Hluhluwe & Umfolozi, South Africa
The two reserves were originally Zulu Royal hunting grounds and were separate but have now been consolidated and cover some 96,000ha of prime Zululand countryside typified by rolling hills with grassland summits, separated by steep valleys with riverine forest.
The Umfolozi ('zigzag') River divides into two - the Black and the White Umfolozi. Between the two is some of the best savannah country in southern Africa and despite much of the game being eliminated from the surrounding countryside during the last century; it remained a haven for black and white rhinos.
In the early years of this century, the disease nagana, which killed domestic livestock, was endemic in the area. Local farmers demanded that the only cure was to kill every animal that could possibly harbour the disease that was spread by the tsetse fly. There was intense pressure to close the reserve down and convert it to ranching. There were no fences and poaching remained rife until recent times. More than one hundred thousand animals were shot before aerial spraying with DDT.
Today, visitors may see elephant, lion, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog, hyena, jackal and many other animals. Lions were not introduced intentionally to the reserve. A single male appeared mysteriously in 1958, to be joined after a few years by some females, equally mysteriously. The pride now helps to control the number of Antelope in the park.
Umfolozi Game Reserve was the first game reserve to be established in Africa and is internationally recognized not only for its prolific wildlife but also for two other reasons. The white rhino was, at the time of proclamation of the reserve, almost extinct. The staff of the Natal Parks Board have since protected the animals and allowed them to reproduce to the point where more than three thousand have been relocated to other reserves and zoos. Currently, there are more than 350 black and 1800 white rhinos in the reserve.