Changes in Big Game Parks’ Rate Structure after VAT Implementation

Swaziland was advised in November 2011 that Value Added Tax (VAT) levied at 14% would replace the existing Government Sales Tax (GST) also at 14%, which was only applicable to certain goods and services.

VAT will now apply to all goods and services consumed in Swaziland.

The effective date is 1 April 2012. Below is a summary of the effects this change has on Big Game Parks’ rate structures for the period up to 30 November 2013:

•All accommodation and meals will be unaffected for the rest of 2012 as these have always been subject to GST at 14%. A minimal (market-related) increase will take effect on 1 December 2012 and be effective through to 30 November 2013.

• All our activities were not subject to GST and will therefore increase by 14% on 1 April 2012 as a result of the introduction of VAT.

Conservation entry  fees will increase by 14% VAT to R40.00 per person with effect from 1 April 2012; they will remain as a once-off fee per unbroken stay until 30 November 2012.

Packaged Rates will be affected in the following ways:

Mkhaya Game Reserve: VAT at 14% will now be charged on components of the package that were not previously subject to GST – this effectively means an increase in the overall package by 7%. However we are undertaking to absorb the tax component from 1 April 2012 until 30 November 2012 at which time the increase will take effect. This increase on 1 December 2012 is effectively only the additional VAT being charged on the package and it should be noted that our rates are effectively frozen until 30 November 2013.

Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge: There is no change to the rate for the rest of 2012. However, a minimal (market-related) annual increase will take effect on 1 December 2012 for the period ending 30 November 2013.

Conservation Entry Fee: With effect from 1 December 2012 this will become a daily fee.

Aside from the activity rates which are generally not pre-booked, the accommodation rates remain unaffected, owing to prudent accounting principals employed at Big Game Parks.
We are extremely aware of the short notice and potential disruption. We apologise for any inconvenience but do believe the system is better for the Kingdom as a whole.

For a full list of updated 2012 Rates as well as 2013 Rates, and more information please contact our Central Reservations Office.

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Hlane Royal National Park’s 2012 Earth Hour IWIYW Challenge

 

 

 

Earth Hour is a worldwide event that is organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is held on the last Saturday of March annually.

It encourages households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one

hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change.

The event that began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 has grown intoa global movement with Swazi school pupil Nathi Mzileni and his enviromental group Green Enviro from Simunye pioneering the movement in Swaziland in 2011.

With conservation at the very heart of  Big Game Parks  as our mission is  to conserve the rich biodiversity of Swaziland’s natural heritage — we could not be left out in this year’s Earth Hour challenge.

This year’s theme is I Will If You Will. Individuals and organisations are daring people to do something about climate change and they pledge to do something in return.

Hlane Royal National Park’s IWIYW Challenge

Hlane Royal National Park is Going Beyond The Hour and is challenging neighbouring Thembelisha Preparatory School’s Grade 7 class to a roadside clean up around their area. This challenge is to happen once every school term.

In return, Hlane will sponsor a free educational at the park for the class as well as an impala on the spit for their year-end function. Check out our video above or click here.

Keep your eyes glued on this blog and our website as we update you on the 9-month-long challenge. Contact us for more information on this challenge and other community projects  we are involved in.

A New Year Brings Two Pythons All in One Day

2012 began on a more exciting note for Central Reservations Office.

Two Southern African Pythons, Python natalensis, Inhlatfu were brought in by Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary neighbours, The Haines, today to our Central Reservations Office.

Their first find was an over 2.5m long python on their farm while cutting grass. Mr Haines and his son brought the reptile  to Big Game Parks’  Central Reservations Office to be safely released onto Mlilwane’s game studded plains.

Big Game Parks’ Game Rangers at Mlilwane collected the python amidst excited Central Reservations staff and released the reptile on the park. Sadly our Marketing Department only managed to get a picture of the snake already in the bag.

This though, was not the last python of the day.

Later on ,around midday, our neighbours brought yet another python they had found on their farm.  This time, our Marketing Department made sure to get the snake on camera.

The smaller python,  about 2.0 m in length,  was found while the Haines were cutting grass again on their farm nearby a litter of kittens. This python was also collected by Big Game Parks’ Rangers and released on Mlilwane’s plains.

The Southern African Python is a large  conspicuous snake that can reach upto 5.0m in length. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats favouring rock and thick bushes near water.

The non-venomous reptile feeds on mammals and birds.It  kills its prey by constriction. It coils itself around the caught prey and tightens its coils thereby causing cardiac arrest to the prey. This python is frequently persecuted by human beings.

