Lost Cities and Settlements of the Kruger National Park

The African Conservation Trust’s Heritage Unit has recently returned from a 15 day fieldwork mission to the Kruger National Park. This was the culmination of 5 years preparation that began when Carl Grossmann, ACT Chairman, was conducting research into an ancient dhow anchorage on the River Save in Zimbabwe. He came across a 1905 sketch map of the stonewall ruins in Zimbabwe. Also indicated on this map were three ruin sites that were indicated to fall in South Africa and in particular in the Kruger National Park.

The ACT Geographical Information Systems (GIS) team began a series of best fit geo-referencing attempts of the sketch map. We had firsthand knowledge of the Thulamela Ruins in the north of the park and we had heard of the Makahane Ruins further to the western boundary of the park. We assumed that at least one of the sites indicated on the map were the Thulamela Ruins.

The Kruger National park has been occupied to various degrees by humans since the earliest of the Stone Age, through the Iron Age until present day. We were interested in the Iron Age settlements in the park and obtained a dataset from SANParks indicating known sites. There were two areas clearly devoid of any known settlements and these areas became the focus of our attention. GIS modelling of the known sites determined some key criteria and these were then applied to the areas of interest. The modelling delivered 9 potential sites of interest and possible settlement.

The team managed to investigate 6 of the sites on foot during the fieldwork period. Of those 3 Iron Age settlement sites were found which included remnants of stonewalling, ceramics and stone tools. Items were photographed and experts are resolving the information from diagnostic markings on the ceramics. The team is very excited about one piece in particular that may lead to a far greater investigation and even excavations of the one site.

Returning full circle back to that sketch map from 1905. If two of the sites indicated are indeed Thulamela and Makahane then there still remains a third extensive stonewall settlement to be discovered !!

Words: Carl Grossmann,

Photos: The ACT Heritage Team


Mending Fences

Paul Cryer – Manager of the Applied Ecology Unit (ACT)
Paul Cryer is an experienced fence mender. He doesn’t have the calloused hands of a contractor nor does he have any tools. He works on the ground in the dust and long grass of deep rural Kwa-Zulu Natal where there are no signs of partially erected fence posts.

Paul, the manager of The African Conservation Trust’s Applied Ecology Unit, is driving the Ithala Project. He has abandoned the traditional conservation method of prescribing policy to effected parties in favour of a community driven, interactive process whilst managing to merge economics and conservation ideals. Paul will have achieved more than hammer and nails ever could, if agreement is reached between communities neighbouring Ithala Game Reserve and conservationists working within the wildlife fences, on co-created justifications for environmental protection.

The Ithala Project combines a 20-year community sustainability plan in combination with a 5-year elephant and rhino habitat plan for the Greater Ithala Complex. Paul and his team of two (Sihle Mthethwa and Steven Matema) are communicating with 7 communities and various government bodies over issues such as protected area expansion, priority species conservation and human/wildlife conflict in order to source innovative approaches to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

“ By releasing preconceptions and creating communication networks that validate and incorporate the thinking of all stakeholders, new land use patterns may be found that secure the tenure of local communities (human and non-human) in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” says Paul. It seems like an impossible task to achieve agreement between so many impacted parties.

“Although the methodology is complicated the underlying concepts are simple,” he states. Paul has studied and applied the mechanics of TheoryU (written by MIT economist C. Otto Scharmer) to the project and brought many years of invaluable conservation experience to the table. He credits his early passion for conservation to a documentary on Operation Noah, a 5 year mission to rescue wildlife from the rising waters of the newly constructed Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe. Working outdoors with animals seemed like the best possible career choice in the world to 6 year old Paul.

This intrepid conservationist’s career began with a BSc degree which he “limped” through due to undiagnosed dyslexia. A position at The Sugar Association Research Centre led into a happy 18 year period with The Wilderness Leadership School. Paul was the youngest field guide they had ever appointed and he describes himself and his fellow rangers as “rogue environmental monks.” In 2003, Paul set up home with his new family (the talented artist Roz and her daughter) in a small sea-side town on the north coast of Kwazulu-Natal and embarked on a Masters’ degree in the same year. A management system for the Imfolozi Wilderness Area was the subject of his thesis. Paul first partnered with ACT in 2011 for The Mkuze River Conservation Project and again in 2014 for the Ithala Project.

ACT is proud to be associated with this impressive conservation leader and we are excited about the successful conclusion of this ground breaking project.
Words by Sandy Woods
Images by Heidi Christie (Bright Blue Photography)


Smiles in Inanda

Joe Ntshangase smiles broadly when asked if his sister sometimes takes his veggies.

The vegetable garden that Joe and Jabu share is a bright green rectangle in a crease between two hills covered with brown knee-high grass. A shallow stream flows between muddy banks beyond the wire fence which is stretched loosely between wooden posts, one of which bears a battered old watering can. Joe explains how he walks downhill from his homestead in the dark every morning at 6.30am, fills the watering can from the stream and tends to his crop. The Ntshangase’s are fortunate indeed to have an easily accessible water supply close to their garden, in an area where the majority of families rely on weekly municipal water tanker deliveries. Bright green leaves push through the freshly mulched beds. These thriving organic, non- genetically- modified plants in this neat, manicured garden are feeding Joe’s family of ten and Jabu’s family of six.

