Have you ever seen an Earth Pig?


My search for the illusive


Common names: Aardvark, ant bear (Eng.); Aardvark (Afr.); sambane (Zulu)

I’ve always been a champion of the proverbial underdog. That’s possibly why I have always been a bit fascinated by the ‘lowly’, much over-looked Aardvark. Such an interesting looking creature! Any opportunity I have had over the years to spend time in a nature reserve has always included something of my eagerness to see one in person. Alas, no such luck! But, my hopeful search continues…

These amazing long-eared (rabbit?), long-snouted (greyhound x pig?), long-tailed (kangaroo?) critters are like ninja ecosystem engineers! Their burrows create an essential micro-living environment for a whole host of other creatures that would not survive certain climate conditions without this shelter. As many as 25 mammals, 7 birds, 6 reptiles and 1 amphibian have been found to rely on Aardvark burrows; both for short or long-term housing and as a place to raise their young. The importance of Mr Aardvark’s landlord role is highlighted by the fact that one of the birds that builds their nests in Aardvark burrows is the Critically Endangered Blue Swallow! Naturally, any impact on Aardvark presence and numbers could have significant impact on their survival.

Sadly, Aardvarks are hunted for bushmeat and are in high demand in the traditional medicine trade and have been documented in traditional medicine markets in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. In addition to this menace, Aardvark habitat loss is, unfortunately, a matter of course, due to farming and human development and expansion.

Aardvarks are nocturnal and are found throughout Africa (south of the Sahara Desert). They have exceptionally powerful feet and claws, which they use to dig their burrows. Their burrows are often complex and extensive and have multiple entrances and exits. Their claws are somewhat spade-shaped making them very efficient for digging. Once the sun sets and the day cools down, they emerge from their burrows and put their ‘spades’ to good use to dig into termite mounds to reach their favourite food. While they do eat ants, which makes them “ant eaters” they are not “Anteaters”, a completely separate species native to South America.

Did you know? These earthmoving machines can dig up to .6 metres in 15 seconds!

They are the only living representative of their species classification order, Tubulidentata and it is thought that their closest living relatives are golden moles and elephant shrews. These solitary animals only join up to mate. Females are pregnant for 7 months and only ever have 1 baby at a time and no more than 1 baby a year.

If you think these animals are fascinating too, why not ask your Mabalingwe-VRS Game Ranger about possible sightings on the Reserve, on your next Game Drive?

You can contact the Le Fera Mabalingwe-VRS Ranger Team via Reception on +27 (0) 14 001 7011





The Traditional Uses of Plants

When travelling into nature, deep into the South African bushveld, we don’t often stop to appreciate the less-sought-after elements of the biome. Most adventurers search tirelessly through the thicket along the gravel roads to spot an elusive creature or calm giant; the game life always steals the show. We rarely tend to pause and stare, not through, but at the thicket itself. To pause and wonder at how a tree so large or a sea of beautiful flowers so vast, can influence our health and set us back onto a path of healing. Do you know just how incredible nature is? Have you ever considered the wonderful healing properties of the plant life all around us? We take a look at the traditional uses of plants…

For Stomach Ache:

Pink Malva Flower
A Pink Malva flower.

Wild Malva. Brewing this prettily pink flower into boiling water and drinking the infused water can help settle a sore tummy. This plant is widely used in a range of treatments by traditional healers.
Balderjan. This plant is very similar to mint and, if sipped as a tea, is said to calm the stomach.
Pepperbark Tree. People say the bark protecting the roots and stems of this plant can be dried, ground and mixed with water to cure stomach ache, amongst other ailments.

For Headaches:

The blossom of a Wormwood plant.

African Wormwood. This plant is traditionally used in a variety of ways to treat many different ailments, but can also be boiled to drink as tea, or made into a poultice to treat a headache.
Horseradish. It is full of beneficial properties and, when ingested, helps to alleviate pain.
Devil’s Claw. People infuse the plant with warm water as a long-standing practice for treating headaches.

For Aching Muscles:

Aloe Ferox
The vibrant colours of an Aloe Ferox.

Wild Malva. People not only use this little flower to ease a stomach but adding the leaves of the plant into bath water is said to help relax stiffened muscles and achy joints.
Aloe Ferox. This plant is widely used, even in popular cosmetics lines today, and has anti-inflammatory properties; perfect for soothing tired muscles.

For Flus and Colds:

Wild Garlic
White Wild Garlic flowers.

African Ginger. Chewing on segments of the roots of this plant has the same effect as store-bought ginger, and is commonly used by traditional groups.
Everlasting. People say that a tea brewed from the leaves of this plant treat the symptoms of flus and can still a terrible cough.
Wild Garlic. The bulbs of this plant can be boiled and ingested, much like the African Ginger, to treat coughing and sinuses.

There is a wide range of plants and trees throughout South Africa with various uses and applications which are rather interesting. Many of which have their own place the Traditional Uses of Plants. When you next visit Mabalingwe, consider accompanying our Eco-Tainment Team on the Live Long and Eco Trails to learn more about the incredible biome which is home to our most beloved Nature Reserve.

*This article was written for the sole purpose of creating intrigue into the plant-life in the biomes of South Africa. None of the above-mentioned plants have been proven to cure ailments of any nature, and anyone seeking medical advice should enlist the services of a qualified medical professional.