Four buffalo belonging to the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area have been sold. The Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area (SMA) reintroduced the buffalo to the Agulhas Plain for the first time in more than 200 years.

Now, with their numbers steadily increasing, the Agulhas Plain has once again become a source of disease-free buffalo. The sale also marked an important occasion for conservation-minded organisations such as the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA. It highlighted the steps taken towards securing a sustainable income from biodiversity-based products, through for example game management.

According to Dirk Human, Chair of the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA, the group has worked towards creating income generating opportunities from nature, so as to reduce the pressure on the natural environment. The buffalo are one such example – with the value of one buffalo anywhere between 10 and 100 times that of commercial beef cattle, thereby having a much lower impact on the environment.

He said, “The SMA is looking to develop industries that are environmentally friendly, while not threatening our food security. So the sale of the buffalo is an important moment for us, and for all those organisations that are working towards similar goals.”

The four buffalo bulls were sold to a game farm in the Eastern Cape. Although the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA initially bought 15 buffalo, the number rose to 26 before the sale. The four buffalo sold were excess bulls in good condition. Income from the sale goes to the Nuwejaar River Nature Reserve, the section 21 not-for-profit company that facilitates the implementation of the Special Management Area.

Human said, “The buffalo clearly belong on the Agulhas Plain, given the way their numbers have grown in just four years, and the excellent condition they’re in.” Aside from the buffalo, the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA also reintroduced hippo to the wetland areas, bontebok, eland and red hartebeest.

The Nuwejaars Wetland SMA consists of landowners and communities living on 45,000 hectares of land on the Agulhas Plain, which they’ve committed to conservation and farming sustainably. The SMA is home to the endangered lowland fynbos, and many other threatened fauna and flora. It borders the Agulhas National Park, and the SMA works with SANParks to jointly plan management activities across the boundaries.