BEWARE – CROCODILE SEASON!

Life History

Crocodiles will soon hit the headlines of the newspapers again as the temperatures warm and our summer rains begin to fall steadily – that’s if people do not follow a few basic guidelines provided below on how to avoid conflict with this reptile which remains the supreme predator of Africa’s rivers.

Of the 23 species of crocodiles, Africa has 3. The crocodile found in Swaziland is known as the “Nile” crocodile.Crocodiles are highly specialized and patient ambush predators with mottled shades of green, grey and black which makes them almost impossible to detect in the water while they lie in wait for their prey.

In addition to their colour, their streamline shape, webbed feet and positioning of the eyes, ears and nostrils on the top of the head make crocodile’s the ultimate aquatic ambush predator. This enables them to have full senses of their surroundings while their bodies remain well hidden below the water surface.

When potential prey approaches the water, the hunting crocodile will submerge below the water and stealthily sneak up on the unsuspecting prey which could include pigs, cattle, buffalo, and humans. The crocodile will occasionally raise its eyes slightly above the water’s surface to assess its approach before submerging again and moving closer. When the target is in range, the crocodile will suddenly lunge forward in an incredible show of strength and speed, snapping its powerful jaws closed on the closest part of the targeted prey. The victim will then be dragged into deeper water where it is drowned. The carcass (if a large animal) will be stored in the water until it decomposes. This aids the crocodile in tearing the carcass apart by rolling and twisting pieces of the body off before swallowing whole limbs etc., washing it down with water. The bones and horns are then quickly digested by the gastric enzymes (stomach acids) which are the most acidic recorded in any vertebrate animal.

Having mated, the female crocodile will lay 20-95 eggs into a nest in the sand which she will cover and then guard against predators such as monitor lizards and mongooses. After 2½ – 3 months the eggs will hatch. The young crocodiles vary from ± 27 – 37cm long and their sex is determined by the temperatures which they have been exposed to in the nest as hormonal responses to the different temperatures determines the hatchling’s sex. This is a different mechanism to most other animals, where the sex is determined by the combination of X and Y chromosomes at the time of fertilization.

After the female has carried the young hatchlings to the water in her mouth, the hatchlings graduate from preying on small fish, insects and frogs to eventually being able to prey on animals as large as buffalo when they grow over 4 meters long.
It is believed that under natural conditions, approximately only 1-2% of crocodile hatchlings survive to adulthood as they are heavily predated on by fish, monitor lizards, birds, snakes and predatory mammals while they are young.

Habitat

 Crocodiles are reptiles that have inhabited warm waters such as the Lowveld and Middleveld rivers of Swaziland for millions of years.

Pre Historic
Crocodiles have lived in more or less their present form for 240 million years, having outlived the dinosaurs.

Status
Crocodiles are listed as Royal Game in Swaziland and are therefore well protected.

In South Africa, crocodiles are listed as a Specially Protected Species.

Being listed in the United Nations Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) on Appendix I & II, the trade in crocodiles and their products is therefore strictly controlled globally.

Description

• Crocodiles hatch from eggs and grow from 27cm up to 5 meters in length.

• Only become dangerous to humans from +- 2 meters length.

• Up to 2 meters length, they feed on fish, insects, carrion and small animals.

• Need deep water to drown caught prey.

• Large crocodiles in deep water can kill animals as big as cattle and buffalo.

Habits

• Crocodiles hunt by ambushing prey, which comes to swim, drink or wallow at the waters edge.

• They lunge forward and grab the prey with their mouths before dragging the struggling victim into deeper water to drown it. Deep water is needed for drowning prey and animals as big as cattle and buffalo are killed in this manner.

• Crocodiles may go onto land to retrieve dead animals or incapacitated animals, but they do not hunt out of the water.

• On land they are likely to bite or swat their tails in self defence if one approaches too closely

• When people come to the waters edge to drink, collect water, fish or swim, they fall into the category of prey for crocodiles.

• Once a crocodile has killed its prey, it places it somewhere in the river or dam and waits for it to decompose.

• Crocodiles have teeth like a rake and therefore cannot cut pieces of meat off a carcass like many other predators but can exert a force of up to 1 ton when they bite.

• Once the meat becomes decomposed, pieces of the carcass are twisted off by rolling in the water.

• Crocodiles are also highly efficient scavengers and eat on any carcass that may float down the river, thus keeping the waters clean.

