Major intervention to save Molopo Reserve’s animals

Henry

Shocking photos of emaciated and dead animals next to dry waterholes have sparked outrage over the dire situation at the once prestigious Molopo Nature Reserve in the North West. Residents of the area say that the state-owned reserve has turned into a barren and neglected piece of land where various animal species that used to be found here in large numbers are now disappearing one by one.

RNews reported earlier that farmers and other residents of the district have to watch helplessly every day as animals die due to thirst and heat exhaustion. The suffering to which large herds of wildlife have been exposed for months – due to a lack of water – has now also reached a crisis point.

Henro Byleveld, chairman of Agri Vorstershoop, told RNews earlier that there is absolutely no drinking water provided to animals in this reserve and that this association decided to intervene itself.

“Water is not pumped, water holes are completely empty, boreholes and pumps are not maintained,” says Byleveld.

This while the mercury continues to rise in large parts of the country, also in the reserve.

Farmers are now bringing water with their vehicles for the animals, while negotiations are also underway with the department of parks and tourism in the North West about sustainable plans for the future.

“On Monday, we met with management members of the relevant department. It went well and we should put the plans into action soon,” says Byleveld.

However, he says a lot of work and a lot of money is needed to complete this project.

Neighbors of reserve are already helping

Pieter Nel, acting head of conservation of the North-West parks and tourism board, explained that there are no natural water sources in the Molopo nature reserve and that water is supplied to animals through a system of boreholes and water troughs.

“There are seven boreholes and water is pumped with diesel engines. However, the system is very old and dilapidated and has already been tested to the limit.”

According to Nel, at this stage there are only three holes that still have semi-working systems for pumping water. More water is supplied by a neighbor on the east side of the reserve to supply a fourth water hole with water and a fifth hole is currently maintained by a neighbor on the north side of the reserve.

“This is obviously not sustainable and therefore of the utmost importance that the reserve now moves towards a self-sustaining system,” says Nel.

“The current systems must be serviced regularly and require continuous maintenance to ensure that they function adequately. The water in the Molopo region is also brackish and salty, which causes pumps, pipes and rods to rust very easily and cause further problems.”

According to Nel, repairs to pumps and equipment were carried out as required, “but the remote location of the reserve and distance from registered service providers – as required by the council’s supply chain management processes – delayed processes and boreholes would not work for days on end”.

“This problem was already identified last year and the need for a solar-powered system with sufficient storage – to keep afloat in interruptions – is our first priority.”

New plan implemented

Nel says a plan was already developed in January this year and submitted for priority funding.

“However, we were unsuccessful. The plan was later revised – with input from local farmers – after which it was submitted, also unsuccessfully, to private business enterprises for funding.”

He believes the latest water supply crisis stems from delayed supply of diesel to run the engines to pump water.

“However, this exposed the instability of the system – and the need to provide for it – by moving towards a self-sustaining system, after which this plan was finally reconsidered.

“The reserve has received funding to replace the current diesel-powered monopump systems at all the boreholes with a solar-powered system.”

According to Nel, a large borehole will also be drilled and equipped to supplement the water supply in the northern parts of the reserve.

“In addition, large reservoirs will be built at each water hole to provide for two to three weeks of assistance in case of emergency.

“This project will start immediately, and we hope to complete most of it before Christmas,” says Nel.

“Farmers with experience in managing water in the Kalahari are working side by side with the reserve staff to stabilize the situation while the plan is implemented.”

A crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy has also been launched in the meantime. More than R45 000 has already been collected for the project.

“The council was overwhelmed by the support of the local farmers’ unions, individual farmers, private businesses and even individuals from far away who contributed to the project. We are eternally grateful to you.”