With van Vlissingen’s wealth and expertise, this dream became a reality and 21,000 hectares of land was purchased and incorporated into the Marakele National Park. This land is Marataba, a beautiful landscape of rivers, plains and mountains and the beginning of one of the continent’s most successful conservation stories.
Since 2000, when Marataba was formally proclaimed, several significant conservation milestones have been achieved. The first was the clean-up of old farmland into national park. Hundreds of kilometres of fencing was removed and megafuana, including elephant, black and white rhinoceros, hippo and buffalo, relocated within the boundaries. Healthy populations of antelope still existed, and it was these good numbers of prey that allowed for the reintroduction of iconic carnivores such as lion and cheetah.
Conservation success is a challenging concept to measure but since the reintroduction of the key species, Marataba has already served as a source population for other conservation initiatives and has supplied lions, cheetah and elephants, as well as white and black rhino, as founder or bolster populations to other parks and reserves both within South Africa and elsewhere on the continent.