• For this reason crocodiles are blamed for many more deaths than they are actually responsible for because we automatically assume that because a crocodile is seen guarding a carcass in the river, it was killed by that crocodile.

• In undisturbed systems, crocodiles help to control the populations of predatory barble (cat-fish) which in turn lends to a healthy diversity of other fish species.

• When the weather warms up during the Summer months, the crocodile’s metabolism, (kugayeka kwe kudla emtimbeni kutoze umtimba abe nemandla), speeds up and it therefore needs to feed more often.

• During the cooler months, the metabolism slows down and crocodiles go for months without a meal.

It can therefore safely be said that in Swaziland, due to our temperature variations between Summer and Winter, crocodiles only actively hunt during the warmer months.

However during the cooler months if you swim or enter a crocodile’s territory/habitat you may be caught and killed by the crocodile but it is unlikely to feed.

• Crocodiles also have the habit of looking for new homes and can cover long distances over land during rainy weather and at night.

HOW TO AVOID PROBLEMS WITH CROCODILES

As with drinking and driving using common sense and making behavioral changes are key to avoiding conflict with crocodiles!

SURVIVAL RULES

Rule # 1: Use your common sense – If you drink and drive you are likely to have an accident– the same applies to swimming in waters likely to contain crocodiles!

Rule # 2: Consider all waters (drains, pools, canals and rivers) to contain crocodiles in the Middleveld and Lowveld. You will never know when a crocodile has moved into a pool.

Rule # 3: If you must go to the waters edge do not spend time in the same place – keep moving aroundand do what you need to do as quickly as possible and retreat. Find a place where the water is too shallow for a crocodile to hide underwater and do what you have to do quickly. In areas where crocodiles are known to occur, barriers (e.g. weld-mesh) can be placed in the water to protect those that are collecting water.

Rule # 4: Do not swim near deep or dirty waters in the Lowveld and Middleveld, you will only be invading the crocodile’s home and tempting him with a potential meal. STOP OTHERS FROM SWIMMING as well.

Rule # 5: Do not splash while in the water. Crocodiles are attracted by splashing as it indicates to him that you are struggling and this offers an easy catch for a crocodile. If you find yourself having to swim, try to do so as quietly as possible. It is a popular belief that a crocodile’s favourite meal is a dog. This is untrue and comes from the fact that dogs splash when they swim and therefore are more attractive to crocodiles. Crocodiles eat a wide variety of meat.

Rule # 6: If you find a crocodile with a carcass in the water, do not try to take it away from it as this will only endanger yourself and will ensure that the crocodile remains hungry and will therefore need to catch something else or somebody else to satisfy its hunger.

Rule # 7: If you do end up being caught by a large crocodile, you have little chance of surviving as crocodiles are tremendously strong and efficient swimmers.
If you have the presence of mind, then try to stop the crocodile from dragging you to deep water and you may try gouging at its eyes to induce the crocodile to release its grip. Generally speaking – your chances of escape from a large crocodile are very slim.

Problem Crocodiles

• Remember that crocodiles are protected by law in Swaziland whether inside or outside a Game Reserve.

• It is therefore illegal to take the law into your own hands and kill, capture, keep, hunt or injure a crocodile without a permit.

• The course of action to take with problem animals is as follows:

  1.  Make sure it is a crocodile, which has the ability (size) to endanger livestock and human life, and not a Leguaan (Monitor lizard, Chamu).
  2.  Report the crocodile to Game Rangers at Big Game Parks – 23838100 or 252839434 or your nearest Police Station.

As with drinking and driving, using your common sense and making the appropriate behavioral changes are key to avoiding conflict with crocodiles!

Second Rhino Poaching Incident Hits Swaziland

At Midnight on Tuesday 27th September 2011, Swaziland fell victim to her second Rhino poaching incident; a pregnant white rhino cow poached for both her horns at Hlane Royal National Park. The incident shortly followed the loss of Swaziland’s first rhino in over 20 years which capped the African Rhino Range State record on Friday 3rd June, and the subsequent death of her weaner calf. A cost often not considered when rhinos are poached is the resultant loss of the calves due to loosing their mothers. Swaziland lost one such calf in the first incident while the unborn calf of the second cow can also be added to the cost of poaching. This has obvious impact on the breeding potential of the rhino population especially as rhinos normally calve every three years from the age of approximately ten years old. The second incident confirms that the first incident was orchestrated by the same South African Rhino Poaching Syndicate. Both horns and two firearms have been recovered following a tip-off to the Royal Swaziland Police.

