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Warm greetings to our extended Babanango family and welcome to our July newsletter in which we will be bringing you up to date on all of the conservation news from our beautiful slice of KwaZulu-Natal paradise!
Creating a brand new game reserve is no small job! The team here at African Habitat Conservancy (AHC) is turning 22,000ha of wilderness into a fully fledged game reserve with its first conservation project - Babanango Game Reserve.
Underpinned by AHC's commitment to sustainably support conservation through the upliftment and education of communities, the ongoing work being done at Babanango is as much about people as it is about place.

Sustainable tourism is very much a part of our conservation model and plays a valuable role, generating revenue streams and empowering the Emcakwini, KwaNgono and Esibongweni communities through job creation, skills development and training.
Thus far we have managed to create 158 jobs on the reserve, 113 of which are filled with people from our local communities and 107 of which are permanent positions. In addition, 51 temporary jobs have been created.
With its beautiful grasslands, mixed thornveld and 23km of river frontage on the White Umfolozi River, Babanango is home to a diverse range of wildlife species and mixed biomes and a wonderful tourism destination. It will eventually be the home of the Big Five - elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo - thanks to our strategic game reintroduction programme that has already seen the release of a seed herd of 23 disease-free buffalo onto a 945ha section of the reserve.

Leopard occur naturally in the area, so the remainder of the Big Five species will be introduced over the coming two years. In the meantime we are continually fine-tuning our management of the area under protection, monitoring game numbers and relocating certain species when populations become too large for an area to sustain.

We've divided large herds of wildebeest and impala, relocating them to other parts of the reserve to ensure an even spread of game across the various biomes. Another recent addition is a donation of 20 bushbuck from Simbithi Eco Estate on the KZN north coast near Shaka's Rock.

Musa Mbatha - Reserve Manager
Our communities are exceptionally important to us here at Babanango Game Reserve and ensuring that they benefit from what we are doing is a founding pillar of our conservation model. For Musa Mbatha, working at Babanango Game Reserve is the realisation of a dream he had as a boy growing up in the communities that surround it. He's spent the last two years working as the reserve manager, putting all of the experience gained in more than 20 years spent working in the bush into what he readily describes as a "passion project".
Born and raised in the Babanango valley, he entered the conservation industry in 1998 getting his Field Guides' Association of Southern Africa guide's qualifications in 1999 before studying for a diploma in wildlife management which he completed in 2005. In 2011 he attended the Southern African Wildlife College in the Greater Kruger National Park and obtained his higher certificate in nature conservation.
When he heard that Babanango Game Reserve was being created, Musa was keen to be involved and met with Jeff van Staden of African Habitat Conservancy. "I was amazed that this place where I grew up, which I always daydreamed of being filled with wildlife again, was slowly being transformed into a game reserve, and privileged to be part of that process," says Musa.
Musa is motivated to complete the process of creating this game reserve in the making. "I want to finish the fence and complete our ongoing wildlife relocation and reintroduction programme which will see the Big Five wildlife species returned to Babanango by 2022," he says.



This month the African Habitat Conservancy Foundation (AHCF) had the privilege to serve the community on Mandela Day 18 July.  Working with our partners Blue Sky Society Trust and the Lion Match Company we handed over to local students around 1000 pairs of pre-loved shoes, along with face masks and sanitising gel at Bhekisizwe Secondary, Nhlopeni Combined School, Malandela Secondary and Sicelumfundo Combined School.  With the objective to ‘support local’, all masks were handmade, and also distributed amongst teachers & school staff.
In its sixth year, Soul2Sole delivers new and previously loved school shoes to children across KZN who have never owned a pair before, delivering dignity and restoring hope. It collects previously loved shoes from 16 KZN schools as well as purchasing new shoes. Each pair of shoes are distributed with a pair of socks and a tin of Lion Quality shoe polish.

African Habitat Conservancy Foundation (AHCF) on the other hand aims to address education, training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities though the funding of selected projects such as schools, infrastructure, agricultural initiatives and other ventures that give back to the community.
“We are delighted to welcome partners who bring support to the local community within this region.  I am especially proud of this generation of young South Africans participating in active citizenship, as it matches the vision of the Foundation to develop them as future leaders”, says Kudzai Mqingwana, Head of the AHC Foundation.
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