#My3RhinoWords Competition!

#My3RhinoWords - FB

In just 3 words, what do you think of rhino?




 Either create an electronic jpeg or a hard copy, scan and post it on your Facebook.

  1. Take a piece of paper
  2. Write #My3RhinoWords prominently
  3. Write your 3 words
  4. Add a rhino picture – drawn or a photo
  5. Scan or photograph this and post it on your facebook page
  6. By Thursday 2, take a screen shot of your page showing the number of shares your #My3RhinoWords post generated and send it through to marketing@biggameparks.org
  7. The person with the most shares will win a night for their family at Hlane Royal National Park. If the highest number is shared by more than one person, the winner will be drawn.
  8. T’s & C’s Apply
  9. Have fun!


Twitter                        #My3RhinoWords      @biggameparks


22nd September is World Rhino Day

RhinosX5-638x531World Rhino Day is on September 22 and celebrates all five species of rhino: Black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

World Rhino Day was first announced by WWF-South Africa in 2010. In 2011, World Rhino Day grew into an international success, encompassing both African and Asian rhino species and becoming a celebration for all five rhino species – Black, White, Sumatran, Indian and Jarvan. World Rhino Day has since grown to become a global phenomenon, uniting NGOs, zoos, cause-related organizations, businesses, and concerned individuals from nearly every corner of the world!

The Sumatran rhinoceros is also the smallest rhino and the oldest living land mammal on earth.  No more than 200 animals survive in small, isolated forest fragments in Indonesia and Malaysia.  There are probably less than 50 Javan rhino in the wild.  The disappearance of rhino in Asia puts greater pressure on African rhino.  Likewise, decrease in African rhino numbers increases the threat to Swazi rhino.

While illegal trade in horn continues to grow, so does the support for live rhino.  The world is becoming outraged as this flagship species fast-tracks to extinction – rhino conservation is both a race against time and poses an urgent need to reset our human mindset.  The criminal syndicates involved in rhino poaching have been likened to terrorists.  Their modus operandi mirrors that of terrorist models, putting law enforcers and innocent citizens at risk. There is no scientifically proven beneficial use of horn, meaning the more than 730 rhino slaughtered this year have died for greed and frivolous status alone.

Many dedicated people and organisations are doing great work to conserve the rhino.  However, there are also many who have jumped on the bandwagon.  When supporting rhino conservation, research is required to ensure your support makes a real difference on the ground.

 Big  Game Parks is participating in the first ever World Youth Rhino Summit in KZN this year.  100 young conservation-savvy youth between 15-17 years from 30 countries worldwide will gather in iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Together with educators and conservationists, they will address the rhino crisis and possible solutions.  Big Game Parks CEO, Ted Reilly and Hlane’s Warden, George Mbatha will attend as a Rhino Elders, accompanied by selected youth from Swazi communities.

Follow Big Game Parks this week on facebook and twitter @biggameparks to find out the latest trends in rhino conservation.  Get involved, have your say!

Find The Elephant in You! It’s World Elephant Day

African Elephants at Hlane
African Elephants at Hlane

Elephants are the World’s largest land mammals with two recognized species,  African Elephant and Asian Elephant.  In 2008 African  Elephants were listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN). With the distinct possibility wild Elephants could suffer global extinction in our lifetimes, The World Elephant Day was launched on August 12, 2012, by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and Canadian documentary filmmaker Patricia Sims.

Very Well Camouflaged Scops Owl

Scops Owl at Msholo Hut
Scops Owl at Msholo Hut

Famous for its bird life, Hlane is also a home to many species of Owls and this week, a Scop Owl was spotted at Hlane Royal National Park…..Very well camouflaged. This birds prefer areas which contain old trees with hollows; these are home to their prey which includes insects, reptiles, small mammals such as bats and mice and other small birds. You have got to be very sharp eyed to spot this one.

To see other species’ list got to www.biggameparks.org


Roan Antelope Project enters 2nd Phase

Two radio collared Roan Antelope (lithakayezi) bulls have recently been released at Mkhaya Game Reserve and their progress is being monitored by park Rangers. Both animals have been seen regularly since their release. This is a significant event as it signals the next step in the phased Roan Antelope breeding programme based at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Roan Antelope are amongst the rarest antelope in Southern Africa.

