Conservation Projects

Conservation Projects

Going Green Initiative

At SSW, we take being eco-friendly seriously. Joining the global drive towards sustainability, a greener economy, and reduction in environmental footprint we implement everything we can to be pioneers in our local niche. Across the country, lodges of all sizes are ‘going green’ to reduce their footprint within their wilderness area. Green assessments have been implemented as a tool to support and assist our members in keeping ahead of the eco-friendly curve. Each annual assessment produces a set of scores and accompanying report, which the member can use to monitor the improved environmental management at their facility.

The assessments focus on compliance with the relevant Acts (e.g. National Environmental Management Act, National Water Act) but also cover “best practice” guidelines such as waste separation, hydrocarbon management, energy use, and water conservation. The assessments are carried out by independent consultants who are well-experienced in the assessment of environmental management practices.

Watch this space as the SSW moves forward with innovative green concepts and movements.


Sand River – Save the Sand Programme

Save the Sand Sabi Sand Wildtuin Conservation projectsThere are 18 listed mountain catchments within South Africa, the Sabie-Sand Catchment forms part of the larger Inkomati Basin, extending all the way into Mozambique and Swaziland. The Sabie-Sand catchment covers about 6320-kilometers squared of the landscape which acts as the life source of the area. The Lowveld region experiences a tropical climate meaning that the annual rainfall occurs from around October to March (Summer rainfall). The main Sabie River descents from the highland plateau in Mpumalanga province and Swaziland mountains and flows through the coastal plains of Mozambique towards the warm Indian Ocean.

The source of the Sand River is where the Klein Sand and Mutlumuvi rivers meet (-24.722917°; 31.233193°) and the Sand River continues through dense rural landscapes till passing through to seek revival in the protected area of the Sabi Sand. Further along, the Sand River meets the Sabie River at the confluence within the Kruger National Park (-24.957208°; 31.710000°).

The Sand River is a major water source for the SSW and its ecosystem, however, it is also the life of many other practices and people further upstream. The upper reaches of the river are heavily populated with invasive alien plants, forestry areas, agriculture, and rural communities. Each one of these needing a heavy hand in having access to valuable water. The National Water Act (1998) strives for sustainability, equity, and efficiency in the management of water along the catchment regions and has been adopted on the Sand River.

Together with a number of partners, supporting the Save the Sand Programme (SSP) is imperative as the ever-growing demand for water increases. The SSP was initiated after the 1992 drought period as collective groups saw the need to manage the water security situation. If we do not revive this programme it may be too late to ensure sustainable and long-term water usage for the Sand River Catchment.

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) have a total of 11 biomonitoring sites that are accessed to assess the Sand River on its water quality as well as its biodiversity status.

Southern Ground Hornbill Monitoring and Support Programme

Ground Hornbill 2Ground Hornbill 3Ground Hornbillscale
Sabi Sand, in conjunction with the Mabula Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project and the Endangered Wildlife Trust, have taken on the task of monitoring and supporting the current population of Southern Ground Hornbills (SGHs) within and around our boundaries.

SGHs are well-known, monogamous (pair for life), cooperative, breeding birds that walk the plains of the open savannahs foraging for food. They walk in groups of between two to nine. Within the group there is only one mating pair, the others are helpers mainly consisting of males or sub-adults. These birds face threats such as habitat loss and lack of nesting trees. SGHs reach sexual maturity at around seven years of age and each breeding group only successfully rears, on average, one chick every nine years. The sub-adults have a 70% mortality rate before the age of five.

Southern Ground Hornbill eating foodies

Due to their high mortality rates, in 2017 the SSW took a giant leap in becoming part of the range distribution program, whereby the second redundant chick is carefully removed from the nest and sent for hand-rearing to eventually repopulate historic rangeland areas.

The candling process works by illuminating the interior of an egg, so you can see what is inside the shell. This is done to determine whether the egg is fertile, and at what stage of development the embryo is in. This then allows Dr Lucy and her team to estimate the hatching date and when they’ll need to visit again to harvest the redundant second chick. The process is unknot harmful to embryo development as has been proven by chicken farmers who have long been utilizing the technique.

It is imperative that the process is calculated as accurately as possible as the 2nd chick must be obtained within 2 days of hatching. If 2 days are surpassed the chick will most likely be too weak to survive the journey to Mabula or the subsequent rehabilitation following transport.

This past season yield of two chicks were taken for hand-rearing. The birds are reared to juvenile age and placed within their ‘bush school’ which aids in getting the birds through the critical first five (5) years of life before a final release is planned.

Southern Ground Hornbill Monitoring and Support Programme fluffy chick Southern Ground Hornbill Monitoring and Support Programme chick Southern Ground Hornbill Monitoring and Support Programme chicks hatching
The SSW, as part of the Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP), forms part of the core breeding population and it is in our conservation duty to support these vulnerable animals.

Please report any sightings* of these magnificent birds within the reserve as well as in the surrounding communities of the Sabi Sand can be reported to Damin at

*It’s important to please take note of the location, date, time, and sex identification if possible. Click on the ID & information kit below to see how to distinguish between the sex and age classes.

Sabi Field Guides ID KIT BackSabi Field Guides Front

Wanting to support or get involved?

Contact us to know how you can get involved or support our initiatives!


2020 Species Lists

Download the PDFs here:

SSW Bird Species List

SSW Fish Species List

SSW Invertebrate Species List

SSW Mammal Species List

SSW Reptile Species List

SSW Tree & Shrub Species List