Written by Hillary Gaertner
Thrill seeker safari lovers have a chance to become part of wildlife conservation management while giving their hearts a reason to skip a beat in the bush.
Every year The Ant Collection hosts a special safari week where guests have the opportunity to participate in wildlife conservation during their annual game census safari. It’s a unique way to experience the bush in a way that whole-heartedly immerses participants into anything but ordinary activities on the private game reserve. Guests can prepare for a week of hands on conservation safari-action in between all the luxury extra experiences expected at Ants.
Approaching the lodge’s 7th annual game census safari week, it’s important to reflect on the reasons why the event takes place. A census is a vital tool in managing the private reserve and is used to get an accurate idea of how many browsers (leaf eating), selective grazers (short grass eaters) and bulk grazers (long grass eaters) are located across the wide open plains. Ant Baber, the proud owner of the lodge, emphasises how critical it is to keep these all in balance so as not to over utilise the environment, which can eventually lead to permanent damage of the vegetation.
Traditionally game censuses are done by helicopter, but Ant Baber explains that this method is too noisy, extremely stressful to the game, and very expensive. Instead, Ant’s capitalises on what they know best and performs the whole operation on horseback. It remains more accurate than a helicopter count and most importantly, causes zero disturbance to the wildlife.
Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill 2014 game census was a huge success and provides quite the build-up for this year’s census happening from the 31st of May till the 8th of June. It’s real life safari action and a previous guest put it so perfectly when she said, “It’s like being in your own wildlife documentary, getting hands on in the capture, being a part of the rush and simply having a good time.”
The week lends itself to all sorts of conservation activities from game counting to darting, and even relocating the reserve’s wildlife populations. The game count begins with the whole reserve divided into blocks, through which the rider’s criss-cross in a systematic way recording the species, sex, and rough age group of the wildlife. The horses remain the superhero resources of the week as most of the game census jobs are completed from horseback.
Last year’s census placed a much-needed emphasis on the rhinos. The night before rhino darting commenced, the administrator of Save the Waterberg Rhino spoke to the guests regarding the situation surrounding the threat to Waterberg’s beloved rhinos. The next morning, wide-eyed and bushy tailed, the 2014 troops successfully darted three, four year old rhinos and sedated them whilst injecting a poison into their horns in an attempt to render the horns useless to poachers.
The pulse of Africa’s wildlife continued on with the team darting and loading three young sable heifer yearlings, which were sold and transported to another game reserve to establish a new sable population there. The highlight of the day was capturing the beautiful, big sable bull that was bred on their property. It took forty riders searching across the reserve to capture and relocate him to a big group of sable cows on a separate area of the reserve. He needed to be moved there to keep the genetics pure in the herd to prevent in breeding. He is an exceptional bull that has already produced his first offspring with his new herd.
The week ended on an incredible high that only game census safari participants can fully explain. Ant’s Hill’s resident cowboy and general manager, Chase, who thoroughly enjoys the safari fast lane, explained the excitement:
“People see this stuff on television. And now they can actually do it, as well as have a luxurious lodge to come back to and enjoy the pleasures of too. It’s a great week, and anyone who is an experienced rider should definitely do this once in their lives.”
There is limited availability to attend the Ant Collection’s 2015 Game Census Safari so email the reservations team to secure your spot.