WildArk’s mission is to secure land for biodiversity conservation. That’s our true north, that’s why we are here.
Pridelands Conservancy is a 4500-acre former buffalo-hunting farm that we are rehabilitating into a wildlife conservancy. Building our first Wildlife Community. Securing this property is very important for us as an organization. For me, it’s all I’ve ever dreamed of since I was 12 years old.
Pridelands falls within one of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots. The movement of animals here, as an extension of the Greater Kruger National Park, is critical to the longevity of the big herbivores, carnivores, birds and diversity of magnificent trees, shrubs and insects that exist in this epicentre of wildlife.
One of the primary reasons we settled on this piece of land is due to its position at the buffer zone between human habitation/agricultural land, and the greater wildlife refuge that is Kruger National Park. WildArk aims to project a positive message of conservation, but the stark reality is that poaching is at epidemic levels. We will be a new corridor into the Greater Kruger region. We want to ensure that our property is as secure as possible and becomes an exceptional example of wildlife protection and freedom.
Our vision for Pridelands is for it to become a case study for future conservancies we hope to secure.
We are developing plans for ecotourism and education. We aim to attract as many people as we can to Pridelands, with a range of ecotourism experiences for both local South Africans and International visitors. We also intend to build an educational campus for excellence in conservation, in partnership with EcoTraining — what we are calling an EcoCampus.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. The reality is that this property has been fenced off from the Greater Kruger for 50 years, limiting the natural flow of wildlife, which has adversely affected the bush. Some areas need rehabilitation, especially erosion gullies; there are too many roads, buildings, and the fences need to come down. There is, unfortunately, rubbish everywhere. We want to get this place to a standard that makes it acceptable to drop our fences and open up into Greater Kruger.
Throughout our journey, we hope to build Wildlife Communities. That term is important to us simply because if people can’t experience wildlife and the wilderness, how can they ever care about it?
Although many people enjoy ecotourism travel, many more will never have that opportunity. However, as digital connectivity improves globally, we hope to provide positive images, stories and education opportunities from not only WildArk’s small conservancy footprint, but from a multitude of wild places.
WildArk has joined forces with my old mate Anton Lategan, managing director of EcoTraining, Africa’s largest guide training organization. Anton is such an important mentor to me personally, as well as for our combined organization, as his knowledge of Southern Africa is second to none. I’ve never met anyone with a better understanding of wildlife, coupled with an extensive experience in training and ecotourism.
We dream about trying to make WildArk and conservation accessible to everyone. When you take people into the wilderness and they are immersed in the magical sights and sounds of the bush, the trees and birds, they experience a real peace.
As a parent, seeing your kids interact in the bush is an extraordinary experience. Our children have always been ‘bushy,’ and we’re in Africa for the year now. Our twins are out there catching crickets, our son is nursing an immature Southern Red-billed Hornbill and our eldest has her bird book and her binoculars and is looking at African Paradise Flycatchers, it’s pretty cool to see.
With knowledge comes great responsibility. It’s an old cliché, but it weighs on my wife Sophie and I. I couldn’t think of anything better to do with our time and resources than invest in this.
Pridelands is only a tiny piece in the greater conservation mission happening all over the world and we’re hoping we can do our part. If we’re lucky enough we’ll be able to show our grandkids Lions roaming freely in the wild. This is something that Sophie and I talk about every day.