Samara’s Conservation Efforts Reap Rewards

It’s been over half a century since a leopard was last spotted at Samara. Persecuted by livestock farmers, and driven off the land, these majestic creatures sought refuge in the remote higher reaches of the Karoo mountain ranges. There they have existed in hiding for decades, leaving occasional ghostly reminders of their presence: a kill here, a track there. It is a testament to the ongoing conservation efforts at Samara Private Game Reserve that, in January of this year, a leopard was caught on camera patrolling the game-filled valleys it now calls home.

Wild Leopard at Samara Private Game Reserve

What many of us don’t realise is that prior to the 19thcentury arrival of the settlers, the Camdeboo plains were the setting of one of nature’s most dramatic events – a near unimaginable Great Springbok Migration that swept down onto the plains in the millions, sending dust into the Karoo sky for weeks.

Beginning with just one property, over time eleven farms have been incorporated into what is now the 70, 000 acre Samara Private Game Reserve. The land has been rested and nurtured over 15 years to allow it to recuperate, and initiatives like the Samara Spekboom Project and the Samara Volunteer Programme contribute to the rehabilitation of the once overgrazed landscapes. Springbok, black wildebeest, blesbok, eland, oryx and the endangered Cape Mountain zebra are once again silhouetted against the Karoo skyline, along with the taller figures of giraffe, and the more rotund rhino – both black and white.

The return of the cheetah to the area after a 125-year absence is already a celebrated achievement. Add to that the reappearance of wild Leopard without the need for reintroduction and you have yourself a burgeoning conservation success story. All this is a feather in the cap of the Samara team, whose conservation contribution to the Karoo Experience seeks to highlight the extraordinary vibrancy of this visually-exceptional and historically-wealthy South African landscape.