Swaziland’s Roan Antelope became locally extinct in 1961 when Ted Reilly found the last animal caught in a poachers wire snare on the Tsabokhulu stream near Tabankulu. The species is known to have historically occurred (among other areas) along the foothills of the Mdumezulu Mountains, the Lubombos and the Lowveld flats of Hlane. The last herd of 12 roan on the farm “Forbes ranch” (now Hlane Royal National Park) were poisoned during the 1930s and were a casualty of the former British Administration’s campaign to eradicate wildebeest from Swaziland in order to “tame the land” for agriculture and development.


During the 1980’s a small group of Roan Antelope were re-introduced to Mkhaya from Namibia. Unfortunately, being from such vastly different climates, and due to limited knowledge of roan introductions at the time, the re- introduction was not successful. The remaining animals were moved to Mlilwane, where they joined a group of Roan that had been imported from the Marwell Zoo in England and the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic with the assistance of the charity “Back to Africa”, to bolster the species re-introduction efforts in Swaziland’s protected areas.

Under specialized management at Mlilwane, the Roan Antelope numbers have now grown to a point where the options for the best protocol to re-establish a wild population are being investigated.

Roan are known to be very sensitive to loss of grass cover from competing grazers. Once grass cover is lost, their calves become very prone to predation and the adults suffer from nutritional challenges as their highly selective feeding requirements are affected. Roan are also very susceptible to ticks which makes this a particularly difficult animal to re-introduce to the wild in sub-tropical areas .

It is for this reason that the two bulls which are 2nd generation Swazi born, were chosen and fitted with radio collars before they were released. Through the use of the collars, rangers will be able to determine the animals’ movements and preferred habitats. It is anticipated that lessons can be learned and knowledge gained from these two animals before a larger Breeding group is committed to release in pursuance of Big Game Parks objective of re-establishing viable populations of Swaziland’s wildlife. In the case of sensitive species which are rare and therefore have small founder populations, Big Game Parks considers such re-introduction projects to run over an approximately 30 year period.

MEMORIES OF MLILWANE – Bill Norrie – Return of the Giraffe


The new born calf weighed in at 150 pounds, and stood six feet high on very wobbly legs.  This was no ordinary baby giraffe.  It was the first giraffe to be born in Swaziland in almost a hundred years.  Hunters had taken their toll on these lovely animals until, sadly, there were none left in the region.  The parents of this young giraffe had arrived in Mlilwane in the back of a one and a half tonne blue Datsun pick-up truck in 1964.

The original two came from the Kruger National Park and no, we didn’t catch them ourselves.  The rangers had captured about forty of them to distribute to other game parks and reduce the giraffe herds in the Kruger Park.   Ted was well known in those ranger circles from his time spent in the Sabi River area recently, and news of his successful venture at Mlilwane had reached the officials of the park.  He was offered two giraffes.  The problem was that, if he wanted them, he had to go and get them.  There were held at a place called Hoedspruit, near Phalaborwa, about two hundred miles to the north. It was a long and difficult drive on dirt roads at the beginning of the rainy season.  The roads could be dry and dusty, or become a sea of mud in the rainy season.  We experienced both conditions on this remarkable and memorable trip.

I arrived at Mlilwane on a Friday evening in preparation for the long journey that started first thing next morning – at sparrow fart (very early), as we used to say. Ted and Petros led the way in the Datsun truck and I followed.  The plan was to leave my car at the South African border north of Swaziland, so I could return to Johannesburg on Sunday night, and be back at work on Monday morning.  They would continue to Mlilwane themselves.  In retrospect, I should have taken the day off, though my manager didn’t get too excited about people who started their work week on a Tuesday for any reason, let alone “goofing” around while they transported giraffes somewhere.  In his mind, the Denver Machinery Company took precedent over any giraffe.  My car was left at the border, and the three of us headed to White River, which was to be our first stop.

Ted wanted to stop and say hello to a good friend of his, Mrs. Stevenson-Hamilton. She was the widow of Col. James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first game warden of the Kruger National Park that was originally the Sabie Sand River Reserve, in 1902.  Ted had known the colonel, as had his dad in his Boer War days.  We had tea with this gracious and colourful lady on her spacious veranda. I just sat there in awe while she and Ted talked; being in their presence I realized the significance of the history and the life she had led in those early days in the eastern Transvaal.  One of the first game rangers the colonel hired was Harry Wolhuter who wrote the book “Memoirs of a Game Ranger”; he survived an attack by a lion that had pulled him off his horse in the bush – stabbed the lion with a knife and killed it.  After a fine tea we bade her farewell and continued on our journey to Hoedspruit.

