Maintaining, Managing and Conserving
Maintaining an area of 36 000 hectares (about 80 000 acres) requires diligent daily work and substancial financing. Infrastructure such as waterholes and fences need to regularly be monitored and often repaired. But the most costly responsibility is feeding over 10 000 animals during the dry seasons which hit Namibia on a regular basis. During the dry months of 2013, six tons of alfalfa were fed every day to guarantee the survival of thousands of hungry animals. The alfalfa had to be bought and transported to Mount Etjo from various suppliers in South Africa.
Keeping population numbers such as not to exceed the carrying capacity of the area is another essential part of eventually guaranteeing the survival of each individual species. With few predators around, especially grazing specie numbers must be decimated by live sales every few years at Okonjati game reserve.
A little bit of Game Capture History
Anyone who has seen the classic movie "Hatari!" starring John Wayne in the 1960's will look back in suprise at the first game capture methods. The first live African animals were cought on horseback, on trucks and on foot, making use of nothing more than nets, slings, ropes, sheer manpower and a lot of courage. Needless to say, these methods put the lives of both men and animals at a tremendous risk.
The technique used today to capture large numbers of animals safely was developed by Jan Oelofse, founder of Mount Etjo Safari Lodge, the man who once inspired and helped train the animals in the movie "Hatari!". His technique, known as the "Oelofse method" involved the use of a retractable plastic sheet attached to a steel cable forming a funnel-like structure. Once the animals are herded into the mouth of the funnel by helicopter, the curtains at the entrance are closed and the animals trapped. The animals are then chased to the end of the structure, where a truck is ready to transport them to another area.
This method has facilitated the trade in live animals, saved thousands of lives worldwide and has been a major contribution towards conservation around the world. Simple, yet ingeniously combining various mechanisms and modern technology, this method has long surpassed manual capture methods.
Rare Species Sanctuary
The Okonjati Game Reserve is home to several rare species, including Cheetah, Sable Antelope, Roan Antelope, Nyala, Black Springbuck, Lechwe, Mountain Reedbuck and Black Rhino, to name but a few. The three cheetahs that may be watched during feeding at Mount Etjo Safari Lodge have been vaccinated against all kinds of diseases. The animals are fed a whole animal every or every second day, giving them all the nutrition they need. Tracks and animal kills are proof that there are several cheetahs in Okonjati Game Reserve, but they are rarely seen in the wild.
With about only 11 individuals, the Mountain Reedbuck is the least seen antelope at Mount Etjo Safari Lodge. Black-faced impala and black springbuck are kept in a seperate part of the sanctuary in order to prevent them from mixing with the common species. Being used to more lush habitats, only few lechwe an nyala antelope roam the area.