The seedlings are supplied by The African Conservation Trust and Ethekwini Municipality in a combined initiative called the EMSLI (EThekwini Municipality Sustainable Livelihoods Initiative) project. A valuable aspect of this project, in addition to the supply of seedlings, is the training and ongoing mentorship to support, assist and advise community micro gardeners. Marvin Ndelu is the Garden Mentor for the Matata area in Inanda where he presently lives and supervises 15 gardens visiting each one twice a week. It is a remote, rural spot which is an hour’s undulating drive from the ACT head office in central Hillcrest. Marvin is well trained, knowledgeable and has a flourishing vegetable farming enterprise of his own at his South Coast family home. He has become more friend than mentor to the community over the last two years, as he is as invested in and passionate about every garden as if it is his own.

Dark brown soil still clings to the freshly picked, bright orange carrot in Marvin’s hand as he stands in Thombi Mahlongo’s garden. Thombi has secured plastic, old blankets and corrugated iron sheets onto the fence around her vegetable garden which is a short walk from the busy tarred road. She explains that her greatest challenge is keeping roaming goats and chickens from eating her precious plants. Two of Thombi’s children help her to nurture their family crop, bringing buckets of water up from the nearby Jonono River twice daily. The tomatoes, carrots, spinach, beetroot, egg plants and green pepper seedlings provided by the EMSLI project have made it possible for her to feed her growing family of ten since last November, when she established the garden with Marvin’s help.

Micro farmers face many challenges in the dry, dusty Inanda Valley but with the support of the African Conservation Trust there are fewer hungry mouths and many more happy smiles.

 

Words by Sandy Woods and photos by Heidi Monica Christie (BrightBlue Photography)


Make a difference today!

How can you make a difference, help with rhino conservation and stand a chance to win this Toyota Aygo in March 2018?

African Conservation Trust (ACT) and Project Rhino are working together with a new approach to counteract rhino poaching by establishing food gardens in communities bordering rhino reserves. Poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity place these vulnerable communities at high risk of wildlife crime involvement. The focus of this campaign is to supply families with non-GMO heirloom seedlings, equipment, guidance and mentorship. Each mentor or Rhino Ambassador lives in the community supervising up to 50 gardens whilst simultaneously serving as a link to the neighbouring rhino reserve and imparting environmental conservation knowledge. They are highly trained, passionate and the most promising students from the Future Farmers Foundation Trust, an organization which nurtures young emerging farmers. Should a gardener grow more food than his or her requirements, ACT will facilitate access to markets, enabling families to enjoy a well-deserved income from their homestead garden. And as these communities thrive, the temptation of involvement in wildlife crime decreases.

How can you be involved?

Become an ACTivist and support ACT and Project Rhino’s Make a Difference Campaign with a single donation or by signing a debit order form. For every R150 donation or monthly debit order, your name will be entered into a lucky draw to win this fabulous Toyota Aygo in March 2018. So what are you waiting for? Use the donate button, zapper or download a debit order form today! Or find our activation team at a KZN mall close to you. See the Events page on our website for more information.

Who is ACT?
The African Conservation Trust is a not for profit, public benefit and BBBEE Level 1 rated organization that was established in 2000. The head office is in central Hillcrest on the sunny East Coast of South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal. Our dedicated team of 27 is passionate about the conservation of our country’s environment and heritage and we are driven to make a difference on a daily basis. We are very proud of our many and varied projects and of our role as a member and nominated Secretariat of Project Rhino.
www.projectafrica.com

Who is Project Rhino?
Project Rhino is an association launched in 2011, comprising of 21 organisations all with the primary focus on rhino conservation.
Their vision, as stated on their website, is for black and white rhino populations to be “forever free, forever secure from poaching, well managed and protected.” Project Rhino’s multi-pronged strategy makes community engagement and rhino security priority.

The Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing (ZAP-Wing) is a vitally important aspect of providing security for our rhino population and are at the fore front in the fight against poaching. The Hluhluwe Airfield Anti-Poaching Ops Centre (the well -equipped ZAP-Wing base) is the command centre where both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft provide reaction support and aerial surveillance to 26 game reserves, including state and private. From here the dedicated ZAP-Wing staff participate in daily aerial patrols; assist rangers and APU teams when in hot pursuit; airlift SAPS, K9 Units and APU teams into inaccessible locations in conjunction with surveillance of suspicious vehicles and activities on rhino reserve boundaries.

Project Rhino also provides skills training for field rangers and Anti-Poaching Units. These accredited courses include Counter Insurgency Tracker Training; Use of Force (combat/arrest techniques, armed engagements and legal requirements for arresting poachers); Counter Poaching Awareness Training (fence patrols and fence incursions); Field Ranger Mentorship and finally Ranger Well-Being Psycho-social Support (for rangers with PTSD).

The Project Rhino/ACT Make a Difference food garden campaign is the latest example of how this dedicated and committed association is looking at the rhino poaching issue from a fresh perspective.
www.projectrhinokzn.org

Project Rhino Members:
African Conservation Trust
AndBeyond (Phinda Private Game Reserve)
Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (WWF)
Conservation Outcomes
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Game Rangers Association of Africa
Hawks Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation
Honorary Officers
Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation
Magqubu Ntombela Foundation
Midlands Wildlife Security Initiative
Spaces for Elephants Foundation
Thanda Foundation
WESSA
Wilderness Action Group
Wilderness Foundation
Wilderness Leadership School
Wildlands Conservation Trust
Wildlife ACT Fund
Zululand Rhino Reserve
Zululand Wildlife Security Initiative