Madikwe Game Reserve was established as a conservation area in 1991, previously existing as a collection of rundown farms. The initiative to return the area to its historic state and relocate wildlife here, known as Operation Phoenix, was the largest wildlife translocation project in the world.
Over seven years, 8 000 animals of 28 species were brought onto the reserve. Most notable was the reintroduction of the endangered African wild dog (or Cape hunting dog, endemic to the area), which made it one of the few stronghold populations in Southern Africa at the time.
Madikwe Game Reserve has been a huge conservation success. With healthy populations of all of Africa’s Big Five – as well as cheetah and African wild dog, making up the ‘Super Seven’ – and smaller, but no less intriguing, mammals, birds, reptiles and insets, it is a wildlife Eden.
The back of a lion’s ears and the tuft of its tail are black, giving cubs a clear ‘I’m here’ focal point to help them follow their mother and keep in touch with the rest of the pride when moving through long grass.
Pattern-wise, no two leopards are alike. Combinations of black spots and rosettes (groupings of spots), as well as their size and placement, are varied and individualistic. Each leopard can be identified by its beautiful and unique spot pattern, either on its body or around its whiskers.
The cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, can clock a speed of 115km/h. They use their long tails for balance and to help them turn while sprinting. Individual cheetahs are easily identified by their distinctive black-line markings that run from the inside of each eye down to the mouth. These are called ‘tear marks’ and are believed to deflect the sun’s glare and protect the cheetah’s eyes.
African Wild Dog
The African wild dog is Southern Africa’s most endangered carnivore. They live in packs, with an alpha pair who give birth annually. The pups are then reared by the entire pack. African wild dogs are extremely caring of their pack members, and are the only carnivore known to let pups, the old and sick feed first.
Spotted hyenas live in matriarchal clans, with strict social hierarchies in which every individual has a ranking. They also have a diverse collection of vocalisations used to communicate. This makes spotted hyenas a fascinating species to watch, especially while they are feeding.
Brown hyenas (slightly resembling a shaggy dog) are specialised to arid environments, making them perfectly suited to Madikwe. Brown hyenas are shy and elusive. The best place to find them is around carcasses, because they are almost exclusively scavengers and don’t usually hunt for their meals.
Elephants spent about 16 hours a day feeding and will consume, on average, 4 to 6% of their body weight daily, grinding the food between their rasp-like molars, which move forward and backward over each other.
Black and White Rhinoceros
Black and white rhino are in fact both grey animals. They both have two horns, but are differentiated by their size, body shape, habitat and diet. A quick way to tell them apart is by looking at their mouths – the black rhino is hook-lipped, while the white rhino is square-lipped.
The Cape buffalo is a ruminant and considered a bulk grazer, making use of its tongue and wider incisor teeth to eat grass quicker than most other African herbivores.
Giraffes are the tallest animal in the world, with their necks reaching up to 2m long. Surprisingly, they have the same number of vertebrae as humans do – seven.
Even though the hippo lives in water, it doesn’t swim, but rather moves through a water system by walking along the bottom. A hippo needs to resurface every 3 to 5 minutes to breathe. The process of surfacing and breathing is autonomic – even a sleeping hippo will rise and breathe without waking.
Within 15 minutes of birth, a baby zebra is able to stand up on its own and within an hour, it is able to walk and soon after, run. Zebra foals are born with long legs, believed to help conceal them amongst their herd from predators.
Other animals to look out for on safari at Madikwe…
- African civet
- African wild cat
- Black-backed jackal
- Large- and small-spotted genet
- Honey badger
- Blue wildebeest
- Greater kudu
- Grey duiker
- Mountain reedbuck
- Red hartebeest
Rare Nocturnal Wildlife:
- Cape porcupine
There are over 300 species of resident and migratory species at Madikwe Game Reserve. Here is a list of some favourites:
- Spotted eagle-owl
- Lilac-breasted roller
- Red-crested korhaan
- Red-billed oxpecker
- Village weaver
- Little bee-eater
- Natal spurfowl
- Pied kingfisher
- Grey heron
- Blue waxbill
- Crimson-breasted shrike
- Pale chanting goshaw
- African fish eagle
- Kori bustard
- Yellow-throated sandgrouse