A holi(day) in the life of the Timbavati Warden

Edwin Pierce has already rolled up his sleeves for 2019. We chat to him about the year that was and his aspirations for what comes next.

What was it like in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve over the festive season?

We always look forward to December with great optimism. It is usually the start of the rainy season, the migrant birds come back and the impala start lambing. Everywhere you go, you are greeted by the “chip-chrrrrrrrr” of the Woodland Kingfisher.

The vegetation changes almost overnight after the first rains, from a dull brown to a lush green, the trees sprout leaves and the landscape is littered with colourful flowers. Dry dams and pans start to be filled to the brim and riverbeds flow for a few hours after the rains.  Yes, the days get extremely hot and humid (40 degrees Celsius is not uncommon), but this is one of the ingredients for afternoon thunderstorms - synonymous with the Lowveld this time of the year.

With all these changes occurring in the natural world around us, one thing stays the same: We are out in the field, rain or shine, protecting our wildlife.

What stands out for you as you look back at 2018?

It already feels miles away! Leaving the Timbavati after my time here as a student, I was reminded of how incredible this reserve is upon my return.

After the first month of being back, it became “home.” I love working within a reserve where I can give my all, knowing that our team makes a difference.  There is just something special about this place; the members, staff and our supporters. We are surrounded by other committed reserves within the APNR (Associated Private Nature Reserve) and we work together, we fight wildlife crime, we make a difference to the surrounding communities and assist the Kruger National Park.

Doing all these things is what stands out for me over the last year.  The signing of the Greater Kruger Cooperative Agreement served to put this commitment into writing, breaking down silos, removing our “reserve blinkers” and highlighted the importance of cooperation. More than ever, I look forward to an era of improved governance in our landscape.

What were the notable "highs and lows?"

OK, let’s start with the “lows.” As 2018 drew to a close, we received the news that we could soon have a citrus development on our doorstep.  This would have tremendous negative impacts on the reserve, including light pollution, loss of biodiversity, water extraction and human–wildlife conflict. Imagine what elephants would do to get to those juicy oranges! This development would furthermore be a huge setback to the Greater Kruger protected area expansion strategy.

An additional low would be the continued attempts to stop sustainable utilisation/ethical hunting within the APNR. If we were to lose that valuable income stream it would have a tremendous negative effect on wildlife security, including that of the Kruger National Park. Our field rangers actively protect the Kruger National Park’s western boundary and the Timbavati is in essence the Park’s western buffer, protecting it from poaching incursions.  The revenue generated through sustainable utilisation is critical to continue to fight against poaching, which unfortunately does not seem to have any respite.

Looking back on the "highs", a high point would definitely be the commitment of the Timbavati to continue to fight wildlife crime. Then there is also the huge difference the Timbavati Foundation makes to the communities surrounding our reserve. Also, it was amazing to be part of the signing of the Greater Kruger Cooperative Agreement in December last year.

What does a Warden do when on holiday?

Every warden is different, but I usually go on a family vacation to the Cape coast to visit family and friends. The Timbavati is quite remote and you can’t just pop down the street to say “hello” to a family member or a friend. This year I chose to stay in the reserve as I felt our management team deserved some “down” time after a frantic 2018. I was happy to spend my time in this incredible place.  No warden likes to lose touch with what is happening in their reserve when away, so we are always checking in telephonically and via WhatsApp, to assist where we can.

What do you look forward to doing in 2019?

I only expect good things in 2019. It will be a year of dedication, of support, and an opportunity to make a difference. 2019 is a clean slate, the Greater Kruger Cooperative Agreement has been signed and we are all in it to work together.  I would like to see the Timbavati continue to lead the way with regards to wildlife security and community benefaction.

Our management team is one of a kind. They are dedicated and committed and I’m privileged to work with them.  We will continue to be transparent with regards to reserve operations, including our sustainable utilisation policy.  I look forward to improved communication with our supporters and you can all expect much more social media interaction from the Timbavati this year!

As we kick of 2019, I’d like to give a special word of thanks to our members, lodges, management team, staff and field rangers for their unwavering support, dedication and hard work.  To our Timbavati supporters, you are part of the Greater Kruger conservation family and I thank you for your commitment to this incredible reserve. Let’s make 2019 a year to remember!