The Kingdom of Swaziland has submitted a proposal to CITES CoP17 to allow a controlled trade in rhino horn accruing from natural deaths, harvesting, and her own poached rhinos.

It is appropriate here to mention what can be described as one of – if not the greatest African conservation success story of all time – the saving of the Southern White Rhino by Ezemvelo KZN, formerly known as the Natal Parks Board. In the early 20th century, this species had been reduced to less than 50 animals.

At the instance of the likes of Col Peter Potter and a few others, this small isolated population (some state it to have been as few as 12 individuals) remained discretely located at the junction of the White and Black Umfolozi Rivers in Zululand. When Ian Player arrived on the scene as a young game ranger, this population had grown to some 600-odd animals, protected under what was to become one of the finest conservation agencies in Africa, if not the world – the Natal Parks Board (previously termed the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board) under the direction of Colonel Jack Vincent.

It was Ian Player whose vision it was in the early 1960s to distribute the species widely – even to other countries – to spread the risk against extinction, and safeguard white rhinos for posterity.

It is less than likely that the small nucleus of rhinos, whose numbers were finitely limited to the carrying capacity of the Mfolozi Game Reserve at the time, could possibly have withstood the current onslaught in rhino poaching which now annually equates to approximately twice the original number of animals in the nucleus Player started with. So, had it not been for Ian Player’s vision to spread rhinos far and wide, the world would not have been privileged with the white rhino legacy he left us.

Ian Player died in 2014. Before he died, he was distraught at the escalating plight of rhinos and advocated strongly for the ban in trade in horn to be lifted in time to save them. Though Player was a strongly spiritual man, he was also pragmatic and strongly believed in the commercialization of game to enhance its material value in order to attract financial investment in it. He had seen this work over 40 years in southern Africa where, in that time wild animals had more than trebled in number, while in East Africa they had declined by 80% over the same period of time after consumptive utilization had been outlawed.

There is more game in South Africa today than there was in 1960, and this can be attributed to its commercialisation. There is, in fact, more game in private ownership in southern Africa now than there is collectively in all national and provincial parks, for no other reason than its legal commercialization. Dr Anton Rupert once said “the government will not get up at 2 in the morning to tend a sick cow, but its owner will!” And there is nothing like ownership to protect what one owns and recover what is stolen from one, especially if it has added commercial value.

After 39 years of the futile ban in rhino horn trade being in place, it is time to try something new. Open the Trade! Farm rhinos! Explore all options. No domestic animal has ever gone extinct!

Rhinos are now no longer considered an asset. They are a liability. It is simply too costly and too risky for custodians to continue conserving rhinos without the material returns which rhino horn sales could bring. Privately owned habitats in South Africa currently support approximately 30% of all white rhinos, which would, without any doubt, grow with a legal trade. We simply cannot afford the loss of any more rhino habitat, and opening the trade would likely expand rhino range 10 fold.

Measures to control rhino poaching on a continental scale are clearly not working. We have seen 70 of the 300 rhino owners in South Africa disinvest in rhinos last year, withdrawing some 200 000ha of habitat from rhino conservation. 200 000ha equates to a carrying capacity of some 2 000 white rhinos, plus a variety of other grazing species. (Reference: Rhino Owners’ Association).

South Africa has always been a strong proponent for lifting the ban, and several countries fully expected her to submit a proposal to CITES CoP17 to do so. Swaziland was standing by to support such a proposal. For whatever reason South Africa didn’t submit the expected proposal, the deadline was upon us, so Swaziland, to keep a foot in the door and keep options open, worked through the night to produce its proposal and submitted it with only hours to spare in the late afternoon of the last day.

If between now and the CITES CoP17, there is insufficient support and encouragement for it, the proposal can always be withdrawn. To be successful, such a proposal to CITES requires a 66% – 2/3 majority vote in favour of it. It is almost certain that this will NOT be achieved because custodians have been preoccupied defending their rhinos and themselves at the poaching coalface while donor dependent animal rights activists have been targeting Hollywood and other international iconic figureheads to continue with the ban in trade.

The world follows Hollywood, so the marketing skills of these donor dependant activists have totally outclassed those of the custodians, and they have built up an international stigma against the legal trade and those who support it. At least Swaziland’s proposal will provide the first step to a much needed platform for debate at CoP17 where the majority of African rhino custodians and their supporters will be afforded the opportunity to voice their views on an international forum.

CITES happens every 3 years. Had this proposal not materialized now, we would have had to wait another 3 years before taking the first step, and at the current rate of plunder, rhinos may not have the time to survive further delays in trying something new. At least now, at CoP18 in three years time, the second step at advocating the lifting of the ban can be taken when the pro consumptive message can be fortified and lobbied for at international level.

