On one of their daily patrols in Simalaha Community Conservancy, the Eland team rangers, or scouts as their known here, come across spoor that provides clues as to which four-legged herbivores have been enjoying the muddy waters of Mahvuku Dam. Silwale Matuka, an Eland team scout, points out the well-defined shape of hoof prints that have dried in the mud, which can only belong to a herd of buffalo known to frequent the area.

With their thick-set horns and unpredictable temperament, buffalo are notorious as being one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and knowing that they are around is enough to make most people high-tail out of there. Thankfully, the scout teams in Simalaha Community Conservancy are well-trained in identifying spoor, how recent they might have been left and how to safely deal with wild animals should they come across them on foot. 

After checking out the surroundings and ensuring that the buffalo are no longer around, Silwale shows us an inlet that feeds into the Mahvuku dam. During the wet summer season, Simalaha’s waterholes transform from mud wallows to a body of water that many animals rely on for drinking.

As the drier months begin, the water starts to evaporate and sink into the ground; these once-reliable water sources can become a dangerous place for animals that get stuck in the thick glutinous mud. The fence, which can be seen half-submerged in the video, was erected to keep the buffalo safely out of the thick mud, as they often bathe in the mud, which protects them from the harsh African sun, assists with cooling their body temperatures and helps to remove parasites such as ticks.

Peace Parks Foundation and partners are grateful for the hard work that the Eland team scouts take in protecting these buffalo, as having buffalo in the Simalaha Conservancy is vital for tourism, with the Big 5 being a major drawcard for many visitors. This plays an important role in the conservancy’s wildlife economy.