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The Hluhluwe Game Reserve on the east coast of South Africa is reportedly the oldest nature preserve on the continent, founded in 1895. Containing within its 371 square miles (about 960 square km) not just the "Big Five" land animals of safari lore but also hundreds of other iconic species of fauna and flora. This conservation once was a popular Zulu tribe hunting ground until official animal sanctuary was needed. Located near the Indian Ocean shore in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, this area has marked results in bringing animal populations back from the brink of extinction.
The Big Five game located in Hluhluwe Game Reserve are so named for the historic difficulty that Anglo hunters have had with shooting them. They are the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah and buffalo. In this protected area, however, it is even harder to shoot them, since doing so is a crime. Safari charters and guided hikes have replaced the hunting party.
The rhinoceros, in particular, is robustly populated at the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Their numbers here — about 370 black and 1,600 white rhinos — are a testament to the conservation efforts at the park. Shortly after opening the preserve at the end of the 19th century, just a few dozen rhinos were left in the world. A mass species restoration project called Project Rhino in the 1950s and 1960s made the park a focal point for this animal's plight. In 2011, the animal's population surpasses 10,000.
The other animal inhabitants of Hluhluwe Game Reserve also contribute to the vibrant habitat. In the water, there are Nile crocodiles and hippos.Baboons, monkeys, dozens of species of lizards and snakes hang out in the trees. Running in large packs are antelope, zebra, impala, buffalo, wildabeest and giraffe, kudu and nyala. Competing for the prey with the Big Five are other iconic predators like the hyena, leopard, jackal, warthog, African wild dog and even the little mongoose.
Ecotourists dot the savannah here, at small chalets, large full-service resorts, and mobile tent safari groups. The first camp was constructed in the 1930s at Hilltop, and now there are a few dozen, including a web of dirt-packed roads stretching nearly 200 miles (about 300 km). Malaria has been known to strike here, so tourists are warned. Apart from guided safari tours, some prefer to rent a vehicle and go on their own. Those who do are not allowed to stray from the road though.