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Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Pretoria

rietvlei nature reserve pretoriaRietvlei dam was built during the great depression (from about 1929 to early 1930's) and was completed in 1934. Manual laborers were paid 4 shilling a month and soil was carted away by mule carts. Feeding the dam is the Sesmyl (Six Mile) Spruit, five fountains (one is located on an adjacent property) and five boreholes. Upstream from Rietvlei dam is the Marais Dam which acts as a sludge dam for Rietvlei Dam. Starting in 1988 a two year project raised the dam and made other improvements. Originally the dam was not open to the public but the city council of Pretoria did plan the reserve ecologically and introduced a number of game species to the reserve. The Nauture Reserve was proclaimed in 1948. Rietvlei dam provides Pretoria with 15% of it's water. The reserve covers an area of 3800 hectares and can support up to 2000 head of game.

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is one of the world's largest urban nature reserves, 3 800 hectares in extent, situated south of the city but still within the city limits. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve lies very close to the highway between Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport at a height of about 1700 m above sea level, which is about 300 m higher than Pretoria. Rietvlei Dam offers a number of sporting facilities. Fishing is allowed on the northern and western shores and a yacht club house was built on the north-western shore. Motor boats are not allowed on the dam.

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve has been restocked with game that is endemic to the highveld and is now home to large herds of game and because of its open grassland landscape it offers visitors a unique opportunity to view many species of animals. Some of these occur naturally only in South Africa (for example the Black Wildebeest and the Blesbok). The roads in the reserve are well maintained and serve the public for game viewing and the reserve staff as maintenance roads and fire breaks. Roads divide the reserve into 31 blocks. Rotation grazing is practiced on the reserve by routinely burning blocks and using lick as supplementary feeding.

Animals found in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve include the worlds largest antelope, the Eland, Burchell's Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Ostrich, two of Africa's "big five" Buffalo and White Rhino, Bushpig, as well as a number of Black-backed Jackal, Mountain Reedbuck, Oribi, Grey Duiker, Steenbuck, Brown Hyena, Porcupine, Springhare, Aardwolf and Banded Mongoose. Recently a family group of five hippos as well as cheetah. Rietvlei also offers lots to interest bird lovers. South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, is seen here from time to time, the Secretary Bird is a regular visitor and Rietvlei is home to a breeding pair of Fish Eagles. In addition many other species of bird can be seen including the Orange-throated Longclaw, the Little Egret, the Darter, the Reed Cormorant, the White-breasted Cormorant, the Goliath Heron, the African Finfoot and the Green-backed Heron.

The reserve has a typical Highveld climate with dry, frosty winters and an average of 724mm rain during the summer rainy season. Temperatures reach as high as 34°C in the summer and as low as -2° in the winter.

The Reserve is made up of open grassland with undulating hills with indigenous trees clustered in small groups. Due to previous farming practices a number of exotic trees and shrubs also grow in the Reserve. The silver wattle (from Australia)  is the most problematic invader as it has no local enemies and seeds can survive up to 50 years in the soil. The silver wattle is removed mechanically and the wood is used as fuel.

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is open to private vehicles and offers superb sightings of the wildlife of the South African highveld. There is a bird hide and an area set aside for pic-nics at Marais Dam upstream from Rietvlei Dam and there are day and overnight hiking trails as well as horse trails (all accompanied by reserve staff). There is also a fishing area/camping site along part of the banks of Rietvlei Dam.


 

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