The Big Five are at home here, and many other species as well: the Thaba Tholo Game Farm in the South African province of Limpopo is a remarkable project in many respects. A professional team of gamekeepers, breeding experts and agricultural engineers work in the reserve together with volunteers to preserve endangered species. Rhinos, buffaloes, antelopes, lions, impalas, wildebeests and many other species live on 37,000 hectares of land. In addition, the Thaba Tholo Farm has a large number of exemplary social projects, aid and health services that directly benefit the local population. This includes, for example, supplying the irrigation system with solar power.
Solar power for irrigation
Thaba Tholo focuses on green energy and sustainability in all areas. The 750-kW solar array built by the South African energy project developer Telenetix forms part of a specially constructed standalone network to ensure the supply of power. Among other things, the micro grid is used to generate electricity for the company’s own irrigation system in the extremely arid region. For the last four years, there has been almost no rain at all in the region, which is a three-hour drive from Johannesburg. Telenetix is Solar-Log’s country partner in South Africa and is known among other things for its large energy infrastructure projects, which are always based on photovoltaics.
Refrigerated shipping containers as a home for technology
For the solar plant, Solar-Log comes into play. The functionality of the large-scale solar plant is reliably monitored by a Solar-Log 2000. Saving electricity permanently and keeping their own ecological footprint as small as possible – that’s important to the Thaba Tholo team lead by Managing Director Rubin Els and General Director Wouter Maree.
All the equipment for operating the power generation system is stored in specially converted, refrigerated shipping containers on the grounds of the wildlife farm. This extends the service life of the components while at the same time taking safety aspects into consideration.
Full of energy for humans and animals
The Thaba Tholo Game Farm has been in existence for 30 years. Many examples of individual species are kept in the reserve in order to preserve the genetic diversity and the richness of species. The animals have sufficient space here and are only selectively culled in limited numbers in order to maintain the natural balance. Although hunting is also offered as a tourist attraction in the reserve, lions, leopards, hyenas and other predators ensure a selection process without human intervention. “At Thaba Tholo, we believe that the wealth of African wildlife should be shared by all who live on this continent,” says Rubin Els.
The concept of the game farm is so successful that since 2008 an annual auction has been held, in which surplus animals are auctioned off to zoos and game parks. Last year, 223 animals came up for auction. Bids can be submitted worldwide via a corresponding app. The animals are in great demand: a few years ago an incredible 10 million euros were paid for a breeding buffalo.
The auction is an important element in financing the work. In addition, Thaba Tholo is also funded by donations and the commitment of several wealthy families.
Solar power for a better future
The efforts to preserve the native fauna are just one aspect of Thaba Tholo’s beneficial work. The employees enjoy good working conditions here. Outside the actual reserve there are four villages where they live with their families. In contrast to many other villages in the region, there’s a reliable supply of electricity and water here. Educating the children from these villages is very important to the management of the game farm. Thaba Tholo supports five schools in the region, which are open to children from all over the region. The employees contribute to their financing. More than 700 children go to school here. Spitskop Special Needs School in Thabazimbi is the only school in the entire province that teaches children with Down’s syndrome, autism, epilepsy and developmental disorders.
Thaba Tholo’s commitment also extends to adult education. A literacy campaign for employees is just one example here. Employees also have access to healthcare programmes, which is anything other than self-evident in the region. Additionally, Thaba Tholo contributes to the country’s food security by producing maize, soya, wheat and grasses as food supplements on its own farm.