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The Tswalu Foundation

Make a lasting contribution to this fragile and unique environment……

The Tswalu Foundation (TF) was created as a result of the forward thinking and love of the Kalahari by Mr Jonathan Oppenheimer in 2008. His founding vision for the Foundation was to develop a platform on which local and international visitors could contribute and involve themselves in community and environmental research on Tswalu Kalahari – either to an existing project or to suggest and fund specific projects in areas of particular interest to the funder. The Kalahari system is a unique, vast and understudied area, thus this Foundation assists in developing research programs and protocols and therefore assists in the development of a better understanding of its unique fauna and flora in a direct, hands-on manner. The Foundation is fundamental in not only developing a greater appreciation for the beauty of the Kalahari and its abundant wildlife, but also provides encouragement and support to gain knowledge to better manage this unique part of Africa.

Tswalu Kalahari is driven by a strong conservation and community development ethic, and whilst the Oppenheimer family have sanctioned numerous projects, the Foundation affords more researchers to study in the Southern Kalahari. Experience over the years has taught us that the longevity of the project is determined by the interactive nature of the project. We encourage researchers to share their concepts and progress with our guests – who, if inspired by the work, will continue to contribute to funding the project through the Foundation. Essentially, it becomes a self-funding campaign through guest contributions.

Each project is obliged to provide some form of research material to be displayed at the main lodge, and the staff will undergo an induction into the reasons and objectives of the research. In this way, they are fully equipped to share information and to create interest on behalf of the researcher – who in turn is given ample opportunity to present the project to the guests at Tswalu Kalahari.

The Tswalu Foundation is registered as a NPO (non- profit organisation) which supports species, ecological and applied research in the Kalahari system. It also provides grants for the development of social and community projects.



This project investigates the conservation status of Namaqua and Burchell’s sandgrouse on Tswalu Kalahari. There is a need to understand the population dynamics, ecology and recruitment of young of these species in the Kalahari, as well as the assessment of the impact of non-exclusive factors, such as food availability, predation and water availability, which may also control sandgrouse populations.

This project is undertaken by Dr Aldo Berruti, Director of the African Gamebird Research Education and Development Trust (AGRED) who hope to unlock the secret to understanding the biology of these unique birds.

Dr Aldo Berruti; African Gamebird Research Education and Development Trust (AGRED); Physical address: 298 Steyn Street, Greylingstad 2415; Postal address: P O Box 87070, Houghton 2041; 017 778 0299; Cell 083 4452 685; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Climate change is a real threat to arid and semi-arid ecosystems which are expected to be severely altered. This project focusses on documenting the adaptations of the unique aardvark for survival in the Kalahari through understanding its body temperature rhythm and activity patterns, thus improving our understanding of how this ecologically important animal will adapt to climate change.

The project is undertaken by Prof. Andrea Fuller, Dr Leith Meyer and Dr Benjamin Rey from the School of Physiology at the University of the Witwatersrand who are particularly interested in the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Prof. Andrea Fuller, Director: Brain Function Research Group, School of Physiology, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, 7 York Rd, Parktown, 2193, South Africa, Tel: 011 717 2162; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Report 1: Click here for more info

Report 2: Click here for more info




This project focusses on assessing antlion abundance and diversity on Tswalu Kalahari., which is a unique ecosystem harbouring a rich fauna of antlions and other lacewings, which belong to the insect order Neuroptera. The intrusion of the Korannaberg hills into a typical Kalahari dune-field system provides many habitats in addition to those of the characteristic Kalahari psammophiles (sand-dwellers).  Of the 13 families of Neuroptera that occur in South Africa, five have already been recorded from Tswalu, with 28 species already known from the reserve.

The project is undertaken by leading neuropteran expert, Prof. Mervyn Mansell and Dr Catherine Sole from the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria.
Dr Mervyn Mansell, USDA-APHIS, Pretoria, Tel: +27 12 431 4711; CEL: 0824993978; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Report 1: Click here for more info


The main focus of this project is raptor conservation in the southern Kalahari, through assessing the effects of land use practices in defining heterogeneity across an arid landscape and the importance of this for avian raptors. This includes niche partitioning of raptors on Tswalu Kalahari. The project aims to assess the breeding biology and post-fledgling period of a terrestrial foraging raptor, the Secretary Bird. This study will address a number of questions relating to the biology of this large raptor species, in particular, breeding biology, post-fledgling inter-and intra-specific competition, and food selection.

The project is undertaken by Dr Craig Symes from the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand
Dr Craig T. Symes, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Tel: 011 717 6423, CEL: 072 071 0179; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)



This project investigates the extreme association between the Sociable Weaver and the Pygmy Falcon system on Tswalu Kalahari, a system where the ‘predator’, not prey, makes the active association choice. However, the true nature of the relationship in this association (mutualism, commensalism or parasitism) is unclear, and the system is largely unstudied.

This study is headed by Dr Robert Thomson from the Department of Biology at the University of Turku in Finland, who aims to unravel the mysteries behind this unique association.

