Madikwe Game Reserve made history when it was created, and continues to make history to this day. The Reserve is the result of a bold and successful initiative from the early 1990s, when the South African government decided to transform a large portion of farmland near the Botswana border into a game reserve, to uplift the economically-depressed area. The land, whilst not suitable for farming, was perfect for wildlife because it is located in a transition zone where a variety of species, including rarer species, naturally occur.
The private sector partnered with North West Parks Board and began the reintroduction of wildlife to the new reserve in 1992. Dubbed “Operation Phoenix,” it was, at the time, the largest translocation of wildlife in the world. As part of this Operation, entire breeding herds of elephants from Zimbabwe, black-maned lions from Namibia, buffalo, black and white rhino, along with various species of antelope were all relocated. Some species, like kudu, leopard, brown hyena, caracal and black-backed jackal were already in the new park land. The ultimate aim then, and now, is to have a wildlife population representative of the species that previously occurred in the area, with a balance between predators and herbivores, and between rare and common species.
The Reserve’s most recent efforts include working with Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to diversify the genetics of cheetah, African wild dog and lion populations by receiving and sending some of those animals to and from other protected areas.
Etali Safari Lodge has been a significant supporter and sponsor of these efforts, which have most recently resulted in the first cheetah cubs being born in the Reserve in more than a decade.