Operation Phoenix & the Magnificent 7
The Madikwe Game Reserve, a landmark for conservation and community development in South Africa is the setting for Africa’s biggest translocation of wild game. Created for the preservation of a unique wilderness area, the reintroduction of game began early in 1991, known as Operation Phoenix; the largest translocation of game in the world. More than 8,000 animals of 28 species were released into the reserve over a period of seven years for the purpose of establishing an economically viable wildlife sanctuary. Along with leopard already occurred naturally in the reserve and roughly 250 species of birds that have been recorded in the park a variety of wildlife was introduced.
Let’s take a closer look at what you may encounter on safari! The magnificent 7 is comprised of the lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, cheetah and the wild dog. Below is a brief insight into a few animals to spot while out on game drive.
Cheetah (Acinonyx Jubatus)
Currently in the Madikwe Game Reserve there are 4 cheetahs that may be seen traversing different areas. There is a coalition of 2 males, a single female and a single male within the park.
African wild dog (Lycaon Pictus)
Our famous painted wolves roam the vast areas of the reserve and are highly social animals that live in packs. They are classified as an endangered species, namely due to habitat loss. However, these beautiful creatures are incredible hunters. They chase their prey until exhaustion when making their kill.
Lion (Panthera leo)
Lions may easily be identified by their distinct tawny coat, large bodies and a prominent mane in males. In Madikwe there are numerous prides of lion that protect large areas known as territories. A pair of dominant males known as Kwandwe and Monomogolo patrol the North-West side of the reserve with the Tshaba pride of females and their 4 young.
African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
These highly intelligent pachyderms may be seen alone or in large herds as they share strong social bonds. A matriarch leads the herd as they move between water sources. Large males tend to walk alone and join up with the herd for reproductive purposes. Herds of elephants that pass by our stunning waterhole can be viewed right from our sand boma.
Black Rhinoceros (Diceros Bicomis) and White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium Simum)
These two beautiful species of rhino can be recognized by two horns and a strong heavy body. The black rhino is characterized by a hooked-lip, suited to its feeding behaviour of browsing. The white rhino is found feeding on luscious grass and therefore has a squared-lip. The black rhino is classified as critically endangered.
Cape Buffalo (Syncerus Caffer)
In Madikwe, the buffalo population is very healthy. Large herds may be seen and even lone bulls known as “dugga boys” are frequently viewed. The heavy curved horns occur in both males and females and are used for protection against threats. With fused bases, the horns are formed from a continuous shield of bone on top of the head referred to as a “boss”.
Leopard (Panthera Pardus)
The leopard is solitary by nature and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may be seen during the day. Madikwe is home to a number of leopard. In our area of the reserve we have a resident dominant male by the name of Munye, easily recognized by a significant scar on his upper lip. We have viewed a smaller female leopard, Tsala that has a young cub.