In 2016, Australian entrepreneurs Mark and Sophie Hutchinson made a lifelong commitment. No longer were they prepared to sit back and watch the world’s species disappear. They wanted to secure more space for wildlife and ensure there were plenty of wild places left for future generations to enjoy.
The dream became a reality in the founding of their conservation organisation, WildArk in August of 2016. Shortly after that, in October 2016, the Hutchinson’s together with their South African partners John and Anton Lategan, purchased their first property, a 4500-acre former buffalo hunting farm outside of the small town of Hoedspruit, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
Pridelands, as a farm, had been fenced out of Greater Kruger for over 50-years and hence there had been an unnatural ecosystem dynamic. In particular, the free movement of predators and prey had been limited due to the fences and it was unknown what the natural carrying capacity, biodiversity and general ecology was of the property.
The Hutchinson’s hit the ground running, relocating from the northern beaches of Sydney to the bushveld town on the border of Greater Kruger region. This young family of six, embraced their new life in the African wilderness.
Their goal? To rehabilitate this old hunting farm and turn it into a wildlife conservancy known as Pridelands.
Embracing every aspect of their new lives, the Hutchinson’s set about physically rehabilitating the land that had been mis-managed for decades.
The farm was in fairly poor condition and there was much work to be done! Removing rubbish, repairing erosion sites, getting rid of many of the obsolete roads, clearing overgrown sickle bush, and removing the disturbing relics of the property’s hunting history, were of top priority.
Partnering with the local community, the Hutchinsons sought out the opinions of various experts in conservation, ecology, and anti-poaching and began educating themselves on the business of conservation.
A dedicated team of ambassadors, staff members, volunteers and community supporters joined the Hutchinsons along the way, to share this special patch of wilderness and lend a helping hand.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Pridelands journey was the ongoing negotiations with the neighbouring properties. The goal was to drop the fences of the northern boundary and connect the property to Greater Kruger region to allow the free roaming of wildlife . After six months of intense negotiations, this dream was close to becoming a reality.
On September 13th, Pridelands became part of the Balule Game Reserve, and on the 15th at 4pm, the wires of the northern boundary were cut for the first time in decades, adding 4500 acres to conservation.
Ten days later, six young bull elephants walked onto the property where the fence had been cut. It was an emotional time for the entire WildArk family.
We’re excited to continue to share our journey with you. We look forward to being able to welcome our supporters onto the property in the not to distant future.