Imfolozi MTB Challenge contributes to conservation 11th year in a row

The eleventh iMfolozi MTB Challenge took place this past weekend (25 July) where more than 250 mountain biking enthusiasts descended on the historical Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in the name of conservation. The iMfolozi MTB Challenge forms part of the Old Mutual Wild Series and will see another three events staged in 2015.

The park is home to the big 5 and was started by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) as a way to expose the general public to the pristine beauty of the reserve. The focus of the MTB challenge is to raise funds for the endangered African Wild Dog.

This year’s event experienced a lot of rain – but it was welcomed by the field rangers (for the very dry reserve) and didn’t deter the riders. They rode the grueling 55km in muddy and cold conditions.

Jasper Van Vessem came in first place in 3hrs10 followed by Pascal Pau and Matthew Myberg. Jo Mackenzie came in first place for the ladies in 3hrs55 and 14th overall. She was followed in second place by Sophia Rollo and in third place by Bronwen Bainbridge. Several individuals, namely Pieter Burger, Mani Combrink, Peter Proctor and Kobus Jansen Van Rensburg, were given a token of appreciation from Old Mutual and Stihl as they completed their 9th and 10th iMfolozi MTB Challenge this weekend.

Andrew Bradley, MD of Old Mutual Wealth, spoke at the prize giving, “Everyone here today has a smile on their face and we are more than happy to assist Wildlands in an event that makes everyone happy. Happy people are also good investors! The event fits in with the Old Mutual endurance focus and while it was tough, the exhilaration of seeing wildlife leaping across the pathway less than 50 meters in front of me en route, makes it well worth it.”

Hayden Hutton, MD of Stihl, announced they would be donating R200 000 worth of equipment to iMfolozi. “This will assist with maintenance of the park,” said Hutton. “This equipment will make sure we keep this park in a good condition and will help ensure riders are able to continue participating in this amazing event. When you talk to these rangers about the work they do – how can you not help?”

“There are around 430 wild dog in the country with between 85 and 100 in the Hluhluwe IMfolozi Park,” said Deputy Director of Conservation SPACE at Wildlands. “Each dog in the park is fitted with either VHF or satellite tracking collars which ensure effective behavior-based management and ensure rapid anti-poaching unit response from the rangers. These devices can only be purchased, maintained and monitored with support from the iMfolozi Challenge.”

To end off the formalities of the event Dr. Andrew Venter, CEO of Wildlands, did a spontaneous auction. Individuals raised their hands to pledge towards the conservation efforts of both Wildlands and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and managed to raise more than R30 000. “Wildlands would like to thank the dedicated Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff, Honorary Officers, the event organisers – Impi Concept Events, Old Mutual, Radox, Mondi, Stihl and Powerade,” said Venter. “And last but definitely not least, the riders that make this event a sold out success year after year.”

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