Wildlife in the Pilanesberg Game reserve
The malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park, covers some 55 000 hectare and is the fourth largest in southern Africa. It is perched on the eroded remains of an alkaline volcanic crater - one of only three such craters in the world.
The park opened in 1979 in one of the largest game resettlement projects in the history of South Africa.
The history of the Pilanesberg Park is also unique amongst national parks in South Africa.
Pilanesberg National Park's special features of rugged landscape, well-watered valleys and attractive dwelling sites have made it a preferred site for human settlement for thousands of years. Prior to its proclamation as a reserve in 1979, the Pilanesberg National Park Complex was degraded and depleted of indigenous wildlife populations due to fairly intense settlement by commercial farmers.
At considerable expense, the land has been restocked with game, the scars of human settlement were removed and tourism infrastructure was developed during the first 15 years (1979 and 1993). This constituted the largest and most expensive game stocking and land rehabilitation project ever undertaken in any African game reserve at the time.
A 110 kilometre peripheral Big Game fence was erected over some very rugged terrain, 188 kilometre of visitor roads have been developed and more than 6 000 head of game were introduced during the Operation Genesis game trans-location programme. Thus, while wildlife resources are rapidly declining in most developing countries in Africa, Pilanesberg National Park is one of the few areas where this trend has been dramatically reversed.
For this far-sighted action the North West Province (Previously Bop Parks) and its people have received worldwide acclaim and recognition.
The challenge that lies ahead is to further develop and manage Pilanesberg National Park in such a way that the conservation, cultural, recreational and economic benefits of this far-sighted action can be optimally utilised to the benefit of current and future generations.
Pilanesberg exists within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld vegetation, commonly referred to as "Bushveld". Unlike any other large park, unique overlaps of mammals, birdlife and vegetation occur because of this transition zone.
Springbok, brown hyaena, the redeyed bulbul, and camel thorn trees usually found in arid areas are found co-habitating with moist-area-limited impala, blackeyed bulbul and Cape chestnut trees. Pre-sunrise and post-sunset drives and visits to the Mankwe Dam are possible owing to gate opening and closure times.
Since late 1979, thanks to Operation Genesis - the largest game translocation ever undertaken at the time, tourists have been able to take note of nature's alphabet - from aardvark to zebra.
The park boasts healthy populations of lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo - Africa's "Big Five".
A wide variety of rare and common species exist with endemic species like the nocturnal brown hyaena, the fleet-footed cheetah, the majestic sable, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodile, to mention but a few.
Geologically, the area is world famous. Its structure, termed the "Pilanesberg National Park Alkaline Ring Complex" was formed by volcanic eruptions some 1 200 million years ago.
Apart from its unique size, shape and rock types, the volcanic origin and resultant weathering of the extinct crater has resulted in a wide variety of landscapes. This provides some of the most spectacular scenery in Southern Africa. It also provides a wide range of habitats for game animals.
Because of this, Pilanesberg has the potential to carry a wider variety of game species than any other similar sized game reserve in Southern Africa. Its potential for supporting rare and endangered species such as black rhino, roan, sable, tsessebe, foot-and-mouth free buffalo and wild dogs is particularly high.
As well as the 'Big Five' you will find the nocturnal brown hyena, cheetah, hippo, crocodile and even sable in the Pilanesberg National Park