We arrived in time for supper and a quick look at the two giraffes that would be our companions on the return trip.  They were young, one male and one female.  They were about ten feet tall, and had large hooves that could deal out a nasty blow to the unwary that came too close to them.  I made a note of the radius of those front feet, and had no plans to hand out a friendly pat.  They were penned off from the other giraffes and were ready to be put into crates the next morning.  The rangers also had several young cheetah cubs that had been deserted by their mother for some reason, and were kept in a wire enclosure.  Ted said they had “rickets” caused by malnutrition and had weak back legs as a result.  They were bad tempered little chaps that hissed and spat at anyone who came near them.  The rangers wanted to nurse them back to health.  Hoedspruit later became known as a center for rehabilitating cheetahs. Supper was most welcome after a long day, and later, we sat around the campfire and listened to the rangers tell their stories – some of which were on the ‘tall’ side.  We slept in the open with some wool blankets the rangers had provided.  Memories of my Rhodesian army days drifted through my mind as I contended with the hard ground and I tried to get some sleep.

We started at 5.30 am the next morning after a good breakfast cooked on an open wood fire; eggs, boerevors and tomatoes.

The rangers herded the two giraffes down a narrow wood fenced walkway to the loading ramp.  We put the crates on the pickup truck and backed it up to the ramp. Each giraffe was prodded into its own crate and then a wood gate was dropped into secure slots behind them.  The crates were open at the top to allow for their long necks.  We were ready for the long trip back to Mlilwane.  It would be a slow drive, as we had to keep the dust to a minimum and not jostle them too much.  The clearance for the truck with the animals on it was about fourteen feet, and that height was to give us some problems that we had not foreseen.  We said our goodbyes and away we went, thrilled with the two new additions to the sanctuary.

Giraffes can go a day or two without water, but we did need to feed them.  That was easy, as all we had to do was to pull up under some low trees and they fed themselves while we sat in the shade on the side of the dirt road.  It was fun to watch them feed.  They wrapped their long, dark purple coloured tongues around the base of a small branch and then pulled a bunch of leaves off it into their mouths.  I don’t remember any lavish picnics along the way though we must have had something to eat like biltong (jerky) washed down with some lukewarm tea; ideal on a hot day. That was to be the least of our troubles, as we continued slowly on our journey.

The combination of the giraffes on the back of the truck and the many low telephones strung across the road was not a good one, and it really slowed us down.  We cut a sapling about ten long with a fork on the end and proceeded to raise the wires while Ted drove the truck underneath them. Toward the end of the trip, we came across a wire that was just too low for the “stick and lift” method so the wire had to be cut, for a good cause, of course.  With knowledge of that part of the country, that line may still be down, some forty years later.  In those days, most people were connected with “party lines” (everyone could listen into each other’s conversations) so we probably ticked off a number of people at the same time.

It was early evening by the time we reached the border post – it took all day to travel one hundred a fifty miles – and, much to our dismay, it had begun to rain, which complicated things for all of us, but particularly for Ted and Petros.  They had a much more difficult road ahead of them, even though it was only seventy miles.  The road they had to take was through the hills, and turned out to be muddy and slippery and gave them a hard time. I hated to leave them at this point.  They didn’t arrive back to Mlilwane until the next morning, so you can imagine how slowly they travelled with that precious cargo on board.  All I had to worry about was me, and that was to be enough.

I was tired, hungry and dirty: perfect conditions for a two hundred and fifty mile drive to Johannesburg in the rain.  If I drove straight through, I would get home by midnight, but I knew I couldn’t do that so I was on the lookout for a place to stop.  After about an hour I spotted a hotel that looked ideal for dinner and some sleep. As soon as they saw this disreputable character walk through the door any vacancies they had disappeared, and said they were full.  I was really ticked off.  That angry energy was good for another two hours on the road, after which I knew I had to stop. I was crossed eyed, I was so tired.  Perhaps the night clerk at the next hotel at which I stopped had relatives that looked like me; anyway, he gave me a room.  He promised to wake me up at five, which he did.  After a hot shower, I drove the rest of the way, refreshed.  I had breakfast at my flat in Hillbrow, changed, and went to work. I arrived just before eight.  How I made it through that day I will never know, and actually, I did no effective work until Wednesday.

Ted may have told me what his plan was for that weekend and maybe not.  I don’t remember.  I would just go when I was free for the weekend and do whatever was needed.   Each trip was different and filled with excitement, and in the long view, historic.