TWO significant land merge deals will create a huge boost for local conservation efforts.Thula Thula Private Game Reserve and the Ubizo Communal Property Association (UCPA) signed an agreement to join their land for the purpose of a greater conservation space.A memorandum of understanding was signed on Thursday by Thula Thula, represented by Francoise Malby Anthony, and the UCPA led by chairperson Thomas Cebekhulu.According to a media statement, the agreement records the Ubizo community’s commitment to incorporate into Thula Thula some 1 133 hectares of the Dube Ridge farm that was recently restored to them, in part settlement of a land claim.

Celebrating the historic signing are (back) Kirsten Youens – Thula Thula attorney, Francoise Malby Anthony, Clement Cebekhulu, Michael Crichton – owner and MD of Zulweni game reserve, Vusi Gumede – Thula Thula farm manager, Muzi Sikakane – game ranger, Siya Mbatha – Thula Thula head ranger, Thandeka Mndaba, Buyi Mbokazi, Thomas Cebekhulu; (front) Clive Kelly – attorney of the Ubizo CPA, Christiaan DuBuson – Conservation manager at Thula Thula and TA Cebekh

Dube Ridge farm previously belonged to Tongaat Hulett, and was stripped of its water rights and irrigation infrastructure before being handed over to the Cebekhulu community.The Cebekhulu community investigated all possible farming opportunities on the land and decided that the best use for the western portion of the farm would be conservation and tourism.The Ubizo CPA has considered that the best suited model for Dube Ridge farm, due to its proximity to Thula Thula, is that of wildlife conservation and tourism which offer the most appropriate and beneficial land use.‘We are delighted and grateful at Thula Thula to be in partnership with the Ubizo CPA, who have chosen to use their land and share the same vision as us for nature and wildlife conservation,’ said Francoise Malby AnthonyThe UCPA plans to create a Zulu traditional village to entertain tourists, which will be complementary to the wildlife activities of the game reserve.Following the signing of a lease agreement, the construction of the fence will commence and soon the world renowned elephants of Thula Thula will be seen roaming on Cebekhulu land.

Second pact

An agreement has also been reached between Thula Thula and Zulweni private game reserves, with the incorporation of a further 1 200 hectares, introducing the establishment of the Greater Zululand Wildlife Conservancy into a single conservation area, creating an extended land area of 5 600 hectares, with more projects of expansion in the near future. This expansion will provide a greatly increased surface area for the current, and any newly-introduced, wildlife to roam more freely.This will permit the introduction of new game species and, importantly, will also provide for a widening of the current gene pool and improved biodiversity, all positive improvement for wildlife in the region.

Written by Dave Savides of ZO News