Whilst out in Eswatini I was in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the reserve. There is something about Mlilwane that makes me feel as if I have come home. It is a wonderful place where you can get away from everything and take time out for yourself. It is also where you can get unusually up close and personal with wildlife, all on the wildlife’s terms of course!
Endangered Species Breeding Program
We were driving around the sanctuary with my friends Terry and Vicky, spotting different animals that were housed in the endangered breeding area. Ted Reilly, who set up Mlilwane after he recognised the demise of Eswatinis’ wildlife, is breeding and then re-introducing species that were once roaming wild in the Kingdom. We had already seen red duiker hopping amongst the undergrowth, watched sedentary eland and heard the booming calls of the blue crane.
But our most remembered sighting was a particular roan antelope.
There is an area in Mlilwane that has a number of roan antelope that have bred from six roan that came from Marwell Zoo in the UK. It is extraordinary to see so many antelope that have come from one small group. Over the years I have seen the numbers healthily grow, so much so that herds are being moved around the Kingdom to populate other areas. It really is a success story.
You can drive through the enclosure and even get out of the vehicle to see them, walking amongst these antelope. Most are aware of people and avoid them, although there are a few plucky individuals who are more curious than their friends.
Friendly Roan Antelope
“Stop, stop, I’d like to take a photo,” said Terry. I pulled the car over to watch the approaching roan.
Terry had his camera on zoom trying to focus on this particular animal. The roan antelope obliged by walking closer to us. And closer, and closer until the roan completely filled his view finder. Terry took his camera away from his face only to realise that the roan was eye-balling him, only 1m away.
This did not stop the brazen animal, it leaned towards the open window and stuck its head right into the car and began to nibble on the mirror adjuster knob! I was speechless, until I realised that its horns could get caught inside the car. This could not only get messy but the rental car company would not be happy, let alone my bank balance.
With some verbal persuasion, the roan removed its head from our small Mazda. He licked the wing mirror as a passing shot and nonchalantly walked off to graze on more wholesome grass.
Terry never really got his award winning picture, he was too busy laughing.
Expect the unexpected in Africa.