end of the day.

Few antelopes could be seen retreating to their various habitats, and I also head back with my team to our lodge and rest.

Facts and Figures of the Khama Rhino Sanctuary

The 8 600h KRS has grown considerable in terms of infrastructure development and diversity of fauna.

The sanctuary houses 56 white rhinos and 5 black rhinos, making it the largest single rhino population in Botswana in an enclosed area.

The sanctuary has a good population of giraffe, eland, zebra, water bucks gemsbok, hartebeest, kudu, impala, springbok and ostrich. Predators such as leopard, brown hyena and black backed jackal as well as aardwolf, aardvark, bat eared fox and small cats are found in the sanctuary. Over 230 bird species have been sighted in the sanctuary.

To date over 20 white rhino have been translocated to other parts of Botswana. The sanctuary’s founding population was only four rhino that were captured in Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve.
95% of the staff members currently employed by the trust are from the three participating villages. KRT has a staff complement of 50 employees. ENDS

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