Tswalu Kalahari is a passion for the Oppenheimer family.
The original reserve was created as a hunting property by Stephen Boler, a British businessman, who bought up 35 farms, totalling some 88,000 hectares. Stephen and Nicky Oppenheimer met only once but instantly recognised each other’s love and respect for the southern Kalahari. When Stephen tragically died, his will specified that Tswalu was to be offered first to Nicky.
The family took ownership in 1998. Hunting stopped overnight and the land given back to itself. Breeding programmes for rare and endangered species, such as roan and sable antelope, were developed. Academic researchers were invited in.
Further neighbouring farms have been gradually acquired and transformed, adding more habitats, more of the spectacular Korannaberg mountains, more diversity. Countless buildings have been demolished and removed. And everywhere, the grasses have returned.
In 2014 Tswalu Kalahari was declared a Nature Reserve and given formal protection, acknowledging its importance to South Africa.
The garden of Brenthurst, Nicky and Strilli’s home in Johannesburg, also strives to attain harmony with nature. An organic oasis in the heart of the city, Brenthurst has become a refuge for an abundance of insect and animal life, with its wealth of indigenous flora. Eighty-nine species of birds have been seen there. Planting evolves with the ecology, creating a true environment rather than a decorated garden.
“Conservation of the environment, which we have inherited as custodians, is not only a subject of specialist and activist interest. It is an imperative for society to hand on a less distressed situation than we have caused. There is a growing public awareness in appreciating what we have and in doing what we can together, to ensure we do not continue to lose species on a daily basis. Each loss impacts on everyone and everything in some way.”