Currently criminals take 100% of the profits, and custodians pay all the costs of protection. This disparity will lessen with a legal trade. It is common sense that a legal trade will immediately compete with the illegal trade and any revenue it attracts will not be available to the black market criminals.

This is the rationale around the Swazi proposal which hopefully will gain momentum. Ian Player said before he died that the iconic figures of the world, had been misinformed by the animal rights activists who advocate for the continuation of a 39 year old ban which is still not working for the rhinos.

The ban is, however, working for the criminals and for those activists who raise donor money by supporting it. The question has to be asked: “Is it in the financial interests of donor dependant animal rights activists to find a solution to the plight of the rhinos when finding one would remove a very fertile platform for raising donor funding?”! In this respect, we hastily acknowledge that some activists are sincere and cannot be placed in this bracket.

The other question to be asked is, Is there one single ban with a lucrative commercial black market alternative, which has ever worked?

And for how much longer than 39 years do we need, to realize that the current ban is not working?

Ted Reilly. Big Game Parks, Swaziland.

10 Reasons to visit Hlane

Hlane Royal National Park, encompassing 22 000 hectares dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation. Home to the largest herds of game in the Kingdom of Swaziland, including Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Giraffe to name but a few. Hlane is also home to an abundant bird life.

Here are our top 10 reasons why you should consider visiting Hlane on your next trip to Swaziland.

  1. Pristine, unspoiled natural area. The name ‘Hlane’ in siSwati means ‘Wilderness’, Big Game Parks have done well to preserve Hlane and keep it, exactly that, a beautiful wilderness.#Grasslands & #Wetlands
  2. Perfect getaway from stressed urban living- Hlane offers two peaceful camps, Bhubesi and Ndlovu which are both tucked away from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of everyday life.
  3. With family and group cottages at both Ndlovu and Bhubesi-Hlane is the ideal park to spend quality time with family and loved ones.HTFW-JM-15-4341.jpg
  4. Situated 55 KM away from the Goba border post- making Hlane a great place to take a break either on your way to or from Mozambique.
  5. If it’s a taste of Swazi culture you’re after then Hlane is a must- home to some of the best traditional dancers in Swaziland, you don’t want to miss out on this experience!Mlilwane Mbuso and Kids.jpg
  6. Host to the annual Marula Festival-a festival of “fruits fit for the king!”
  7. The Royal Hunt (Butimba)- A cultural event culminating the hunting season in Swaziland whereby the King and Regiments hunt antelope using traditional weapons.events%20and%20traditions%20royals%20bf%20(13).jpg
  8. Home of the Swazi Lions- Hlane is the only place within Swaziland to view these magnificent animals.Hlane Mick's Lion.jpg
  9. Hlane is also host 4 to the big 5- having Lions, Elephants, Rhino and Leopard. The only park within Swaziland where you will get to see them all!Morning Mist
  10. For the bird and nature enthusiasts, Hlane hosts the southernmost nesting site of the marabou stork- a sight in itself to behold.Storks

Book now! reservations@biggameparks.org /+268 2523943

Statement by the Chief Executive of Big Game Parks

The elephants have finally flown!


The capture and translocation of any animal is always inevitably subject to high levels of stress to those who conduct it but particularly to the animals themselves.  The challenge is to keep those stress levels to a minimum, and any interruptions or delays in the process, be they deliberate or unintentional, simply add unwanted trauma and discomfort to the animals being captured and translocated.  It also is hugely costly.  In the current case of the Swazi elephants, demurrage on the plane, a Boeing 747 cargo carrier, the largest plane to have landed at the King Mswati III International Airport, is a million US Dollars a day.


While human error, and Murphy’s law, are realities to be contended with in any translocation, in the end it is always the animals which suffer the consequences of human error and human behaviour, despite having had nothing to do with what is chosen for them.


Elephants are a species which evoke enormous human emotions among decent, caring, but often misinformed supporters, and animal rights activists have latched on to this to exploit the potential of an extremely fertile and lucrative money making platform from donor funding on which they survive.


For this reason, there are a plethora of sensitivities around the movements of elephants, and in the case of the Swazi elephants a calculated decision was made to follow a discreet and confidential route, for as long as possible,  to shorten our exposure to demonstration and demonization by money-hungry activists.


When the news broke about the Swazi elephants, as it always eventually does, the Right Honourable Prime Minister, as Head of Cabinet, was duly informed by Big Game Parks on 29th September 2015.


This statement is released in the hope that delays and frustrations which traumatize and impact very negatively on animals, which become the subject of unnecessary constraints, are better appreciated and minimised in future by everyone involved.

T.E Reilly

Chief Executive of Big Game Parks, Swaziland


Big Game Parks Successfully Hosts IdolsSA Star

Big Game Parks recently had the privilege of hosting IdolsSA star Kyle Deutschmann who was shooting a music video for the hit song “Wildside” at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve. Kyle finished in the top five of the tenth edition of the popular music talent search show South African Idols.

