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    Posted April 16, 2014 by
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    Wildlife photography

    Matswane, the old lion with one eye

    Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve of Botswana bordering South Africa, comprises 25,000 hectares of unspoiled and preserved wilderness in eastern Botswana, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. The seemingly endless plains range from savannah to riverine forests, marshland and sandstone outcrops.

    Mashatu, “Land of Giants”, takes its name from the locally sacrosanct Mashatu tree, and the giants that roam its terrain. As one of the largest private game reserves in Southern Africa, Mashatu is a fitting setting for the world’s largest mammal – the Elephant – and Mashatu is home to the largest herds on privately owned land on earth. Mashatu also provides sanctuary to the world’s tallest mammal – the Giraffe, the world’s largest antelope – the Eland, the world’s largest bird – the Ostrich, and the world’s heaviest flying bird – the Kori Bustard. Add the lion – the king of the beasts, and the iconic baobab…and you have Africa’s Big Seven.

    Mashatu possesses an ecological diversity uncommon in other game reserves. Complementing three members of the Big Five – leopard, lion and elephant – are some surprising species, including the aardwolf (or “earth wolf”), bat-eared fox, African wildcat, honey badger and black-backed jackal. Also reintroduced to Mashatu – as part of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve – is the endangered wild dog. Mashatu is also an ornithologist’s dream, and plays host to more than 350 bird species, including the enchanting lilac-breasted roller, whose plumage features no less than seven shades of blue.

    The Northern Tuli Game Reserve and Botswana, together with South Africa and Zimbabwe, are the joint custodians of this magnificent cultural landscape. This part of Southern Africa is steeped in history, and is home to some of the most significant paleontological remains on the subcontinent, including the dinosaur footprints of Vhembe (estimated to be 50-100 million years old). More recently, history in the area included the Mapungubwe Dynasty (Mapungubwe means “Hill where the Jackal eats” in the Venda language, and the Dynasty existed around 1220 CE), Bushmen (San) paintings, Frederick Courteney Selous tales, the records of Cecil John Rhodes and various Boer War battles.
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