Samara now home to the Big Five

Samara Private Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet has welcomed a founder pride of lions as part of a project to return the Karoo to the state of biodiversity it once enjoyed.

After more than 180 year absence, the lions’ return marks a significant milestone. Not only does it establish Samara as a Big Five game reserve, the first in the Great Karoo, but it also advances the vision of Samara founders, Mark and Sarah Tompkins: to transform the area into a fully-restored and functional Great Karoo ecosystem.

Says Sarah: “The land on which Samara was established 21 years ago is made up of 11 old livestock farms in one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. Already, much as been done to return this land to its former state: vegetation communities have improved significantly; antelope species have been re-introduced and the first wild cheetah made its return to the area after 130 years in 2004.”

The new lion population means that the ecosystem has an apex predator, and positions Samara one step closer to achieving its ultimate goal of establishing a series of ecological corrditors and public-private partnerships which will see the region become South Africa’s third-largest protected area.

The lion join two bull elephants, originally from Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, who were released into Samara Private Game Reserve – the first bull elephants to return to the plains of Camdeboo in 150 years. This follows the successful release of six female elephants into the reserve in October 2017.

“We have been so pleased with how the founder herd of female elephant have settled at Samara. We monitor their behaviour and movements closely, with a full-time monitor provided by the NGO Elephants, Rhinos & People, who also co-funded the translocation to Samara and the satellite collar on the sub-matriarch,” says Sarah Tompkins. “The presence of bulls is likely to bring a new dynamic to the reserve, and one which we are excited to witness as we continue to restore this breathtaking ecosystem.”