Greetings from Mundulea in these unprecedented times of the Coronavirus Pandemic. If you have arrived at this page, the chances are you will  already be aware of the catastrophic consequences for conservation work in Africa of international travel restrictions which took effect in the middle of March. Of necessity they brought tourism to a standstill, which in turn dried up the key source of funding for conservation efforts throughout the continent. The impact was instant, from one day to the next. In Namibia, tourism has collapsed for the foreseeable future and with it the income generated by Turnstone Tours, on which our conservation work at Mundulea depended.

 

Many thanks for taking the time to read this specially posted message from Bruno and Kate. To those of you who have travelled with us before and spent time with Bruno at Mundulea, we send particularly warm wishes. To those who planned to visit, or revisit, us over the past few months or the immediate future we share your disappointment and look forward to seeing you in better times. Much of the following story, which tells of Mundulea's beginnings, ideals and progress, will be familiar to many of you. But the ending is very different. Please take a few more minutes to read on...

 

 

 

Looking back

For the past two decades, Bruno and Kate have been working to restore 120 square kilometres of badly degraded broad-leafed woodland, in the heart of Namibia’s Karstveldt, to its formerly unrivalled biodiversity. They named the project after a  purple-flowering bush that brightened the landscape, provided food for the game and figured in the wisdoms of local folklore. Back in 1999, the resilience and versatility of that tiny useful flower symbolised their hopes for the huge task ahead: ‘Mundulea’.

 

For centuries the area’s viable rainfall, varied landscapes and deep underground water had made it a haven for virtually all types of indigenous fauna and flora. It teemed with game, and its extraordinary biodiversity reflected the harmonious interdependence of habitat and wildlife. At the same time, the area's difficult-to-access water and rough terrain made it relatively unattractive for human habitation. Nature, in effect, held sway.

But all that changed at the beginning of the 19th century when settler cattle farmers carved up the countryside to raise their imported livestock: they shot out the natural game, trapped the predators, built endless fences, promoted massive encroachment of alien bush, and introduced chemical products that poisoned large bird species and drove out many more.

 

A new lease on life

Since the turn of this century when Bruno and Kate bought the four run-down cattle farms that would comprise ‘Mundulea’, they have been working to conserve and reinvigorate the area’s damaged natural resources in what would gradually become a thriving, independently-run nature reserve. It has been a painstakingly slow process that supports rather than forces the process of regeneration, fostering the natural health and balance of the ecosystem. Most interventions have been labour-intensive, low-impact and low-tech: bush clearing, building roads, maintaining fence lines, removing invasive plants, record keeping, photographing, tracking and monitoring. The ‘high points’ of acquiring and releasing new or rescued species onto the reserve are always underpinned by the never-ending, necessary effort of restoring and supporting their habitat.

 

 

Over the years, this meticulous work has brought tremendous rewards. ‘Mundulea’ now supports flourishing populations of almost all the wildlife which used to occur here. Some species returned instinctively as their habitat began to re-establish: eland, dik-dik, duiker, steenbok, kudu, cheetah, leopard, aardvark, honey-badger, brown and spotted hyena. Rare and threatened species have been gradually reintroduced: the indigenous Black-Faced Impala, Roan and Tsessebe and the once-plentiful Giraffe. More familiar faces followed, such as zebra, wildebeest, springbok, hartebeest and ostrich; while others, like the critically-endangered pangolin, tiny Kalahari Tent Tortoise, and a recovering population of oxpecker, are part of rehabilitation projects linked to essential research.

 

Other research projects at Mundulea include studies of grass species, the impact of invasive acacias, and types of ant that can indicate the prevalence of pangolin. Forthcoming research will monitor a previously unrecorded species of rock rabbit. As you can see, at Mundulea, we focus on the smaller members of the ecosystem as much we do on the ‘big names’. Flora such as Mundulea’s namesake (mundulea sericea), insects, small rodents, frogs, mosses, lichens and ferns, may not have the instant appeal of some of our largest animals or massive trees, but they are invaluable components of a biosphere that holds an astonishing variety of wildlife, some 260 recorded bird species, ancient Leadwood, caves, hills and ravines with fossils dating back 750 million years… All these make Mundulea a valuable ‘timepiece’ for tracking Namibia’s natural history, restoring its ecological identity and reversing habitat erosion.

 

Little by little, this lifetime’s work has been coming together with what sometimes seemed like an unstoppable momentum.

And then came the Corona Virus...

Since mid-March, international travel restrictions aimed at preventiing the spread of the Corona pandemic, have wiped out our income at Turnstone Tours and put our work at Mundulea in jeopardy. It was funded almost exclusively by the day tours and short camping tours which we operate from the Namibian coast, and the three-night walking trails led by Bruno from our purpose-built camp deep in the bush. This made it possible to build our conservation project in the way Bruno had planned and envisioned it - step by considered step. Sadly, that progress has now been stopped dead in its tracks.

 

Ironically, Mundulea will turn 21 this year, and it was to have been something of a ‘milestone’: a coming of age after long years of careful guardianship; a celebration of Mundulea’s growing ecological independence; and the start of a more sustainable phase in which renewed natural cycles and rebalanced rhythms would go from strength to strength. Instead, two months after tourism ground to a halt in Namibia, conservation work at Mundulea is already losing ground. Without staff to track and monitor the animals' well-being, curb poaching, check fences, maintain pathways, clear bush… without funds to support Mundulea’s wildlife and its re-establishing habitat… 20 years of headway is all suddenly at risk.

 

This is why we are writing to you.

If you have enjoyed spending time at Mundulea in the past and hope to return one day… or if Bruno’s vision for this unique project strikes a chord in you, please help him to continue this work and realise its potential. By supporting this project with however much you’re able to give, you can help foster a sustainably new lease on life for the Mundulea biosphere. In these challenging, often daunting times, Mundulea is living proof that given time and determination recovery is possible… even from the deepest and most debilitating damage.

 

If you are able to contribute - no matter how small the amount - please send donations to:

Dolomite Hills Farming (reference ‘Mundulea’)

Bank Windhoek, Swakopmund Branch: 481 772

Account Number: 122 6970 101

Swift Code: BWLINANX

Details of a UK bank account are also available should you prefer

 

Finally, whether you’d like to make a donation or not, please get in touch and let us know how you’re doing. You can reach us at bruno@turnstone-tours.com or kate@turnstone-tours.com We would love to hear from you.

Till then, stay well, take care and come back soon.

With our very best wishes

Bruno and Kate

 

©mundulea.com   ||  2016