It’s hard to separate the early adventures of Londolozi from Dr. Ken Tinley (pictured left), a wildlife management specialist whose practices were considered “controversial”.
First, he was critical of conservationists.
“You want to get your picture on the social page because you’re going to save cheetah and elephants,” he would say. “That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. Don’t save the animals. They don’t need saving. Protect your land from bad land-use practices, create space for the animals and they will thrive.”
Second, Tinley’s approach to landscape patterns and geomorphology was not always well received and, third, in a land ideologically based on apartheid laws, Tinley believed in the need to involve rural communities in an economy of wildlife.
In the mid-1970s the Londolozi brothers, Dave and John Varty, were increasingly worried by the decline of certain species on the original Londolozi property, and – not being impartial to ideas that went against the mainstay – they reached out to Tinley.
Tinley identified the following land problems at Londolozi:
- Roads, tracks and firebreaks accelerated run-off of rainwater because they were built straight down hillsides or on the seepline (a layer of sand sitting directly above clays which would hold moisture)
- Cattle-farming in the early 20th Century and the unnatural, unprecedented movement of large herds of large grazers in the 1960s had compacted the topsoil, resulting in rainwater running off, instead of soaking into, the soil
- As the land dried out and top soils were washed away, trees and wood shrubs invaded the grasslands and wetlands, creating unfavourable conditions for many species, including large grazers
Tinley’s directive to the Varty brothers was decisive: restore the water table.
Using a bulldozer on loan from the CEO of LTA (at the time, the largest construction company in South Africa), John and Dave had five weeks to: (1) Close up eroded ravines; (2) Create grassed waterways and clear bush encroachers; (3) Reroute roads that had been built on seeplines and (4) Redirect or reroute firebreaks.
“We rigged up lights and worked night and day” says Dave. “In the space of two months the landscape had changed. I could see across a mosaic of open grasslands and bushveld trees for perhaps a kilometer. And on lower ground a wetland vlei had filled with water which had not been there two days previously… The water table rose.”
As grasslands reemerged and open areas were restored, “the game started to reappear,” recalls Dave. “The great turning point for us was seeing the first leopard on our land for over a decade.”
Since then, the Londolozi approach to land management has been based largely on Tinley’s forward-thinking strategy to restore wetlands and open up savannah grasslands. As Dave Varty says at the beginning of his book, The Full Circle: “If you work with nature, she works with you in a forgiving and enduring partnership.”
In a recent video, Dave Varty speaks highly of Tinley’s three-pronged approach to restoring areas under wildlife. Have a look at this snippet from the “Tinley Plan” video, and feel free to share your thoughts below.