One of the aims of Big Game Parks’ annual Imvelo MTB Classic Race (the next one being held this Saturday 8th June!) is to raise money for conservation and community projects. Over the year’s Big Game Parks has been assisting Mlilwane North’s neighbouring community, Hlabazonke, with the provision of water tanks, the installation of guttering for rain water capture and the donation of equipment for their school.
This year, however, saw the launch of our Imvelo Water Spring Project which has provided clean water for the entire community for cattle sustenance, washing and human consumption. To learn more about the project specifics, complete with before and after photos, visit our website. A big thank you to all our cyclists and sponsors who have helped us to make this project possible.
Through the annual Imvelo MTB Classic, Big Game Parks in partnership with Nedbank has completed a water spring project and will be doing the official handover of a water project to the Hlabazonke Community neighbouring the north of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary on the 27th March 2013. One objective of Imvelo is to raise funds for community projects – one of which is the Hlabazonke Community Project. Since 2008 Big Game Parks and Nedbank have through this initiative assisted in painting the Hlabazonke school, donated office equipment and water tanks.
For those who participated, were spectators or sponsors, we hope you all enjoyed the event as much as we did and hope to see you come on board again next year (our 2013 race date will be announced online soon!). Our 2012 results and photo library are now available to view on our website.
Congratulations to first-time Imvelo cyclist JP Jung from Mpumalanga who won the 64km Classic in just over 3 hours, shortly followed by defending champion Jaco du Toit from Johannesburg and Retha Harding, who won the 64km Classic for the ladies. A hearty well-done to winners of our other Imvelo categories and to all those who participated. Visit http://www.imvelo.co.sz for the full results as well as images from the event.
64 Km Classic: JP Jung 03:06:06
33 Km Challenge: Justin Tuck 01:35:27
22 Km Spur Family Fun Ride: Derma co Pillay 00:59:54
12.5 Km Hoglet: Phila Khumalo 00:50:54
64 Km Classic: Retha Harding 04:31:36
33 Km Challenge: Delrie Ferreira 02:03:17
22 Km Spur Family Fun Ride: Heila Niemandt 01:11:15
12.5 Km Hoglet: Keana Toepfer 01:00:10
Last year’s new addition, the glass tortoise trophy was awarded to a jubilant Mr Arnd le Grant who endured the longest day by crossing the finish line of the Classic in 06:14:04.
The glass baboon trophies made an appearance again this to honour The King and Queen of the Mountain. JP Jung and Retha Harding took these trophies respectively.
This year’s Imvelo had a 60% Swazi-participation; the number seems to grow by the years. Our South African and Mozambican counterparts also took part, proving that Swaziland is ideal for a weekend getaway and adventure activities. Visit www.biggameparks.org for more information on the activities offered in the majestic Kingdom of Swaziland and take advantage of our limited current winter specials.
This year’s Imvelo proceeds will bring clean water for our neighbours, Hlabazonkhe Primary School and its community which is already underway.
Great appreciation once again goes to Nedbank Swaziland for its generous participation this year.We would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our friends at Ngwenya Glass for their wonderful trophies and our gracious neighbours Mantenga Nature Reserve & Sappi Usutu for allowing our race to pass through their land.
A special mention also goes to Clean Tech Swaziland for generously supplying each of the 500 Imvelo goodie bags with Clean Tech’s Bike Cleaner or Clean Tech Air Freshner. Clean Tech Swaziland also made a cash donation to Imvelo 2012.
Thank you to our Marshalls and Sweeps for their valued time and effort.
A BIG thank you to all our sponsors…
Sam & Dylan de Jong Taman Group Distributors Nampak Testembiso Fresh Produce
Sappi Usuthu 4 x 4 Club/Marshall’s Mantenga Nature Reserve Swaziland Radio Society Ted Reilly
Before the games begin at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary this Saturday the 9th of June, let’s give a round of applause to the local Swazi companies that helped make Imvelo 2012 a roaring success!
From our named sponsor, Nedbank Swaziland, our new Family race title sponsor Sheba’s Rock Spur to our cycling shirt and goodie-bag sponsors: thank you. Glittering Imvelo trophies from Ngwenya Glass; cash, prize and logistics sponsors; sweeps and marshalls; and our gracious neighbours-a BIG thank you!
