They are among the quiet beauties of our Estate, peeking out from behind a dense forest curtain as we drive by. Sometimes, standing still long enough for us to appreciate their unique markings and curious trots. Often, popping into our gardens for a quick sojourn before their next destination. In this edition, we speak to Environmental Manager Ayanda Duma about our antelope: how we manage our carrying capacity and balance our eco-system through research and science.

“When we speak of antelope,” Ayanda begins. “We speak of several species which we are fortunate to have on Simbithi. This includes the bushbuck, reedbuck, and grey, red, and blue duiker.” The management of these, and the rest of our wildlife, falls under our Operational Environmental Management Plan (OEMP). Chatting specifically about our antelope, Ayanda speaks through three if our strategic initiatives: sustainability, integration and economic, social and governance (ESG), specifically the improvement of our biodiversity.


In May, this year, the environmental department set out to update and improve the methodology employed to count our antelope. Our environmental assistant, Rowina Kanniappen took a central role, with her background in environmental science proving essential. The first step, says Ayanda, was to set up an antelope count involving members of our community. “This also speaks to integration,” she shares. “Rowina developed a scientific calculation to assist the counters.”


The Estate was divided into quadrants and the counters separated into teams. For two hours, they traversed the Estate on foot, counting antelope.

The count yielded an estimated population of Simbithi’s antelope, which the team measured against our carrying capacity. “The carrying capacity determines the amount of wildlife we may have on the Estate in relation to our habitats. It’s to ensure the antelope are able to live well on Simbithi. Most nature reserves and conservation sites have one. Our results showed that our bushbuck and grey duiker exceeded our carrying capacity,” Ayanda explains.


Partnership is at the core of this strategic initiative. “We contacted Dr Ryan van Deventer, a well-known veterinarian from Wildlife Solutions who is passionate about wildlife conservation,” Ayanda continues. “We also applied to Ezemvelo Wildlife, another of our partners, for a permit to relocate some of our antelope in accordance with our carrying capacity.”

The bushbuck were captured recently, and Ayanda shares that there is significant planning before the day. “We research and vet the recipients of the bushbuck to ensure they are relocated to responsible conservation sites,” she says. “We also wait for clear weather, so Ryan and his team have the best possible chance of success.”

Dr van Deventer and his team then drive around the Estate in search of bushbuck. Once one is spotted and they are an appropriate distance away, the animal is darted with tranquiliser and blindfolded, then taken to a quiet community centre. “Here, Ryan injects the bushbuck again to wake him or her up and allows them to go into an enclosure for transport to their new locations. The enclosures on the vehicle simulate the environment they are used to, so they are comfortable and safe during the journey.”

The captures are performed discreetly and professionally. “We are mindful that this is a residential Estate, first,” Ayanda confirms. “On a good day, we manage to capture fourteen bushbuck. On other days, not as many because they may be in a dense area, like a forest, where they are not easily accessible. We tend to avoid relocating older male bushbuck as they struggle to adapt to a new environment. It is safer for them to stay here.”

The reproductive rate among bushbuck is approximately 25 percent, says Ayanda, meaning they may reproduce two or three times annually. “The recent pandemic also impeded our normal operational procedures, which is why we exceeded our carrying capacity. We are now actively observing and scientifically monitoring.”

As we have not captured and relocated grey duiker on the Estate, before, the team is investigating and assessing potential avenues to relocate these antelope. “We are consulting with external advisors, environmental committee members Derrick and Margie Lilienfeld and employing our internal scientific knowledge to undertake the next phase of relocation.”

ESG: Improving Biodiversity

In the circular scheme of things, relocating excess antelope improves Simbithi’s biodiversity in an excitingly natural way, shares Ayanda. “Our wildlife feeds from our flora. So, if we balance the amount of wildlife then the diversity in our flora stabilises. We then edge closer to maintaining a viable eco-system, which speaks to our vision. Similarly, the aesthetics of our habitats are maintained and crucial elements like shade are protected, so our butterflies, frogs and other micro-organisms are protected.”