By Mike Loewe, East Cape News
July 28, 2000
Grahamstown - Thandukhala, the rhinoceros who "likes to cry"
making noises like a dolphin, will weep no longer.
The young female rhino was released last night -- the first of
six to be released into the Eastern Cape's newest game reserve.
Yesterday the media were shown around Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
north of the huge state-owned Fish River Reserve Complex between
Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort.
Pride of place was a boma where the northern Natal rhinos worth
R2,2m -- R375 000 each -- were being kept in separate pens.
By sheer fluke, delighted staff said two of their purchases at
the recent R15m game auction at Hluhluwe had later been found to
The release of the rhino into Kwandwe has followed extensive checking
by the sellers to ensure that the environment is suitable.
The game buying programme is being funded by Florida, America-based
pharmaceutical magnate Carl DeSantis (subs: DeSantis) who has poured
more than R50m into the 16 000-hectare reserve.
The area is carrying 25 percent of the wild life stock it is able
Minor partner and reserve manager Angus Sholto-Douglas, 30, formerly
of Grahamstown, said the reserve's lodge would cater for 24 high-
paying foreign tourists, but a day centre would cater for South
Africans of all walks of life -- at reasonable rand prices.
One night at the reserve could cost a foreigner anything from R2
However, he said the reserve owners wanted to encourage arts and
crafts and educational tours for schoolchildren from town and township
During the tour, the media learned that a private consortium had
been granted a concession to run a significant portion of the state-
owned Fish River Reserve this week.
The reserve, which is stocked with a wide range of African wildlife
and is served by a system of lodges, has been languishing without
staff and resources since 1994. Sholto-Douglas said the Kwandwe
deal was structured so that "value stays here" and was
not moved offshore. He said this was at DeSantis's request.
"You should meet him. Then you will understand the kind of
guy he is."
He said Kwandwe was an amalgamation of at least four farms, on
either side of the Fish River and that the 10 tenant labourers --
mostly goat herders and their families -- had been trained to become
By the time the reserve, with its upmarket riverside lodge opens
in July next year, 86 jobs would have been created.
He said the full range of African game would soon be roaming through
the valley bushveld.
Kwandwe was shaping itself more on a "safari-styled"
venue, which made it different to the more "colonial-style"
of its nearest competitor, Shamwari Game Reserve.
He felt the two reserves would compliment each other and would
strengthen the province's tourism sector.
He said Eastern Cape reserves had the edge on other areas because
they were malaria-free and were linked to the Garden Route and Cape
The semi-arid noorsveld and valley bushveld were perfect for most
of the African species and black rhino thrived in the Fish River
After a lengthy drive, the media were shown the boma where the
six rhino were seen browsing happily or in the case of one temperamental
and pregnant 10-year-old matriarch called "Ouma", listening
to the radio.
Sholto-Douglas said the sound of music was soothing to the grumpy
One scribe quipped: "Ouma is learning Xhosa!" Thandukhala
was to be released last night and a nature conservation researcher
Warrick Barnard of Grahamstown was to be on duty to follow a radio
signal emitted from a transmitter drilled into her horn, its aerial
sticking up inside the horn.
The rest are to be released later this week on the principle of
one a night.
Black rhino were fairly docile during captivity but were very dangerous
in the veld.
Proving the point, Sholto-Douglas, put his hand through the thick
gumpole fence and said to grumpy Ouma: "Hey sexy! Hayish my
girl! She's a beauty."
During the recent cold snap blankets and plastic were put up to
protect the rhinos from the freezing westerlies and their intake
of "browse" -- lucerne -- nearly tripled.
On the drive back to the minimalist but very smart, brand new reserve
headquarters, reporters were given a hair-raising ride on a "road"
cut along the hilly banks of the Fish River.
It was cut by a tractor dragging a blade a few days before, but
the brand new-looking Landrover made for comfortable travelling.
Sholto-Douglas believes tourists want the "safe but rugged"
ride they will be getting at Kwandwe.
We were shown incredible vistas of the muddy Fish, still pumping
despite the dry yellow grassveld scenes all around it, plus zebra,
kudu, wildebeest (blues and black), blesbok.
We also saw a powerful elephant boma for the family of elephants
which will be arriving from the north soon.
Lion are also planned, but with live catch costing anything between
R10 000 and R20 000 a week, the reserve has decided to fence off
a section and to put in "cheaper" faster-reproducing game,
such as impala and springbok for the lion to feed on.