The Timbavati Game Reserve is located to the north of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park. The Reserve was established in 1956 by like-minded game farmers with the creation of the Timbavati Association.
The Reserve forms part of the Greater Kruger Park and lies nestled between the Kruger National Park on the east, the Klaserie and Umbabat Private Nature Reserves in the north and the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve in the west. There are no fences between the Timbavati and the Kruger National Park which allows free movement of wildlife between the Reserves. The world-famous Kruger National Park is a conservation area of more than 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi).
The southern border of this great complex of public and privately - owned protected land lies close to the Kingdom of Swaziland and abuts the boundaries of Zimbabwe in the north and Mozambique in the east. The terrain is undulating with altitudes varying between 300 and 500m above sea level. The area is characterised as ‘savanna bushveld’ with 6 different landscape types: acacia woodland, open woodland, mopane woodland, combretum woodland, mixed combretum woodland and mixed veld on Gabbro. Elephant, buffalo, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, waterbuck and warthog abound together with their attendant predators which include lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. The critically endangered African wild dog is also a regular visitor to the Timbavati Reserve. The larger and rarer antelopes such as Roan, Eland and Tsessebe have been slow to return to this area and their numbers are still critically low.
The climate is typified by a summer wet season (October – March) with the majority of rain falling between December and February. This is also the hottest time of the year, with temperatures in the region of 32 °C. A typical summer day will be hot with storm clouds gathering for a spectacular late afternoon thunderstorm. During the winter months (April – September) the weather is dry with little chance of rain. As game tends to congregate around dwindling water sources, game viewing is more predictable. Temperatures can range from 28 °C to 10 °C in one day. The mornings and evenings can be very cold and warm clothing is advised.
White Lions of the Timbavati
Lions with a recessive gene causing the coats to be snow white (though not albino) reappeared in the Timbavati in 2006 after an absence of many years.
When the White Lions of the Timbavati were discovered in the mid-1970s they became the subject of much interest and debate. The story of the “White Lions of the Timbavati” has been told by several people.
A wrong assumption was made that their white coat prevents them from hunting successfully. Perhaps as a result, white lions have been recurrently removed artificially from the wild to be placed in zoos or the South African hunting and breeding camps. In partnership with lion ecologist Jason Turner, activist and author Linda Tucker has returned white lions to the wild in protected reserves where hunting and removal are prohibited, and have demonstrated over years that white lions hunt successfully despite claims of the contrary. While white lions can naturally be born in the Timbavati region where parents carry the recessive gene, systematic hunting, poaching, and removal have caused a dramatic population decline. Today, less than a dozen exist in the wild (seven of which are protected in Linda Tucker's White Lion Protection Trust reserve). Conversely, hundreds of white lions are kept in zoos and canned hunting camps where they are often inbred to guarantee their white coat. White Lions are revered as spirits of deceased kings by local tribes, notably the Shaangaan people. There have been various “spiritual” powers attributed to the White lions and many people were and still are of the opinion that the lions are a different species. Today scientific research is being conducted to further understand the genetic coding of the white lions.
Interesting to note that all white lions world wide are ancestrally linked to the White Lions of the Timbavati.
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