Durban - A new Big Five game reserve halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg has been hailed as a possible blueprint for community conservation by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife chief Bandile Mkhize.

Endorsing the Mayibuye Community Game Reserve, which is to be fenced off shortly, Mkhize described the project as a “unique new interface between community, conservation and commerce”.

Apart from hosting the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) less than half-an-hour’s drive from Durban, the reserve would include a factory to manufacture steel products, thereby creating up to 200 new jobs.

A statement issued this week said the 4 650ha reserve should be fenced off by October.

Once the game fence was in place a wild animal reintroduction scheme would start. The first to be released would include giraffe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest and antelope species, followed by the Big Five. It hopes to introduce the first rhino and elephant early next year.

There are also plans to develop “three boutique lodges, 210 luxury houses and 120 lifestyle units”.

The venture follows a land claim on several farms in the Camperdown area by 445 members of the Mayibuye Community Trust. Rather than seeking a cash payout, trust chairman Welcome Mphanga said the community had opted to seek investment and job creation.

They met Pinetown retailer Peter Kennedy of the Business for Good (BFG) group and the late conservationist Lawrence Anthony.

The community would get a 25 percent stake in the BFG group through an equity trust, while BFG would move its manufacturing plant from Pinetown to Camperdown.

“Our people have an ongoing source of jobs and income, and with the relocation of BFG to Mayibuye, they will not have to travel to the city to work,” said Mphanga.

Reserve publicist Frances Park-Ross said the boundaries could be expanded to link up with conservation land near Inanda Dam.

The Mercury