Hosting and assisting in the video shoot with Kyle and crew was great fun, and the video is evidence of it!  Big Game Parks congratulates Kyle and  crew  for choosing Swaziland and Big Game Parks especially.. To watch the video, follow the YouTube link:



Big Game Parks Quiet Season Specials

QSS Info Sheet Rack-page-001Save up to 30% off on accommodation on Big Game Parks’ Quiet Season Specials at Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctaury including Reillys Rock Hilltop Lodge and Mkhaya Game Reserve when you stay  two nights or more from the 10th January 2016 to 20th March 2016. Entry is free for WILD card holders.

To book contact the Central Reservations Office on reservations@biggameparks.org or call +268 2528 3943


Big Game Parks 2015/16 Festive Season Procedures

family of logosHlane Royal National Park and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary welcome day visitors over the Christmas season.  We encourage enjoyment of our parks in a responsible manner with respect to wildlife and fellow guests.  EcoTourism is about a quality nature experience.  Big Game Parks is about making memorable experiences in nature available to local, regional and international guests.  We do not condone noisy and disrespectful behavior.  Our parks are here to be enjoyed by all who visit, which means safety, respect, courtesy and sobriety are important.

Due to the high levels of disturbance and numerous refunds paid to unhappy overnight guests over Christmas 2014, our parks will be following a very strict procedure this festive season.

  • For the safety and enjoyment of all, the “No Alcohol Permitted” rule will be enforced vigorously throughout the holiday season
  • Every vehicle will be searched on entry to both Hlane and Mlilwane. Vehicles with alcohol will be turned away and denied access into the park.
  • No alcohol may be left at our gates.
  • Anyone arriving intoxicated or suspected of being under the influence of intoxicating substances will be turned away. Our Rangers have full discretion.
  • Day Visitors will be required to leave the Rest Camp by 17h00 between 20 December and 5 January
  • Security will be deployed in the camps and have the authority to search picnics and any alcohol found being off-loaded will result in the vehicle and its passengers being evicted without refund
  • The number of Day Visitor vehicles allowed into the parks will be restricted on 25th December, 26th December and 1st Notices will be erected at the turn off when capacity is reached.  Big Game Parks reserves the right to restrict entry during Peak Season.
  • Conservation (entry) fees will be as follows:
    • E40,00 per adult & E20 per child during High Season (18-24 Dec & 28-30 Dec)
    • E60,00 per adult & E30 per child during Peak Season (25-27 Dec & 31 Dec-3 Jan) – Restricted access applies
    • Normal Rates apply through the rest of the months of December and January, with exception of the above dates
    • Wild Cards will be accepted as normal, without premium fare
    • Pre-bookings for overnight guests as per our forecast will be charged normal Conservation Fees, including pay on arrival
    • Pre-paid Christmas Lunch bookings in the Hippo Haunt and Hlane Restaurants will be charged normal Conservation Fees. Pre-bookings without payment will be charged peak season rates. 

Wishing all our guests a fabulous Festive Season!

To book contact our Central Reservations Office on +268 2528 3943 or email reservations@biggameparks.org

10 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Rhinos

Here are 10 interesting fun facts you most probably didn’t know about Rhinos.

Happy reading! 

ML SMR 70s Rhino Wallow

1) A Rhino’s horn’s structure resembles a horse’s hooves. The outside is composed of soft keratin, similar to our very own hair and fingernails, while at its centre there are dense deposits of melanin and calcium. If the horn breaks off, a rhino can grow a new one.

2) In ancient times, the rhino horn was believed to hold magical properties, such as the ability to purify water or to be used to detect poisons in drinks. Surprisingly, the latter quality may be true! Because of the horn’s composition, today some believe that strongly alkaline poisons may have produced a chemical reaction inside a cup made from the horn.

3) An adult rhino’s skin can be as much as 5 cm thick, with typical range of thickness across being 1-5 cm!

4) Despite their large size, Rhinos are quick! Some have been clocked at going as fast as 45 km/h! In comparison, a human at full speed on a 100 metre sprint reaches around 37 km/h. And all this done with Rhinos only running on their toes.

5) White Rhinos can eat plants that are toxic to other animals, it’s safe to say that without Rhinos the plains of Africa would be scattered with weeds.

6) Rhinos are more closely related to horses and zebras than hippos, Rhinos are Odd-Toed Ungulates.

7) Black Rhinos have a prehensile upper lip (similar to a set of human fingers), this helps them to get even the smallest piece of vegetation from a thorn bush.

8) Rhinos make their own sun block by wallowing in mud for up to 3 hours and letting it dry, this also helps with keeping some blood sucking insects away.

9) Black Rhinos can live up to 5 days without water during drought.

10) The collective name for a group of Rhinos is a “Crash of Rhinos”.

Mkhaya rhino Photography