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Guide to Operation Genesis and the History of the Pilanesberg National Park

Operation Genesis - Pilanesberg National Park
Travel Writer: EcoTravel Africa  

The idea of a national park at Pilanesberg dates back to a report by Potchefstroom University in 1969 recommending that the area be developed as a recreation resort and nature reserve. This idea was also mooted by a number of other politicians in the ensuing years.

Photographer: EcoTravel Africa 

In 1976, Southern Sun expressed an interest in developing a hotel and casino complex in the area immediately surrounding Mankwe Dam as the proximity of a large body of water would provide distinct advantages for such a development. However, the negative impact of such a project on nature conservation objectives led to the complex being developed on its present site.

In 1979 the Pilanesberg National Park was established and some 6000 animals were re-introduced in a project named Operation Genesis which captured the attention of wildlife bodies throughout the world due to the size of the operation and the unique Pilanesberg landscape.

A total of R1.5 million was spent on constructing the game fence sur-rounding the park, R1.8 million on purchase of game for re-introduction, R1 million on workshops and staff housing and R4 million on development of the Manyane complex.

As game re-introduction commenced prior to the completion of the fence surrounding the park, 1200 hectares surrounding the Quarantine Dam (now in the Extensive Education Area, adjacent to Manyane) was used as a holding area for newly introduced animals during Operation Genesis. However, this area quickly became too small for the number of animals and grazing soon became depleted and the veld severely damaged.

Over 200 animals - including eland and waterbuck - died as a result.
Until the late 1980's, the number of animals was kept at around 50% of the park maximum carrying capacity but has more recently been allowed to increase significantly.

The re-introduction of lion to Pilanesberg was started in late 1993 and by early 1994 nineteen of these predatory animals had been released into the park. The current lion population is around 43. In 1995, serval and a further six cheetah were released and in June 1999 wild dogs were re-introduced thanks to generous sponsorship from a number of organisations including FoPS.

In Africa, no other game reserves of comparable size are within such easy reach of a major tourism market and international gateway.

Today, Pilanesberg National Park accommodates virtually every mammal of southern Africa including the Big Five.


Stone Age Achaeological Sites -- Stone Age hunter-gatherers were active in the area. Middle Stone Age artifacts are found all over the Park, thus indicating that people were in the area between 200 000 and 40 000 years ago.

Iron Age Achaeological Sites -- Ethnographic research and documents indicate that the Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela (part of the Tswana linguistic group) have been living in the vicinity of Pilanesberg since the latter half of the eighteenth century. Pilanesberg is named after a chief, Pilane, who ruled between 1825 and 1850. It is interesting to note that when they first arrived, another group, the baTlhako, were in the area and demanded tribute from the Bakgatla people. Today the Bakgatla people live in Saulspoort along the northern border of the Park.

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As one of South Africa's top Nature Reserves, Pilanesberg National Park, is home to many of the mammals of southern Africa. Numerous wildlife safari and tour companies operate guided tours to Pilanesberg National Park. Popular adventure travel activities in South Africa include: horse riding safaris, elephant back safaris, mountain biking, birding, wilderness walking trails, science safaris and volunteering especially for GAP year students.
Pilanesberg National Park Guide
Pilanesberg National Park Map
Travel Guide Safaris & Tours
Accommodation Routes to the Park
Activities / Interests History
Adventure Travel Geology
Facilities Volunteering
Pilanesberg National Park Wildlife
Operation Genesis - Pilanesberg Park History
Amphibians Ecology
Birds Trees
Fishes Shrubs
Mammals Grasses
Reptiles : Snakes Herbaceous Plants
Invertebrates Fungi : Mushrooms
Copyright Information: The travel information, images and, landscape, safari lodge and wildlife photographs on this Pilanesberg National Park South Africa Operation Genesis page are the © of Eco Travel Africa and the Travel Writers / Photographers. Royalty Free Images and Photos of African wildlife, including Pilanesberg National Park's Operation Genesis are available on this website.