Paul Vorster: The Secrets of Sanbona, or: “Hippos!” and How Best to Become an Impact Player in Conservation

Located in the southwestern corner of South Africa's Little Karoo, the Sanbona Nature and Wilderness Reserve is an area of ex-farmland about the size of the Isle of Wight. Over the past 21 years, it has been transformed into a protected haven for a rich and varied tapestry of African flora and fauna. Seated on the ground by the edge of a Sanbona’s main lake, David Oakes is joined by Paul Vorster, the reserve's Director and General Manager - oh, and by six increasingly inquisitive hippopotamuses. Paul recounts his early career, following in the footsteps of Dr Ian Player, and learning the delicate art of safely translocating wild animals on what was once the hunting grounds of Zulu King Shaka kaSenzangakhona. This is knowledge still put to good use in Sanbona, where they play a pivotal role in conserving the critically endangered Black Rhino. Their conversation covers other remarkable conservation triumphs: the successful merging of three relic populations of vulnerable Mountain Zebras, and Sanbona's status as a sanctuary for the 13th most endangered mammal in the world – the Riverine Rabbit - of which there are only around 200 mature adults remaining in the wild. From majestic lions and swift cheetahs to elusive caracals and fascinating scorpions, their dialogue covers a diverse array of wildlife (even Paul’s dreams of plucking leeches from his ears!) But through it all, Paul highlights his aspirations for Sanbona, aiming to elevate it further as a front-footed and impactful player in the realm of Conservation.

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