THE STORY OF KWAGGASHOEK GAME RANCH AND W.P VAN DER MERWE (SNR)
During 1967/68 Willie van der Merwe at the age of 16 was involved in the capturing of the first animals to be relocated (Eland, Giraffe and Cheetah) from South West Africa during the early years of game translocation to South Africa.
During the following 3 years he spent his weekends and school holidays moving game across the country and captured and relocated Desert-Camels, Blesbuck, Springbuck, Red Deer, Spotted Deer, Water Buffalo, Black Wildebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Hog Deer, Nilgai Deer, Lechwe, Steenbuck, Barbary Sheep, Ostrich, Zebra, Kudu, Hartebeest, Eland, Cheetah, Giraffe and Rhino. A lot of these animals were relocated to the Van der Merwe Farm Fairview in Vrede, Free State.
His work with game came to a halt for a few years when Willie then concentrated on his engineer studies and afterwards joined his father in the roads construction business, W.P. van der Merwe Construction (Pty) Ltd that was established in 1952. His Father was one of the 4 founder members of the Free State Game Conservation Association.
In 2000 he purchased a farm in Bergville KZN, erected a game fence, and began to introduce wildlife while maintaining his Civil Construction business in Harrismith.
In 2007 he sold his business to the Listed Group Raubex Construction Limited and concentrated on expanding his breeding herds of game to include some rare species like Livingstone Eland, Black Impala, Golden Wildebeest, Kudu, Waterbuck and Buffalo.
Today, he concentrates on intensive breeding with selected game species. He is committed to breeding quality animals with outstanding genes and to serve the game industry.
As the name suggests, this farm was known for the large herds of zebra present when the farms were surveyed and mapped during the late 1890 s. An abundance of other species were present on the unfenced farm then.
This cattle farm was barely utilized during the late 1900’s . The above normal temperatures on the farm during the cold winter months made it the ideal grazing fields for cattle to survive the cold winter months for cattle farmers.
After the farm was bought in 2000, it took an average of 60 workers and 13 months to fence the perimeter. He still recalls some days when the progress in the mountains was less than a mere 300m per week. The supply of fencing materials was carried out by 12 women carriers, who supplied the teams with a constant flow of material up to 1200 m higher and 4 km’s from the nearest stockpiles. 28 Dams were built to supply drinking water all year round to the various habitats and high mountainous areas.
After an environmental study was done, all the game was re-established over a period of 2 ½ years. The game was mostly sourced from within the KZN area at the yearly KZN auctions. A herd of disease free buffalo was introduced early in 2008. The return of these, mark the return of the Cape Buffalo to the Western Highlands of Natal.
The impressive mountains, sunny days, interrupted by the quick weather changes to misty evenings and impressive cumulus clouds, became a paradise to visit for the lucky ones who dared the lonely road from the nearby Bergville, to come to Kwaggashoek Game Ranch.