Dr Robert Thomson, Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku;
FI-20014 Turku, Finland; Tel. +35823335039; South African CEL: 0825437042; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Report 1: Click here for more info



Scorpions are generally disliked; however they form a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. This project aims at surveying the scorpion diversity on Tswalu Kalahari. Location records are being gathered in order to map out scorpions distributions on the property. From collection records, abundance, distribution within the reserve, ecological requirements, and associations with specific habitat, ecological and vegetative zones with is recorded.

This study is undertaken by leading scorpion expert and author of the book Scorpions of Southern Africa, Jonathan Leeming.
Jonathan Leeming; Scorpion Adventures; CEL: 0823384381; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Report 1: Click here for more info



The project focuses on predicting the responses of Kalahari desert birds to climate change through assessing rising temperatures and more frequent heat waves associated with climate change that are predicted to severely impact birds inhabiting hot desert habitats. This project investigates temperature-dependence of various avian behavioural and physiological traits on Tswalu Kalahari.

PhD student, Ben Smit is undertaking the study through the Department of Zoology and Entomology of the University of Pretoria, and the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of the University of Cape Town.

Ben Smit, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa; CEL: 082-9251383; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / or supervisor: Andrew McKechnie; Associate Professor; Department of Zoology and Entomology; University of Pretoria; Private Bag X20; Hatfield, 0028; South Africa; Tel: 012 4203232; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)



The core aim of the project is to advance our understanding of the causes of variation in cooperative behaviour in animal societies, using the colonial white-browed sparrow weaver on Tswalu Kalahari as a model system. The project focuses in particular on investigating two poorly understood mechanisms through which variation in cooperative motivation may arise.

The programme in managed by Dr Andrew Young from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus in the United Kingdom.

Andrew Young; BBSRC Research Fellow; Centre for Ecology and Conservation; University of Exeter Cornwall Campus; Tremough, Cornwall TR10 9EZ; Tel: 0044 1326 254241; Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)



This project focuses on how large predators affect the foraging and habitat use of herbivores in arid environments. Predators directly affect their prey by killing them. This, however, is not the only way they can affect them. Non-lethal effects such as fear and apprehension generated from the possibility of being attacked may be enough to change prey behaviour. Ultimately, risk-sensitive behaviour may affect food and habitat use, change ecological processes and potentially effect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Thus, an understanding of the effects of fear (or the absence thereof) can play a key role in the management and conservation in reserves and parks.

The project is undertaken by Dr Mohammad Abu Baker and Dr Adrian M. Shrader from the School of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

Dr Adrian M Shrader; Lecturer: Wildlife Conservation and Management; School of Life Sciences; University of KwaZulu-Natal; Private Bag X01; Scottsville 3209; South Africa; Tel: 033 260 5143; CEL: 084 568 6640; EMail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Report 1: Click here for more info


Tswalu Kalahari is continuously looking at ways to reduce our ecological footprint and the sourcing of local produce is an ideal to which we strive. However, the Kalahari is a water stressed environment and the production of fresh produce is a difficult undertaking and Tswalu needs to source fresh produce from a long distance away. With the assistance of the Tswalu foundation, a system of tunnel farming by recycling water from the laundry is being developed. Apart from providing fresh produce for the tourist operation, it is envisaged that the gardens will supply nutritious green produce to assist in addressing malnutrition problems in the area, particularly among children and people with compromised immunity.

The project is being developed internally by Tswalu Kalahari Social Responsibility



This project arose through the concern of a visiting doctor from Germany. Dr Ludwig and Eva Focking have championed the development of the Tswalu clinic and now together with the Tswalu Foundation and with the assistance of the State run Health Care services, the clinic provides an important Health Care and Education service to this remote part of the country. The clinic now attracts medical professionals who are willing to share their expertise while enjoying a stay at Tswalu. The dental clinic is now well established and an eye-care facility is planned in the next phase.

This initiative is co-ordinated by Dr and Mrs Ludwig Focking, the South African Department of Health and Tswalu Kalahari Social responsibility.



Tswalu encourages staff to stay with their families on the property. Children in remote areas such as Tswalu may not have the same developmental opportunities as children in more urban areas. In order to ensure that the Tswalu pre-school children are not left behind by their urban counterparts, Tswalu provides a crèche for local children. The children benefit from interaction with other children as well as having access to a range of early learning opportunities under the eye of a qualified teacher.

The Tswalu crèche has been developed internally by Tswalu Kalahari Social Responsibility


Should you wish to make a donation…

Account name: Tswalu Foundation Trust
Bank: First National Bank
Branch: RMB Private Bank, Johannesburg
Address: Fredman Drive,Sandton, Gauteng
Branch / Sort Code: 26-12-51

Account number: 62336779949
SWIFT Code: Sort Code: FIRNZAJJ824

For further information, participation and/ or donations please contact Tswalu Management

Duncan MacFadyen
Manager Research & Conservation
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)