MISSION 13 of 2010
Name of Mission: Invasion of Ndumo Reserve
Date of Mission: 30 April 2010
Aircraft used: Helicopter
Pilot : Ashley Bell
Passenger: Sandra Herrington
Objective of Flight: To showcase the extent of the land invasion at Ndumo Reserve in Northern Maputaland
Report by the beneficiary: SANDRA HERRINGTON
REPORT ON THE NDUMO LAND INVASION
In late April 2010 some nifty flying by a Bateleurs pilot enabled a Tekweni TV production team to film poachers setting traps in the wetland area of Ndumo Game Reserve, in Northern Maputaland.
When the poachers saw the helicopter they made a run for it through crocodile-infested water in an effort to get away from the cameraman filming from the side where the door had been removed … and further along the flood plain more poacher boats were seen and filmed. All this allowed for some pretty damning evidence of what was becoming a daily occurrence in the reserve where the entire 11km eastern border fence has been down since it was violently removed two years ago by hostile dissidents from the neighbouring Mbangweni Corridor.It also allowed for some dramatic footage in the opening sequence of the 50/50 insert on the Ndumo land invasion, produced by Sandra Herrington in her follow-up to an expose of the problems this International Wetland Ramsar Site has been experiencing.
The problems are caused by unresolved land claims within the reserve, and broken promises by the government, in trying to address what has turned into a highly volatile situation.
This is a reserve whose international recognition comes from being located on a site that forms the largest floodplain system in South Africa, with riparian and gallery forest, abundant bird life and diversity of species many of which are rare and vulnerable. It is not only being impacted by uncontrolled poaching, which has virtually wiped out all the herbivores east of its flood plain and caused heavy losses of both crocodile and hippos, but also the severe damage to the floodplain itself through crop farming.Flying over the floodplain allowed the team to show the viewers just how extensive the damage is. Not only have large tracts of the wetland been cleared for gardens for the invaders, but large numbers of trees have been felled in the adjacent forest where crops are being planted on the higher ground, to protect them from being flooded during the periodic opening of the Jozini flood gates further upstream.
Following the recent expose which showed how Ndumo’s very existence is being threatened by a situation where neighbouring communities are treating the reserve as an extension of their own land, and law enforcement is lax because politicians have turned a blind eye to the situation, there has now been a turnaround … nothing radical, but at least some movement from a higher level to address the situation, which includes:
- A document requested by Provincial government for immediate action in the area that was prepared by KZN Wildlife and sent to the Premier’s office for signing.
- A visit that was made to the area by the MEC for Environment and Agriculture to meet with the community and share with them a roll-out plan to address their grievances and garner their support
- The police and the army being instructed to render support to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff in warding off poachers.
- A task team of representatives from KZN Wildlife and the Department of Environment and Agriculture being created to drive an initiative which includes, amongst other things, an offer to the community of alternative land for their crop farming.
Tekweni TV once again thanks The Bateleurs for helping to bring problems like this to the attention of both the public and the politicians. Without the aerial perspective made possible by The Bateleurs it would have been difficult to showcase the full extent of the environmental impact resulting from the illegal land invasion.