Game farm rangers in the making

National Geographic has inspired a new crop of game farm ranger youth. A fairly new job description, it has to do with preventing predatory attacks on livestock and theft.

“It’s more than that. We ensure that there is enough food for wildlife” says Kabelo Matshoheng (27) and Herbet Kgatuke (25).

Both are funded by the South African National Parks (SANPARKS) to do hands-on experiential learning at Zvezda Game Resort in North West.

According to Kabelo, most commercial farms were incorporating wildlife into their stock.  “Game farming connects both wildlife and agriculture. It has become a natural symbiosis.”

The aspiring game farmer ranger assertion is supported by government gazette, incorporating a list of 33 wildlife species to be treated as livestock and for breeding purposes.

For Herbert, he finds the experience riveting as it was his first time learning practically about wildlife and livestock management. He studied animal production at Tompi Seleka Agricultural College.

“At Tompi Seleka, we were given this crash course on wildlife management and a few of us took it seriously. But upon researching, I’d realized that studying animal science was not enough as in my area of Sekhukhune, I saw most farmers including both wildlife and livestock, it then sparked my interest” said Herbert.

Kabelo, a township kid from Tembisa, studied Wildlife Management at the Tshwane University of Pretoria (TUT), and for him, it was mind-blogging to people why he would choose wildlife.

“I spent the early years of my childhood watching National Geographic. And yes, for a township boy like myself it does not connect but learning that most species are facing extinction, I wanted to be included in the list of people bent on conserving the future generation of our ecosystem” he says nonchalantly.

We traverse the 500 ha Zvezda Game Lodge which is endowed with a fling of giraffes, springboks, wildebeest and on the other camp about 100 heads of cattle.

Herbert explains to us the importance of separating the camps. “Now because it’s dry and there is a lack of rain, we construct camps so as to divide the wildlife from domestic. The moment domestic animals see wildlife they chase after them.”

A burst of unbelievable laughter hugs our interest as we drive ahead to the wildlife camp. “You see trees are shedding leaves, it means there is no food for the giraffes. In this instance, we advise the farm owner to buy Lucerne and bales” interjects Kabelo.

The two are happy to break bread on the work they do at the lodge and were forever thankful to Liston Agri Solutions and Siphiwe Zikalala owner of the lodge.

“After our experiential training! It is obvious, I love to be a farm ranger and one day own my own game farm” says Kabelo.

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