Swazilandis one of the few remaining stable breeding environments in the world and this is now at risk. To date poachers have never reaped the promised rewards for their participation. Indeed, duringSwaziland’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. Similarly, the re-emergence of rhino poaching this year has lead to arrest or in the most recent incidence, death, within a matter of days following the sharp detective work of the Royal Swaziland Police, the commitment of the rangers and, importantly, to the eager support of the concerned public.

Swaziland also has a highly-respected and strict Game Act, a tight-community culture, in which large poaching operations can’t fail to go unnoticed, and the support of its monarchy and people who culturally place the protection of their children’s natural heritage, and the preservation of one of their key employers; the tourism industry, as a priority.

The two incidents below serve as an example of the perils of rhino poaching:

On 3rd June 2011 Swaziland lost her first rhino to poachers since 1992, capping the African Rhino Range State record. Ironically, the brutalised Rhino carcass, a young two-ton white rhino cow and mother to a calf which later died as a result, was discovered on Saturday 4th June; World Environment Day. Five men were arrested within three days for the poaching incident, but the two (ultimately charged for the poaching) were initially released on bail. The shooter had escaped back toSouth Africa with some of their accomplices, apparently commissioned by a South African.

On 27th September 2011 a second, pregnant rhino cow, was shot dead by poachers, again at Hlane Royal National Park. Having heard the gunshots at midnight rangers found the carcass from the viewpoint of a hired helicopter the following morning. Both horns were missing. Big Game Parks worked closely with the Royal Swaziland Police and leads were quickly established. On the 28th September, the Royal Swaziland Police received a tip-off and homed in on Maphatsindvuku near Hlane. The suspects opened fire after refusing to surrender and the police were compelled to shoot in self-defense which resulted in three South African men shot dead. The men were in possession of two rhino horns and a mini .223 Ruger as well as a 375 H&H Magnum. The three men are believed to be of the same syndicate which orchestrated the June poaching incident, some allegedly on bail for rhino poaching cases and others having broken out of jail cells from Badplaas Prison in Mphumalanga South Africa, while one is suspected of killing a South African policeman. The suspects are allegedly connected to at least 12 rhino murders in Songimvelo Game Reserve inSouth Africa’s Mphumalanga province on the North-West border of Swaziland as well as other surrounding areas.

Big Game Parks would like to express its gratitude to the public for their support of rhino conservation through public sympathy as well as passing on valuable information to the rangers and police to help them solve these serious crimes. Further, we urge the public to continue to support their natural heritage by simply visiting and enjoying the wildlife withinSwaziland’s parks.

In this instance, Big Game Parks offered a R10, 000 reward for any information leading to the arrest or conviction of those involved in the rhino poaching incident. Aware of the very real threat of the eruption of a second rhino war in Swaziland, Big Game Parks is also offering a R20, 000 reward for information which is proven to prevent a rhino poaching incident from occurring and which successfully brings the perpetrators to book. In light of these recent incidences, it is vital to remain vigilant and prevent future human and wildlife casualties by sending any information on suspected future poaching practices to The Royal Swaziland Police or to Big Game Parks via email: poachingalerts@biggameparks.org or by phoning +268 76043867.

More than Gold: The Rhino Rescue Project

Swaziland’s proud 20 year rhino record was recently shattered with the loss of a young female rhino and her calf at Hlane Royal National Park. Big Game Parks was touched by the level of support from local, regional and international supporters who greatly lamented this loss. One such supporter, Melinda MacInnis, stepped up and, along with her highly-respected team, is currently making a documentary showing how the Rhino Wars have been brought back to Africa, and how the fate of Swaziland’s (and the world’s) rhino population hangs in the balance.

These truly majestic animals represent some of our planet’s last great megafauna and stand as a symbol of what our species is doing to every other. Rhinos have existed on this planet for millions of years and have always  been a part of the human experience, sparking our imagination and wonder. And now because some have decided that their horns are worth more than gold, we are about to wipe them out.

Through education, legislation, and the development of a global voice, we aspire to bring rhinos back from the brink of extinction. Melinda has already finished filming in Swaziland and is now in the post-production phase. Because everyone has so far worked for free (most especially John Mans, the Emmy-nominated, veteran nature and adventure cinematographer) or for drastically reduced rates, Melinda’s been able to capture something really remarkable and worthy of reaching as large an audience as possible, and now they just need that final push!

Please help spread the word of this project to turn the tide for the world’s rhinos!

How you can help

A 20yr Rhino Record Shattered

The Rhino: One of Swaziland's Key Tourist Attractions

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.