As the Rhino poaching crisis in South Africa reaches new heights with a Rhino now lost every day, on Friday 3rd June Swaziland fell victim to her first Rhino loss in over 20 years. An impressive record now consigned to history as the Rhino War threatens one of the few remaining stabilised breeding environments in the world.
The young two-ton White Rhino cow, mother to a calf and instrumental to Swaziland’s future generations of Rhinos, was found de-horned at Big Game Parks’ Hlane Royal National Park on National Environment Day, and now serves as a sad symbol of the encroaching threat to this endangered species. The Rhino’s calf, suffering from the absence of its mother’s milk and stress, was also found dead two weeks later.
While South African Rhinos are protected by the South African Constitution – one of the most lenient in the world, which has prompted much debate over poachers being granted bail, low bail conditions, lengthy investigation time and poor convictions. In Swaziland, poachers undertake a massive risk by crossing one of the strictest and most respected poaching laws in the conservation world; The Game Act – a risk which has to date never reaped any rewards for Swazis who have participated. Indeed, during Swaziland’s Rhino War of 1988-92 when the Kingdom lost almost 80% of its Rhino to poaching, not a single poacher was paid the promised reward.
Poaching has many guises; Subsistence Poaching, where people often from poor communities surrounding a reserve snare wildlife for food, Structured/Commercial Poaching, in which skilled hunters, ex-military men or local impoverished people with a knowledge of the animals’ habitat are used as middlemen for an end buyer, and Professional Poaching, conducted by a cross-section ranging from the rural poor to townsfolk who provide the illegal commercial bush meat or Rhino horn market, and may involve the use of a helicopter.
This incident falls under the Structured Poaching category, in which local men, one of whom was an ex-Cadet Ranger at Hlane Royal National Park with knowledge of the Rhino’s habitat, were being used as middlemen for an end-buyer of the Rhino’s two horns. Not a single scrap of meat was removed from the animal for consumption yet the unemployed ex-Cadet Ranger, having chosen a life of illegal poaching over legal protecting, may still pull at the heartstrings of some who’d mistakenly class him as one of the ‘hungry rural poor’.
The eco-tourism industry provides a vital source of employment opportunities within Swaziland. The multiplier effect of a single Big Game Parks wage, for example, results in the sustenance of over fifteen people and with over three hundred Swazis employed by the park, this represents approximately 4,500 Swazis who rely directly on the parks for sustenance. In fact, when one of Big Game Parks’ Conservation Wardens was asked how he puts his wages to use, Mr Mbuso Shiba stated ‘Big Game Parks not only provides for my immediate family and I. The wages I earn directly support over 30 people’ demonstrating the figure of fifteen-to-one to be a conservative estimate.
Ironically, the brutalised Rhino carcass was discovered on Saturday 4th June; World Environment Day and the date of Big Game Parks’ annual Imvelo Mountain Bike Competition held at Hlane’s sister reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. This event was organised by Big Game Parks in order to support local businesses and raise money to provide a reservoir and clean drinking water for local community school, Hlabazonke Primary school.
As a law enforcement entity mandated to safeguard the Kingdom’s animals, Big Game Parks continues to follow its mission of preserving the biodiversity of Swaziland’s rich natural heritage for the future enjoyment of its people. It strives to build sustainable relationships with local communities through the provision of subsidised meat during culling season, local events such as Imvelo where all profits are fed back into the community, and subsidised entry fees for all Swazis. With no state funding, Big Game Parks relies on its kind sponsors and the support of the Swazi public to stay in operation.
In South Africa Rhino poaching has been hitting the headlines on a such a regular basis, that the general public have become accustomed to gory pictures of yet another dead rhino. This desensitization, coupled with the fact that there are so many organisations now collecting funds for Rhinos, means that the majority of people feel that they have already done their bit.
Swaziland may have lost her proud record of Rhino protection but Big Game Parks is determined to break that record again. Big Game Parks would like to wholeheartly thank everybody who has already conveyed their kind words, letters of support and condolence.