As we pause to celebrate Earth Day today, we are reminded of the importance of protecting our planet’s precious wildlife and ecosystems, a mission that has been at the heart of Londolozi’s conservation efforts for nearly 100 years.
Londolozi has a long history of dedicated conservation efforts. The Conservation Development Model that was pioneered here has made a significant impact in preserving the rich biodiversity of the Sabi Sand, and the greater African wilderness. Since its inception, this family-owned safe haven for wildlife has implemented various practices to protect and sustain the local ecosystem. Though the efforts run as deep and as wide as the river flowing through the property, three pillars lie at the core of these acts of preservation and protection: Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, and Care of the People.
Care of the Land
Today, Londolozi stands as one of the greatest game-viewing locations in the world. Animals are plentiful, and people come from all over the world just to have their personal nature reunion. But it was not always this way…
The definition of rewilding (or re-wilding) is the conservation efforts aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and wilderness areas. Here at Londolozi, we call this practice: The Restoration.
Londolozi Game Reserve’s transformation started as a bankrupt cattle farm and resulted in a thriving wilderness. This progress and process stand as both a practical and symbolic beacon of hope for a greater rewilding movement that is now taking place globally.
Working hand-in-hand with nature creates a profound encounter with a greater natural intelligence that deeply changes a person. Rewilding at Londolozi was a practical process that turned into a deeply symbolic journey. A journey that showed us that if you open yourself up with humility to work with nature, profound transformation can occur.
The Rewilding movement is about remembering. Remembering that we, as humans, are deeply connected to our environment and that it is in fact this connection that, in some fundamental way, helps us understand what it means to belong.
Londolozi is a 100-year story of healing and restoration that has shown we can restore our relationship with nature, and the planet and, in so doing, reconnect in some profound way with our deepest purpose as humanity.
Londolozi is a model that rewilders all over the world can look at and be inspired by.
Londolozi stands as a living symbol of what is possible when we allow the wisdom of nature to guide us.
Londolozi has implemented numerous sustainability efforts to ensure that its operations have a minimal impact on the environment and that it can continue to protect this sacred land for generations to come. One example of this is the practice of permaculture throughout the Community Gardens. From swails to the recycling and reusing of grey water to the production of our own organic fertiliser, the staff running these gardens utilise environmentally-conscious farming techniques to grow fresh produce for guests and other staff. This not only reduces the carbon footprint of transporting food from outside sources but also helps to promote sustainable agriculture and an awareness of our impact on our immediate footprint.
In addition to permaculture, Londolozi has implemented recycling programs and has significantly reduced the use of single-use plastics. This has become a success due to a cultural shift around waste. Cue The 5Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle. The purpose of the 5Rs is ultimately to make recycling almost irrelevant because we have refused unnecessary packaging, reduced all forms of waste, and re-used what remains, leaving us to only recycle waste that still remains or return organic waste to the environment by allowing it to rot. We have made some good progress on this journey – we are currently eliminating 250kg of waste per week by refusing it and recycling 4.5 tons of waste per month with the help of local community businesses – but we still have a long way to go before we can get close to being waste free.
In recent years, with the impact of climate change and increasing pressure on our natural water systems, we have seen water become more scarce. We are very conscious of this fact and of our role in using water efficiently as a result. We have made significant efforts to improve our wastewater treatment system through by investing in a bioremediation plant in 2018 that uses bacteria to treat all organics in wastewater. This plant treats an average of 20,000 m3 of wastewater per year and has enabled the recycling of 32% of the water consumed in 2021, which is above the South African National Drinking Water Standards. Londolozi plans to fully recycle its wastewater using reverse osmosis by 2026, reducing the water demands on the environment. The shift to natural, probiotic cleaning products has significantly helped to promote bacterial functioning in the bioremediation plant.
We acknowledge the impact of climate change and have taken measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Londolozi is transitioning towards maximised energy efficiency and renewable energy production through the use of solar power, solar water heating, energy-efficient cooling, and LED lighting. Despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and an energy security crisis in South Africa, we are determined to improve our energy efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint. We have set new targets to achieve total carbon neutrality of their direct operations by 2026 – watch this space!
Care of the Wild
The habituation of leopards at Londolozi is one of the most well-known conservation success stories. In the 1970s, John Varty and his good friend and naturalist Elmon Mhlongo embarked on a mission to habituate wild leopards to human presence. It was a groundbreaking endeavour that had never been attempted before. They started by spending countless hours in the bush, tracking the movements of the elusive big cats, and slowly gaining their trust. Over time, the leopards became accustomed to their presence and allowed them into their secret world.
The success of this project led to the creation of The Leopards of Londolozi. Over the last four decades, this dynasty has been chronicled by the many guides and trackers, past and present, who have worked at Londolozi. Each year we add to this growing body of work as the leopards continue to enthral, entertain, and inspire our guests and staff.
In partnership with the Tracker Academy, Londolozi proudly supports The Rhino Guardians, an initiative that aims to provide specialised training for trackers to help protect wildlife, especially rhinos. Due to the threat of poaching, there has been a growing demand for skilled trackers who can effectively monitor and protect wildlife populations, particularly rhinos.
Care of the People
Tracking was practised by our ancestors 10 000 years ago, but without the dependence on subsistence hunting for survival, tracking is not as necessary as it once was, and this indigenous knowledge has waned by over 90% in the last few decades. However, two men from Londolozi, ranger Alex Van den Heever and tracker Renias Mhlongo developed the idea of a formalised tracking school over ten years ago, in which the fundamentals of the art could be taught. Through the generosity of the Rupert Foundation and the involvement of Londolozi and Samara Game Reserves, the Tracker Academy was born.
The above-mentioned Rhino Guardians initiative, together with Tracker Academy, has been instrumental in not only training skilled trackers but also in providing employment opportunities for individuals from local communities. By investing in the training of local people, the program has helped foster a greater appreciation for wildlife and conservation efforts, while also providing much-needed employment opportunities in rural areas.
This post would not be complete without acknowledging Gaynor Rupert for her vision, energy, and grace in making Tracker Academy a reality in the first place. Inkomu, Mrs. Rupert! You have made a material difference in the protection of wild animals and wild places.
The Good Work Foundation (GWF), co-founded by Londolozi, is a non-profit organization based in South Africa that provides digital learning opportunities and other resources to help bridge the educational gap in rural communities. Much like Tracker Academy, GWF believes that education can be a powerful force in breaking the cycle of poverty and improving the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Community upliftment, rural education, healthcare, and the creation of safe havens for wildlife to roam freely, are just some of the ways in which your safari is already having a “ripple effect” in the neighbouring villages and families that live in and around Londolozi. However, we also know that micro-funding creates macro-impact – cue The Ripple Fund, which provides seed capital to empower small businesses, individual entrepreneurs, NGO start-ups, and projects (that might normally go unnoticed) to flourish with the right level of support.
Londolozi’s original purpose was captured in a mission statement that first came into being in 1976 and has stood fast ever since:
“We aim to create a model for wise land management by using the many qualities of the natural system and by integrating our visions with the environment and the local people to the benefit of all. Our primary objective is to demonstrate that man and wildlife can interact on a sustainable basis.”
Londolozi continues to be a leader in conservation and an inspiration to others in the ongoing effort to protect and preserve the natural world. Though this is a mere drop in the ocean, a solo tree in the forest, or a single star in the sky… we strongly believe that small changes create huge change.
If you’d like to get involved in any of the mentioned initiatives, click on the links below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Share this with as many of your loved ones as possible, after all –
“Earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry
Happy Earth Day!